Single-Family Homes

A single-family home is built to accommodate one person or group of people living together. There's usually one main entrance and only one address for the property — it's the type of house many of us think of when we hear the term “neighborhood.” Single-family homes are by far the most common form of residential housing, and they are the favorite choice among the majority of people shopping for a home.

The land beneath a single-family home is nearly always part of the purchase package, but some houses are built on leased lots. You are most likely to encounter houses on leased land in resort areas, where land is expensive and hard to find, within church-owned developments, and in assisted-care facilities.

Not all single-family homes are constructed in the same way. They can be sorted into several different categories, and it is important for real-estate investors to understand the differences between them before they buy or sell.

The Site-Built House

Site-built houses are the structures most of us are familiar with. All of the elements needed to construct a home are delivered to the site, and then a builder puts the home together piece by piece. Local building codes dictate how the site-built house should be constructed. Houses in a hurricane zone might be required to have heavy-duty walls and foundations. Wood shingle roofs are sometimes banned in communities that are prone to wildfires.

Building codes are designed to help builders avoid safety hazards and make sure that every house is a stable structure for the area it is in. The builder must apply for permits to complete the house, and as building progresses, local inspectors arrive to verify that the work being done conforms to all building codes. The owner usually can't move into the house until a certificate of occupancy (CO) is issued.

Manufactured Housing

Manufactured houses were formerly called mobile homes or trailers. They are built in a factory to conform to the U.S. government's Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Code, known simply as the HUD code. Each manufactured home — or segment of a home — is labeled with a red tag that guarantees the home conforms to the HUD code.

Many lenders will not finance manufactured housing unless the home is on a permanent foundation — not resting only on its wheels. Always check foundation status before moving forward with a loan application.

Manufactured homes are built on a permanent steel chassis and transported to the building site on their own wheels. Sometimes the wheels are removed, but often they're still visible under the house after it is completed.

There should be a data plate inside the home stating its date of manufacture. The plate is usually on or near the main electrical panel, in a kitchen cabinet, or in a bedroom closet. The data plate is important because it gives information about the home's original heating and cooling systems, plus other appliances and components. The data plate also tells you the wind zone and snow load for which the home was built.

Manufactured housing is sometimes more difficult to resell. New home packages that don't require a down payment are so attractive that buyers often flock to them before buying a resale. Research the area where you are buying to learn about past sales of pre-existing manufactured homes.

Buyers often purchase manufactured housing as part of a land-home package that's put together by the retailers that sell the homes. Interest rates are typically higher than the rates offered for site-built home purchases, but the packages are popular because buyers can usually move in to a house without a down payment. Manufactured housing qualifies for FHA and VA loans.

Some communities and housing developments will not allow manufactured housing. Individual deeds often contain restrictions against manufactured housing, even if there are similar homes on lots surrounding the parcel of land. It's important to make sure any home will be allowed on the land you want to place it on, so check all associated restrictions before you buy a manufactured home.

Modular Homes

Buyers are often confused about the differences between modular homes and manufactured homes. Modular homes are partially constructed in a factory, but that's where their resemblance to manufactured housing ends. Modular homes are built to conform to specific building codes at their destination. Then the segments are transported to the home site on flatbed trucks, where they are placed on a prebuilt foundation, joined, and completed by a local builder.

Modular homes have changed dramatically in recent years. At first, many of the modular homes offered by manufacturers were simple one-story ranch houses that resembled a doublewide manufactured home. They were easy to spot when you were house shopping. Now the styles are endless, and unless you are there to see a house delivered and assembled, you would probably never guess it's a modular. Manufacturers can easily draw plans to meet your specifications or make changes to customize one of their existing designs.

Lenders typically finance modular homes in the same way they finance site-built homes. An appraiser might or might not mention that a home is modular on an appraisal. Modulars are usually acceptable in developments where site-built homes are the norm. Check restrictive covenants and deed restrictions to be certain you can build a modular home on the lot you wish to buy.

Are modular homes marked to help identify them?

Yes. Look inside the kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities for a typed page that's glued to a vertical panel. It lists the modular company that built the house along with details about the components used within it.

Modulars can usually be built much faster than a site-built home. Their sections are constructed indoors with no weather delays, and the factory aspect itself helps speed production. The cost of a modular home is often less per square foot than for a similar site-built house, making them attractive to buyers, but cost can vary quite a bit by manufacturer and design.

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