What to Know About Prefabricated Homes

What is a prefabricated home?

A prefabricated home is typically referred to as a home put together in a factory, that is then transported to the desired build location. Once the home pieces are there, it is either placed at the site as a whole or, transported in several pieces and then built. Almost as if they were building blocks. Once everything is on-site, it can be assembled in a matter of weeks. The whole process from start to finish may take about two to four months in total if you include the rest of the steps such as plumbing, electricity, setting up appliances, etc.

What are modular and manufactured homes?

Modular and manufactured homes both fall under the category of prefabricated homes because they are prefabricated somewhere, and then placed and finished somewhere else.

Manufactured homes are usually referred to as homes that are barely or not at all built on-site, and then placed at a specific location. Modular homes are transported in two or more pieces and then put together by a builder on-site. In addition, modular homes are mainly intended to stay at one location and have the possibility of having two floors. Whereas manufactured homes can usually be moved and typically only have one floor. However, if you want to relocate a home, you need to consider the home’s condition and whether or not the city regulations will allow you to move the home to the new location.

The difference between manufactured and mobile homes

In the eyes of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the only difference between the two homes is the date that they were built:

If the home was built after June 15, 1976, it is considered a manufactured home. If it was built before this date, it is considered a mobile home. Today, mobile homes are usually thought of as “trailer” homes because of their ability to be moved. While manufactured homes are usually not thought of in this way. However, the only thing that really determines what they are is when they were built.

What is panelized construction?

Panelized construction is the most similar method to stick-built homes. While manufactured homes are normally not more than one piece and modular homes include large module pieces, homes built with panelized construction are different. This method includes having the main components of the home, such as the panels, walls, roofs, and floor built in a factory separately. Then, they are moved to the building site to be put together on a foundation already laid out.

When building these homes, using structural insulated panels (SIPs) is an option. SIPs are also called struc­tur­al foam panels or sandwich panels. The process includes using four or eight‑inch thick rigid foam panels to be placed between two sheathing materials. In terms of insulation, expanded poly­styrene (EPS) is the most commonly used. These SIPs are usually more expensive than conventional building materials, but since they are pre-made in factories, labor is reduced and so is the time it takes to frame the house. This could save you labor costs and time.

Cost and time

The majority of prefab homes are inexpensive compared to the price of a site-built home. On average, they are 10 to 25 percent cheaper than their counterpart.

Additionally, manufactured homes on average take around four months to build. Modular homes take around five months, while site-built homes may need seven months or more. Once all the pieces of the modular home are on-site, they can be completed in about a month. However, some companies claim they can install your modules in only a week.


Before obtaining your new prefab home, a few permits are required. Such as transportation, utility connection, construction, and occupancy permits. In most cases, the manufactured housing company details you on which permits are needed.

The state you are in determines what permits are needed. For example, some states do not require the buyer to have a transportation permit for their home. The manufacturer is responsible for getting the permits while the buyer is responsible for paying the fee for the permits. It is recommended to submit the remainder of the permit applications six weeks prior to the transportation.

In conclusion, prefab homes and traditional homes have their similarities and their differences. Prefab homes are a cheaper and less time-consuming option and could be the way of the future. If you decide you want to build these types of homes, make sure to choose the right company and learn as much as you can, to make the journey less stressful and worthwhile.