Home inspectors

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What's the Difference between a Manufactured Home, a Mobilehome, and a "Modular" Home?

A key to understanding today’s manufactured home is distinguishing it from other homes that are, or have been, constructed in a factory.

Most homes produced in a factory are comprised of three-dimensional modules.

These modules are transported to a home site and installed on a state approved foundations or support systems.

California law clearly distinguishes amount the types of homes produced in a factory by the building code to which the home must comply.

Manufactured Home.

The manufactured home is constructed to comply with the National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards,

a uniform building standard administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Code).

Over 97 percent of all homes constructed in California factories meet this code.

Factory-Built Homes.

Often called "modular" homes, factor-built homes are constructed to comply with the California Administrative Code.

About three percent of all factory homes produced in California meet this code.


These homes were constructed to comply with standards enforced by the State of California prior to June 15, 1976,

when the federal preemptive HUD Code became effective. Mobile homes have not been constructed since this date.


This form of housing goes back to the early years of automobiles and motorized highway travel.

It was derived from the travel trailer, a small unit with permanently attached wheels often used for camping.

Larger units intended to be used as dwellings for several months or more in one location came to be known as house trailers.

The original focus of this form of housing was its mobility.

Units were initially marketed primarily to people whose lifestyle required mobility.

However, beginning in the 1950s, mobile homes began to be marketed primarily as an inexpensive form of housing

designed to be set up and left in a location for long periods of time, or even permanently installed with a masonry foundation.

Previously, units had been eight feet or less in width, but in 1956,

the introduction of the 10-foot wide mobile home was made.

This helped solidify the line between mobile homes and house/travel trailers,

since the smaller units could be moved simply with an automobile,

but the larger, wider units required the services of a professional trucking company.

In the 1960s and '70s, mobile homes became even longer and wider, making the mobility of the units more difficult.

Today, when a manufactured home is moved to a location, it is usually kept there permanently.

Since the 1970s, the term "manufactured home" has largely replaced "mobile home,"

since the mobility of the units has considerably decreased.

Many people who could not afford a traditional site-built home

or did not desire to commit to spending a large sum of money on housing began to see manufactured homes

as a viable alternative for long-term housing needs.

The units were often marketed as an alternative to the apartment rental.

However, the tendency of the units of this era to rapidly depreciate in resale value

made using them as collateral for loans far riskier than traditional home loans.

Terms were usually limited to less than the thirty year term typical of the general home-loan market,

and interest rates were considerably higher. In other words, mobile home loans resembled motor vehicle loans

far more than traditional home mortgages.


Manufactured home parks

In the past, manufactured home parks have, often with legitimate reason, been thought of as substandard.

With more modern manufactured home parks however, this is not the case.

Most have regulations concerning the size and styles of homes permitted,

and many are somewhat similar to more traditional subdivision developments.

In some of the more satisfactory parks, all of the homes are owned by the individual occupants.

Only the spaces or pads are rented, not the units themselves.

Developments in which the buyer purchases both the home and the lot are almost indistinguishable

from traditional subdivisions. In lower-end parks, some or all of the units are owned by the operators

of the park and are rented to occupants.

These developments are considered undesirable by property owners

because they are known to depreciate the value of surrounding property.

Newer manufactured homes, particularly double-wides,

tend to be built to much higher standards than their predecessors

and meet the building codes applicable to most areas.

This has led to a reduction in the rate of value depreciation of most used units. [2]

Additionally, modern manufactured homes tend to be built from materials similar

to those used in site-built homes rather than inferior, lighter-weight materials.

They are also more likely to physically resemble site-built homes.

Often, the primary differentiation in appearance is that manufactured homes

tend to have less of a roof slope so that they can be readily transported underneath bridges and overpasses.

The number of double-wide units sold exceeds the number of single-wides,

which is due in part to the aforementioned zoning restrictions.

Another reason for higher sales is the spaciousness of double-wide units,

which are now comparable to site-built homes.

Single-wide units are still popular primarily in rural areas, where there are fewer restrictions.

They are frequently used as temporary housing in areas affected by natural disasters,

when restrictions are temporarily waived.