The dream of owning a house usually conjures up with an idea of a terribly long construction time, sometimes as long as several years. Estonians have found a simple solution to this as the construction of a prefabricated house takes a week or two. All previous work is done in the factory. When the exterior is ready, it only takes a few months for the interior work and you can move in. “Fundamentally, it’s like building a LEGO,” company owner Andreas Reineberg characterizes the process.
Reineberg was engaged in the production of houses in Germany for almost 12 years before starting to produce in his own country. Reineberg says that the Estonian factory was born with a lot of work. Initially, houses were produced on rented land, but very soon it became clear that it was not possible to make innovations and invest in a rental. That’s how they started to build their own factory, step-by-step. It is located 20 kilometres from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. When exports increased, another factory had to be built in Europe. Portugal was chosen, where houses are being built for local and Spanish markets.
The customer receives full service
Norges Hus Nova promises to build a house for a reasonable price. Reineberg explains that this is not a marketing ploy, and a reasonable price does not mean that the house is cheap. Not cheap, but not expensive either. Simple logic says that if a private person starts building a house himself, he has to purchase the materials at an expensive price from retail sales. Prefabricated house factories buy material in large quantities and thus receive materials 30 to 60 percent cheaper. In this way, the production price is also cheaper.
In addition, a large amount of experience has been accumulated in prefabricated house factories. Good engineers work in companies, that foresee all kinds of risks when creating production drawings. “We also explain to customers that we don’t just sell walls and materials, but also experiences,” explains Reineberg. When ordering a house, you can get proper advice in advance, which will help you avoid construction errors.
It is very important to Norges Hus that prefabricated houses are built with energy efficiency in mind. Both, the roof and the walls are built in a way that reduces energy loss and keeps the houses warm and cozy inside. All construction materials are purchased from certified manufacturers.
Since almost half of Estonia is covered with forest, a large part of the wood comes from Estonia. But also from Sweden and Germany.
It may be surprising, but those who come to buy a house usually do not know what exactly they want to buy. According to Reineberg, it is common that most of the time, when meeting a client, it is first necessary to clarify what the client is looking for. What needs does this house have to fulfill?
It is common for sellers to want to sell as big a house as possible and as quickly as possible. In fact, most of us are not looking for a villa, but a home. Therefore, according to Reineberg, the best house seller is the builder himself. “I myself am a company owner, a manager, a salesman, and a secretary. My sales are very high because the subscribers understand that I know what I’m talking about. I am selling my own experience.”
A surprising trend change
Reineberg admits that the trends in the market are surprising. If earlier clients wanted big houses, now they have started to prefer smaller ones. “In the current state of the energy market, customers have understood the advantages of a wooden house and also that there is no need to jump from a 50 square meter apartment to a 200 square meter house,” says Reineberg. According to him, it tends to be the case that no matter how big the living space is, whether it is 20 or 150 square meters, people mostly use one room.
Despite the name Norges Hus Nova, the company’s main market is not Scandinavia at all. The main market starts with Germany and moves from there towards Southern and Western Europe. Such a wide market has protected the company from the fluctuations of the construction market throughout the years. There are many wooden house builders in Estonia, whose main market is only Scandinavia.
And although Norges Hus Nova houses are proven to work well in cold climates, the company has built houses for warmer places, too. For example, Scandinavian-style houses have been built in Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus. Even in Senegal, Africa. Two houses will be built in Cyprus this year, and a few more are on order for next year.
The company has local partners in target markets who have worked hard to change people’s thinking and thus teach the customers. It is necessary to make it clear to people that a wooden house is a sustainable choice even under the blazing sun and in earthquake-prone areas.
Norges Hus Nova produces 90 to 120 houses per year. In a record year, that number was 168. It was a good year of lessons. “We found out that the company can produce up to two houses a week to ensure quality. Only then will you be able to communicate with the customer sufficiently and find the best material, transport service, and if necessary, installation partner,” says Reineberg.
Reineberg receives purchase requests for large real estate development projects every few months. The company does not accept them, because the main customer of Norges Hus Nova is a private customer who is looking for a home of his own. Altogether, Norge Hus Nova has built nearly 600 houses to date.
A paradise of wooden houses
Argo Saul, a spokesperson for the Estonian wood sector and manager of Nordic Houses OÜ, a successful wooden house manufacturer, states that 90 percent of Estonian wooden houses are built for the foreign market. Only one house out of ten remains on the home market. In total, nearly 170 companies operate in this sector in Estonia, and all of them have a limitless market. Estonian wooden houses are built for Scandinavia and Europe, but also Japan and Africa. Saul admits that before entering a new market, it is necessary to do a lot of preliminary work because every country has its characteristics, norms and standards. Different technologies are used in the construction and the specifications vary.
So far, there have been no problems with sales, but the cooling of the markets is currently noticeable. Still, there is no crisis in the wooden houses sector, unlike in various other sectors. Prices have come down a bit, but it’s just a normalisation. The demand for wooden houses is growing and the competition is intense. “There are challenges, but the big picture in our sector is good,” Saul summarizes the topic.
Estonia has one of Europe’s largest bioeconomics, including world-leading expertise in forest-based activity. Supported by high-quality natural resources, ultra-high use of IT, and support policy-making, Estonia offers a range of production and innovation opportunities.
Estonian wooden houses have become a major export article for the country, with annual production volumes reaching over 500 million euros, 90% of this being exported. The main international markets for Estonian timber construction enterprises are Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Finland, forming over 75% of the total export share, with other major markets including France, Holland, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan.
And as true proof of punching above its weight, every 4th wooden house exported from the European Union is manufactured in Estonia. According to Trade with Estonia, for the past 10 years, Estonia has been the largest exporter of European wooden houses, ranking only behind China and Canada in global statistics.