How thrilling that you’re planning a new construction! Among your options are manufactured, modular, and traditional or “site-built” homes.
Here I answer questions and concerns about manufactured vs modular houses, such as their construction, designs, and safety, together with the pros and cons of each type. I also provide a cost comparison per square foot. Next, you’ll gain tips for securing a mortgage. In addition, you’ll learn how to boost the value of a prefabricated home.
So, let’s delve into the pros and cons of manufactured and modular homes. Your answers await!
Table of Contents
- What are manufactured homes?
- How is a manufactured home designed?
- What are the pros of manufactured homes?
- What are the cons of manufactured homes?
- What are modular homes?
- How is a modular home constructed?
- What are the pros of modular homes?
- What are the cons of modular homes?
- Manufactured vs Modular Homes
- Weigh Your Priorities
What are manufactured homes?
Technically, manufactured homes are factory-built houses erected after 1976. That year, the federal government began regulating home construction, using standards set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
For instance, here are two HUD requirements:
– a manufactured home must be at least 320 square feet
– the base frame must have a metal undercarriage called a chassis
The chassis gives the home structural support after installation. Once the home is trucked to its final destination, the wheels are removed.
Then, the chassis rests on a concrete foundation, crawlspace, or in-ground piers. Hurricane straps keep it secure.
Moreover, per HUD, a manufactured home must have energy-saving features.
How is a manufactured home designed?
Usually, you have three floor plans from which to choose, single-wide, double-wide, and triple-wide, each reflecting its size and number of sections. Typically, a dealer has its model homes on display at a sales center where you can view them.
Interior designs can be basic or elaborate, depending on your wish list. Upscale layouts can include:
- living rooms with fireplaces
- spacious, fully-equipped kitchens
- elegant bedrooms with huge walk-in closets
- master bathrooms featuring whirlpool tubs
After deciding where to situate a home, you choose the type of lot and whether to buy or lease it.
What are the pros of manufactured homes?
Building a manufactured home costs 10 to 35 percent less than a site-built house.
One reason is that a factory-built home takes much less time to construct, spanning one to three months. Conversely, on-site builders need nine to 12 months to complete a traditional home.
With a prefabricated design, the entire process is streamlined, preventing errors and delays. Secondly, factories stockpile products and materials, paying lower prices than traditional home builders.
Here’s an average cost comparison:
– site-built home – $107 per square foot
– manufactured home – $49 per square foot
Moreover, with the energy-saving features of a manufactured home, you’ll likely pay less for utilities. Plus, you can tailor the interior design to fit your budget.
HUD requires manufactured homes to have structural integrity. For instance, they must endure the rigors of transportation from a factory to a homeowner’s site. House delivery can involve dangerous driving weather, steep hills, and potholes.
Furthermore, HUD-regulated houses must have fire safety features.
TIP – When you buy a manufactured home, it will have a red seal, verifying that it’s HUD-certified.
As mandated by HUD, a prefabricated home has enhanced insulation in the walls and skirt panels, curbing energy loss during winter and summer.
Moreover, belly wrap insulation lies between its frame and chassis. The belly wrap serves two purposes. First, it acts as a moisture barrier. Secondly, the insulation contains a repellent, warding off rodents and damaging insects.
Manufactured homes also feature:
- Energy Star kitchen appliances
- on-demand water heaters
- water-saving plumbing faucets and fixtures
- energy-efficient windows
Building a manufactured home takes just one to three months.
Manufactured homes are generally smaller than site-built homes. Hence, they appeal to retirees wanting to downsize.
They’re also advantageous for growing families. When children need more space, their parents can install additional sections.
Usually, the maximum size of a manufactured home is 2,200 square feet.
6. Noise Reduction
Since manufactured homes are tightly sealed and insulated, they soften outside noise. Meanwhile, they muffle interior sounds between rooms. Thus, manufactured homes are often quieter than traditional ones.
For some people, noise buffering may be unimportant. Still, it can be vital for those working night shifts and sleeping during the day. Examples are paramedics, nurses, police officers, security guards, and flight attendants.
7. Scant Construction Waste
Often, site-built homes are subject to construction blunders, resulting in material damage and waste. That’s why you always see dumpsters outside a traditional home under construction. Meanwhile, heavy rain creates a mess on the property.
Since a manufactured home is factory-built, all the floor plans are computer-assisted, minimizing construction errors.
Next, home assembly takes place in a sheltered, controlled environment, protected from the elements. Thus, the materials don’t get wet or warped. Any leftover components are repurposed for future builds.
Plus, all the factory staff are expertly trained to build transportable houses. They’re also closely supervised.
For all these reasons, prefabricated homes generate little construction waste.
Since a manufactured home keeps its chassis, you can transport it to a new location.
What are the cons of manufactured homes?
1. Land Expense
Unlike a traditional home, the cost of a manufactured house doesn’t include land. So, you’ll want to factor this expense into your budget.
If you opt to live in a manufactured home community, you’ll pay extra to lease your particular plot. Plus, there are fees for the utilities, amenities, and services.
2. Financing Challenges
By definition, real property is unmovable.
After installation, a manufactured home isn’t automatically considered real property. Instead, it’s personal property, meaning movable. Due to this technicality, some lenders won’t grant a loan for a manufactured house.
So, you’ll need to make the home finance-worthy. First, arrange to have it permanently attached to a foundation. Then, apply to your county to convert the building to real property status.
Thankfully, permanent manufactured homes qualify for a few types of mortgages, including:
- Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
- USDA Rural Development Mortgage (RD)
- US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
TIP – Apply at a bank or mortgage lender who favors manufactured homes.
As a rule, home builders and dealers charge higher interest rates than standard financial institutions. So, approach reputable banks and mortgage lenders who work with manufactured homes.
It’s best to shop around, getting at least three quotes. Then, choose the loan with the best terms, saving you money.
3. Possible Depreciation
The resale value of a manufactured home is strongly tied to its location. Appreciation isn’t likely if the home occupies:
- leased or rented land
- an economically depressed area
Yet, if the home is in a thriving locale, you can profit from its sale.
If manufactured homes appeal to you, consult a realtor specializing in them. Doing so will hike your chances of a successful resale.
What are modular homes?
Let’s now discuss modular homes for comparison purposes with manufactured homes.
A modular home is a prefabricated house built in sections, overseen by local inspectors.
HUD doesn’t regulate modular construction. Still, all the components must meet federal, state, and local building codes, just like a site-built home.
Moreover, a modular home carries a builder’s warranty.
How is a modular home constructed?
First, a factory builds up to 90 percent of the house in three-dimensional pieces called modules. Unlike a manufactured home, a modular one doesn’t come with a chassis. As such, it can’t be moved and relocated.
Construction takes roughly three to four months. Meanwhile, the foundation takes shape at the home’s destination.
Next, a truck delivers the modular pieces to a homeowner’s property. There, a crane operator assembles all the sections, securing them to the foundation. Then, the finished home undergoes inspection. After completion, a modular house looks just like a site-built home.
What are the pros of modular homes?
1. Unlimited Customization
With a modular home, you have complete design freedom. You specify the building’s shape, size, and floor plan, tailoring it to your preference. You can even mix and match units.
2. Superior Safety
Modular houses are super-sturdy! According to a FEMA study on Hurricane Andrew, the local modular homes withstood the fierce elements better than the traditional housing.
That’s because engineers design modular homes with robust frames, including hurricane trusses. They also ensure that each building component is travel-worthy. Then, factories use materials that protect the house from decay, mold, insects, and corrosion.
After modular home installation, an inspector examines the finished work, ensuring it’s up to code.
Building a modular home takes three to four months.
Like a manufactured home, you can add sections to a modular one. For instance, you can arrange to build more rooms, another floor, or an apartment.
Since the construction takes place off-site, you’re spared the noise and distractions. The only inconvenience is when the contractors secure the additions to your home.
5. Relatively Expedited Financing
Generally, modular homes are easier to finance than manufactured homes. That’s because they’re viewed as real property, having a permanent foundation. Moreover, they adhere to strict building codes.
Most mortgage lenders finance modular houses through a variety of programs.
6. Potential Increase in Home Value
Once you buy the land for a modular home, it constitutes private property. Then, its value will fluctuate according to the local housing market. Even so, upgrading a modular home can boost its value.
What are the cons of modular homes?
1. Modular homes cost more to build than manufactured ones.
As mentioned, the median cost to build a manufactured home is $49 per square foot. Modular home construction ranges from $50 to $100 per square foot on average.
Still, due to factory assembly, modular materials and labor cost less than on-site construction.
2. Land Expense
The land for a modular home is an extra cost, just like a manufactured house.
Once you’ve secured the plot, you need to obtain permits, utility hookups, and inspections. Some modular builders include these add-ons in the home price. They also handle the arrangements.
If your builder doesn’t, you’ll need to schedule the services and pay the costs separately.
TIP – Take the time to research builders in your desired location.
Visit their open houses and shows, posing your questions and gaining references.
3. Construction Time
While building a manufactured home takes one to three months, a modular home requires three to four months. Still, this time frame is a minor drawback, especially when compared to a site-built home, spanning nine months to a year!
Manufactured vs Modular Homes
So, let’s recap the differences between these two styles of factory-built homes.
1. Manufactured and modular homes vary in construction.
A manufactured home is built on a chassis, a wheeled platform. At installation, the wheels come off, but the chassis remains, making it further transportable.
Conversely, a modular home has no chassis and sits on a permanent foundation. Hence, it can’t be moved.
2. Each type of home is held to distinct building codes.
With manufactured homes, HUD sets the building standards, emphasizing fire safety and energy efficiency.
Meanwhile, modular houses must meet regional, state, and local building codes, the same as site-built homes. Thus, modular homes are high-quality. In fact, some state codes are stricter than HUD’s!
3. Modular homes cost more than manufactured ones, although less than site-built houses.
Here’s the average cost comparison:
- manufactured home – $49 per square foot
- modular home – $50 to $100 per square foot
Even though you’ll likely pay less to build a manufactured home, you’ll have more design freedom with a modular one.
4. Financing tends to be easier with a modular home.
A manufactured home is considered personal property until a county converts its status to real property. Consequently, some lenders hesitate to finance manufactured homes.
On the other hand, a modular home has preferential status with banks and lenders. The building is real property, affixed to a permanent foundation. Thus, you’ll likely have more financing options with a modular than a manufactured home.
Weigh Your Priorities
Choosing a manufactured versus a modular home depends on your priorities, such as:
- energy efficiency
- hurricane, storm, and fire safety
- noise reduction
- plans to relocate or sell the house
Once you decide on a type of home, find a realtor specializing in what you desire. Then, when a particular house appeals to you, ask the realtor for leads to favorable lenders.
May life in your new home be delightful!
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