Are Modular Homes Considered Trailers?

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Modular homes cannot be referred to as trailers because these two are different types of construction. Modular homes are permanent structures built on solid foundations and following the regulations of the local building codes. Trailers, on the other hand, are always conceived as moveable constructions that can be transported from one location to another as a whole.

Both modular homes and trailers are built off-site in a factory-like environment, which often leads to grouping them under the tag of “prefabricated construction”. Though despite sharing a similar construction process, modular homes are never considered trailers, they are permanent constructions built as real estate property. 

Which types of homes are considered trailers?

Trailer is the accepted label assigned to those houses that are built to be transportable and it is often used as a synonym for a mobile or a manufactured home. In general, trailers are cheaper than traditional houses and it is common to encounter individuals who choose to use trailers as substitutes for traditional housing -in 2020 as many as 22 million people were living in trailers [1]-. Still, even if the trailer is purchased as a substitute for a permanent house, it is always built as a transportable unit.

The transportability of the structure is a key feature to distinguish trailers from other construction types. Every house built today is required to adhere to some sort of building regulations and these regulations vary from permanent to moveable constructions: permanent houses adhere to the building codes issued by their state and local government, while moveable constructions are instead regulated on a national level by the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards: the HUD Code [2]. 

Every trailer built today follows the HUD codes, though it wasn’t until 1976 that the HUD codes were established [3]. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development labels as “manufactured homes” every house built under the HUD Codes and “mobile homes” as those built before the codes were established [4]. Therefore, while every transportable structure can be labeled as a trailer, not every trailer is built under the same quality standards. 

Modular homes are never considered trailers

Modular homes are a specific type of permanent prefabricated construction that is built per module: every module is prefabricated in a factory-like environment and delivered to the site to be assembled and set on a solid foundation. Modular homes are always conceived as permanent constructions and built to be settled on one specific plot of land. Once finished, a modular home is no different from a traditional site-built home and is therefore treated as so.

There is a common misunderstanding regarding prefabricated constructions which leads to a general mix-up conceiving them all in quite a similar way, often as trailers. Though, despite modular homes and trailers being both prefab structures, they are different construction types holding different titles: modular homes, as permanent constructions are always titled as Real Estate Property; while trailers being transportable are legally closer to a vehicle, receiving the title of Personal Property [5]. 

References:

  1. (2020, May) 2020 Manufactured Housing. Facts Industry Overview Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) https://www.manufacturedhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2020-MHI-Quick-Facts-updated-05-2020.pdf
  2. Abby R. (2020, 13 March) How are Modular Home Codes different from Manufactured Clayton Homes https://www.claytonhomes.com/studio/how-are-modular-manufactured-home-code-different/
  3. Brown, S. Mobile? Modular? Manufactured? What’s the difference and how to choose the right one? New Home Source https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/difference-between-manufactured-vs-modular-vs-mobile-home/  
  4. HUD- Manufactured Housing and Standards: General Program Information U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/rmra/mhs/faq
  5. Kilroy, A. (2020, May 12) Real Property vs. Personal Property: Why The Difference Matters Smart Asset https://smartasset.com/financial-advisor/real-property-vs-personal-property