There are a lot of misunderstandings around terms for residential structures that are not site-built (meaning materials are brought to a property and a home is constructed in the place where it remains).
For a lot of buyers, manufactured (mobile) homes and modular homes can be viable alternatives to folks with budget and or timing restrictions or considerations; buyers who have existing plots of land, or prefer to have the flexibility of buying land and then creating a living space; buyers who want increased control over the final product.
Modular homes and mobile homes are not the same thing. Incredible growth in both of these types of structures have meant increased costs and improved methods, materials and construction techniques that strip previous notions of poorly-made homes with little value.
Both types of homes are built in a factory. There are manufacturing facilities all over the U.S. building both kinds of homes, with varying degrees of success, quality, affordability and reputation. Each style offers some similarities:
1) Built indoors. This means that weather does not stop or slow down building, so homes can be worked on all year long, controlling costs and unplanned idleness for employees.
2) Built using consistent labor: Plants that build these homes have employees and tend to rely less on transient or day labor. This means that the same employees can depend on year-round income, may have benefits and don’t have to contend with weather or travel issues which can mean a happier employee and thereby a more productive employee; can be subject to closer supervision and training; use the same standardized tools and methods which can mean improved efficiency, lower costs to the manufacturer, reduced injuries due to unfamiliar equipment, etc.
3) Built using standardized materials: Raw materials that are not subject to weather issues remain more stable and ready to use reducing costs; buying in bulk also can result in reduced costs; standard sizing and quality may fewer mistakes fitting the pieces together, and a reduction in the time it takes to assemble due to consistency.
So what’s the difference? Check out these two types of structures and how they differ.
Manufactured Homes: Sometimes still referred to as mobile homes (the term ‘mobile home’ is a factory built home that was built before the July 1, 1976 HUD code came into effect), manufactured homes are designed to be, well, mobile, even if they don’t ever leave their initial destination.
They are built in a factory, on a chassis that stays with the structure and allows it to be transported and installed. They are not typically set upon a foundation (but could be) and can be can be hooked up to local utilities. They are not built according to the building code(s) where they are installed, but the the code used by HUD (Housing and Urban Development). Reselling these types of homes can be difficult since their quality is generally not high; some MLS (Multiple Listing Service) require that the serial number of a home be identified in the selling process. These are generally the homes that stand up poorly to severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes, and are often specifically excluded in deeds, Homeowner’s Associations, etc.
Single-wide is not merely a term, but a dimension…it is used on a home that is 12-18 feet wide and from 30 to 80 ft. long. These homes run in size from 360 sq. ft. to 1,440 sq. ft. Double-wides are homes that are 24-28 feet wide and from 40 to 80 ft. long. They range from 960 sq. ft. to 2,240 sq. ft.
Modular Homes: These are also factory-built, delivered to a site, hooked up to local utilities. They are trucked to their destination and then lowered into place with the use of large cranes. These can be placed on a slab, over basements, can consist of several sections connected on-site, but their biggest difference is that they conform to the building code of their destination. This increases resale value. As well, to withstand the rigors of travel, modular homes sometime use MORE material than a stick-built counterpart. Their fit and finish is often indistinguishable from a site-built home. The interior choices like other new construction can be chosen: flooring, cabinets, hardware, etc.
Some subdivisions don’t allow modular homes so be sure that the area or property you’re considering allows for this type of construction.
In the right area and situation, either of these options can be just the right thing, but be sure you understanding the differences!