The term "manufactured home"
generically refers to a home that has been partially or entirely
constructed in a factory then transported to the site for
assembly. In a specific sense, a "manufactured house" denotes a
factory-built house constructed to the HUD Code. The Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has strict codes
regarding the standards of manufactured homes, and the
regulation of factories producing manufactured homes is strict.
Manufactured homes can be single- or multi-section; some popular
"Modular" refers to a factory-built house constructed in
compliance with the standards of the regional, state, or local
building code used by the governing body where the dwelling is
located. Generally, this means under one of the model codes
(BOCA, UBC, etc.). Most modular homes are built over a 2 x 10
platform and are designed to be placed over a crawl space or
There are two classifications of modulars...
On-Frame - built on a permanent chassis like a
manufactured home and presently classified by Fannie Mae as a
"manufactured" home. Note: since
"on-frame" modulars are not built to the HUD code, they do not
meet Fannie Mae's property eligibility requirements and, at
present, mortgages secured by on-frame modulars are not eligible
for purchase by Fannie Mae. On the other hand, Freddie Mac
treats "on-frame" the same as "off-frame" (conventional) modular
Off-Frame - often referred to as "conventional"
modular and built to local and state codes.
Other types of factory built housing include the following:
"Panelized" refers to a home constructed of factory-built panels
(usually floor and wall panels) which are shipped to the site on
trucks and lifted into place using a crane. These wall panels
may consist of nothing more than studs and sheathing or they can
include windows, doors, wiring, and insulation. When finished,
panelized may be indistinguishable from site-built construction
but they must meet state or local building codes.
Pre-cut, Pre-fab, Kit Homes
This term refers to a home package that includes
materials that are pre-cut at a factory and assembled on-site.
They can include log homes, domes, etc. and must meet local and
state codes. Like panelized homes, when completed it may be
impossible to distinguish from site-built homes.
"Multi-sectional" refers to a factory-built home delivered to a
site in more than one section and can include either modular or
Nonspecific terms considered out of date and no longer used
include single-wide, double-wide, sectional, trailer, and house
trailer. Frequently these terms are used interchangeably, but
this is not the case when dealing with housing codes. While
still in common use by the public, most real estate
professionals will avoid these terms due to the potential for
misunderstanding when communicating with clients.
Federal laws distinguish between manufactured homes (mobile
homes) and manufactured buildings (panelized, pre-cut, etc.).
Manufactured homes, even those which come in sections
(doublewides), must be built on a permanent chassis;
manufactured buildings are constructed of units that have been
built off-site and then transported for assembly.
Is either type "better" than the other?
Deciding which type of home (manufactured or stick-built) is
better than the other depends entirely on the individual
situation. Modular homes can often be built more quickly and for
less money than stick-built homes – also, often many inspections
have been taken care of in the factory and do not need to be
performed on-site. On the other hand, stick-built homes do not
carry with them the added cost and worry of being transported to
the construction site in pieces, and can be modified to suit
whatever size, shape, and cost the buyer wishes.
How can I tell the difference between manufactured and
stick-built homes when buying property?
If this information has not already been provided for you,
you should be able to find a serial number and label
permanently attached somewhere in the building that states
the home as a modular building and documents its compliance with
building code standards. Another label should be available
stating a unit’s compliance with the HUD code (manufactured
Often, these labels (modular) are attached near exterior
doors or inside built-in cabinets while HUD labels (manufactured
homes) are usually found on the outside end of the unit. These
labels can provide useful information that you can use to
determine if the building if a manufactured home or a modular
Other Considerations - Manufactured & Modular Homes
Transport - Since manufactured homes are built to be
transported by road to their installation site, manufactured
home builders are regulated by the Division of Motor Vehicles.
This means that, when purchasing a manufactured home for
transport to a site, a special license and registration must be
obtained before the home can be taken on the road.
Installing – Your state’s Licensing Board for General
Contractors (or its equivalent) licenses those persons who
install modular homes.
Selling - Your state’s manufactured housing board regulates
and licenses persons selling manufactured homes. However, a
special real estate broker or salesman license is usually not
required to sell a manufactured home that has not been affixed
to real estate. These regulations change once a home has been
installed on-site – once a home has been installed onto real
property, a real estate license is required to perform real
estate transactions involving the home.
When planning to install a manufactured home of any type on a
property, it may be necessary to see if there are any
subdivision covenants or zoning codes that may prevent the
presence of a manufactured home on the property. Furthermore, in
addition to complying with state building codes, manufactured
housing must also comply with federal building
codes. It is important to exercise care and stay informed about
the type of housing and property you are dealing with, as well
as all the appropriate building codes involved, whenever buying,
selling, or leasing a property containing manufactured housing.
Stick-Built Homes (Site Built)
There are many specifications to consider when building a
stick-built home, many of which are beyond the scope of this
article. Some points to consider include: materials, internal
structure, wiring and electrical concerns, plumbing, and
location. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
can provide help for those seeking specific information about
stick-built housing requirements.
What do I need to know about buying, renting, and selling these
types of property?
It is the job of property owners to know the requirements
and licensure needed to work with manufactured housing and
properties containing manufactured housing. The combinations of
laws and restrictions pertaining to a property are as varied as
the types of structures that can be built on any given property.
Regulations may apply to a type of home at the federal, state,
and city levels, and it is important to be informed about all
regulations before entering into a real estate
Where can I find more information?
The HUD provides a good starting point to find extensive
information about property and housing laws