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Modular vs. Manufactured vs. Site-Built Homes: An Honest Comparison

By Kris Hershberger

When it comes to building your own home, site-built homes, modular homes, and manufactured homes are the most popular choices. Middletown Homes sells modular and manufactured homes. We want you to have all the info you need to make the decision that’s best for you and your family, no matter what company you choose to work with.

By the end of this article you’ll know:

  • The major differences between modular, site-built, and manufactured homes
  • How these homes are constructed
  • If modular, site-built, and manufactured homes can be customized
  • How much they cost
  • If these homes appreciate in value

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Table of Contents

1. Construction     2. Quality     3. Customization     4. Price     5. Appreciation

6. Key Takeaways

How are these homes constructed?


Site-built construction

A site-built home (also called a stick-built home) is exactly what it sounds like: a home that is built on your site. First, a foundation is constructed on your property, and then the home is built piece-by-piece on top of that foundation (that’s why it’s called "stick-built").

Source: mitchellhomesinc.com

This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about building a home. It’s a tried and true method – homes were constructed this way for hundreds of years, after all.

A site-built home can be built within 6 months – 2 years. It’s hard to establish a specific timeframe for site-built construction because several variables can affect the project’s timeline, such as your site's location, weather conditions, unpredictable delays, and more.

If you want a site-built home, you need to contact a site-builder or a general contractor, who will then build your home to your exact specifications. They will handle the entire process, from constructing your home's roof all the way to installing your cabinetry.

 

Modular construction

The primary difference between modular homes and site-built homes is the process. You can get the same home built either as a modular home or as a site-built home. It will be the same quality and built to the same codes and standards, just constructed differently.

Instead of being built on your site, a modular home is built in a factory. After it's built in a factory, your home is transported in sections (modules) to your site and then set on its foundation with a crane.

Finally, a construction crew will assemble the modules to bring your entire home together.

Unlike site-built homes, modular homes can be built in as little as 2-6 months.

One reason for this is because a modular home builder does not have to wait for your foundation to be built before they can begin constructing your home. Your foundation and your home can be constructed at the same time.

Here is a helpful graphic so you can see the difference in the construction process.

Site-built home and modular home construction timeline

Source: modularhomeowners.com

As you can see, the first two steps in the home building process are the same for both home types. However, there is a departure once site prep and foundation work begin.

Site-built construction can't begin until a foundation is laid, whereas a modular home is built while the foundation is laid.

On top of this, weather is less likely to delay your project’s timeline because the entire process takes place indoors. Thanks to an efficient, indoor factory-building method, your home builder can give you more accurate dates for when your home will be finished.

Manufactured construction

Commonly known as mobile homes, manufactured homes can be bought as a single-wide, double-wide, or triple-wide.

Manufactured homes, like modular homes, are constructed entirely indoors in a factory. The completed sections are then delivered to the buyer's property and assembled by a construction crew.

However, manufactured homes are not required to be set on a permanent foundation (such as a crawlspace or basement), but they can be. This is a manufactured home’s biggest difference when compared to a modular or site-built home.

Instead of being built on a permanent foundation, manufactured homes have a permanent steel frame as part of the floor structure.

With the steel frame, the manufactured home can be set on concrete piers, which create solid footings with considerably less cost. Because the home is built to be moved if necessary, it can be moved somewhere else in the future.

A manufactured home is also issued a title for ownership, so it can be kept separate from the land it sits on.

use-1-1

Other than no need for a permanent foundation, a manufactured home's construction process is the same as a modular home. The home's sections are built in a factory, delivered to your property, and then assembled by a construction crew.

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Quality

Site-built quality

Site-built homes are held to a set of codes and standards determined by state and local governments. West Virginia uses the IRC and NEC codes and standards for the entire state.

These codes and standards are meant to ensure custom-built homes are safe to live in and are constructed from reliable, quality materials. Although there are statewide codes for site-built homes, local codes and standards at the county level add extra quality and safety requirements on site-built homes.

Although local codes add extra quality and safety regulations, these codes differ from county to county and can even differ from city to city.

A site-builder usually uses local or state officials to examine their work. These officials are supposed to examine the site-built home to make sure it meets West Virginia’s state and local standards. A site-builder can face repercussions if their homes are not built to code.

Although these standards are in place, it should be noted that site-built homes are built on your property. The materials site-builders use to construct your home are also stored on the job site, meaning they are not stored in a controlled environment and will be exposed to weather conditions throughout the project.

This means the materials may warp, mold, be out of square, or more as they’re exposed to bad weather, which affects your home’s final quality.

 

Modular quality

Modular homes are held to the same state and local standards as site-built homes. Remember, modular and site-built homes are the same. The difference is the building process.

In West Virginia, modular homes are held to the IRC and NEC standards, just like site-built homes.

Modular homes are built indoors through most of the process. All of the home’s materials are stored in an indoor environment, as well. Because the home is built in a controlled indoor environment, it keeps the building materials dry and straight.

The indoor environment also creates a comfortable workplace for the factory’s employees as they build the home. They have all the benefits of jigs, overhead cranes, and pneumatic tools.

Modular home factory
 

Unlike site-builders, the modular home manufacturers used and trusted by Middletown Homes use third-party companies to examine the homes they build instead of local officials.

These third-party companies inspect the homes during the construction process, making sure the home meets or exceeds necessary standards.

This is a crucial difference between modular and site-built homes because quality is so important. A home is one of the most important purchases of your life. You need to make sure your home is built correctly and is safe for your family.

 

Manufactured quality

Manufactured homes must meet national standards established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The home must meet this code no matter where it is in the United States, whether it be in West Virginia, Florida, or Alaska.

This is called the national HUD code. It regulates manufactured home requirements related to:

  • Home delivery and portability
  • Fire safety
  • Body and frame construction
  • Thermal protection
  • Electrical systems
  • Much more

The manufactured home manufacturers used and trusted by Middletown Homes also hire third-party companies to inspect the home during the construction process, guaranteeing a safe and quality product.

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Customization

Site-built customization

Site-built homes are highly customizable.

This is one of the biggest strengths of site-built homes. A site-builder can make any modification their customers request, as long as it's in their skill set.

A customer has full range over the type of wood their home is made from, floor plans, appliances, and more. Unless you’re limited by the site-builder, nothing is outside of the customer's control.

This is an integral part of the design stage when purchasing a site-built home. The customer can customize every nook and cranny, and then see it come together in person while the site-builder constructs the home on their property.

 

Modular customization

There is a popular myth that modular homes can’t be customized.

This isn't true.

A completely custom home is possible as long as the design can be broken down into modular units.

Imagine the home you want. If it can be built in modules, then it can be built using the factory-built method.

Many, but not all, modular home builders are more than happy to work with their customers to build a home they love.

Your home builder will help make sure your design is doable with the factory-built method, and then they’ll send plans for your custom home off to the factory to be built.

 

Manufactured customization

Everything we listed for modular homes also goes for manufactured homes.

You’re able to customize your manufactured home if the design can be built in sections, and many home builders will help with the design process.

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Price

Estimation won’t work

There are several factors when pricing a site-built, modular, or manufactured home. Ultimately, the price of your home depends on the home builder, types of materials used, size of the home, additional features, labor costs, and more. There is so much variety that it’s nearly impossible to estimate how much your home will cost before your home builder quotes you an exact price.

While you can’t estimate your home’s price, you can know that modular and manufactured homes will more than likely be more affordable than site-built homes.

 

The factory building process saves you money

You will save money by building a modular or manufactured home thanks to the efficient factory building process.

There are several reasons for this.

First, if you build your homes with Middletown Homes, your price will be set in stone once you sign a home-building agreement. Your price will be fixed, so you don’t have to worry about price overruns. Site-builders don’t function this way.

Second, modular and manufactured home factories reduce cost by purchasing materials in bulk directly from distributors. They then store these bulk materials in an indoor, quality-controlled facility, where they’re kept until they’re needed for building projects. Since the factory purchases so many materials directly from distributors, they get special pricing on quality materials, and this saving is passed directly to you.

In contrast, site-builders or general contractors purchase materials from local stores as they need them. They must pay the local stores’ more expensive price since they cannot order from distributors. Site-builders also can’t purchase in bulk because they have nowhere to store the extra materials, so they don’t get special bulk pricing.

Site-builders pass this extra cost directly on to you.

Second, a much more efficient building process reduces labor costs. Factories use an assembly line and long-term employees, and since construction takes place in a factory, issues that could increase your home’s price are removed, such as employee travel costs, high employee turnover, or adverse weather conditions.

All of this and more reduces your home’s cost by tens of thousands of dollars, meaning you can spend less money for a quality home.

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Appreciation

Site-built and modular appreciation

Site-built and modular homes appreciate the same way because the primary difference between the two is the building process. Otherwise, they are the same.

According to Zillow, every year home values appreciate between 3% and 5%, on average. For example, some homes that costed around $140,000 in 2012 now cost around $240,000. That's a $100,000 increase!

Here's a helpful chart from Zillow so you can see national appreciation trends over the past 8 years.

Home appreciation chart

Although the national trend is for homes to appreciate between 3% and 5% yearly, this does vary from home to home.

Ultimately, the appreciation rate of your home depends on its condition, location, property, and market trends.

Here are important factors that determine your home's value:

  • The region, city, or neighborhood where your home is located.
  • The property your home sits on.
  • Characteristics of the home, such as its condition, number of bedrooms, and square footage.
  • The value of other homes in your area.
  • Your home's location regarding schools, popular areas (like shopping centers), and places of employment.

Be confident your site-built or modular home's value will increase as long as these factors are favorable.

 

Manufactured appreciation

Manufactured homes typically do not appreciate at the same rate as modular or site-built homes.

A big reason for this is because manufactured homes are not built on a permanent foundation, so they are not attached to any land.

When a modular or site-built home is on a permanent foundation, it becomes inextricably connected to the land it sits on. That means whoever owns the land owns the home, too.

When you sell a site-built or modular home, you sell the land as well. Land also typically appreciates at a great rate, so when your land appreciates, your home appreciates. That is a huge reason home values rise.

Because a manufactured home is not permanently connected to land and are made to be moved, they have no land to appreciate with. This means the home’s location does not factor into the price.

They are made to be moved. They have no land to appreciate with, and since they can be taken anywhere, the home’s location does not factor into the price.

But that doesn’t mean a manufactured home won’t appreciate. Your manufactured home's condition and characteristics affect your home's value. If you take good care of your manufactured home, you may be able to sell it for the same amount you paid for it, if not more.

If you do not take care of your manufactured home, expect it to lose value. Whether you can sell a manufactured home for the same price or more is ultimately up to you.

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Which Should You Choose? Key Takeaways

Only you know which kind of home is best for you and your family to build. Here's a quick summary of everything we've covered to help you decide which home type fits your needs.

Site-built homes:

  • Constructed at your site
  • Built piece by piece on a foundation
  • Completed in 6 months – 2 years
  • Most expensive building option
  • Entirely customizable
  • Held to IRC and NEC standards in West Virginia
  • Examined by local officials
  • Not built in quality-controlled environments
  • Likely to appreciate if favorable conditions are met

Modular homes:

  • Constructed in a factory and then delivered to your site
  • Set and assembled on a foundation in less than a week
  • Built in 2-6 months
  • Less expensive than site-built homes for the same quality
  • Fully customizable floor plans
  • Held to IRC and NEC standards in West Virginia
  • Examined by third-party companies to ensure quality
  • Likely to appreciate if favorable conditions are met

Manufactured homes:

  • Constructed in a factory and then delivered to your site
  • Not required to be set on a foundation (but can be if you want to)
  • Has a steel frame as part of the floor structure
  • Built in 2-4 months
  • Least expensive building option
  • Customizable floor plans by most manufacturers
  • Built to the national HUD code
  • Examined by third-party companies to ensure quality
  • Likely will not appreciate like modular or site-built homes

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Tags: modular home, manufactured home, site-built home, guide