Prefab Home Vs. Manufactured Home - What's the Difference?


The Difference Between a Prefab Home and a Manufactured Home

Prefabricated homes or prefab homes have been around for many years, but they are gaining more and more popularity these days. According to Global Industry Analysts, Inc., the global shipments for prefabricated homes are expected to reach 1.1 million units by 2020.

As the global population continues to rise, the housing supply finds it hard to meet the demand and therefore, housing prices continue to go up. Prefab homes can help deal with this problem for a variety of reasons. These homes can be built fast, meaning there are fewer chances of budget increase and construction delays.

Modern prefab home

There are various types of prefab homes and one of them is a manufactured home. A prefab home and a manufactured home are sometimes confused with each other. This is not necessarily wrong, as you can call a manufactured home a prefab one. However, a prefab home is not always a manufactured one and can be a different type.

To settle the confusion, this post is going to show you the difference between the two so you can make an informed decision when choosing which one you want for your home.


What Is a Prefab Home?

According to a post from Now from Nationwide, a prefabricated home or prefab home is “a house that is built in sections at a factory and assembled once its components are delivered to your property.”

This means that the components of a prefab home are built in a factory-like setting. The finished products are then transported to their intended location where they are assembled by the builder.

Sustainable prefab home
Source: Pinterest

Different Types of Prefab Homes

Prefab homes can be built differently, depending on your needs and the style you want for your home. These are the different types of prefab homes:

Kit Homes

Kit homes are a common preference for people who want to build their home firsthand. This type of prefab homes are pre-cut and transported to your building site inside a kit. The kit will include all the components you will need to build your home along with the instructions on how to build it.

Log house kit
Source: Pinterest

Panelized Homes

Panelized homes or panel homes are built in panels in the factory and most of the interior work is finished on the building site. These home packages usually come with roof trusses, exterior walls, and floor systems. In this type, the floor and foundation are laid first. You can hire building contractors to build the interior walls and install electricity and plumbing.

Panel kit home
Source: Pinterest

Modular Homes

A great example of modular homes is a shipping container house. The construction method of this type of prefab home provides astounding adaptability. Modular homes can be made of a single unit or they can be joined together in any layout you prefer.

As the name implies, modular homes are created out of pre-assembled modules. They have their large sections completed in the factory before arriving at their intended location. Interior fittings, such as stairs, doors, closets, plumbing, and electricity, are all built into sections in the factory.

Source: Pinterest

Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes are another type of prefab home. This type of home is built entirely inside a factory. Since this post is going to focus more on this type, it will be discussed further in the next section.

Manufactured Homes
Source: Pinterest

What Is a Manufactured Home?

According to this article by the Triad Financial Services, a manufactured home is “manufactured in a dedicated facility before being moved to its destination lot rather than being built on-site and permanently affixed to a foundation.”

These homes are typically built from a list of floor plans and buyers can choose the materials among a wide selection. These buyers can also make some changes to the home design to meet their needs and style. These homes typically include wheels and once they are delivered to the site, these wheels may or may not be removed.

Manufactured homes are sometimes called mobile homes. But, mobile homes typically refer to trailers that are unregulated and have questionable construction processes. Manufactured homes refer to homes that were built after 1976 when the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) passed various guidelines, which clarified the building standards and codes for manufactured houses.

Manufactured home
Source: Pinterest

Prefab Home Vs Manufactured Home

As mentioned earlier, a manufactured home is a type of prefab home. It is quite different than other types of prefab homes as it does not come with the typical foundation most prefab homes have. It also has other differences from other prefab homes discussed below:

Prefabricated home
Source: Pinterest

Appearance / Construction

With regards to construction, the main difference between a prefab home and a manufactured home is that a prefab home will be delivered in sections to the site where it will be assembled. Meanwhile, a manufactured home will be delivered as a fully-built home.

Another difference between the two is that a prefab home is set on a traditional foundation, while a manufactured one comes with a concrete foundation. A manufactured home is also built with wheels, which the buyer has the option to remove later.

Transporting a manufactured home
Source: Pinterest


When it comes to the cost, manufactured homes are less expensive compared to prefab homes. In general, they do not require a lot of effort and time to set up. However, they are considered as personal property, like cars or TVs, and not as real property, such as apartments and houses. This has a significant effect when it comes to taxation, financing, and consumer rights and protection.

On the other hand, prefab homes are considered real property. This means that buyers will have similar tax treatment, financing options, and legal rights and protections as those that are buying traditional homes.

Interior of a prefab home
Source: Pinterest

Building Codes

Manufactured homes are not required to meet local building codes. However, they need to be manufactured according to the specifications from the HUD or Department of Housing and Urban Development. There is no need for structural inspection, but some of the work, such as electricity and plumbing, will still be evaluated.

Meanwhile, prefab homes require to be inspected structurally by professionals. This means they need to adhere to local building codes.

Prefab home construction
Source: Pinterest

Building Limitations

Since manufactured homes are entirely constructed in a factory and delivered to the site as a whole, renovation is limited. The manufactured home will come with a fixed layout, making it difficult to make changes to the home. If the buyer decides to renovate it, it will be costly.

Prefab homes are built more or less similarly to traditional homes. They are set on a sturdy foundation and the buyer can choose which raw materials to use during construction. Although they are delivered in pre-built sections to the site, they are more customizable than manufactured homes.

Fully-built manufacturer home
Source: Pinterest

To Summarize

Prefab homes are indeed an excellent solution to the growing housing problems worldwide. They are built similarly to site-built homes but are more affordable, energy-efficient, and easier to build. You can go with a modular home if you want something more permanent. But, if you opt for something mobile, you can go with a manufactured home. Nevertheless, all types of prefab homes are cost-effective, sustainable, safe, and reliable.

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I like how you mentioned that the housing supply is having problems meeting the demand as the global population continues to rise. My cousin mentioned to me last night that he is thinking if he should consider buying a manufactured home for his family and asked if I have any idea what is the best option to do. Thanks to this informative article and I’ll be sure to tell him that it will be much better if he consults modular homes company first as they can answer all his inquiries and for him to be able to choose his ideal home.

Thanks for helping me understand that mobile homes are manufactured homes in trailers. I will share this information with my partner since he wanted to have one built in the future. It seems like he wanted a place he can use as his man cave whenever there are creative things he wanted to create.

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