Jun 8, 2022

What is a manufactured home?

Nat Miller

Despite being an incredibly popular housing option, particularly for retirees, manufactured homes are a surprisingly misunderstood concept. Often mischaracterized or dismissed as mobile homes, manufactured homes are actually their own distinct form of housing and one that is becoming a more and more popular option particularly for those looking for low cost housing options. Manufactured homes (like their cousins modular homes and mobile homes) get their name from the fact that they are manufactured away from your eventual home site, and then assembled on a chassis instead of built into a permanent foundation. But despite being a less conventional method of home construction, manufactured homes can still provide amazing value.

What is the difference between mobile homes and manufactured homes?

Strictly speaking, the only difference between a mobile home and a manufactured home is the date on which they were built. Technically speaking, a manufactured home is any factory-built home that was built after June 15, 1976, the date on which the Federal Government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (also known as “HUD”), put regulations into effect governing the construction of mobile and manufactured homes. But despite this shared regulatory history, today’s manufactured homes are a far cry from what many people imagine a mobile home to be. 

Unlike traditional site-built homes, manufactured homes are built off-site and then transported to your home-site location.

Mobile homes got their name because they were generally, you guessed it, mobile. Built on wheels, the traditional single-wide mobile home was designed to be mobile and easily movable, and was mainly found in mobile-home parks or towed around the country to recreation or vacation sites. Unlike their predecessors, the modern manufactured home is not designed to be moved around consistently and is instead fixed in a given location like any traditional home. 

The main sense in which manufactured homes “move” is that they are constructed in whole or in part at a factory, and then installed in a certain location (unlike traditional homes which are constructed on site from building materials). That being said while it is not as easy to move a manufactured home as it is to move a mobile home on wheels, companies still provide services to move manufactured homes should you want to move to a new homesite. For a “full-service” move, in which a company helps to do everything you need to move a home including disconnecting utilities and detaching the home from its site, the cost is generally between $3,000 and $15,000. For a simpler “transport-only” move, in which the company only moves your manufactured home but does not help with the prep work, the cost is generally between $1,000 and $4,000. 

For these reasons, manufactured homes are generally much larger and nicer than what people traditionally consider a mobile home to be, and more greatly resemble traditional housing (many people can’t tell the difference!). Unlike mobile homes, which often have small “travel sized” features in kitchens and bathrooms, manufactured homes can provide spacious living areas very similar to what are found in a traditional, site-built home. For many retirees, particularly those looking to downsize, a manufactured home can provide all the comforts of home at an affordable cost. 

How much do manufactured homes cost?

Manufactured homes are often a much more affordable housing option than traditional site-built homes. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the average cost of a manufactured home is roughly $123,000, which is considerably below the national average sales price for houses of over $500,000 (as calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis). So while the cost of a manufactured home will always depend on traditional real estate factors like the location, building materials, and number of features and rooms you want, a manufactured home is likely to be considerably less expensive than a traditional, site-built home. In fact, manufactured homes allow for a variety of add-ons and modifications, and so the cost will vary based on whether you add things like a porch or carport, or cosmetic internal choices like cabinets or plumbing fixtures.

Some additional costs that are particular to manufactured homes include whether you are purchasing a “single-wide” or “double-wide” manufactured home. Manufactured homes generally come in two forms, either single- or double- wide. Along with being twice as wide, double-wide manufactured homes generally come in multiple parts, as opposed to single-wide manufactured homes which can generally be transported whole in a single highway lane. Because a double-wide manufactured home is not only bigger, but also generally requires the multiple pieces to be fitted together on site, double-wide manufactured homes are often more expensive than single-wide manufactured homes. According to survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average price of a new single-wide manufactured home is roughly $75,000, while it is roughly $140,000 for double-wide manufactured homes.  

Finally, there are costs related to physical land when buying a manufactured home. Not only must you complete the obvious step of actually acquiring a patch of land to put your manufactured home on, there may also be additional costs needed to make the land suitable for a manufactured home, such as leveling out the land or removing trees or other obstructions. 

What are the pros and cons of manufactured homes?

While manufactured homes provide an affordable retirement housing option, they are certainly not for everybody. Before purchasing a manufactured home, make sure to carefully consider the pros and cons of manufactured home ownership. 

Pros - The greatest benefits of a manufactured home are that they are an affordable housing option that provides a simplified path to finding a home. Not only are manufactured homes considerably cheaper than traditional site-built homes, but because they are manufactured off-site you generally won’t run into construction delays. And with plenty of customizable options, you’re likely able to have all the features you want in your home particularly if you are interested in downsizing. Finally, maintenance costs can often be far more manageable in a manufactured home given its small footprint. For those looking for a simple, reliable base for their retirement adventures a manufactured home can be a great option.

Cons - Unfortunately, there are some cons to manufactured home ownership. First, while manufactured homes are certainly cheaper than traditional site-built homes, because they are not traditional homes they are not eligible for traditional mortgages, and loans to purchase manufactured homes can sometimes be difficult to get. Somewhat relatedly, manufactured homes also generally depreciate in value (unlike traditional homes which generally appreciate in value over the years). Finally, while manufactured homes do provide for a great deal of customizability, at the end of the day the options for what you can add on to a pre-built home are generally going to be narrower than what you can add to a site-built home.   

If you want to learn more about manufactured homes, particularly how you can find one for your own retirement, feel free to reach out to us at info@sunboundhomes.com. Manufactured homes have never been more popular, and some active adult communities are comprised entirely of luxury, manufactured homes (as well as the traditional amenities you would expect like swimming pools and golf courses). A manufactured home is an amazing way to retire in a new, affordable home, often at a considerably lower rate than in a traditional site-built home. 

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