Is it Modular or Manufactured Housing?

Real Estate

There are many terms used today for the types of homes that are available - it’s hard to keep the names straight. Here is a quick course in the various types of homes available:

Stick Built Homes

Site built and stick built home typically refers to traditional single-family homes that are built at the same site that the finished home will stand. It’s built by a local contractor who builds the house according to area construction codes.

Manufactured Homes

Never mind the term “mobile home” – they’re now called “manufactured” homes. Those old rectangular shoebox structures you used to see (and still do) have, in some cases, been replaced by 2,500-square-foot homes with sun rooms & decks. The Manufactured Housing Institute defines a manufactured home as "a single-family house constructed entirely in a controlled factory environment, built to the federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, better known as the HUD Code." Most Americans still refer to them as mobile homes, but the MHI says that the term"mobile home" is used for those built prior to June 15, 1976, when the HUD Code went into effect.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a manufactured home as a dwelling that contains at least 320 square feet with a permanent chassis for transportability (or “mobility”) of the home. These homes are constructed according to the Federal code that applies nationwide. Due to the uniform code, these structures are thoroughly inspected at a factory and have to pass government standards.


Annually, 25% of new residential construction and home sales in the U.S. are manufactured homes. It is the lowest cost stand-alone residence you can buy. You can purchase a brand new single-section manufactured home for less than $29,000 in many areas. Also, manufactured homes are losing their stigma thanks to some new designs.

There are still some drawbacks. One is that many communities don’t allow manufactured homes, and another is costly insurance. This is because of the perceived risks to manufactured homes. Insurance costs are based on risk and according to insurers, manufactured homes are the riskiest types of homes. Manufactured homes are not able to sustain high winds, because they’re lighter than stick-built homes. And even though manufactured homes are not more likely to catch fire, they are more likely to suffer heavy damage. Frozen pipes are another concern because the walls are often not well insulated.

Modular Homes

And now for a look at modular housing. Most people have no idea of what a modular home is. Are they made of molded plastic? Are the rooms super cool modern pods? Actually- no. Once they are built, they’re virtually indistinguishable from traditional site built homes.

Like manufactured homes, they’re built in a factory and quality inspected the entire way. Unlike manufactured homes, the pieces (“modules”) of the house are transported to the building site where they are put together by a building contractor, and they have no chassis or wheels. Because all the work is completed indoors, there is no weather damage or delay. Some floor plans can be built in the factory in two weeks, and two to four additional weeks to attach the modules to a concrete foundation, set up utilities and complete the home.


Unlike manufactured homes, modular homes must conform to building codes in their specific location. They cost more than manufactured homes in general, but they cost less per square foot than for a comparable site-built home and are extremely energy efficient. Very few communities have restrictions against modular homes. With computer-aided design technology, people can select from an unlimited range of styles. The modules even can be shipped with walls, carpeting, bathroom fixtures, cabinets, countertops, plumbing, electrical systems and insulation already installed.

Modular housing might be the way of the future. It currently accounts for 60% of all residences in Sweden and 30% in Japan. These homes work great for people who want to build in remote locations and rural areas; they cut waste and environmental problems.

Modular homes usually qualify for traditional mortgages because they are part of a land and home purchase like site-built homes.