What Is a Prefab Home?

What is a prefab home?
Photo courtesy of Clayton Homes.

“Prefab home” is a term that’s frequently used in the real estate and home building industries. So, what is a prefab home? In a nutshell, it’s short for “prefabricated home,” which means any home that’s assembled in sections in a factory facility and then shipped to its final home site

What kinds of homes can be considered prefab homes? Are modular homes prefab homes—and what is a modular home anyway? And why have prefab homes recently become so popular? If you’re on the hunt for a new home (or even just window shopping for one), you should know the basics of the different types of prefab homes. This guide will tell you everything you need to know. 

What Is a Prefab Home?

The word “prefabricated” combines the prefix “pre” (meaning coming before) and “fabricated” (meaning made or built). Thus, any of these three types of factory-built homes can qualify:

  • Manufactured HomeA prefab home built to the standards of the federal HUD code and constructed on a fixed steel chassis. A manufactured home may or may not be attached to a permanent foundation.
  • Modular HomeA prefab home that’s attached to a permanent foundation and built without a steel chassis. Modular homes must comply with local building codes rather than the HUD code, and they often have features of a site-built home such as a second story and full basement.
  • Mobile HomeWhile this term is often used to refer to manufactured homes, it actually refers specifically to prefab homes built before the HUD code was introduced in 1976.

Both manufactured homes and modular homes are popular housing options today. Over 22 million Americans live in manufactured homes, and modular housing is also gaining popularity. 

How Is a Prefab Home Made?

Prefab homes are made using most of the same building materials that are used to create a site-built home. The main difference is that most of the assembly and building process for a prefab home happens inside a factory, rather than at the home site. Almost every aspect of the prefab home building process—from framing to flooring to roofing to painting—happens in a factory.

How are Prefab homes made?

Single wide manufactured homes are built and transported in one section. Double wide and multi-section manufactured homes are built in three or even four sections. When these sections reach the home site, installers join them together using heavy-duty hardware and a waterproof gasket. 

Modular homes may be transported in any number of sections, depending on their architectural features. At the home site, the modular home installer will use a crane to position the modules on a foundation that’s been constructed on-site, and the installation crew will use special techniques to join the modules together and ensure that they’re secure. 

Advantages of Prefab Homes

Prefab homes have a lot to offer today’s homebuyer.

Advantages of Prefab Homes

  • Prefab homes can save buyers a lot of money compared to site-built homes. The average per square foot cost of a manufactured home is less than half that of a site-built home
  • Prefab homes are built in climate-controlled factories that keep them protected from wind, water, and other elements that can harm site-built construction. 
  • Prefab homes are manufactured, built, and assembled by homebuilding professionals who know each model and component inside and out. 
  • Many prefab homes now offer extensive customization options. With many models, everything from the color of the siding to the floor plan of the home can be customized to suit the buyer’s needs and tastes. 
  • Prefab homes can often be built much more quickly than site-built homes. Where the average home takes anywhere from seven to nine months to build, a prefab home can usually be manufactured, sited, and assembled in just a few weeks. 
  • Prefab homes appreciate in value just like other homes when installed on a permanent foundation on a piece of land that the homeowner owns.

Things to Know About Buying a Prefab Home

  • Getting a loan for a manufactured home can require a different process than getting one for a site-built home. Prefab buyers should look at manufactured home financing and understand their options. 
  • Many manufactured home buyers find that living in a manufactured home community has benefits that they enjoy. However, be aware that these communities may require you to choose from a select range of prefab home models. 
  • If you’re interested in pre-owned manufactured homes, make sure that you’re aware of the key things to look for in a used manufactured home.

Seeking a great prefab home for your family? MHVillage is America’s #1 online marketplace for new and used manufactured homes. You’ll find the newest and best manufactured homes in our mobile home floor plans section, as well as an extensive selection of used manufactured homes for sale.