What Makes Modular Homes Different?

How These Residential Structures Stand Out

Modular home development. Prefab house. Fairborn, Dayton, Ohio
Photo: StanRohrer / Getty Images

Modular homes are built in sections in a factory setting indoors where they're never subjected to adverse weather conditions. The individual sections move through the factory with the company's quality control department checking them every step of the way. Finished modules are covered for protection, then transported to your home site.

They're then placed on a premade foundation, professionally joined and completed by your local builder.

How Long Does It Take to Build a Modular Home?

Some modular houses can be built in the factory in as little as one to two weeks, but it can depend on your design and the manufacturer. There are never weather delays because modulars are built indoors.

It usually takes another two to four weeks for your local builder to put the pieces together after the materials are delivered to the building site.

Are Modular Homes the Same as Mobile Homes?

Mobile homes, now more commonly known as manufactured homes, are built to conform to the same federal code—the HUD code—no matter where they're delivered. The HUD code is issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an arm of the United States government.

A modular house conforms to the building codes that are required at the specific location where they'll be delivered. Construction exceeds the required codes in many cases.

Some might argue that a modular home is more attractive than a manufactured home.

Do All Modular Homes Look Alike?

Most people probably can't tell the difference between a modular home and a regular stick-built home. You might not even guess a home is modular unless you happen to be there to see it delivered and assembled. Modular homes look similar to regular homes, but they're often much more cost-efficient to construct.

Modular house manufacturers use computer-aided design programs to draw plans to your specifications or to modify one of their standard plans to suit your needs. Nearly any home plan can be turned into a modular home.

That said, some modulars are very basic, and they can resemble double-wide manufactured homes, although the two structures are built differently. No two manufacturers are alike, so ask about flexibility if you'd prefer to design your own home.

Will Banks Finance Modular Homes?

Most banks, appraisers, and insurance companies treat modular homes just the same as they do site-built homes—a house that's constructed entirely on your property. Ask mortgage brokers and banks in your area to explain how they finance modular homes.

Can You Save Money With a Modular Home?

Construction costs for a modular home are sometimes less per square foot than for a similar site-built home, and they have other cost-saving features. Many modular homes are highly energy-efficient, which can reduce your heating and cooling costs.

The Bottom Line

Consider visiting model modular homes in your area. Take a look at popular websites in your state. Why not tour a local modular home factory and see the construction process in person? If you think modulars are ho-hum, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

Talk with a local real estate agent to determine where you can place your modular home. You'll need a foundation, either slab or raised. Slabs are more common in hot, dry climates. You'll also need utilities on the land and the right zoning to build.

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  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Manufactured Housing and Standards - Frequently Asked Questions."

  2. Rocket Mortgage. "Modular Versus Manufactured: Which Home Is Right for You?"

  3. La Porte Housing Specialists. "What Is a Modular Home?"

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