With building costs continuing to rise, the popularity (or at least the idea) of prefab homes also continues to grow. As a result, I have seen an increase in interest for land that will accommodate these types of homes. However, there seems to be some confusion as to what “these types” of homes are, and what the differences are between manufactured vs modular homes. This confusion has lead some subdivision homeowners associations disallowing anything but stick-built, and has made it difficult for those interested in anything other than a stick-built home to find suitable land.
I’ll save the difficulties and challenges finding suitable land for another post, but I would like to dive into the differences between these types of homes to help shed some light on the issue. Note that some of this is subject to my own experience and opinion. Also, the terms associated with the different types of homes tends to vary by region.
Manufactured: This can be confusing because a manufactured home is prefabricated just like its modular counterpart. Manufactured homes, however, are built in compliance with FEDERAL HUD manufactured home construction and safety standards. They usually have a metal frame which serves as the floor system, as well as the frame for the transportation system. They then can be set on a permanent foundation, but don’t necessarily have to be. These types of homes have transportation size limitations. This is often where you hear the phrase “double wide”, meaning two finished portions of the house that are put together on one permanent foundation at a later date.
Modular: As defined by the State of Idaho division of building safety, a modular building is any building other than a manufactured home that is entirely or substantially prefabricated or assembled at a place other than the building site. I would personally add: Modular homes have construction standards set by local, as opposed to federal regulation. The easiest and best explanation I have seen is that modular homes cannot be moved. It is feasible that a manufactured home could be split, or picked off its foundation, moved to another foundation and placed or reassembled. (Note that when I say “cannot be moved” I have to be careful here, knowing that even stick built homes can be moved.) Sometimes modular home companies create their own category of homes such as a “phased built” or “systems built” to further differentiate and separate their product from a manufactured home. However, in my opinion, these are one in the same as modular. A modular home doesn’t have to be completed in major sections. It could be completed in wall sections and assembled on a permanent foundation. They would normally be transported on a flatbed trailer as opposed to a trailer integrated with the structure.
For further clarification; in my opinion, the following are all forms of modular homes, all of which would be subject to local building codes and inspections which would later receive a standard certificate of occupancy:
– a tiny home built in a factory or shop and delivered to a permanent foundation that conforms to local building codes and receives inspections similar to those required for stick built homes.
– a home constructed in small sections (such as individual walls) potentially with pre-installed siding, floor systems and precut materials installed on a permanent foundation.
– a “kit” home delivered in panelized sections installed permanent foundation.
RV’s: To make matters more confusing, we are beginning to see a rise in popularity of RV style tiny homes that can later be converted to permanent structures. Again, much of this is all subject to local and federal laws. A company building a custom home classified as an RV with wood siding and residential windows would need to comply with Transportation Department requirements in order to be legally transported, but this type of dwelling (RV) may have challenges in obtaining local zoning approval. For example, RVs can often only be parked in one location for storage, and if they are going to be used as a dwelling, can usually only be done so temporarily. In addition, parking an RV may require a special permit.
Idaho Division of Building Safety information for Tiny Houses, Manufactured Homes, Modular Buildings & Recreational Vehicles can be found HERE.
To be continued: Suitable land for manufactured or mobile homes and RVs.
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