House I'm looking at buying turns out to be "manufactured", what's it mean?

Ok, I’ve been going through the process of buying my first home. I found one where I liked the floorplan, size, number of rooms, etc in my price range.

Last week we got the inspection and appraisal done. The appraiser came back with a worrying statement: up to this point, the house had been presented as a “modular” home, but it was originally “manufactured”. The current owners (or maybe the realtor they bought it from, it’s a little unclear to me at this point) did some major work on the building last year, including re-doing the interior and adding a garage.

After doing some research, here’s what I figured out so far:

  1. Modular and manufactured are both constructed at a factory (usually in multiple pieces), transported to the plot of land, and put together there.
  2. Modular homes must meet local building codes.
  3. Manufactured homes have a separate building code set at the federal level by HUD.
  4. Manufactured homes do not have a permanent foundation, which makes it harder to finance and less likely to appreciate in value. I guess it’s because it’s easier to take the house away from the property, so it’s a higher risk.

I was visiting my brother yesterday, and his mother-in-law (who has been working with investment properties for the past few years) started in a bunch of horror stories about manufactured homes. Shoddy construction of wiring, ductwork, etc. Depreciation of resale value. Increased insurance costs (2x to 2.5x).

Needless to say, this has definitely led to some worry on my part. The appraisal report did state that the house’s value was what I offered. I haven’t seen the report yet, but I am working on getting my hands on it. It being the weekend, I also haven’t been able to get a hold of the company I’m going through for house insurance to see what impact this would have (since the quote I got was from before this information came up).

I am planning on keeping this for a while, it’s not a “buy, fix, resell for profit” property.

So I put this out to the teeming millions: what should I bring up with my realtor and/or the seller to assure myself that I’m not getting stuck with a bad investment? Is there any valid, legal way for a “manufactured” home to be upgraded to a “modular” classification (maybe this is what the original owner thought he did)? Is the misrepresentation a possible sign of a scam, an honest mistake, miscommunication, or what? Is the “manufactured” stigma overrated?

Permit me to offer some opinions on “stick-built”,“prefab”.“Modular” etc.

In an area very close to my residence there is a Sears-Roebck Catalogue home which a co-worker of mine bought back in about 1930.

It’s still making some one happy 'cause it’s still occupies.

Hand built buildins are. to some extent, prefabbed because the carpenter team will often cut all of the studs in one day and, as the work progresses, will fabricate tomorrows walls and then just stand them up and bang them in the following day.

The qualiity of structure is dependent upon the quality of the workman---------NOT on the system or the material used.

A CRAFTSMAN would not use shoddy material for his trademark.

A good pre-assembly can be just as good as an on the site final assembly.

Either can be sloppy or professional.

It’s all part of the home buying crap-shoot.

After all—remember------the automobile,computer and blender you buy are all.“prefabbed.”

Nobody builds those things. “On Site.”

For what it’s worth!


Ezstrete writes:

> . . . a co-worker of mine bought back in about 1930 . . .

So he’e been working for 75 years now? Was the mortgage so high that it’s taken him that long to pay it off.

Yuk Yuk Yuk

Ol’ EZ forgets that all folk are not octogenatians.

Actully he retired back in the 60s and since has gone to his reward.------------if he we still around he’d have a been a centenarian.[is that correct usage?]


I don’t remenber the terminology, but:

“Manufactured” usually refers to something that arrives at the site on its own wheels (think: “house trailer”). These are the ones which do not attach permanently to the real estate, and are therefore “personal property”, not “real property”.

There are houses built in factories using code-approved materials and techniques - these come in sections of walls (with real, live wallboard on real, live 2x’s, all wiring and plumbing, etc. - it’s a lot easier to build in a factory, using a roller-track and nailers, drills, etc. suspended from the ceiling, than to site-build. Hence, they are cheaper to build). The site preparation is the foundation and roughed-in utilities.
Once assembled, they are indistinguishable from stick-builts.
Easy test: how thick are the walls? The “house trailers” use scaled-down walls and roofs if it uses 2x6 studs for the exterior walls, and 2x4’s for the interior walls, it’s the same as a stick-built - it is a permanent install, and therefore become part of the land (anything permantly attached to the land is part of the real-estate.

“Mobile Homes” ("trailers) are getting quite good, but they are not the same quailty, us about “3/4 scale” everything.

If it looks like a house, it’s a house. If it looks like a trailer, it’s a “Manufactured Home”.

Google is your friend.

I looked at pre-fabbed homes some time ago. From what I recall, the manufacturers claimed that the workmanship is typically better than “stick-built” construction, since it is manufactered in a controlled environment. The houses I was looking at most certainly required a foundation, although some (i.e. mobile homes, also known as “wheel estate,” or tornado fodder) don’t. “Pre-fab” is a term that covers a lot of ground.

There are lots of regional differences in terminology. It sucks. Here are a couple of easy tests.
[li]Look for the utility room. If you see stickers everywhere about Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and federal codes and standards, you got yourself a trailer. Even if they don’t call it a trailer, it’s what we think of as a trailer. They have to meet federal codes which are the same everywhere. They don’t have to meet local codes which are tailored to where you live.[/li][li]Is there a basement? I’ve never seen a trailer with a basement, but that’s not to say they don’t exist.[/li][li]How high from the ground is the main floor? Is there skirting around it? A trailer normally will be substantially higher than a real house (even a modular, which is a real house, just built remotely). [/li][li]Can you get a peek underneath? Trailers will have steel frames below them. A real house will have a steel girder or two possibly, but most of the joists will be good, old fashioned wood.[/li][/ul]

When all else fails, call the inspector and have him clarify. He’ll be happy to tell you if he means “trailer” or not. Because “trailer” is such a negative word, he probably just didn’t want to put it on paper.

Hijack : you seem to assume that a random house will be build by c

Hijack : you seem to assume here that a random house will be build by carpenters. Does it mean that american houses are commonly, or even usually, made of wood?

Not only picky-picky-----but nit picky-picky

:confused: :confused:

Yes, for most of the country. Wood is plentiful and easy to build with. Brick is more common in regions with plenty of clay, and adobe predominates in much of the Southwest.


Most single-family dwellings are framed with wood. Even houses that look like they’re made of brick or stone are often just a veneer of brick or stone over a wood-framed wall.

Basically, yes. It’s the cultural heritage of coming from a forested area. Plus, there is a well-developed tradition of do-it-yourself construction with wood framing.

In the northeast, the oldest part of the US (and Canada), the default style of house is “stick-built”: a wooden frame (floors, walls, roof) on some sort of foundation. The wood frames of the walls are covered in some sort of cladding. Even when the house is covered in brick, the structure remains a wood frame, and the brick is attached to the outside of the walls and rests on the top of the foundation.

This wood-frame/tree tradition was carried to other parts of the continent. Where my mother was born, on the treeless prairies of Saskatchewan, the first wave of immigrants was poor farmers from eastern Europe. They built semi-underground turf houses using available materials. Later, people of British extraction arrived, and they imported complete wooden houses. And trees. As you drive across the Praries, you can spot towns thirty kilometres away by the trees planted arojnd them.

Metal wall framework is very uncommon in detached houses, although it is quite common in commercial construction or high-rise construction. Often there will be a few major beams and posts of steel, however.

Except for fire separation walls, concrete wall structure (blocks or poured) is uncommon in detached houses above those parts of the foundation and basement that are below ground.

I know some people who lives in a rammed-earth house, but that house is such an exception that they give tours of it. Their roof and wondows are framed in wood.

I know someone else who lives in a straw-bale house, where the wall structure is of bales of straw laid up like bricks. Even then, the floors and such are wood, and there’s plenty of wood framework arounf the bales. (I can’t remember whether the straw bales are load-bearing; I think not.)

How is it done where you are, clairobscur?

IIRC, the bales (at least on exterior walls) are load bearing.

Thanks for the detailled answer

I don’t know much about house buiding, but for cheap houses I’ve seen being build, breeze blocks seem to be quite common. I suspect concrete is used too. For regular houses, stone and in some regions, bricks. I think wood houses are only to be found in some mountain areas where it used to be the traditionnal material.

I didn’t even know metal frames existed.

I notice that you didn’t mention the most obvious (in my mind) material for a house : stone. Is it rarely used, or did you forget it?

I forgot it, which probably gives an indication of how often it’s used here. Cut stone is rarely used, except for decorative purposes. Or, if you’re rich, for driveways and sidewalks and such.

Even then, there are quite a few companies that will pour concrete driveways and sidewalks and texture them to look like stone (this is popular among subirbanites who go for the image).

I suspect that this is because of the amount of labour incolved in building a masonry wall: it’s either expensive precut stone that fits in the same place as a brick veneer, or less expensive ‘naturally-shaped’ stone that needs more space (and, hence, non-standard design), plus more work to build.

Re: pre-WW2 suburban building…

In the Toronto area, the stone is shale under clayey soils, and does not lend itself to building. We were famous for bricks. :slight_smile: In the mid-to-late 19th century, after the first wave of European imigration to Ontario had become settled, wood houses became associated with The Frontier, and when the people of the 1880s wanted some class and sophistication for their growing towns, they built in brick.

Bricks were produced in standardised sizes by the new factories, and (I suspect) outcompeted stone because they were cheaper and easier to handle. Many Ontario towns date from this time, and their old downtowns are all three- and four-storey brick buildings. Brick houses are still the default construction style. Structures with actual stone walls above the foundations are extremely rare.

Further east, there are the level limestone plains around Kingston, Ontario, and that city indeed has many grey stone buildings from the early 1800s. The heyday of stone construction was before 1850, just a little too early for most of Ontario. (Quebec, on the other hand, was settled earlier, and I gather has much more stone construction.)

If you go north to the Shield country, the stone is easily-accessible (but very hard) granite, and the buildings tend to be wood or (imported from our area) brick. Settlement there was even later than in the Toronto area, and they often went straight from the first wooden buildings to post-WW2 suburban construction, skipponmg the 1880s brick. Indeed, the canonical “cottage” (rural leisure home) is a wooden building from the 1930s or 1940s, when the highways were first openmed to motor cars and people started to come north.

What are breeze blocks?

I’m thinking here of the thin metal studs that are used for interior partitions in buildings of otherwise concrete and metal construction. They are quite wobbly by themselves, and need to be fastened to wallboard to gain rigidity. They’re typically fastened with nailguns.

Walls built with them are IMHO not as easily modifiable those built with wooden studs. People have been trying to convince homebuilders to use matal framing for fifty years, and so far few have paid attention.

Another reason to use stick-built construction: wooden studs leave plenty of space for thermal insulation, and don’t conduct heat themselves like metal ones would. Makes a difference when it’s -30 out. :slight_smile: