Are you a soon-to-be homeowner? Can’t decide between a modular or a manufactured home? Here’s our guide to decoding the difference between modular and manufactured homes!

The housing market offers a diverse range of options to cater to various preferences and budgets. Among these, modular and manufactured homes present an affordable route to homeownership.

Digging into the key differences between these types of homes can significantly impact your decision-making process when seeking the perfect abode.

At a glance, modular homes are built in factories in large, three-dimensional modules. These prefabricated pieces are transported to the building site, where they are assembled into a complete structure.

This method ensures structural integrity and efficiency by adhering to local and state building codes, thus providing high-quality construction in a shorter time frame.

Manufactured homes, on the other hand, also provide a factory-built housing option but differ in their construction standards.

What’s more interesting is that they play a significant role in the US housing sector, comprising nearly 9.8% of all inhabited units and adding approximately $3.6 billion to the nation’s yearly GDP.

Governed by the federal HUD code rather than local building codes, these homes are known for their mobility and affordability. They are available in various sizes and styles to cater to your preferences.

Understanding these distinctions can result in making an informed decision when exploring housing options.

Modular vs. Manufactured Homes

If you’re thinking of becoming a homeowner soon, it’s essential to know which type of home suits your preferences. Here’s the difference between modular and manufactured homes.

Modular Homes

Modular homes are a type of prefabricated home, built in sections or modules, in a controlled factory environment. These modules are then transported to the building site, where they are assembled and installed on a permanent foundation. You can expect modular homes to adhere to the same local, state, and regional building codes as traditional, on-site constructed homes.

Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes, often referred to as mobile homes, are also constructed off-site in a factory. However, they differ from modular homes in that they are built on a non-removable steel chassis with wheels, enabling them to be easily transported to their location.

These homes are subject to a federal code set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), ensuring they meet specific construction, design, and safety standards.

Quick Comparison

Still sounding confusing?

Here’s a brief comparison of key differences between modular and manufactured homes:

FactorsMobile HomesManufactured Homes
Building StandardsAdhere to local, state, and regional building codes like traditional on-site homes.Built to federal HUD standards, which may differ from local building codes.
CustomizationHigher degree of customization.Design might be more standardized due to HUD regulations.
QualityOften better quality construction as they meet strict local and regional building codes.Consistent quality controlled by HUD standards, but may not match local on-site home quality.
Property TypeConsidered real property.May be classified as personal property, depending on local regulations and whether it’s placed permanently on a lot.
Resale ValueTypically higher resale values.Generally lower resale values compared to modular homes.
FinancingEasier financing options since they’re seen as real property.Financing might be more limited; however, specialized loans like chattel loans are available.
CostTend to be more expensive upfront compared to manufactured homes.More affordable initial costs.
Construction and Installation TimeLonger to construct and install.Quicker installation times, offering faster move-in readiness.
MobilityDesigned for permanent placement.Provides the flexibility to move the home if required, beneficial in specific scenarios.

Knowing these key differences between modular and manufactured homes can help you make an informed decision when choosing your next home. Remember to consider factors such as budget, location, and personal preferences while making your decision.

Foundation and Building Standards

Diving deep into the core principles of home construction, let’s explore the distinct foundation types and building standards that define modular and manufactured homes.

Modular homes are constructed to be placed on a permanent foundation, which provides stability and increases the home’s value.

These foundations can either be a pier and beam foundation or a full basement, depending on your preference and local building codes.

The foundation process is typically overseen by a local contractor, ensuring that the correct materials and methods are used to meet state and local building requirements.

Unlike modular homes, manufactured homes are built on a steel chassis and often come with wheels to allow for transportation. These homes can be placed on temporary foundations, such as concrete piers or dry-stacked blocks. However, some manufactured homes can be placed on a permanent foundation if required by local building codes.

Detachable transportation equipment like wheels and trailer structures is common for manufactured homes. It’s important to note that placing a manufactured home on a permanent foundation may affect its classification, value, and financing options.

Building Codes and Safety Standards

Modular homes are built in compliance with state and local building codes, ensuring that they meet the same safety standards as traditional site-built homes. This ensures that the structure is safe, energy-efficient, and adherent to local zoning requirements.

Manufactured homes, on the other hand, follow the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, also known as the HUD Code. The HUD Code is a set of federal regulations governing the construction and installation of manufactured homes to ensure that they meet minimum safety standards.

Compliance Inspections

For modular homes, compliance inspections are conducted by local building officials during construction. These inspections ensure that the home adheres to state and local building codes, including electrical, plumbing, and structural requirements.

Once the home is completed and placed on its foundation, additional on-site inspections are performed as needed to ensure full compliance.

Manufactured homes are inspected during the manufacturing process by third-party inspectors who ensure that the homes meet the HUD Code requirements.

Each transportable section of a manufactured home will display a red certification label on the exterior, indicating that it has passed the required inspections and meets the appropriate safety standards.

Design and Customization

Venturing into the realm of architectural artistry, we’ll shed light on the design versatility and unique customization avenues available in modular and manufactured homes.

Modular Home Designs

If you want more flexibility as a homeowner where you can materialize your dream home fantasies, modular homes will cater to your personal tastes and needs. With numerous floor plans and customizable features, you have the opportunity to create a unique space tailored to your lifestyle.

Many modular home builders provide pre-designed floor plans that can be easily modified or completely reimagined to suit your preferences.

Modular homes also have the advantage of being built using advanced construction techniques and materials, ensuring a high-quality finish.

You can also choose from a wide range of interior and exterior finishes, such as various siding materials, roofing options, and paint colors, to personalize and elevate the appearance of your home.

Here are some types of modular homes to get you started:

  • Ranch Style: These are typically single-story homes and are ideal for those who prefer not to climb stairs. They can range from basic to very elaborate designs, depending on the buyer’s preferences.
  • Two-Story Style: These homes have two full levels of living space and can provide a more traditional look and feel. This style can offer a larger living space on a smaller footprint, which is especially useful for smaller plots of land.
  • Cape Cod Style: This style is inspired by the classic American cottage style. Cape Cod modular homes are often characterized by steep roofs with dormer windows, which can provide extra space on the second floor.
  • Chalet Style: Characterized by their high, pointed roofs, these homes are inspired by the classic homes found in the Alps. They are typically made of timber and have large windows, which makes them perfect for areas with beautiful views.
  • Multi-Family Style: These are modular buildings designed to accommodate more than one family. They are perfect for duplexes, townhouses, and apartment buildings.
  • Mansion Style: These are larger modular homes that often incorporate multiple sections and design elements. They are intended for homeowners looking for a larger space with more amenities.
  • Specialty and Commercial: Modular construction isn’t limited to homes. There are also commercial modular buildings, including schools, office buildings, and specialty structures designed for specific purposes.
  • Green or Eco-Friendly Modular Homes: With the increasing emphasis on sustainability, many modular home manufacturers offer eco-friendly options. These homes are designed to be energy efficient and may incorporate sustainable materials.

It’s also worth noting that the customization possibilities with modular homes can be extensive, allowing homeowners to combine elements from various styles or create something entirely unique.

The efficiency of the modular construction process often results in savings of both time and money compared to traditional building methods.

Manufactured Home Designs

Manufactured homes, on the other hand, generally come with a more limited selection of designs and customization options compared to modular homes. They are built to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) federal code, which may limit certain design elements and materials that are permitted.

However, manufactured homes still offer an array of floor plans and design options to accommodate various preferences and budgets. Many manufacturers have a selection of well-planned, space-efficient layouts and customizable features such as cabinetry, countertops, and flooring choices.

While the options may not be as extensive as those in modular homes, the level of customization available in manufactured homes still allows you to create a home that reflects your style and meets your needs.

Manufactured homes also come in various styles and configurations. Here’s a breakdown based on size and layout:

  • Single-Wide Manufactured Homes: These are the most compact type of manufactured home. As the name suggests, they consist of a single unit that is typically narrow and elongated. They’re transported to their desired location in one piece and are ideal for individuals, couples, or small families who need less space.
  • Double-Wide Manufactured Homes: Double-wides are twice as wide as single-wides, offering more space and a broader layout. They are transported in two main pieces and then joined together at the site. These are popular due to the additional space and floorplan flexibility they offer.
  • Triple-Wide or Multi-section Manufactured Homes: These homes are even larger and are made of three or more sections. The additional sections offer even more space and design flexibility, allowing for features like larger living rooms, additional bedrooms, or specialty spaces.
  • Park Model Homes: These are smaller, recreational manufactured homes that often serve as vacation homes or temporary dwellings. They are typically set in specialized communities or RV parks.
  • Age-Restricted Communities: Some manufactured homes are specifically designed for senior citizens and are placed in communities with age restrictions, typically 55 and up. These communities often come with added amenities tailored to the residents’ needs.
  • Green or Eco-Friendly Manufactured Homes: Like modular homes, there’s a growing demand for sustainable living solutions in the manufactured home sector. Some manufacturers now offer energy-efficient designs and use environmentally friendly materials.

Manufactured homes are governed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code, which ensures a certain standard of construction and safety. 

Over the years, the quality, style, and features of manufactured homes have significantly improved, allowing homeowners to enjoy a more comprehensive range of amenities and designs.

Financing and Pricing

Delving into the economics of owning a home and navigating the complexities of financing options and pricing models that underpin both modular and manufactured homes is also an essential step in weighing your choices.

Modular Home Finance

When considering a modular home, it’s essential to understand the different financing options available to you. Just like a traditional home, you can obtain a mortgage for a modular home. However, for modular homes, a unique form of mortgage called a construction loan is often required.

Financing a modular home typically involves two steps:

  1. Securing a construction loan
  2. Obtaining a traditional mortgage

A construction loan is a short-term loan used to finance the building of your modular home. It covers the land purchase and the construction process. Once the home is completed, you would then work with a lender to secure a traditional mortgage to pay off the construction loan.

Modular homes are generally considered more affordable than traditional stick-built homes, with prices varying depending on factors like size, design, and location.

Expect a cost range of $100 to $200 per square foot, including installation. Banks and other financial institutions offer various financing options, such as conventional, FHA, and VA loans.

What’s more about modular homes is that you can save about 10-25% in construction costs. Plus, it can be completed in 40% less time than traditional building construction methods.

Manufactured Home Financing

Financing options for manufactured homes differ slightly from those for modular homes. Many lenders offer chattel loans designed explicitly for manufactured homes, which are typically shorter-term loans with higher interest rates compared to traditional mortgages.

However, it’s still possible to secure a government-backed loan, like an FHA loan, to finance your manufactured home.

Manufactured homes are often more affordable than traditional or modular homes. Keep in mind that the land where the home is placed also plays a role in the total cost. If you own or plan to buy land, you may choose to finance the home and land separately, with different financing options for each.

For instance, you may use a chattel loan for the home itself and a traditional mortgage for the land.

Here’s a more comprehensive table of possible housing loans you can take.

Disclaimer: Rates and terms can change, so it’s crucial for potential homeowners to consult with lenders for current and specific details.

Loan TypeDescriptionUsual Interst/Terms
FHA LoansGovernment-insured loans with favorable terms for modular and manufactured homes.Typically 15-30 year terms. Interest rates can be competitive, often below conventional rates.
VA LoansFor eligible veterans and their families, offering competitive rates and often no down payment.0% down payment possible. 15-30 year terms. Competitive interest rates.
Chattel LoansPersonal property loans suitable for homes not permanently affixed to land.Typically 15-20 year terms. Interest rates might be higher than mortgages due to the perceived higher risk.
Conventional MortgageTraditional home loans that aren’t insured by a government agency.Interest rates vary. Typically 15-30 year terms.
USDA LoansLoans for rural housing. Manufactured homes can be eligible but must meet specific criteria.0% down payment possible. Competitive interest rates. 15-30 year terms.
Home Only LoanLoan exclusively for the purchase of the manufactured home itself.Interest rates vary, often higher than mortgages. Typically 15-20 year terms.
Land/Home LoanFinancing both the home and land together.Interest rates similar to conventional mortgages. 15-30 year terms.
Equity LoansBorrowing against the equity in one’s home.Interest rates are typically variable. Terms vary.
Bridge LoansShort-term loans for those moving from one home to another.Higher interest rates due to short-term nature. Usually 6-12 month terms.
Construction LoansFinancing during the building process of a custom modular home, convertible to a standard mortgage after.Variable rates during construction, then converted. Typically 15-30 year terms post-construction.

Financing options for both modular and manufactured homes exist, with varying loan types and mortgage options available. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each financing option and consider affordability and overall pricing as you make your decision about which home type is right for you.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

As the world pivots towards sustainable living, understanding the energy efficiency and environmental impact of modular and manufactured homes becomes paramount. Let’s explore how these housing options align with modern green standards and practices.

Modular Homes and the Environment

Modular homes are known for their energy efficiency and sustainable features. These homes are built in factories, where strict quality control measures ensure the use of high-quality, energy-efficient materials. As a result, you can expect a reduction in your utility bills, benefiting both your wallet and the environment.

In addition, modular homes are often designed with eco-friendly practices in mind, such as incorporating renewable energy sources like solar panels. In fact, the carbon emissions from modular homes are 38% lower.

The precision used in assembling these homes helps to minimize waste and promote efficient use of resources, further contributing to their environmental friendliness. Thus, exploring modular homes is an excellent option if you prioritize energy efficiency and sustainability in your living space.

Manufactured Homes and the Environment

Manufactured homes, previously known as mobile homes, can also offer energy efficiency and environmental benefits. Manufactured homes built after 1976 follow federal standards, set by the HUD, which provide certain assurances about their safety and sustainability.

Newer manufactured homes can be designed for energy efficiency and even include renewable energy features. Also, retrofitting or remodeling older manufactured homes is possible to improve their energy efficiency and incorporate renewable energy equipment.

This makes manufactured homes a viable option for those seeking affordable, energy-efficient housing.

Both modular and manufactured homes provide opportunities for energy efficiency and sustainability, catering to the needs of environmentally conscious homebuyers.

While they differ in construction methods and standards, each type of home offers unique advantages in terms of energy savings and environmental impact.


When deciding between a modular and a manufactured home, it’s essential to consider your specific needs and preferences. Both options offer distinct advantages and some limitations.

Modular homes adhere to the same local, state, and regional building codes as traditional on-site homes, providing you with a higher degree of customization and often better quality construction.

Plus, they are considered real property, which can lead to higher resale values and easier financing options. However, modular homes tend to be more expensive upfront and take longer to construct and install compared to manufactured homes.

On the other hand, manufactured homes are built to federal HUD standards, which may differ from local building codes. They can be more affordable and offer quicker installation times.

Furthermore, they provide flexibility to move the home if needed, which may be beneficial in certain situations. However, the resale values of manufactured homes tend to be lower, and financing options might be more limited compared to modular homes.

As you weigh your options, consider factors such as budget, desired customization, location, and long-term plans. By doing so, you’ll be more confident in choosing the right type of home that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

Remember that both modular and manufactured homes offer affordable alternatives to traditional on-site construction, and with proper research, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between modular and manufactured homes?

Modular homes are built to state building codes and constructed in sections at a factory before being assembled on a permanent foundation at the home site. In contrast, manufactured homes are constructed according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code and built on a permanent chassis, often remaining on the wheels for easier transportation to the home site.

How does the quality of modular homes compare to manufactured homes?

Modular homes are typically built to meet or even exceed state building codes, making them similar in quality to traditional site-built homes. On the other hand, manufactured homes follow the HUD code, which may be less strict than state codes. However, both types of homes can provide a comfortable living environment, and quality also depends on the individual manufacturer.

Are there differences in financing options for modular and manufactured homes?

Financing options for modular homes are similar to those for traditional site-built homes, including conventional mortgages, FHA loans, and other government-backed loans. Manufactured homes, on the other hand, might have more limited financing options due to their classification as personal property. They are typically financed through personal property loans rather than mortgage loans.

Which home type has a better resale value: modular or manufactured?

In general, modular homes tend to have better resale value than manufactured homes, primarily because they are often built to a higher standard and considered real property. Manufactured homes, classified as personal property, may depreciate over time, making them less valuable in terms of resale.

Can both modular and manufactured homes be customized?

Yes, both modular and manufactured homes offer customization options, including floor plans, finishes, and design features. The extent of customization depends on the manufacturer and specific model you choose, but both types of homes provide opportunities to personalize your living space according to your needs and preferences.

How do local building codes and zoning regulations affect modular and manufactured homes?

Modular homes need to comply with local building codes and zoning regulations, just like traditional site-built homes. Manufactured homes, following the HUD code, may have different requirements. It’s essential to research and understand your local building codes and zoning regulations before deciding on a modular or manufactured home and selecting a location for your home.