When searching for a house, it’s possible a person may come across many different types of housing units available. In addition to units such as single-family residences, townhouses, and condos, listings can include houses listed as mobile, manufactured, or modular. When it comes to the latter groups of homes, it’s easy to be confused by the differences between the three. All three terms refer to homes that are built off-site (often referred to as prefabricated or “prefab” homes) and transported to a lot or land parcel, but all three carry different designations and specifications.
While manufactured homes are often referred to as mobile homes, there is, in fact, a big difference between them – a difference separated by one year. Prior to 1976, mobile homes were mass produced to meet demand for affordable and moveable housing, but with little oversight, many of these homes did not meet industry, local, or national standards for homebuilding. In 1976, the U.S. Government established the HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, also known as the HUD Code. This code established federal standards for manufactured homes, including regulations on design, construction, plumbing, electrical wiring, fire safety, framing requirements, and energy efficiency. In 1980, the Housing Act mandated the term “manufactured” to be used on any mobile home built after 1976 in all federal laws that referenced these homes. This makes the biggest difference between the two a safer and more reliable set of standards going forward.
So, if the main difference between mobile and manufactured is industry standards and date of manufacture, what makes a modular home stand out? Much of this comes down to code. While manufactured homes are made to meet federal HUD standards and codes, modular homes are designed and built to meet any applicable state and local codes – much the way on-site constructed homes are. These can be codes that include things such as roof pitch and framing, that go beyond the codes of a federally regulated manufactured home.
It is important to note, however, that non-affixed property is often not able to be financed through a traditional mortgage provider. If your home is not attached to a permanent foundation, the property is seen as “moveable,” and could leave the lender without collateral in the case of non-payment or default. For conventional or government backed mortgage rules to apply to a loan, your mobile, manufactured, or modular home needs to be at least 400 square feet, on an approved permanent foundation, and be taxed as real property. Because of this, it is very important to keep this in mind when including these units in your property search.
Manufactured and modular houses have come a long way from the mobile homes of the past. The mental image of “mobile home” many may have has been replaced by stylish and comfortable living. Design and construction with quality material, foundation placement, and single, double, or triple sectioning give homebuyers multiple options that should not be overlooked in the homebuying process.