As far as housing that’s built off-site is concerned, you’ve probably heard several different being tossed about; but, many people wonder what exactly they mean. Most people think all homes that were built inside of a facility are all made the same.
In a nutshell, that’s not true. The deeper the understanding of off-site built homes, the easier it becomes to fully understand why they are all considered distinctly different from one another.
From a visual aspect, modular and manufactured homes can appear very similar. Often, both types of homes are mistakenly considered to be on-site built homes. For this reason and more, determining which one is a manufactured, mobile, and modular home can be confusing. A great point to remember is that premanufactured homes are classified differently according to the codes they follow.
A prefabricated home describes almost any building or residential property that was manufactured in a home facility building off-site. The house then must have been transported to the building site or home.
Even though modular homes are (technically) manufactured in a home facility, they are built to satisfy regional, state, and local codes. So, what then, exactly, is the difference between a mobile home and a manufactured home?
What are mobile homes?
There are two types of homes, those built in a factory and those built on site. We call these "manufactured homes" and "stick built homes", respectively. One takes advantage of the efficiencies of modern factories, while the other costs more, is slower to build, and is prone to weather.
Mobile homes are built to satisfy the HUD Code. After the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act was passed in 1974 to distinguish manufactured and mobile homes from each other, the HUD manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards was soon to follow in 1976. This last event set the standard for the “HUD Code.”
The HUD Code dictates the standards for:
-Thermal safety and protection
-Frame and body requirements
The Hud Code is the only national building code that exists, which is regulated on the federal level. The purpose of the code is to improve the quality and durability of manufactured homes drastically.
Before this movement, mobile homes were made as cheaply and as quickly as possible to turn a quick profit and offer affordable housing to the public. There were hardly any strict oversights regarding the manufacturing of the homes. Being easily movable was another critical feature that was prized back then.
Another significant contributor to mobile homes’ popularity came during and after WWII. Factories bought them by the truckload to house workers, and at the end of the war, they were mass-produced to provide housing for returning veterans. Housing was a significant issue for returning veterans. There was hardly any available until the mobile home industry stepped up.
Once the HUD Code went into effect, a new standard was set for the mobile home industry. If you bought a home that was built to HUD Code, you could be assured that you were purchasing something of quality.
Beyond that, there are several types of manufactured homes. The two we'll be talking about are Mobile and Modular. They are BOTH manufactured homes, however, one is built to a national code and the other is built to a local code. Know the difference!
The History of Mobile Homes
The mobile home as we know it was born in the early 1900s when people were moving around frequently in search of jobs to provide for their families. Initially, these mobile homes looked more like a modern-day camper with a trailer coupler for easy moving. They were typically built with steel beams and set up on either a concrete foundation or blocks made of wood or concrete.
Mobile homes played an essential role in World War II; Factories bought them for temporary housing used by the workers who had to leave home to aid in the war efforts. Once the war ended, mobile homes became quick, efficient, and affordable housing for returning veterans.
During the 1960s, companies started producing larger mobile homes that more closely resembled a traditional stick-built- house while keeping the aspect of cost-efficiency. In the 1970s, the production of mobile homes began gaining safety standards and building codes. Following these enhanced regulations, in 1980 it became federal law to refer to any mobile home built after 1976 as a manufactured home, rather than a mobile home.
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What are Modular homes?
A modular home, being built to the local building code, is indistinguishable from a stick built home. It is still a manufactured home, but is built to the same standard as a stick built home. Sure, there is some discrimination against homes built in a factory, and a modular home is subject to these same stigmas. But, since they are built in a factory, modular homes are usually more efficient and result in less waste and impact on the environment. Since it is built to the same code, the home will appraise the same as a stick built home because according to code, it is identical. Make sure you know the difference between a modular and mobile home, as the first one will hold it's value much better.
What Are Manufactured Homes?
Manufactured homes have gone through many changes since the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act was passed in 1974. Two years later, in 1976, the HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards set the code for the safe manufacturing of these homes. The HUD Code set standards for:
- Construction and design
- Thermal protection
- Fire safety
- Electrical and plumbing
- Frame and body requirements
- Efficient use of energy
This act is the only national building code regulated by the federal government designed to enhance modern-day manufactured housing's quality and durability.
Before the HUD Code went into effect, mobile homes were quickly mass-produced to lesser standards and specifications.
Benefits of Modular homes
Modular homes are created in accordance to the states or even counties building code. This code is often different between states, which is why modular homes typically cost more to build, since they are building on a smaller scale. A manufactured home, more specifically a "mobile" home, is built to the national HUD code, and benefits from being built en masse. What this means is you can put a mobile home on any piece of land, anywhere in the United States. The national HUD code actually supercedes local building codes, so make sure your local home inspector is aware that your home is a manufactured home and is exempt from their particular requirements (for the most part, more on that later).
Benefits of Mobile homes
Manufactured homes are regulated by the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards which regulates the way they are designed and the way they are built. This national code allows manufactured homes to be placed anywhere in the country. Modular homes on the other hand, must adhere to the local building code, and will be not only inspected in the factory but inspected once placed on site.
While mobile homes are built to the national HUD Code, modular homes are built to satisfy specific state, local, and regional code requirements. The codes they meet depends on the intended future location of the house, of course.
Modular homes are usually built in two or more sections. It really depends on the design and size of the specific home.
Modular homes are built entirely in a factory, and moved to their particular plot of land on a flatbed truck. They do not have a frame underneath, rather, they are placed on a concrete foundation and more typically, a basement. The frames are then returned to the factory for reuse. They are not only built to a certain local code, but are often built to quality control standards that far exceed stick-built housing standards. This makes them a superior quality product in every way. Once on site, they are assembled like a jigsaw puzzle using various chains, ropes, and good ole' elbow grease. It is often impossible to accurately tell a modular home from a stick built home, especially with more exotic varieties such as two, three story modular homes or modular homes that come with garages and porches. Modular homes are not subject to the same stresses and on site conditions that stick built homes are, and are usually assembled in a few hours.
These homes are appriased the same as a stick built home, but will cost you much less. They often will have the same features that modern stick built homes will have, the same decor, etc. Althought they undergo the same strict code inspection, they can be made to any size, and are usually more durable than stick built.
Since they are built to a local code, and since local codes can vary so much, modular homes are a very customizable product. Go with this option if you really like to tweak your options. They are environmentally friendly, and generally more precise.
The reason they are built to a higher standard is so they can be transported for hundreds of miles down a highway. Tell me what stick built home can do that! They are quicker to build and will always cost less with Home Nation than a stick built home.
Related: The cost of moving a mobile home
Manufactured Vs. Modular Homes
Safety: Stick-Built Vs. Manufactured Homes
Which one should you purchase?
There are a few other things to consider:
Home Design Options
When you decide on which type of home you wish to buy, you may want to consider your cosmetic options as well as your design options thoroughly. Styles and designs change quickly, so more options may be available to you than ever before.
Your financing and design options largely depend on the company that is constructing your home. They often offer customers the opportunity to customize the home.
Despite the fact that modular and manufactured homes are more expensive now than they used to be in the past, these types of homes are still considerably less expensive than building a home on-site.
The fact that both of these types of homes are constructed and manufactured off-site where the owners don’t ever get to supervise can lead to some mistrust or at least a tinge of suspicion and fear from homebuyers.
When knowing that the homes are made to satisfy either the national HUD Code or your local, state, and regional codes aren’t enough to set your mind at ease, that’s when you buy through the quality and integrity of the company comes in.