Photo courtesy of  McCain Homes by McCain Manufacturing.
These modular homes are assembled on site. McCain Homes has found most of its current business from those wishing to add a granny flat to their property.

Photo courtesy of McCain Homes by McCain Manufacturing. These modular homes are assembled on site. McCain Homes has found most of its current business from those wishing to add a granny flat to their property.

Talk about metal homes and images of living in a tin can may come to mind, but a Vista company is manufacturing models that are anything but that.

“You say metal, but its traditional construction on the inside and it has a finish that looks very much like stucco on the outside,” said Dan Ferson of Encinitas. “Just looking at the property, it really looks like a conventional house.”

Ferson is in line to buy one of the metal models McCain Homes by McCain Manufacturing is starting to roll out of its factory, where it also produces aluminum wall panels that have been used in airports across the country, including San Diego International Airport.

Rental Income

“In our case, we would use it to provide additional income,” Ferson said.

Ferson is typical of the market McCain homes is going for, said founder Jeffrey McCain.

“Essentially, they’re little homes, but they could be offices, they could be a yoga studio, they could be a gym,” McCain said.

So far, he said most of the interest has come from homeowners who want to add a free-standing granny flat or ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) to their homes for relatives or extra income and investors who want to buy the homes to put on property they own as rental units. Recent changes in state law have made it easier for homeowners to add ADUs to their property.

With prices well below what it could cost to build conventional homes, McCain said the metal homes give people affordable options and could help ease the region’s housing crisis.

Cheaper to Build

The metal homes cost about 20 percent less than a conventional home of the same size and can be ready to use in about a third of the time.

Price was a big factor for Jennifer Lorber of Vista.

She and her husband plan to buy one as a granny flat to rent out in their backyard.

Lorber said she looked at other options, including building a conventional sticks-and-bricks home, but they were either too expensive or “they just don’t have the right feel.”

“This is a dream come true,” Lorber said, adding that the 490 square-foot model she’s buying “feels a lot bigger” than it is.

Design Choices

“They just put a lot of care into it,” Lorber said. “One thing that was really cool was that they offer hundreds of colors, even faux wood ones.”

The metal homes start at $79,000 for a 378 square-foot studio, according to McCain Homes’ website, but what the company calls is flagship model is its 500 Series that Lorber liked with prices starting at $93,500.

The most expensive model McCain Homes lists is a two-bedroom, two bathroom model with a starting price of $156,800.

All sizes are available, but the 500 Series is the only one with a walk-through version at the manufacturing that prospective buyers can tour.

The flagship 500 Series has a combination living room and kitchen, a bathroom with a shower, space for a washer-dryer and a bedroom big enough for a queen-size bed.

Additional Costs

The starting prices listed by McCain don’t include grading and foundation work or planning and permitting fees.

They typically add $20,000 to $30,000 to the final cost, McCain said.

Unlike other manufactured homes that are shipped in modules and lowered onto a concrete slab or foundation, McCain homes are assembled onsite with sections of aluminum panels.

The panels are delivered on palettes and popped into place.

“In a few days, you can have a structure up and in just a few weeks, you can have a project all done,” McCain said. “Once it’s up and everything, it looks like what a traditional build would be.”

More than 90 percent of the material that goes into the manufacture of the panels comes from recyclable metals, McCain said.

The exteriors have a cork-like finish that resembles stucco, he said.

The interiors are finished much the same as a conventional home with the same style flooring, windows, cabinets, plumbing fixtures and doors.

McCain has been building metal walls for about 3 ½ years and decided last year to branch out into housing.

San Diego County is the test market.

“We just want to get our feet solid on the ground. Our whole plan up to now has been getting these things designed and approved,” McCain said. “We literally just started marketing.

Looking ahead, McCain said he plans to offer metal home kits for do-it-yourselfers.

Before he got into the metal wall and home business, McCain owned a company that manufactured traffic signals and traffic solutions — McCain Inc.

He sold that business in 2016.

“Just about every traffic signal you drive through, certainly in San Diego, is our equipment,” McCain said.

He said he got into making metal wall panels and now metal homes because “I just wanted to prove to people that you could manufacture quality products here at competitive pricing.”