By: Greg DePersio / Investopedia.com
Mobile homes have a history of stigmatization and have served as fodder for jokes and derision. However, research indicates that interest in prefabricated dwellings has been on the rise since 2011. Compared to stick-built homes, mobile homes offer more square footage for the money, take less time to build, and have made substantial improvements over the years in safety and design.
Mobile Home vs. Manufactured Home vs. Stick-Built Home
The primary difference between a traditional stick-built home and a mobile or manufactured home is that a stick-built home is assembled from the ground up on a building site, while a mobile or manufactured home is assembled off-site and then shipped to the building site, either in one piece or in several pieces to be joined together.
Manufactured homes have been regulated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) since 1976, which has resulted in substantial improvements in quality and appearance. In fact, homes built since the regulations are referred to strictly as manufactured homes, not mobile homes, which refer to unregulated homes built prior to 1976. As of 2016, even wealthy people live in manufactured homes; the Paradise Cove Mobile Home Park in Malibu, California, features homes that sell for over $3 million and has housed celebrities such Matthew McConaughey and Pamela Anderson.
More Square Footage for the Money
One area where a glaring difference still exists between stick-built and manufactured homes is the price. As of the latest U.S. census in 2010, the price for stick-built homes nationwide averaged $83.38 per square foot, compared to $41.24 for manufactured homes.
This means that for 2,000 square feet, a buyer of a traditional home spends an average of $166,760, while the buyer of a manufactured home pays less than half the price at $82,480. Many manufactured home builders offer design studios where buyers can custom-build a home the way that they want it, and for not much more money than purchasing from a preselected design. By contrast, hiring an architect to design a traditional home from scratch generally confers a hefty price.
Less Time to Build
For buyers looking to build a home from scratch, the time from the first clump of dirt being turned over to move-in day averages at least six months for a stick-built home. Depending on the complexity of the project, it could be even longer. Add weather delays — a sure bet in certain areas of the country — and a buyer potentially is looking at a year before he or she can actually live in his or her custom-built home.
The manufactured home construction process is faster and less vulnerable to delays. The construction time typically spans from six to eight weeks. Since the home is constructed in a factory, weather disturbances do not present an issue. If the home is going on a permanent foundation, workers can prepare this at the building site while the home gets built in the factory. This way, the process of installing the home at the building site is fast and easy.
Safety and Design Improvements
Mobile and manufactured homes were once known for shoddy construction and considered to be firetraps. Lingering vestiges of this outmoded reputation still remain. Modern manufactured homes are far from the tiny boxes of rusted tin that many people still picture. In the 21st century, buyers of manufactured homes, which include retirees and young families looking to maximize square footage for the money, are much more likely to find energy-efficient doors and windows, sturdy roofing materials, and even luxury features, such as crown molding and marble floors.
Moreover, the old myth about fires has been thoroughly debunked. A study by Foremost Insurance Company found that manufactured homes are actually less likely to burn, as their rate of fires is only eight per 1,000, compared to 17 per 1,000 for traditional homes.