The terms “modular home” and “manufactured home” have different meanings but are sometimes used to refer to the same thing. This confusion is great because modular homes are manufactured. Another big misconception about modular homes is that they are worse than traditional site-built homes. This impression may sometimes occur due to the misrepresentation of manufactured and modular homes realtors and builders, and the buyer’s lack of information. Everyone should understand the difference between these two types of homes.

concrete modular homes construction
concrete modular homes construction
manufactured homes
manufactured homes

Modular Homes

Modular homes are a housing solution entirely factory-built that is afterward transported to their respective building sites. During their building process they are under controlled conditions, and must meet strict quality-control requirements before delivery. In the building site, the different segments are assembled with the aid of cranes creating a home that is almost indistinguishable from a comparable built on-site one. With these factors in mind we can see why wind and rain don’t cause any construction delays or warping to building materials. Additionally, modular homes:

  • Must comply to the same local, state and regional building codes as on-site built homes;
  • Get the same treatment by banks as on-site built homes;
  • Keep track of the house market trends;
  • Must be structurally approved by inspectors;
  • Can have any size, and their block sections are uniformly sized;
  • Are usually more basic than traditional homes, but tend to be sturdier;
  • Are highly customizable. The design is chosen by the customer before the construction process has begun; and
  • It usually takes 8 to 14 weeks to build. Unlike traditional homes, modular home foundations can be dug at the same time as the house is being constructed.

Modular homes supporters argue that due to their indoor and environmentally controlled construction, modular homes have greater strength and resilience than on-site built homes. They are also usually built using more precise building techniques, and more building material than a similar traditional home. One reason for this is that the different components have to withstand the stress of highway transport. A study conducted by FEMA concluded that modular homes withstood the wind and water of Hurricane Andrew better than most of the other homes in the area. In short, modular homes take less time to construct, are more energy-efficient, and usually cost less than traditional site-built homes.

Manufactured Homes

“Manufactured home” is the new term for the housing solutions that were once called “mobile homes” or “trailers”. Manufactured homes are somewhat inexpensive and small, and have less strict standards than other home types. Their mobility and affordability are some of their top advantages; these two factors allow the homebuyer to not have a serious geographical and monetary commitment. They come in three sizes: single-wide, double-wide, and triple-wide. Additionally, manufactured homes:

  • Comply only to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code. The home must have a red tag to show that it was manufactured in compliance with this code.
  • Do not have to be structurally approved after an inspection made by a certified inspector;
  • Are factory-built in sections;
  • Always have a single story;
  • Don’t have a permanent foundation;
  • Tend to lose value over time due to their difficulty to expand or improve;
  • Are transported to their site on a steel chassis that is never removed, and have their wheels to do so;
  • Are usually placed on a property that does not belong to the homeowner, like public land that is leased to them;
  • Are in a separate lending category from modular and on-site built homes; and
  • Don’t have a lot of custom-design options. The buyer will choose a home that has already been built and receives it within days of the purchase. 

If their construction process isn’t taken into consideration, modular homes are the same as on-site built homes. They’re governed by the same laws, and once assembled they are almost indistinguishable from traditional homes. On the other hand, manufactured homes are small and inexpensive mobile residences that require a much smaller commitment than with modular and site-built homes. It is very important to understand the differences between these types of homes if you want to make a smart decision when buying your house and at the same time reduce the misconceptions and stigmas mentioned above.