As a realtor, I am called upon to assist in the buying and selling all types of homes. That includes single-family homes, multi-family homes, condominiums, co-ops, camps, etc. I have worked with masonry buildings, log homes, stick built homes, modular homes, and mobile homes. Of all these types of sales, the most confusing distinction, in my experience, is the difference between a modular home and a mobile home.
By legal definition, a mobile home built since June 1976, must be built to the National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards. These standards are set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This is why mobile homes are often referred to as HUD Homes.
Mobile homes will have a red and silver seal certifying that it is in compliance with the HUD Code.
A modular built in the State of Maine is currently built to the 2009 International Residential Code for one and two-family dwellings, the 2009 Uniform Plumbing Code, and the 2011 National Electrical Code. Modular homes are the only homes with a state code no matter what town or city they go in.
The State of Maine also designates that modular homes are allowed in any zone that other single family homes are permitted. What does that really mean?
Mobile homes are built on a permanent chassis. This is the metal frame that the home is built on and the two to four I-beams used to absorb the weight of the home. This chassis is usually set on concrete blocks placed on a concrete slab and the home is built to a performance base specification. This means the home meets requirements set by HUD. For example, it has to have a roof that holds a certain amount of weight per square foot, it must stand up to a certain amount of wind and it must meet certain energy requirements.
Modular homes are transported on separate carriers that return to the manufacturer. They are designed to be placed on a foundation and supported by lally-columns (those steel posts in your basement).
Modular homes are built to an exacting standard that calls for very specific performance and quite often call for specific materials or supplies. A modular today is being built to the same standards as a stick built house. Both stick built and modular, must meet the 2009 IRC code, the 2009 UPC and the 2011 NEC.
As a realtor, the difference between a mobile and a modular is a matter of value. A mobile home tends to depreciate over time and can be considered as chattel (personal property) if it is in a mobile home park or on leased land.
A modular home is considered real estate when it is built and will appreciate with the general real estate market over time. In my opinion, today’s modular homes are built as well as, if not better than stick built homes with similar finishes. Consider it a stick built home that was built inside.
I hope this helps define the difference between mobile and modular
Rick is a realtor, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with all your real estate questions and needs at: firstname.lastname@example.org