Defining the Differences: Manufactured Homes, Modular Homes, and “Mobile Homes”

Some people use the terms, ”manufactured home” and “modular home” interchangeably. There are also many that will refer to a manufactured home as a “mobile home.” Following we will attempt at defining the differences between manufactured housing and modular housing. We will also address the fact that there have been zero “mobile homes” built in over four decades!

A high percentage of modular homes in the U.S. are built by traditional manufactured home companies with the same assembly line production system utilized in the production of manufactured homes, including the same floor plans, features, and amenities. The differences are the building construction codes and the manner in which the home will be sited, which we will address in the definitions that follow.


What is a manufactured home? 

First of all, a manufactured home is not a “mobile home.” In fact, there have been no mobile homes built in over 45 years. Say what? July 15, 1976, was the implementation date of a law passed by the U.S. Congress titled, The Federal Construction and Safety Standard Act, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD Code regulates manufactured home design and construction, strength and durability, fire resistance, wind safety, energy efficiency, and overall quality. The Hud Code also sets performance standards for heating, plumbing, air conditioning, and thermal and electrical systems. Manufactured homes are the only form of housing subject to a federally mandated national building code!

Finding high-quality affordable housing is becoming harder and harder to find. Today’s modern manufactured home is a viable solution to the uniquely American dream of quality homeownership. Manufactured home producers offer a wide selection of floor plans, models, sizes, and customizing options to fit a homebuyer’s budget, taste, and lifestyle. A new manufactured home will be built with quality, features, and amenities equal, and often superior to a comparable site-built home with typically a sales price about 50% less.

Modular home shoppers may not be aware that HUD Code manufactured home producers are also the largest builders and sellers of IRC modular homes in North America, by far.


What is a modular home?

Simply stated, a modular home is a home built in a factory setting, to a local state code. In most cases, states have adopted the International Residential Code or IRC. These homes are often called “factory-built,” “systems-built” or “pre-fab homes”. 

A high percentage of modular homes in the U.S. are built by traditional manufactured home builders with the same assembly line production system utilized in producing HUD Code homes but built to IRC standards for factory-built homes. Other modular homes are built in modular home-only facilities, starting out as sections, or “modules,” and then transported to the building site and assembled. This assembly process can be likened to building with Lego blocks.

Manufactured home modulars are primarily built “on-frame” with the frame and chassis removed after transport to the site. “Off-frame” requires sections and modules to be hauled on flatbed trailers and often requires crane services to assist with home placement.


What are other differences between manufactured and modular homes?

Modular homes produced by HUD code manufacturers are similar with features and quality of construction being near equal, with modular pricing slightly higher due to code requirements.

Manufactured homes and manufactured home modulars are usually completed in sections, usually two or three, on a steel frame and chassis and are transported (towed) to the home site with no assembly required at the site except mating of the sections, hooking up utilities, carpet installation, etc.

Modular homes built by “modular only” builders are shipped via flatbed trucks in sections called modules and assembled by builders on-site, often requiring crane service to lower modules onto a foundation.

Modular homes are always built to be attached to private property and classified as real property, and therefore qualify for conventional home mortgage financing. Manufactured homes installed on private property using an approved foundation system may also qualify as real estate  with conventional mortgage financing.
For additional information, visit our companion site  (Resources)

Recent Posts