Prefab Housing: Modular vs Manufactured Homes

California has been facing a housing crisis for decades and the situation doesn’t look any better in the near future. The housing shortage can largely be attributed to two reasons – the inadequate number of housing facilities being built, and the thriving economy of California leading to a huge influx of new residents every year that further adds to the shortage of housing. This imbalance of demand and supply makes housing expensive in the state and the need for affordable housing options has risen significantly over the years.

While the government is taking steps to provide affordable housing in the state, the AEC industry is also striving for solutions to this crisis. Providing housing options that cost less to build has been the focus area in this respect. And the solution to this is seen in the form of prefabricated construction.

What is prefabricated construction?

Prefabricated housing or prefab homes is a broad term that includes various types of houses. Basically, prefabricated construction means that some or all sections of the house are built in a factory and then shipped to the site as a whole or assembled there. Any house built in this way falls under the category of prefabricated housing. Two of the most common types of prefab housing are modular homes and manufactured homes.

What are a prefab modular home and a prefab manufactured home?

A prefab modular home is a home that is built in a factory setting and then assembled on site. Modules or sections of the house are built in an advanced factory environment and these are shipped to the site. Here, they are assembled to build a complete house. Modular homes are built to the California Residential Code (CRC) and are treated as ‘real’ property.

A manufactured home, also referred to as a mobile home in the past, is also built in a factory but it is completely constructed and then shipped to the site. It is transported on its own chassis or frame and does not need any assembly at the home site. Manufactured homes are regulated by a Congressional Federal Construction Code administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (commonly known as the HUD Code) and are not treated as ‘real’ property.

What are the Benefits of Prefab Housing?

Prefab housing has shown a number of benefits that contribute to its popularity, especially the benefits of modern prefab homes in California. Some of those benefits are listed below:

  1. Lower Cost:
    As mentioned above, prefab housing is a lower-cost alternative to traditional construction. The innovative method of building has helped reduce prefab home costs by up to 20%. The cost saving can be attributed to a number of factors:
  • When the modules or sections are built in a controlled factory setup, the amount of material waste is reduced by quite a lot leading to overall cost savings.
  • Since prefab homes take shorter to build, it reduces the need for interim construction financing significantly.
  • Prefab homes require less manpower as different tasks are managed more efficiently in the factory. Also, the homes are built with more regularized processes and pass inspections easily.
  1. Quick to Build: Prefabricated homes can reduce the construction time by about 35% as compared to site-built homes. Construction of the sections for a modular home can be done in a few weeks itself making it much faster to move into your new home.
  2. No delays: Since everything is built in an indoor setting, there are no delays due to weather conditions that are typically caused during on-site construction.
  3. Easy process: In case of manufactured homes, a complete home leaves the factory and is delivered to the home site. For modular homes, there is very little assembly required which reduces the number of subcontractors required and also the inconvenience for the neighboring area.

Which is right for me: Modular vs Manufactured?

Trying to decide the right type of prefab housing can get confusing. Here is a list of factors to consider when making a choice between a modular and manufactured home:

  • Budget: While prefab home cost is a cheaper option in itself, the type of home can further affect the cost to build. Modular homes tend to be more expensive than manufactured homes so you should check which fits better in your budget.
  • Customization: Modular homes have advanced quite a lot over the years. They now offer a wide range of options that allow you to customize your home as you want. Manufactured homes do not allow a high level of customization. So if you have a specific design in mind for your home, a modular home might be a better choice.
  • Residents: Another area of customization that a modular home offers are the size of the home. Manufactured homes come in specific sizes and can only accommodate a certain number of people. If the house is intended for a big family, you should go with a modular home.
  • Resale Value: Although the resale value might not be a major factor if you’re planning to live for a long time in your new home, it’s good to know how it varies. A modular home is considered a ‘real’ property, it has a much higher resale value. Manufactured homes are considered personal property and lose value over time.

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