Manufactured vs. Modular Homes

June 8th 2023|  Estimated read time: 4 minutes
How to tell the difference.
Manufactured home
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OverviewThe differenceManufactured homesModular homesHow to tell them apartHUD Cert & Data plateOther FeaturesA trusted resource
hen it comes to residential construction, there is a wide range of housing options to suit different needs and preferences. Among these options, are manufactured homes and modular homes which often mistaken for one another. While they do have some similarities, it's important to understand their distinctions if you are a homebuyer. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between these two types of homes, examine their individual characteristics, and provide you with key features to help identify whether a home is manufactured or modular.

The difference

What makes a home either modular or manufactured is based on the method of construction & the building code to which the home is constructed.  

Manufactured Homes are constructed entirely in a factory setting. Built on a non-removable steel chassis, they are designed to be transported, fully assembled, to the final location. Manufactured homes are subject to federal construction standards governed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Modular homes are also factory-built but in sections or modules.  These sections are then transported to the site and assembled on a permanent foundation. Builders of modular homes adhere to local and state building codes, which often align with the International Residential Code (IRC).  

Let’s take a deeper look at each.

Manufactured homes

The key characteristic of manufactured homes is they are built at a factory and transported to the property fully constructed. You may have seen one being transported down the highway, very slowly, usually followed by a trail car with a Wide Load sign.  Once delivered, manufactured homes can either be installed on a permanent foundation or remain on a chassis with wheels, allowing for potential relocation in the future.  It’s important to note that typically mortgage lenders require manufactured homes to be on a permanent foundation.  

Due to having to be able to be transported, manufactured homes often are built with a more standardized design and layout.  They are usually purchased as a single-wide or a double-wide; a double-wide just being two singles joined at the center to make a larger home.  They come in a range of predefined floor plans, limiting the customization options. While modifications are possible within the structure, the degree of flexibility is relatively limited.  

Modular homes

With Modular homes, the constraints of portability do not exist, so builders can offer far greater design flexibility and customization possibilities.  While the sections or modules are constructed at the factory, they are assembled on-site, so they can be configured to create a wide variety of floor plans and architectural styles.  Homeowners may often work with manufacturers to personalize their homes, selecting various finishes, materials, and optional features to suit their preferences.  

Once assembled on-site, modular are often indistinguishable from a typical stick-built home because they were constructed to meet the local and state building codes. Having constructed sections of the home in a controlled factory environment helps ensure consistency in construction, reducing material waste and labor costs, which can often lead to savings compared to a traditional stick-built home.  

It is worth noting that, there are technically two types of modular homes: On-frame, and Off-frame Modular. On-Frame modular homes have a steel I-beam or frame underneath the home and Off-Frame modular homes do not. Both must be built to the local & state building codes.  

How to tell them apart

It’s sometimes difficult to identify whether a home is manufactured or modular.   Even with the wider range of styles and layouts of modular homes, there are many modular homes that look very similar to manufactured homes.  To add to the confusion, some counties classify both manufactured/modular homes under the same property type category in their public records.   If you are having difficulty determining whether a home is manufactured, here are a few things to look for.

HUD certificaiton & data plate

Manufactured homes are subject to construction standards set by US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  When a new manufactured home is built, the manufacturer attaches two items to the home to certify the home was constructed to these standards.

HUD certification

 The HUD Certification Label, (or HUD tag) is a 2x4 inch metal plate affixed to the outside of a manufactured home home, which certifies the home was built to and meets HUD construction standards. The label is stamped with letter and number designations to certify the home was inspected and meets the required standards. If the home is a double-wide, each of the sides will have its own HUD Certification label.

Photograph of HUD certification HUD label.

Data plate

The Data Plate is a paper label that can usually be found attached to the inside of a kitchen cabinet, an electrical panel, or a bedroom closet of a manufactured home.  The data plate has the manufacturer’s information and the address of the plant where it was manufactured.  It also includes a map of the US to inform the owner of the wind zone, snow load, and roof load of the home.

Photograph of Data plate.

Data Plate

It’s important to note, that these two items should never be removed from the home, as they contain information lenders typically need to underwrite a mortgage loan on a manufactured home.  If either of these items is found to be missing, a search can be ordered through the Institute of Building Technology and Safety’s website (IBTS), though you will need to have the information from at least one of these items to order a search of the missing item.

To learn more about HUD Certification and Data Plate here.

Other features

If the data plates cannot be found, checking the county records is always a good place to start, but as stated earlier, there are many counties that classify manufactured homes and modular under the same category, which may or may not be accurate.  Below are features that are typical of manufactured homes that can be helpful in identifying them.

While these cannot be taken as the sole evidence a of a home being a manufactured home, they are pretty common features to look for if you are having difficulty determining if a home is manufactured.

A trusted resource

While both manufactured homes and modular homes offer unique benefits, it is crucial to understand their differences when making a housing decision. Your personal preferences, budget, and long-term plans may determine which housing option aligns best with your individual needs.  CapCenter does loans for both modular and manufactured homes, so if you are looking to purchase either, or just have general questions, give us a call.

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