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Manufactured and Mobile Homes

Manufactured homes, modular homes and mobile homes are three different home styles that many people may consider synonymous.

However, some distinct differences are important to understand before choosing either for your housing. If you are deciding where to live and are considering a manufactured or mobile home, this article will help you learn the basics of each so that you can make an informed decision and be happy with your choice.

The main difference between modular, manufactured and mobile homes are the regulations that dictate the building and safety measures.

What are Manufactured Homes?

In 1976, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stepped in to regulate the mobile home industry. After decades of growing popularity paired with decreasing health and safety standards, HUD issued formal regulations dictating the size requirements and construction standards of these homes, referring to them thereafter as manufactured homes. Manufactured homes must be at least 320 square feet in size and must have a permanent chassis, which offers the option to transport the home by connecting it to a towing vehicle. All manufactured homes since 1976 must have a HUD tag, which is an official certification label indicating that the home has been built according to the federal safety standards. Those standards include detailed instructions for body and frame requirements, thermal protection, plumbing, electrical, fire safety and other aspects of the home.

Manufactured homes can be dramatically cheaper than traditional homes, which attracts many lower-income homebuyers or renters. Construction of manufactured homes can be 35 to 47 percent cheaper per square foot than site-built homes. If you are seeking affordable housing options, manufactured homes might be a solution, whether you buy or rent.

Differences Between Manufactured, Mobile and Modular Homes

Manufactured and mobile homes are both terms used for factory-built homes that are completely constructed before being transported to a lot. Both must have a permanent chassis, which enables the option of moving the home to a new location. The differences between these two lie in the date of construction per HUD guidelines. Any manufactured home built before June 15, 1976, is considered to be a mobile home, not a manufactured home. Once the HUD regulations became effective on that date, homes meeting the HUD standards would be called manufactured homes. Any home built before that date, regardless of any updates or upgrades made to the home, would not meet HUD standards and would therefore still be called a mobile home. Therefore, mobile homes are actually just older manufactured homes.

Modular homes are different because they are built on-site, although their pieces are made in a factory and are then transported to the lot to be constructed there. Modular homes must meet construction and building codes set by the state, locality or region for all site-built homes.

Modular homes can still be less expensive per square foot than other site-built houses, but that is not always the case as more modular homes have become luxury dwellings. Modular homes tend to increase in value over time, while manufactured homes often decrease in value, which is why many lenders treat manufactured home loans as similar to car loans, rather than mortgages. Refinancing can therefore be a challenge for manufactured home owners, especially if the home does not rest on a permanent foundation.

Benefits of Manufactured and Mobile Homes

Community benefits, including safety and neighborly interactions, are statistically higher in manufactured home communities. Many older Americans are opting to live in manufactured home communities to maintain a social network and for security, in addition to downsizing square footage and minimizing the need for outdoor maintenance. Common amenities in manufactured home communities can even include a clubhouse, pool and activities like dance lessons or book clubs.

With additional HUD regulations coming into play in 1994, the manufactured home industry has also become more eco-friendly. Manufactured homes built since then are some of the most energy-efficient housing options you can find nowadays. The U.S. Department of Energy offers many suggestions for further improving an older model that lacks energy-efficiency if that is what you end up renting or buying, but newer models tend to arrive already offering the best systems installed.

Is a Manufactured or Mobile Home Right for You?

If you are trying to decide if a manufactured home is right for you, first consider your needs. If you want to buy a home but your credit score is low or you are otherwise having trouble getting a mortgage, a manufactured home loan is often treated more like a car loan and is often offered even if you cannot get a mortgage. Additionally, manufactured homes are usually much cheaper than traditional site-built homes, which means lower payments overall.

Remember that manufactured homes are constructed according to the HUD standards and building code, which differs from traditional building codes primarily in that it requires manufactured homes be built on a permanent chassis. This difference in coding is what affects your options for loans and for insurance. Be sure you inquire with a lender and insurer prior to jumping into any legal arrangement for a manufactured home purchase or for a lease if you require insurance.

Keep in mind that, even if you buy a manufactured home, most communities lease the lot to you, so you do not own the land where your home rests. That can mean that the sale of the community to a new manager or to a developer might put you in legal limbo, forcing you to move your home or to deal with whatever changes might be made by new owners. Despite the idea of a mobile home being mobile, most manufactured homes today are not easily moved.

Zoning restrictions and financing difficulties are two common factors contributing to the lower production of manufactured homes than could potentially happen. As affordable housing options elude many American families, manufactured homes can offer relief when properly supported and regulated to protect residents. HUD has announced its commitment to reviewing and evaluating the manufactured home industry, so production could see an increase in coming years, which might benefit many more Americans looking for affordable housing opportunities.

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