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Factory and Site-Built Housing: A Comparative Analysis

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February 1999, 168 pages

New homes in the United States are produced in a variety of different ways. Conventional site-built construction has historically predominated, but factory built homes, especially "manufactured homes" built under the preemptive Federal "HUD code," also play a very important role. This report, for the first time, provides a comprehensive comparison of HUD-code manufactured housing, conventional site-built homes and factory-built modular homes along several important dimensions. The comparisons address industry structure, production cost, characteristics of occupants and purchasers, unit designs and construction materials, regulatory processes, code requirements, and buyer costs.

Many of the historical distinctions between manufactured homes and conventional homes have been disappearing. During the 1990's, as HUD-code homes have become larger, multi-section units have become more common than single-section units, and placements on private land have outpaced placements on rented land. At the same time, site builders have slowly been shifting away from construction of compact, relatively inexpensive entry-level homes in favor of larger homes aimed at move-up buyers. However, very important differences still remain. For example, conventional site builders continue to play a much greater role in land and site development than HUD-code producers, and the two groups market their homes to purchasers in entirely different ways.

Based on the success and significant recent growth in the HUD-code sector, the report also recommends strategies by which home builders can improve efficiency, reduce production costs and play a larger role in delivering affordable homes to buyers of modest means. The future may ultimately see a more creative blending of factory production technology with conventional home building activities. Drawing on strengths and talents of both sectors offers a very potent approach to improving affordability while meeting the needs of home buyers and the communities where they live.

Content updated on 3/24/2006

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