Speaking of kit homes, I might still start a separate thread on the subject of A-frames. With all the rural exposure I've had to them (seems everyone has lived in one or knows someone who has), I'm surprised I couldn't find any discussion of them here. The people I've talked to really enjoy them, though all were occasionally annoyed with the awkward standing and furniture arrangement occasionally necessitated by the sloped ceilings.
Travis, these kit homes you're talking about include plumbing, electrical, insulation, flooring materials? Just excluding the kitchen and bath alone is really significant, aren't those the most expensive rooms, requiring the most skilled labor?
But since we're talking of kits, there are some interesting European kit designs hitting the market. The one that's already reached the US is Estonia's Avrame
, the one that probably will next is Italy's M.A.DI.
Avrame suggests a build budget comparable to the OP's: $32,000-72,000 USD for a 1200 foot model. Though of course the devil is in the details like finishing, I believe they ballpark that budget as 30% of the house. The former is a kit that you build on site, the latter a kit stood up, in sections, with a crane on site, then locked into place and fleshed out. M.A.DI. can even be installed without a foundation, or just with screw piles. The "flat pack" building idea, that it arrives flat and is lifted/locked into place -- then can be similarly folded up again -- is really seductive, but probably deceptively oversimplifying.
Further along the price continuum is Ecocor
, building on the PassivHaus efficiency principles which are both too byzantine and spendy for me to trifle with. Perhaps I am a terrible person, but insane thermal efficiency has never interested me. It always seems to come at the expense of stifling, stale air laminated with various oxidized human stenches...whether it's an airtight tiny house, an office or a hospital. I think of the decades of offgassing from both building materials and living tissue and gag.
So for us statesiders, the only current option is Avrame, and they look pretty good to my untrained eye. Sexy (think "modern rustic"), solid and affordable. You can have a dried-in shell in 3-6 months, costs for such seem comparable to budget stick-builders like Adair and HiLine, and if you can follow instructions and build with common sense, you have a better shot at a finished product than if you hired contractors (though you'd still need a general and subs for your finish work).
There are a lot of question marks in these European kits, though. In the EU Avrame uses spruce; in the USA, they use the exotic LVL (laminated veneer lumber), which led me to some interesting reading on cross-laminated lumber (renewable building material! will replace concrete even for skyscrapers! feels like wood but structurally emulates harder materials!) but I don't see kit builders on a budget using that. I also distrust glues or the like that offgas unless they've been in use for decades and haven't killed more people than anything else. Again, air circulation is good. I am somewhat reassured that Avrame's a-frames, building on a postwar tradition that is already earthquake resistant, are seismically sound. Snow load is not a problem. Insulation of A-frames has been improved in their redux of the design (there's an 8-12" deep gap in the framing that accommodates all kinds of insulations friendly to damp, cold environs). It'll take a lot to reassure me that these Ikea-houses -- a comparison the company blithely makes itself -- can handle mold, condensation and rodents as needed here. Apparently they are kind to wood heat but how to design one to include an RMH? How do they work with heat pumps? How are the acoustics? It's hard to be an early adopter on something as weighty as a house, and the idea of an RMH, not widely-tested in all residential builds, as central to a bleeding-edge A-frame redux realized with exotic industrial materials, could be a little unsettling.
All of which is to say, I agree with the OP that kits seem like the best deal, but with the kit world changing so fast and materials, technologies and climates in flux, it's hard to feel secure about anything. (But how much security is there in permaculture, anyway? Haha!)