What is a manufactured home? You probably grew up calling them mobile homes, but the times, they are a changin’. They’re now known as manufactured homes, and while some elements remain the same—for instance, they’re still built off site and then assembled on site on a rectangular chassis rather than a permanent foundation—today’s manufactured homes are far more customizable and luxurious than mobile homes of the past.
Originally, factory-built mobile homes were constructed on a chassis with wheels, hence the “mobile” portion of their name. Single-wide mobile homes were small, easily movable, and relegated mostly to mobile home parks, recreation sites, and the hearts of kitsch lovers everywhere.
The modern standard manufactured home is not a mobile home, in that it is generally intended to be moved once.
“They are built on solid-steel frames, giving them a sturdiness that belies the stereotype of yesteryear,” says Chase Daugherty, vice president of Express Homes, a manufactured home building company.
The permanent chassis can be placed on a foundation, on a lot, or in a home park. The wheels are gone, and the styles have changed.
Today, home buyers can get a range of floor plans with a host of add-on construction features, including garages, decks, and porches.
Plus, the construction of housing built today is highly regulated by HUD and any local building standards, unlike mobile homes of the past.
“These are homes built entirely in the factory under a federal building code administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” says Daugherty. HUD standards regulate everything in housing from fire resistance to energy efficiency.
Manufactured housing can be surprisingly spacious, with a living space, kitchen, and multiple bedrooms that resemble site-built homes.
In recent years, style updates have included increasing ceiling height and customizing floor plans. While you can likely spot a manufactured home from the outside—thanks to its rectangular construction—nowadays, many of these homes have the features you’d expect in a standard home and offer a variety of different looks on the interior.
“Many floor plans are available that range from basic models to more elaborate designs that feature vaulted ceilings, drywall, fully equipped modern kitchens, comfortable bedrooms with walk-in closets, and bathrooms with recessed bathtubs and whirlpools,” Daugherty says. The modern manufactured home
Homes can also be customized in manufacture, similar to a standard home remodeling project. Homeowners have added upgraded cabinetry, hardwood floors, and fresh lighting to make spaces feel personalized and modern. However, there are some upgrades not commonly seen in stick-built, traditional homes.
“Some upgrades that we commonly see are extra insulation, ceiling fans, up-flow ceiling vents, and thermal pane windows,” Daugherty says.
These upgrades are specifically designed to improve airflow, lower utility bills, and provide a more comfortable living space, all common problems with older manufactured models. Interior upgrade possibilities
Manufactured housing has one big benefit for home buyers over other housing options: cost.
The cost to purchase a new manufactured home varies widely by state (which may be due to the general cost of housing in different regions), but most manufactured homes are cheaper to buy than site-built homes.
If you’re considering buying a manufactured home, don’t forget to factor in the land costs. You need to rent a space in a home park or buy real estate for a manufactured home’s resting spot.
Even after the cost of real property, however, a single-family home manufactured in a factory and transported to your building site costs far less per square foot than one constructed on site, making it ideal for moderate- and lower-income potential buyers.
Angela Colley writes about real estate and all things renting and moving for Realtor.com. Her work has appeared in outlets including TheStreet, MSN, and Yahoo.