What Are Modular Homes vs Manufactured?

Modular Home
Modular homes look just like traditional homes. © Big Stock Photo

When you are buying a home, you might hear the terms modular homes, manufactured homes and site built homes. It's important to understand how they all differ, no matter whether you are purchasing an existing house or plan to build on land that is subject to restrictions. The differences can affect a home's price and its resale value, and even dictate whether or not it can be built on your land.

What Are Site Built Homes?

  • They are constructed entirely at the building site.
  • Common construction materials are 2 by 4s and 4 by 6s precut wood used for framing and trusses.
  • They conform to all state, local or regional codes where the house is located.
  • Often called 'stick-built' houses, they make up the majority of all new homes constructed today and are the favored way to build a home.
  • A well-built, cared for site-built home generally increases in value over time, although its location plays a key role in value.

What Are Modular Homes?

You might find this hard to believe, but the photograph on this page is of a modular home. It looks just like a regular house built on top of a slab with 2x4s, doesn't it? You cannot really tell the difference these days. Modular homes are typically very well built. Here are more facts about modular homes:

  • Modular homes are built in sections at a factory.
  • Modular homes are built to conform to all state, local or regional building codes at their destinations.
  • Sections are transported to the building site on truck beds, then joined together by local contractors.
  • Local building inspectors check to make sure a modular home's structure meets requirements and that all finish work is done properly.
  • Modular homes are sometimes less expensive per square foot than site built houses.
  • A well-built modular home should have the same longevity as its site-built counterpart, increasing in value over time.
  • Read ​​more facts about modular homes

What Are Manufactured Homes?

  • Formerly referred to as mobile homes or trailers, but with many more style options than in the past.
  • Manufactured houses are built in a factory.
  • They conform to a Federal building code, called the HUD code, rather than to building codes at their destinations.
  • Manufactured homes are built on a non-removable steel chassis.
  • Sections are transported to the building site on their own wheels.
  • Multi-part manufactured units are joined at their destination.
  • Segments are not always placed on a permanent foundation, making them more difficult to re-finance.
  • Building inspectors check the work done locally (electric hook up, etc.) but are not required to approve the structure.
  • Manufactured housing is generally less expensive than site built and modular homes.
  • Manufactured homes sometimes decrease in value over time.

    Read ​​more facts about manufactured homes

What Do the Differences Mean to You?

Restrictive Covenants and Deed Restrictions

  • Communities generally have no restrictions against traditional, site-built homes. Many housing developments do set minimum size requirements and stipulate you must build a house that conforms to published restricted covenants or be approved by an architectural review committee.
  • Most developments allow modular homes. Some do not, but, in those cases, the restrictions seem to have been imposed because of an ongoing confusion about the differences between modular homes and manufactured homes.
  • Restrictive covenants and deed restrictions often exclude manufactured homes.

Investigate the deed restrictions thoroughly before purchasing land for any type of new home. Further, obtain a copy of the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, also known as the CC&Rs for your new neighborhood. Study the plat map and know where your easement boundaries lie to make sure you do not place your modular home on top of any easements.

Are Prefab Modular Homes the Same as Shipping Containers?

can also be called a modular home but they are generally very different from your typical modular home.

A conventional modular home looks very much like a traditional stick-built home. It is hard to tell the difference. Whereas a shipping container home, constructed from an actual shipping container and not a replica, looks like a shipping container home, made from corrugated metal.

A single pod modular home built from a shipping container can be used as a cabin, getaway or tiny home. For more space, consider joining together two shipping containers.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.