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What is a Manufactured Home?

Posted by: Luca Brammer | Posted on: March 31st, 2011 | 2 Comments

When people think of manufactured homes, a great number of images, concepts and thoughts come to mind. This article is designed to enable a prospective manufactured home buyer to understand the proper definitions of various manufactured home types, understand the regulatory agencies involved in manufactured home construction and also understand the major differences between mobile, manufactured, modular and prefabricated homes. In our experience, many consumers and even homebuilding industry insiders incorrectly use these terms interchangeably. It’s important for consumers to know these differences so they understand the standards that manufactured home builders must live up to.

In 1974, an act of Congress designated the Department of Housing and Urban Development as the regulatory agency for manufactured homes. All manufactured home builders are required to build their homes to the minimal standards set forth by HUD. The Department of Housing and Urban Development provides access to local offices in every state and finding these local offices is quite easy to do online. The following URL will link you to a directory of HUD offices by state: ( http://portal.hud.gov:80/hudportal/HUD?src=/states ). Following the link to your state within this directory will lead you to a local HUD office.

State and local agencies also play a role in the regulation of the manufactured housing marketplace. For example, in California, The Department of Housing and Community Development administers the Manufactured Housing Program, a state government body responsible for regulating and enforcing both HUD and state specific manufactured housing codes. Counties, cities and local architectural commissions may pass stricter code standards and manufactured home buyers must make sure they understand local permitting issues so their new home will be installed properly within these locations and meet local building codes.

The state agencies like the California Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs also serve as a general complaints board. HUD refers to the state bodies as “SAA’s”, that is, State Administrative Agencies. These agencies are required to inform HUD of all complaints filed each and every month within the state to insure consumers complaints are addressed properly.

So, what exactly is a manufactured home according to the parent agency, that is, HUD? According to HUD…

A manufactured home (formerly known as a mobile home) is built to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) and displays a red certification label on the exterior of each transportable section. Manufactured homes are built in the controlled environment of a manufacturing plant and are transported in one or more sections on a permanent chassis.

While the HUD definition describes what their agency refers to as a manufactured home, their definition leaves a lot to be desired. In the course of performing research on manufactured homes, you will most likely encounter the following terms: manufactured home, modular home, panelized home, pre-cut home, and mobile home. Here are some working definitions of the various kinds of manufactured homes on the market:

Manufactured Homes: Homes built completely in a factory following the standards of the federal building code codified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The safety standards were made mandatory by HUD on June 15, 1976. Manufactured homes are either single or multi-section construction, built in a factory and shipped to a site and thereafter installed. The best part about homes that are truly “manufactured homes” is that they are built in compliance with the only federally-regulated national building code.



Modular Homes: Like manufactured homes, modular homes are built in a factory. Unlike the manufactured homes, however, these homes are built to local, or state codes, not the federal code established by HUD.

Panelized Homes: Instead of building a home in large, transportable sections that are essentially complete when leaving the factory minus installation, panelized homes come in multiple “pieces” referred to as panels. Like modular homes, panelized homes are built to local or state standards and codes and not the HUD code.

Mobile Homes: Generally speaking, “mobile homes” refers to any home built in a factory, either partially built or completely built, prior to the establishment of the HUD code.

Other terms and phrases you will find more frequently include: “park model home” and “prefab” or pre-fabricated home. Park model homes are most often designed to be installed in recreational vehicle parks. Park model homes, typically required to be under 400 total square feet, are built to comply with the ANSI 119.5 Standard for Recreational Park Trailers. This type of home is licensed and titled as a Recreational Vehicle. Park model homes are built on a single chassis, are mounted on wheels and are less than 400 square feet. The chassis of a Park Model is typically less than 8 feet and six inches in width and needs no special permits to be towed. These smaller park models can be kept on their wheels and remain mobile for easy transportation.

Prefab or Prefabricated homes typically refer to what the Manufactured Housing Institute refers to as a modular home. These homes are designed to be permanently affixed to a foundation. These homes are built completely within a factory environment and the pieces, that is, modules, are shipped to the site. Some prefabricated home manufacturers ship entire modules and piece them together on site and others will ship both modules and panels and piece the home together on site.

Whether a park model home, manufactured home, modular or prefab home is what you are looking for, they all share a wide variety of benefits when compared to homes completely built on site. The following is a brief list of the benefits of homes built entirely or mostly built in a factory:

Manufactured home prices are typically 10%-30% less per square foot than comparable, custom site built homes.

The quality of manufactured homes is often higher.

The entire process of the build is controlled by a single team in a factory environment.

The factory environment is controlled and construction materials are not subjected to harsh environments during the build process. Less waste is generated in the process as well reducing the amount of materials ending up in our landfills.

The time required to install a manufactured home on a permanent site is significantly less that the time required to build a site built home from the ground up (weeks versus months).

Nowadays, many manufactured home builders offer energy saving options that site built homes rarely offer like Net Zero Energy packages designed to meet the specific needs of the homeowner.

Most contemporary manufactured home builders offer a wide range of options that are equivalent, if not superior to custom site built home options.

Floor plans offered by manufactured home builders are highly customizable. Many manufactured home builders offer multiple variations on a single model and may even offer custom design options as well.

Manufactured home builders must submit their plans to state regulatory agencies prior to building homes for their clients. This means that manufactured homes sold by retailers in your state meet the minimum federal and state codes before they are sold to the public saving consumers both time and money.

Understanding the basic definitions related to various types of manufactured homes is important so that you can choose the right type of home for your needs. Furthermore, knowing that the industry of manufactured home building is the only federally regulated home building industry and is highly regulated is a comfort to many homeowners. Still, some people will find flaws in the finished product. Remember, the home is built by a manufacturer, installed by contracted set-up crews, and the entire process is overseen by either the individual homeowner or a selected retailer. Flaws in the finished product, therefore, may result from any one of these stages of development and installation. The role of the SAA is to assist the homeowner file complaints formally and insure that HUD is made aware of specific problems in order to insure a prompt response to all valid issues raised by the homeowner.

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  1. Pingback: The Process of Hooking up Utilities to a New Manufactured Home | Hallmark Southwest

  2. Pingback: Hallmark panelized homes | Acapura

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