Learn the Differences: Site-Built, Modular, Manufactured/Mobile Homes

How Modular Homes and Manufactured Homes Differ
by Janet Wickell **

Facts About Modular, Manufactured & Site Built Homes**

When you are buying a home, you might hear the terms modular homes, manufactured homes and site built homes. It’s important to understand how they all differ, no matter whether you are purchasing an existing house or plan to build on land that is subject to restrictions. The differences can affect a home’s price and its resale value, and even dictate whether or not it can be built on your land.

What Are Site Built Homes?

  • They are constructed entirely at the building site.
  • They conform to all state, local or regional codes where the house is located.
  • Often called ‘stick-built’ houses.
  • A well-built, cared for site-built home generally increases in value over time, although its location plays a key role in value.

What Are Modular Homes?**

  • Modular homes are built in sections at a factory.
  • Modular homes are built to conform to all state, local or regional building codes at their destinations.
  • Sections are transported to the building site on truck beds, then joined together by local contractors.
  • Local building inspectors check to make sure a modular home’s structure meets requirements and that all finish work is done properly.
  • Modular homes are sometimes less expensive per square foot than site built houses.
  • A well-built modular home should have the same longevity as its site-built counterpart, increasing in value over time.

Read More Facts About Modular homes](http://homebuying.about.com/cs/modulareducation/a/modularhomes.htm)

What Are Manufactured Homes? **(Mobile Home)

  • Formerly referred to as mobile homes or trailers, but with many more style options than in the past.
  • Manufactured houses are built in a factory.
  • They conform to a Federal building code, called the HUD code, rather than to building codes at their destinations.
  • Manufactured homes are built on a non-removable steel chassis.
  • Sections are transported to the building site on their own wheels.
  • Multi-part manufactured units are joined at their destination.
  • Segments are not always placed on a permanent foundation, making them more difficult to re-finance.
  • Building inspectors check the work done locally (electric hook up, etc.) but are not required to approve the structure.
  • Manufactured housing is generally less expensive than site built and modular homes.
  • Manufactured homes sometimes decrease in value over time.

Read More Facts About Manufactured homes](http://homebuying.about.com/cs/manufmakers/a/manufacturedfaq.htm)

very nice

Good thread, some good info.

I am a stickler when it comes to using the terms; stick-built, modular and manufactured housing. It’s only right, people should know and understand the difference between them.
Where Janet’s definition of stick-built is accurate, I do take slight umbrage to her definition of modular, in particular to the use of the word “sections”. It could be very well my sensitivity to the subject and we may be speaking the same language but when I read “sections” it brings to mind panels and modulars are not panels, that would be panelized construction. Whereby the walls are not attached until they reach the site and are then connected. I believe Toll Brothers use to and may still build some of their homes that way.

Quote: “Modular homes are built in sections at a factory” If her reference to the word “sections” is meaning “boxes” or “modules”, then we are talking the same thing. Modular homes are built just the same as a site built home except in a factory on an assembly line. Each floor is divided into a transportable box, generally in half, the front half is one box and the back half is another box. It is an awesome site to see and if you’ve never seen this type of construction, I would highly recommend it to anyone, what an education. I was fortunate to have the pleasure of visiting a manufacturing plant in Claremont, NH while we were building a subdivision of modulars elsewhere in NH. The amazing thing that sticks in my head is they build the walls from the inside out that is - after the wall is framed, it’s wired, then sheetrocked. The painters paint the inside of the walls while from the outside the insulation is installed, then sheathing is attached, then the siding goes on. Before the unit is shipped, the entire interior is 100% complete (cabinet are hung, floor is down, bathroom fixtures are installed, etc).

Her other quote:Sections are transported to the building site on truck beds, then joined together by local contractors. Though partially true, the “boxes” are transported to the site on a flatbed truck, it has been my experience the modules are connected by a set-crew sent down by the factory or hired out by the factory. Because these units need to be craned into position, it takes a high trained/skilled crew of men to safely and accurately put them on the foundation. That’s a task that cannot be accomplished by any ole’ contractor. A good crane operator would not pick up a box unless he knew he was working with a well trained professional set-crew.

This is by the way my experience here in the Northeast, it could be entirely different elsewhere in the country or Canada.


Thanks Jason that was an interesting subject that is not spoken much.

Thanks Jason, good read!


I agree with everything you pointed out. :stuck_out_tongue:

I have become touche about this subject as well. :shock::roll:

I just needed something Basic to post on this subject. I have been noticing a lot of people (HI on this board, Realtors & general public) confusing these different construction types.

As a side note, Realtors here in MI are real bad about it. Here in MI Realtors/Brokers are not legally able to sell Manufactured/Mobile homes. You have to have a special license to sell them. So what they have been doing is writting up the offers as buying the property with a contingency that the structure stays on the property. This helped create the real estate bubble here. The MLS handles this as vacant property and falsely increases the value of land when making comparisons. (I’m sorry but 0.75 acre with NO utilities, is not worth $75-100,000.00.)

Manufactured (Mobile) Homes are handled under the Secretary of State in MI. This means that they receive a Title like any other trailer. The property that it sits on has a deed!

Thanks Jason
If only one person learned something from this thread and then passes the knowledge along, it would be a great thing. That’s what we’re all here for…
to learn from each other and pass that knowledge along to others.



Gerry Beaumont has an approved class on this very subject. I attended it last month in Florida and found it to be a great class. The class gives you the information and ability to confidently conduct inspections on modular and manufactured housing. The class has a protored exam at the end and will qualify for continuing education credits for NACHI, ASHI, and multiple states that require ceus.

Be careful. Some of the information in Ms. Wickell’s (what is her authority and expertise on the subject?) is incorrect or incomplete. Some modular homes are practically indistinguishable from double-wide mobile (manufactured) homes. I did one this week that had the exact look and feel of a double-wide mobile (manufactured home) but it was classified as a modular home. It had the steel undercarriage, black plastic sheeting, cheap heat pump in a closet, etc. Was manufactured by Clayton. I obtained a copy of an email from a regulator in SC on the subject and post it below for your information.

Also attached is a photo of a certification by the state of NC that this particular home I inspected (the one you could hook a truck to and drive off with) was indeed a modular home. It was a deeded property (not titled).

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[FONT=Arial]From: Gary Wiggins [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]Sent: October 30, 2003[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]Subject: Modular Home Codes[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]The only difference between modular houses and manufactured houses is the building code under which they are built. Manufactured housing is constructed under the Federal Manufactured Housing Code, whereas modular housing is constructed under the International Residential Code (IRC), which is the same code used for site built houses. [/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]Modular buildings may have a transportation frame (on-frame modulars) or no transportation frame (off-frame modulars). South Carolina law does not differentiate between on-frame and off-frame modular houses and considers both equivalent to site built houses when they are placed on a foundation constructed in accordance with the IRC.[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]All manufactured houses have a frame for transportation. [/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]For identification purposes, manufactured houses are required by federal law to have a HUD label attached to them and modular houses are required by state law to have a Building Codes Council label attached to them. If a BCC label is attached to the unit, it must, by state law, be accepted as a modular house.[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]Gary F. Wiggins[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]SC Building Codes Council[/FONT]

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Here in California most the mobile or manufactured housing has a california license plate. Modular housing and of course site built will have no such affiliation with the department of motor vehicles.