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07/22/2022

Modular vs. Manufactured Home vs. Mobile Home



A Modular Home vs a Manufactured Home: What's the Difference?

A manufactured home with a front porch

If you’ve been shopping around for the perfect prefabricated home, chances are you’ve seen terms like manufactured homes, modular homes, prefab housing, and even off-site built homes. At first glance, these terms might appear to be synonymous. While both manufactured homes and modular homes are great options for home buyers, there are a few key differences to understand.
Let’s start at the beginning and break down each prefabricated housing term to make sure you have everything you need to choose the right style of home for you and your family’s needs.

What is prefabricated housing?

To put it simply, “prefabricated housing” is a term used to describe homes that are built off site, typically in an indoor home-building facility. Homes are then transported from the building facility to the property for assembly or installation.

In many instances, prefabricated modular and manufactured houses are transported in two or more pieces or “sections” and assembled on site. For others, such as single-wide manufactured homes, the structure may be entirely constructed in the building facility and delivered to the property in one piece. In other words, prefabricated housing is an umbrella term that includes both modular homes and manufactured homes. If you run into terms like “prefab housing,” “system-built homes,” or “off-site built homes,” just know that these are synonyms for prefabricated housing.

What is a manufactured home?

A manufactured home is a type of prefabricated house that’s built with quality materials in an off-site location. These homes typically come in three sizes — single-wide, double-wide, and triple-wide. Depending on the manufacturer, you might also see these sizes referred to as single section, double section, or triple section.

These types of houses also feature a steel chassis which is used to transport the structure to the homesite and then acts as an integral component of the home’s foundation system. Manufactured homes offer the flexibility for the homeowner to choose their foundation type.

Manufactured home foundation types include:

  • Pier and beam foundations
  • Traditional slab foundations
  • Crawl spaces
  • Basement foundations
A crane moving a manufactured home

The main difference between manufactured homes and other types of prefabricated housing is the building codes which govern the design, construction and installation. In 1974, the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act was passed. Two years later, a set of official federal standards for manufactured homes was put into place — The Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, also commonly known as the HUD code.

The HUD code was designed to ensure all manufactured homes met certain quality standards by providing detailed specifications and requirements for things like:

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Fire safety
  • Energy efficiency
  • Design + construction
  • And many others

These standards are directly responsible for the dramatic increase in the quality of manufactured homes that we’ve seen since 1976. In fact, many of today’s manufactured homes share more in common with site-built homes than they do with mobile homes built prior to the 1970's, especially when it comes to aesthetic finishes, interior layouts, and options.

What is a modular home?

Modular homes are another type of prefabricated house that are partially constructed inside a climate controlled manufacturing facility before being transported to the homesite for assembly. Modular homes often share many similarities to other types of prefabricated houses in terms of features, style, and aesthetic touches but can provide additional design flexibility due to their construction method.

Modular homes are available in all shapes, sizes, and floor plans, and, unlike manufactured homes that require a steel chassis, modular homes can also be constructed for “off-frame” installation, meaning they do not have a steel chassis. This added flexibility could be valuable for home buyers who are looking for something more similar to a site-built experience. While some “on-frame” modular homes bear a striking resemblance to a manufactured home, many modular homes are indiscernible from site-built homes.

The key difference between modular homes and manufactured houses is the building codes each is required to comply with. Unlike manufactured homes, modular homes are not built to a national building standard like the HUD code. Instead, — just like a traditional site-built home - they are required to meet all applicable state codes, as well as any codes required by local government bodies like cities, counties, or townships.

In some states, these requirements might include standards about the home’s appearance, roof pitch, foundation type, and more. It’s worth noting that state or local standards could also require the modular home to be permanently fixed to the foundation without a steel chassis.

Modular homes often allow more flexibility in relation to local zoning requirements. In instances where some manufactured homes may be “zoned-out”, modular homes may the perfect option. Since they adhere to all state and local codes, these prefabricated options are typically allowed in those areas. Before you begin your prefabricated home project, check your local building codes to be sure your choice will meet the requirements for your area.

A manufactured home with a two car garage

So, which style of home is right for you?

The truth is that both manufactured and modular homes can be amazing options for potential home buyers. With exacting quality standards across the board, future homeowners can rest assured that either option will provide a long-lasting and beautiful place to call home.

If you’re in the market for a prefabricated home, 21st Mortgage offers a wide range of financing options for both manufactured and modular homes. While the home buying process may look a little different depending on the style of home you choose, the award-winning team at 21st Mortgage is here to guide you every step of the way.

Get in touch with our team to learn more or get started online today.

*This is not a government endorsed program.