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Prefab home goes up in a day in historic Savannah neighborhood

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Posted: August 17, 2007 5:19 p.m.
Updated: September 1, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    SAVANNAH — In a historic neighborhood of homes built in the 1800s, Roy Hill’s new house went up in a single day after trucks hauled it to Savannah in pieces built inside a North Carolina factory.
    Two trucks carried the downstairs level, split into halves, of the home’s 2,200 square feet. A couple more brought the upstairs, also in two parts. A fifth truck carried the attic window dormers and parts of the roof.
    After construction workers spent a few hours assembling the pieces Wednesday, Hill’s house stood almost complete — a prefab oddity in Savannah’s Victorian District of pastel-painted, gingerbread homes and Italianate rowhouses dating back to the 1860s.
    Once the siding has been put on the outside and other finishing touches are added, neighbors and passers-by won’t be able to tell it’s a factory-built home, Hill said Thursday.
    ‘‘What we tried to do was make it look compatible with other houses in that area,’’ said Hill, president of a local real-estate company. ‘‘Believe me, I’ve got to pay the bills. It’s not a trailer.’’
    City planners, who can be picky about details when it comes to protecting of the character of Savannah’s historic neighborhoods, agree Hill’s house will blend in just fine.
    They approved his plans three weeks after he submitted them in November. Beth Reiter, the city’s historic preservation officer, said the only change Hill had to make was to forego a storage shed out front.
    Also, there’s already a factory-built shotgun home in the Victorian District, she said.
    ‘‘It doesn’t matter what the construction technique is,’’ Reiter said. ‘‘It’s what the product looks like in the end.’’
    Hill said his decision to build a prefab home for himself should send a message to homebuyers purchasing them from his company, The Coastal Real Estate Group, that he’s serious about their quality.
    Modular homes will make up almost all the 225 units Hill’s company is building in its Indigo Harbour development in coastal Darien, about 60 miles south of Savannah.
    Modular homes aren’t much cheaper, Hill said, but their construction is much quicker. His own Savannah home, he said, took about six weeks to build in sections at HandCrafted Homes in Henderson, N.C., before it was ready to ship to Savannah.
    His house arrived with its countertops, kitchen cabinets, copper sink, bathtub and fireplace already installed. Still, it will take about six more weeks to install the house’s hardwood floors, concrete-composite siding and other finishing touches.
    Ted Annis, a hair designer who lives in the same block, said he sees Hill’s home as a great improvement to a neighborhood where some older homes still suffer from neglect, marred by peeling paint and leaning at odd angles.
    ‘‘Some of the homes in the Victorian District have sat for so long,’’ Annis said. ‘‘Some of them should probably be torn down and built over.’’

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