What are the Differences Between Manufactured, Modular, and Mobiles Homes?

by | BiggerPockets.com

At first glance manufactured homes, modular homes, and mobile homes may all look the same, but be aware there are many subtle and obvious differences both inside and outside between the three kinds of homes.  Whether you are looking to move into a new home of your own or are ready to invest in your next cash-flowing rental property, the information below will help shed some light on the differences and similarities amidst mobile homes, manufactured homes, and modular homes.

Mobile Homes

Mobile homes are what you may think is any fabricated home that is not built completely at the location where it will reside, but the fact is mobile homes have not been made since 1976.  This was the year HUD set forth new and safer construction and installation standards for all homes built in a factory.  Mobile homes may be located inside a mobile home park or on an owner’s land.  These homes have steel I-beams which run along the underside of the homes; these I-beams may rest atop concrete blocks, wooden pillars, metal stands, or a permanent concrete foundation.

Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes are fundamentally mobile homes built to new and higher HUD safety standards during or after 1976.  Like mobile homes, manufactured homes are built and shipped on flat bed trucks in 10’ to 12’ foot sections and joined at the site where they will reside temporarily or permanently. Once these manufactured homes are attached to power and utilities a local code inspector must ONLY review and inspect these utility connections, but NOT the building structure itself.  Mobile homes and manufactured home loans may be guaranteed under FHA guidelines; however loans are typically for 20 years or less in length.

Modular Homes

Modular homes can be the pinnacle in factory-made housing.  Unlike mobile homes and manufactured homes, modular homes are built to the same standards as site built homes but without the time or physical energy needed to build a complete home from scratch on-site.  Construction time and costs can be drastically reduced by as much as 50% compared to traditional site built homes, because modular homes built in factories need not worry about material damages or work stoppage due to rain, wind, or snow.  Modular homes are built to such standards that when these homes are shipped from the factory on flatbed trucks and joined, occasionally with the help of cranes in multi-floor situations, local code inspectors must meet and approve of all utility connections AND build codes inside and outside of the home.

Things to remember:

  • Modular homes can look identical to traditional frame site built homes once completely attached.  Modular homes can be multi-stories high and are attached to each other on-site.  Homes such as these are joined and rest on a solid slab foundation once complete.
  • Manufactured homes are mobile homes 2.0; they are built to higher construction standards than their predecessors built prior to 1976. Homes such these may be typically joined and installed on a permanent concrete foundation or movable block pillars.
  • Mobile homes are the original movable home.  Like manufactured homes, two, three, or more single units can be joined to create double-wides, triple-wides, or _______-wide homes.
  • Every property is different from situation to situation.  Homes only a few years old may be more rundown and depressed than homes 30 years old.  Like anything else it is all about how it is cared for and maintained over the years.

About Author

John Fedro

Investing since 2002, John started in real estate accidentally with a 4-bedroom mobile home inside of a pre-existing mobile home park. Over the next 11 months, John added 10 more mobile homes to his cash-flowing portfolio. Since these early years, John has gone on to help 150+ sellers and buyers sell their unwanted mobile homes and obtain a safe and affordable manufactured home of their own. Years later, John keeps to what has been successful—buying, fixing, renting, and reselling affordable housing known as mobile homes. John shares his stories, experiences, lessons, and some of the stories of other successful mobile home investors he helps on his blog and YouTube channeland has written over 300 articles concerning mobile homes and mobile home investing for the BiggerPockets Blog. He has also been a featured podcast guest here and on other prominent real estate podcasts, authored a highly-rated book aimed at increasing the happiness/satisfaction of average real estate investors, and spoken to national and international audiences concerning the opportunities and practicality of successfully investing in mobile homes.


  1. I enjoyed your analysis above. But I disagree with the
    statement: Modular homes can look identical to traditional frame
    site built homes once completely attached. We design and build new
    homes and have significant experience with this issue. And we
    really do like modular and prefab homes, so this is not a complete
    disagreement with the sentiment of your post. But one of the big
    drawbacks to modular homes is that there a limitations on what can
    be designed and built in order to be delivered on a state highway.
    Specifically, in our Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area, the
    widths of the modular components can not be greater than 15 feet.
    This limitation can impact how large a room can be without
    connection points. So, when you walk a modular home, you can see
    that the layout tends to be boxier and less open. With that said,
    we like modular construction for the many benefits that come with
    building a home indoors. If youd like to see some modular home
    plans that we are working on go to our website and search for home
    plans. Youll see that with an excellent architect, it is possible
    to start creating modular home plans and modular homes that are
    just about as nice as stick built.

  2. Over the years I have seen many so-called modular homes. If they are done correctly, they can be beautiful. The styles available these days are not your old double-wide scenario. If not done correctly, they can also be terrible in appearance.

  3. I am a bit confused. I understand that mobile homes aren’t really considered real estate, but instead have a “VIN” number like a car. Are manufactured homes considered real estate?
    I am very interested in developing an affordable housing “park”. Thanks in advance.

  4. Hello Brenda,

    Mobile homes located inside mobile home parks are considered personal property and NOT real estate. Only when a mobile home is attached to private land (also owned by the mh owner) and the mobile home’s Title(s) is relinquished to the state is the mobile home and land considered real property.

    Manufactured homes is just an “updated” way of saying mobile homes. However something to note is that construction and technology is getting better with every year. So the manufactured homes (mobile homes) of today look and feel different than the mobile homes from the 1970s-1980s.

    Have you looked into starting your own park? What are the advantages or starting your own park versus purchasing a pre-existing park? My thought would be that it is the difference of starting your own company form the ground up versus buying a pre-made business you can improved upon.


  5. Hi John,
    I have recently run into a situation where my bank wants a vin or certificate of title for my mortgage. I have been in this home since 1987, and have never seen or heard of this. My house has been refinanced with no problem before. I pay taxes on the house as real property. It is on a complete steel frame permanently affixed to the cement foundation. My husband and I bought this home on Lake Michigan as our retirement investment. He has since passed away. Now I am being told that I need this non existent information before I can refinance, sell or possible even keep my existing mortgage. Can you help clear up this matter for me?

    • Rochelle,
      It sounds like what the bank is looking is called a HUD tag. They are usually on either the exterior of the home on a metal tag or on a paper tag inside one of the cupboards. When it comes to financing a manufactured home FNMA requires the info from the HUD tag to accept the loan. On the other side if you have a modular home, the information is not needed.

    • Hi Ann,

      Thanks for commenting. It is a good idea to make sure you know all your exit strategies before moving forward. FHA is a realistic strategy depending on the home, land, and borrower.

      Talk soon,
      John Fedro

  6. We have a manufactured home in NH and it was made by Ritz Craft out of PA. The house was brought in by semis in two pieces. We bought the house in 2012. We do not have a mortgage. We pay property taxes on the home only. We do not own the land and are in a 55+ community. The home has a VIN number and certificate stating ‘mobile’ home. The home sits up on blocks and the blocks are on a slab. The home is attached to the slab with tie downs. We have a 2 car attached garage that was built on its own slab after the house was set up. My question is about home insurance. Do we need to buy mobile home insurance or “regular” framed built insurance? The word “manufactured” is very confusing in it’s meaning. Insurance companies seem to be confused as well. We just want to make sure we are covered by the correct home insurance in case something would happen to our home where it needed to be replaced. I’m thinking if we have frame/stick built insurance it would not cover a mobile home? Any light you can shed would be great to clear up the confusion! Thanks, Micky

  7. I am a Realtor in Ga. I have a house listed that may have been born a modular home.
    Owner has had about 10 years and added 2 car garage, porches, decks , carport
    all just top of line inside and new pine floors.
    He has had it on the market now for awhile..We have a buyer $125,000
    We have not been able to find financing. Do you or anybody know who we could get to finance this home? note: I am finding none of the banks really want to finance anything,, and are looking for ways to not give money…bj

  8. Denis Constantin on

    We have an SRI ST 497 mobile? or modular? Shelter Statesman.
    It was built in 2006; does have a serial number and is dry walled throughout; no panelling.
    Is this a mobile or modular?
    Thanks Denis

  9. Today’s manufactured homes are built with the same building materials as site-built homes, but in a controlled factory environment where quality of construction is invariably superior to what can be done outdoors.

    The HUD Code regulates and monitors the manufactured home’s design and construction, strength and durability, transportability, fire resistance, energy efficiency and overall quality. It also sets standards for the heating, plumbing, air-conditioning, thermal and electrical systems. The HUD Code also ensures compliance with these standards with a thorough inspection system that takes place at each step as the home is being constructed in the factory.

    There are major benefits to having your home built in a factory:
    – All aspects of the construction process are quality controlled.
    – The weather doesn’t interfere with construction, cause costly delays and warp or damage building materials.
    – All technicians, craftsmen and assemblers are on the same team and professionally supervised.
    – Inventory is better controlled and materials are protected from theft and weather-related damage.
    – All construction materials, as well as interior features and appliances, are purchased in volume for additional savings.
    – All aspects of construction are continually inspected by not one, but several, inspectors.

  10. Tyler E.

    Thanks for the post John,

    There are many of these in my area and it’s great to be able to tell the difference since I had no idea. Can you say that there are no longer any mobile homes being produced? What once were mobile homes are now manufactured as of 1976?

    Also if the property is on a permanent slab, is it guaranteed to be a modular?


  11. Michael Maloney

    I’m sorry to say this but I think that the names speak very clearly about how each home is actually constructed and to what purpose each serve. A manufactured home can be of a low quality build, but is pushed out in large amounts so that they can be affordable even to those with low cash on hand. A mobile home is one that can move around, and a modular is one that is obviously modular – it can be changed in different ways to suit the need of the occupant. I think they aren’t mutually exclusive, you can have a home that belongs to more than one group.

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