Mobile Homes: Are they a thing of the past?

Often, we hear the term ‘mobile homes’ used interchangeably with ‘manufactured homes’ when in reality these are distinct concepts. Key factors that differentiate these terms include the date they were built, the enactment of the HUD code, and overall consumer perceptions. Let’s dial in the differences to provide a clearer understanding of the difference between mobile and manufactured homes.

Date of Build Matters – HUD Code Enactment

The reason why these two home types tend to be confused is because they share a history. What started from the automobile revolution in the 1920’s as ‘trailer homes’ – where trailers literally “trailed” behind trucks – turned into ‘mobile homes’ in the 1950’s. The industry change in name was due to poor public reputation of lower class housing. These homes were situated on property, but the wheels remained in place, and they were not permanently attached to that property; therefore, they could be transported to new property at any time.

In 1976, the industry stepped back in and enacted the HUD code. This sets the foundation for the official difference between mobile and manufactured homes. Purely from a date standpoint, the term ‘mobile home’ is only appropriate if the structure was built before July 15, 1976. If the home was built after July 15, 1976, the correct term should be ‘manufactured home’.

Mobile Homes – A thing of the past

The HUD code established federal standards for the building of manufactured housing. It involved regulating the construction and quality of all aspects of building a manufactured house, including:

  • Design and construction
  • Strength and durability
  • Transportability
  • Fire resistance
  • Energy efficiency
  • Overall quality
  • Performance standards for all house systems, including electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning

Therefore, the term ‘mobile home’ refers to an unregulated construction pre-1976, and the term ‘manufactured home’ refers to a housing unit that is constructed post-1976 following specific rules for design, durability and safety.

Perceptions of Mobile Homes

These homes were perceived as low quality and unsafe. Therefore, the industry enacted code changes and a name change to alter this perception (hence, HUD code in 1976). When referring to a transportable housing structure completely built in a factory setting within the past forty-something years, it is correct to use the term manufactured home. Using this correct term also helps avoiding any negative connotation with mobile homes of the past.