The word “Prefab” is not an industry term like modular home, manufactured home, panelized home, or site-built home. Prefabricated homes, often referred to as prefab homes, are specialist dwelling types of prefabricated building, which are manufactured off-site in advance, usually in standard sections that can be easily shipped and assembled. Some current prefab home designs include architectural details inspired by postmodernism or futurist architecture.
The term is an amalgamation of panellized and modular building systems, and can mean either one. In today’s usage the term “Prefab” is more closely related to the style of home, usually modernist, rather than to a particular method of home construction.
Prefabricated” may refer to buildings built in components (e.g. panels), modules (modular homes) or transportable sections (manufactured homes), and may also be used to refer to mobile homes, i.e., houses on wheels. Although similar, the methods and design of the three vary wildly. There are two-level home plans, as well as custom home plans. There are considerable differences in the construction types. Mobile and manufactured houses are constructed in accordance with the HUD building codes in the U.S. while modular houses are constructed in accordance with the IBC (International Building Code).
- Modular homes are created in sections, and then transported to the home site for construction and installation. These are typically installed and treated like a regular house, for financing, appraisal and construction purposes, and are usually the most expensive of the three. Although the sections of the house are prefabricated, the sections, or modules, are put together at the construction much like a typical home. Manufactured and mobile houses are rated as personal property and depreciate over time.
- Manufactured homes are built onto steel beams, and are transported in complete sections to the home site, where they are assembled.
- Mobile homes built on wheels, that can be moved.
Mobile homes and manufactured homes can be placed in mobile home parks, and manufactured homes can also be placed on private land, providing the land is zoned for manufactured homes.