What is a Manufactured Home, Exactly? | HomeFirst

What Are Manufactured Homes?

What are Manufactured Homes?

There’s a lot of misconceptions in the question “What are manufactured homes?” The first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they hear the term “manufactured home” is a “mobile home” or a “modular home.” There was a time when the terms suggested poor quality and depreciative value. However, today’s top manufactured homes exceed most site-built homes in flexibility, efficiency and most importantly, affordability.

The advantages of living in a manufactured home are many. The primary reason is economics. The affordability of buying a manufactured home is well-proven as compared to a similar sized, site-built home. The cost per square foot of construction for a manufactured home is 10 to 35 percent less than a “stick-frame” house.

These savings are passed on to the homeowner. When comparing 3 or 4 bedroom mobile homes for sale, the savings are evident over conventional wood frame houses. This goes as well for smaller homes such as examining a 2-bedroom manufactured home for rent as opposed to what return there is on other options such as small houses, apartments or mobile homes.

This discussion of affordability leads back to the question “What are manufactured homes?” Let’s look at the definition of a manufactured home according to the Manufactured Housing Institute’s National Communities Council (MHINCC).

Definition of Manufactured Homes

“Manufactured homes” are homes built entirely in the factory under a federal building code administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (commonly known as the HUD Code) went into effect July 15, 1976. Manufactured homes are either single single- or multi-section, and are transported to the site and installed.

The MHINCC distinguishes among several types of “factory-built housing”: manufactured homes, modular homes, panelized homes, pre-cut homes and mobile homes.

“Mobile home” is the term used for manufactured homes produced prior to June 15, 1976, when the HUD Code went into effect. Despite the formal definition, “mobile home” and “trailer” are still common terms in the United States for this type of housing and have a somewhat derogatory connotation when it comes to retained value.

Difference of Manufactured Homes From Modular, Mobile and Other Forms

Here are the primary differences between the different labels attached to factory-built housing:

Manufactured Homes: Manufactured homes are factory-built as permanent dwelling units of a minimum size of 320 square feet and regulated in the United States by the Code of Federal Regulations 24 CFR 3280. Manufacturers build the houses on a permanent steel chassis to assure the initial and continued transportation ability of the home. They are placed on-site on piers, masonry crawlspaces or poured concrete foundations and generally remain in one place during their lifetime. The wheels and hitch tongues used to transport the house are removed once the unit is in place. Manufactured homes must conform to the HUD code.

Modular Homes: Also manufactured in a factory, modular homes are shipped in sections to be assembled on-site. They are set in permanent foundations and rarely, if ever, moved again. Modular homes do not need to meet the HUD standards, but must conform to all other federal, state and local building codes as site-built homes do.

Mobile Homes: Mobile homes are factory-built and designed for easy delivery to their site and set up for a temporary time.  Often towed on roads or shipped by flat decks, mobile homes are normally used by transient workers or in construction camps. Recreational “trailers” also fall into the definition of mobile homes. Code applications are very relaxed for mobile homes.

Panelized Homes: Panelized homes are pieces of homes built in a factory and shipped to a site for final assembly. Panels normally are wall assemblies and/or floor and roof trusses. Their advantage is speeding-up a conventional site-built home’s timeline. Regular building codes apply to panelized homes. 

Pre-Cut Homes: Pre-cut homes are similar to regular “stick-built” homes where the wood frame pieces come pre-cut from a factory and shipped to the final construction site. The advantage is a lack of site waste and superior construction packages in remote locations. As with stick-built homes, pre-cut packages must meet regular building codes.

The different forms of manufactured housing have evolved from the needs of the marketplace over a long period. To better understand “What are manufactured homes?” let’s now look at the history of the manufactured home industry.

History of the Manufactured Home Industry

The first “manufactured” homes were termed “kit” homes, which were a packaged delivery of all the materials needed to site-build a home. Sears-Roebuck was a primary supplier of complete home packages all across America after the turn of the twentieth century.

As the country expanded with the development of resource-based remote areas, many workers developed lifestyles that required mobility from one job to the next. They often relocated every few years and required housing that could travel with them from site to site. An entire industry sprang up to supply transient workers with affordable, moveable housing. These began with 8-foot wide, shorter units that could be towed with an average vehicle and left on their wheels or be temporarily set on “blocks.”

These factory-built movable homes evolved into 10, 12 and 14-foot wide structures that could be transported within highway and road regulations. As companies met the need for larger space, these mobile homes grew from “single-wide” trailers to “double-wide” modular homes that were shipped in sections and assembled on site. While technically still “mobile” these larger, modular home structures were predominately designed to be assembled on a foundation and remain in one spot.

The mobile home era changed from the 1950’s when most “trailers” were meant to be towed by an automobile or pickup truck. By the 1960’s and 70’s, the demand for mobility had decreased and the need for larger, more permanent structures increased dramatically. This corresponded to the resource-based communities moving from camp construction phases to being established communities of permanent residents. The semi-urban dwellers were also recognizing the expedience, efficiency and affordability of factory-built homes.

There were drawbacks associated with what was available and regulated in the factory-built home industry. The early models were small and not particularly well built. They depreciated quickly in structure and value, leaving a negative stereotype of poor quality and low social status. Many of the early mobile homes found their way into trailer parks, which became associated with poverty and crime.

Additionally, personal financing for mobile homes was more difficult to obtain than for mortgages on permanent homes located on freehold property. Financing for mobile, factory-built homes were only available in the same manner as loans for vehicles and other “personal property,” not “real property” as permanent real estate is titled.

In 1976, the United States Government responded to the fast-growing, factory-built home industry. The Federal agency decided that stricter standards for mobile homes needed to be set, ensuring the quality of the structures be improved now that the majority of buyers were using them as permanent residences. With the code changes came a name change from “mobile homes” to “manufactured homes”.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations came into effect on July 15, 1976. From a purely date standpoint, all factory-built homes are referred to as “mobile homes” and all factory-built homes built after July 15, 1976, are properly classified as “manufactured homes”. This is because there are major differences in manufactured homes built after July 15, 1976.


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Code

The HUD Code is really what makes the difference in modern manufactured homes compared to their predecessors — the kit, trailer and mobile homes. The HUD Code established federal standards for the building of factory manufactured homes and involved regulating the quality of construction in all aspects of building a manufactured home. They include:

  • Design and construction specifications
  • Strength and durability
  • Fire resistance
  • Element resistance — heat, cold, wind and seismic
  • Energy efficiency
  • Transportability
  • Performance standards — heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Electrical safety
  • Local code compatibility
  • Environmental concerns

A primary difference between the HUD Code, that regulates factory-built manufactured homes, and the local codes, that regulate the conventional, site-built homes, is the overall approach to government regulation and how the codes are meant to operate.

Local codes are basically “prescriptive,” where they prescribe exactly what type of lumber, what type of electrical wire or what plumbing fixtures must be used in order to pass inspections. The HUD Code takes a “performance” based regulatory approach, where the code establishes a minimum standard of performance that a building component such as roofing, insulation or cladding must meet. This allows the builders of manufactured homes to have a wider selection of materials to choose from, allowing the better quality and savings to pass on to the consumer.

It’s important to know that the seemingly more relaxed approach of the “performance” method actually is more restrictive in safety and health regulations such as ventilation, structural loads, flame spread and insulation values. Manufactured homes can be safer and more comfortable to live in than conventional, site-built homes.

Every manufactured home displays a prominent red and silver label certifying it that manufactures built and shipped in compliance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. No manufactured home receives a shipping permit unless it has its HUD compliance certified by an independent, third-party inspection agency.

Aside from the federal regulations, the manufactured home industry responded with a collective commitment to improving and maintaining the high standards imposed on building and selling manufactured homes.

The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI)

The MHI, the Manufactured Housing Institute, is a non-profit national trade association based in Arlington, Virginia. It represents all segments of the manufactured home industry including the actual manufactured home builders, modular homebuilders, suppliers, retailers, tradespeople, community home developers, owners, managers and financial providers, as well as insurers of manufactured homes.

The MHI works in the best interest of suppliers and consumers of manufactured homes to continually strive in improving technology, professionalism, education, co-operation and market acceptance of manufactured homes. Through various activities and programs, the MHI promotes the use of manufactured homes to consumers, developers, regulators, lenders, media and public officials. This industry self-regulation and promotion delivers the best in quality of living and affordability for purchasers of manufactured homes.

The Advantages of Manufactured Homes

The controlled environment and efficiency of labor and materials are the primary advantages of building homes in a factory. The dry, assembly line techniques remove many of the problems, which site-built homes encounter such as inclement weather, poor inventory control, theft, damage, vandalism, shortage of skilled labor and a far lengthier building timeline.

Factory building on a large scale allows the manufacturers to have greater purchasing power for materials. The economies of scale are passed on to the consumer in a product that is much better built and takes advantage of current technologies like mass-production on precision jigs, high-performance fasteners and a more uniform use of skilled labor.

The main advantages of buying a manufactured home are:

Cost-effective Designs and Building Techniques: Manufactured homes are priced between 10 and 35 percent below site-built homes. Studies show them to retain or appreciate in value.

Built for Quality: Precise processes and meticulous inspection oversee all aspects of building a manufactured home. All craftsmen, technicians and assemblers work as a team and are specialized in their tasks.

Safety: Manufactured homes exceed local building codes in many areas including fire prevention and detection, environmental loads like snow, heat, wind and earthquake motion.

Amenities: A wide variety of options and features are available in today’s manufactured homes. They can include choices in exteriors such as colors and sidings and interior finishing like cabinets, flooring and window coverings. Luxury items from fireplaces, jetted tubs, entertainment systems and smartphone remote control technology are available.

Energy Efficiency: Today’s manufactured homes are superior in energy efficiency than many site-built homes. The insulation and ventilation code regulations are industry leading and the mechanical systems like furnaces, hot water tanks and plumbing fixtures are high-performance. Many manufactured homes come complete with EnergyStar appliances.

Because of the stringent regulations and building processes, manufactured homes are built to last and therefore provide excellent warranty packages.

Manufactured Homes Have Excellent Warranty

Manufactured homes have excellent quality control in their production. This gives the builders and suppliers confidence to provide solid warranty programs including extended warranties on many components.

Warranties don’t include just the main structural components like the frameworks and roof systems. They include the mechanical systems, the windows and doors, the flooring and fixtures and even the built-in appliances.

Integrated communities, like those HomeFirst has developed in Michigan, facilitate dealer representatives to handle warranty claims on new manufactured homes.

Manufactured Home Communities Offer Lifestyle

Entire communities dedicated to manufactured homes are a growing trend across the nation. HomeFirst has developed some of the top manufactured home communities in Michigan. The benefits of owning a manufactured home extend beyond the structure and into the dedicated community. They include:

  • Security of gates, patrols, community watches and resident managers
  • Communal clubhouses with health and fitness amenities
  • Landscaping and maintenance
  • Social activities
  • A sense of community belonging

Manufactured Homes Allow Satisfaction Of Home Ownership

HomeFirst is the developer of high-quality manufactured home communities in Michigan. There are 15 HomeFirst manufactured home communities located throughout the southeast of the state and they set the bar for excellence in amenities. The 15 HomeFirst modular home communities in southeast Michigan include locations in the following cities:

  • Belleville manufactured homes
  • Holly manufactured homes
  • Jackson manufactured homes
  • Lansing manufactured homes
  • Milford manufactured homes
  • Clemens manufactured homes
  • New Haven manufactured homes
  • South Lyon manufactured homes
  • Whitmore Lake manufactured homes

HomeFirst Communities are a collection of manufactured home communities in Michigan, providing a pleasurable and affordable lifestyle for individuals, families, and retirees alike. Unlike regular Michigan mobile home communities, HomeFirst offers a lifestyle complete with community activity centers, groundskeeping and excellent security.

If you’re interested in the benefits offered by living in a manufactured home,  schedule a visit to one of our communities.

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