Understanding M Homes

“I really love the internet. They say chat-rooms are the trailer parks of the internet […]” – Carrie Fisher


Whether it is fair or not, mobile homes and trailer parks are objects of derision and mockery. More than one comedian has made a career out of trailer park based humor. After all, if a home is factory made it can only be a notch above a travel trailer in which the bathroom is three steps from the kitchen. Right?

The association equation usually works something like this: modular home = mobile home = trailer park = flowers planted in tires and old Camaros on cinder blocks. In the public consciousness, the difference between mobile, manufactured, and modular homes is minimal, and usually leads back to the trailer park.

The differences between the three M homes, however, are important to understand.

Technically speaking, there hasn’t been a mobile home made since 1976. This is the year when the government began to regulate the manufacture of mobile, wait – scratch that, transportable homes. For the last forty years, all manufactured homes have been built to the standards prescribed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Almost every conceivable aspect of a manufactured home is regulated in some way. Now, this doesn’t mean that poor installation, lack of maintenance, or what home inspectors politely refer to as homeowner modification cannot compromise the safety and security of a manufactured home. What it does mean is that these homes were made in factories set up to accommodate very specific designs and uniformity. Factories without quality control mechanisms generally don’t stay open very long. It might be surprising, but the internet is littered with folks who argue whether pre-fab homes or stick built (on site construction) homes are of higher quality. No matter the opinion, the very existence of this argument is a testament to how far the manufacture of pre-fab homes has come.

Modular homes are another creature altogether. Sections of these homes are factory built and then assembled on site. Just like stick built homes, modular homes can be on basements, crawlspaces, or concrete slabs. A key difference with manufactured homes is that once modular homes are built they cannot be moved. Frequently homes that people perceive to be stick built are actually modular. Many home designs used by large, national building companies incorporate modular elements for quality control and cost effectiveness.

Like manufactured homes, modular homes are subject to strict government regulations and have to meet or exceed local and state building codes. Again, it would be a mistake to say that modular homes are inherently safer; however, it would be equally wrong to say that they are less safe or structurally inferior.

The bottom line is that if you have a modular home it means that parts of the house were assembled elsewhere. That’s it. People moving into modular homes don’t suddenly get the urge to wear moo-moos and eat deep fried Oreos for dinner. I’m willing to bet that there are thousands of people out there who don’t even know their house is modular.

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