Okay, here's another hot topic that honestly needs to be broken down a bit more to gain perspective. I personally have heard terms such as manufactured home, modular home, prefab home, prefabricated home, prebuilt home, factory home, direct home, mobile home, trailer, and even modular prefab home. All these terms usually come to mind when someone is looking for a "modular home" and leads to a ton of confusion. This stigma needs to end, and I hope to help you through this process.
What is a manufactured home?
If we do a quick search, Wikipedia yields the following: "Manufactured housing (commonly known as mobile homes in the United States) is a type of prefabricated housing that is largely assembled in factories and then transported to sites of use. The definition of the term in the United States is regulated by federal law (Code of Federal Regulations, 24 CFR 3280): "Manufactured homes are built as dwelling units of at least 320 square feet (30 m2) in size with a permanent chassis to assure the initial and continued transportability of the home." The requirement to have a wheeled chassis permanently attached differentiates "manufactured housing" from other types of prefabricated homes, such as modular homes." (source: Wikipedia)
Could that be any more convoluted? It is talking about manufactured, prefabricated, and modular all in the same description. No wonder people get confused! Long story short, the typical definition of a manufactured home is the "seen one seen them all" mobile home or trailer that is usually in a trailer park or a retirement community. Please don't mistake my words, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these houses, but they are not a modular home.
What about a prefabricated home?
Again, a quick search, Wikipedia yields the following: "Prefabricated homes, often referred to as prefab homes or simply prefabs, are specialist dwelling types of prefabricated building, which are manufactured off-site in advance, usually in standard sections that can be easily shipped and assembled. Some current prefab home designs include architectural details inspired by postmodernism or futurist architecture." (source: Wikipedia)
That's a bit more straight forward. This is starting to sound closer to a modular home. But the confusion continues, because if you keep reading the Wikipedia article, they make reference to it also being a panel home, modular home, manufactured home, or mobile home.
What is the problem here? How can there be different definitions for the exact same thing that contradict each other?
It really is simple. Wikipedia, which is a very good source of information, is 100% crowd sourced. What that means is anyone can type anything about anything, and as long as the majority of people accept it as fact, it's deemed fact. Remember, if it's on the internet, it has to be true.
A modular home is 100% custom built, using drawings from either an Architect, CAD designer, or even a simple drawing on a napkin. (Yes, we've had someone come in with a drawing on a napkin and say "build that", and we did!) A modular home can have anything you want inside, and is not restricted by size, shape, height, or other strict specifications that other types of homes have to adhere to. If you want a three story house that's 3500 square feet, has 7 bathrooms, 9 bedrooms, and 2 kitchens - well, that's absurd, but you can have it. You don't have to have wheels under your house, because it's not a trailer. The overwhelming majority of modular homes have a full basement, not a pad or slab like a trailer or some other stick built homes. A modular home is build in a factory, on an assembly line, much like a car is built in a factory. The only difference between the car assembly line and the home assembly line is cars are mass produced by thousands all to be the exact same thing. A modular is 100% custom. Using the factory assembly line, a house can be built in an environment that allows for a high level of quality control, complete control of the elements (e.g. no rain, snow, wind, etc), and the design you want to be generated in an efficient period of time.
Think about it for a minute: A typical stick built house is built on site, and is subject to the elements. How many times did it rain while that house was built? Little Timmy's bedroom had water in it three times before a roof was built. That can't be good! That doesn't happen with a modular home, because it's built inside.
A modular home also has a major strength advantage that other homes do not. By the very nature of modular home building, each house is built in "modules" (hence the name modular home). Each module is a self-supporting and free standing by itself. They have to be! Each module is placed on a truck, shipped to the house set location, and withstands winds of ~70mph for hours. Can you place your house on a trailer and drive for hours at 70mph? Let me know how it looks at the end. So you take each module, which is very strong by itself, and place them on the foundation, bolt them together, and end up with many modules which are in their own rights strong making the entire house super strong.
How many other "types" of houses can make that claim?
So that in a nutshell is the major difference which sets a modular home a notch above the rest in the house industry. The next time someone talks about a prefab or manufactured home, you now have the ability to educate them and also know that a modular is not a mobile home.
I hope that cleared that up, and honestly if it didn't, please feel free to reach out. I'll gladly tell you more about the modular home process.