Stick-Built v. Manufactured Homes / Which is Better ?

Real Estate Agent with High Lakes Realty and Property Management

Here's a topic that's almost guaranteed to bring some heat.. the now classic question (or argument) with regard to which type of building construction is better to purchase.. "Stick Built" (classic on-site framed construction) or a home that has been, for the most part, "Manufactured" at a remote site and assembled, at least partially, on-site.  There's a lot of strong opinions out there so let's see if we can sort it out.

 Ironically, one of the classic arguments, for both systems, is the notion of Strength of Construction.  Those that favor frame construction will argue with great gusto that there is simply "no question" that a frame built home is, by its very nature, a more sturdy and better constructed structure, better suited to endure the rigors of time, weather, and well, just life.  On the other hand, those in the Manufactured and Modular camp will argue the very same points.  They begin by saying  that the fact that the home has to survive getting delivered in the first place necessitates a level of construction that is stronger than any stick built home. 

"Modular homes are the strongest of all frame homes built, because they are built with more framing and fastening materials to withstand the stress of transportation and erection." (

Manufactured homes are built using an assembly-line process that encourages a consistent high level of quality. Manufactured Homes are assembled within a climate controlled environment that does not expose construction materials to the elements.  Conversely, a stick built home isn't constructed within cookie-cutter guidelines that limit flexibility.  An on-site contractor has the freedom to make last minute modifications, corrections and/or improvements that are not always offered to the manufactured home customer.  It is this very flexibility and overall versatility of design and/or construction of a framed stick-built home that allows for a level of superiority above and beyond that of the alternative.  Or so it's said.

One positive argument concerning Manufactured/Modular construction is that it is almost always much more energy efficient.  But this isn't always a plus.  Some manufactured homes are so "tight," that they are sometimes too efficient.  Modern manufactured homes can seal the indoors so effectively from the outdoors, that "fresh" airflow from the outside can be virtually eliminated.  Indoor air quality can actually be a problem with some manufactured homes if airflow is not carefully managed.  On the other hand, that's a strange argument in favor of a relatively drafty stick-built.

Lets just leave it as a matter of opinion beyond the scope of this venue to determine what type of construction is superior.  There are however, other factors to consider before purchasing either.  How about price?  Stick built construction whether superior or not is more expensive.  No question.  Manufactured home construction is highly efficient allowing for more bang for the buck.  If you're a 200k or lower potential home owner, you can achieve a far higher level of "finish level," dollar for dollar, with a manufactured home.  In our region of Central Oregon in particular, if you're looking for a home in this price range, there's a lot of very nice manufactured homes available with acreage and outbuildings.  On the other hand, stick builts under 200 thousand are few and far between and what you can find is sometimes in need of a lot of TLC.

Unfortunately however, manufactured homes are at times more difficult to finance and if the unit is, say, a single-wide made prior to June of 1976, well forget financing; its virtually impossible.  Many lenders warn that such difficulty of financing will only increase in the near future, and some even argue that this potential difficulty of re-sale should be included among those items that must be formally "disclosed" to buyers. 

Some people just look down on any kind of manufactured construction.  Right or wrong, manufactured homes still, in some circles, carry the stigma of being "trailers" belonging in "trailer parks" while being occupied with residents of a corresponding negative demographic.  These things should all be considered before you buy and especially if you ever intend to re-sell your beloved modular or man-home.

A huge percentage of us in this area have opted to take the manufactured route, (myself included) but that doesn't mean everyone should follow suit.  As a Realtor I sometimes catch myself leaning in both directions. I really do love my little double-wide above even the stick built homes I've owned before.  For me, at the time I bought it, it made perfect sense.  I will say however, that especially after being exposed to a lot of different alternatives, there's no question that when you walk into a particularly nice site-built home that the feeling is that you're no longer fooling around and have entered into a "real house."  I'm a big manufactured fan, but there are times when the solid feeling of permanence and substance inherent in a quality stick built, simply can not be denied.  Of course, it's one's own individual life circumstances that will determine the proper choice to be made in the end.

Fred Jaeger is a licensed Oregon Real Estate Broker and e-PRO Certified Realtor® associated with Gilchrist Real Estate Company in La Pine.  He can be reached directly at 541 598-5449 or . 

Comments (5)

Sam Miller
RE/MAX Stars Realty - Howard, OH
Knox County Ohio Real Estate Specialist

Stick is better than modular or manufactured even if all other factors are the same because of the reputation that a modular brings with it.  In our market there are still buyers who are not familiar with modulars and they tend to consider them inferior...thus hurting modular resale overall in our market. 

Oct 22, 2007 11:23 AM
Judi Glamb
Coldwell Banker Hearthside - Hellertown, PA
Associate Broker, ABR
The home I like is a modular (brought to the site in mods) and it most likely would cost more than a stick built.  I haven't seen the one I like in person so I can't compare to a stick built - but from the photos, I think it would be hard to distinguish. 
Oct 22, 2007 11:25 AM
Tamra Carrell
A Big Lender - Bend, OR
Very good article.  You really know how to do your homework.  : )
Oct 22, 2007 01:05 PM
Thesa Chambers
Fred Real Estate Group - Bend, OR
Principal Broker - Licensed in Oregon
as a fellow Central Oregon Broker and a woman - there are other advantages to a manu than what you have listed - let's look at storage - a manu typically has a lot more storage than a frame built home... and the kitchen a manu kitchen and bathrooms are generally much more cush than a frame built of the same size.... I loved this article Fred.
Oct 22, 2007 06:05 PM
Fred Jaeger
High Lakes Realty and Property Management - La Pine, OR
Real Estate Connection - Central Oregon

Thanks Tamra.. thanks Thesa..

Too bad it got buried into the abyss before it got read.  I'm going to re-think the time of day on some of these posts.  I think if you post when the time zones to the east are on the commute home and everyone else is throwing out last minute posts before going home, your story can get pushed down so fast, no-one sees it.

Or maybe it just sucked.  One of the two.

Oct 22, 2007 06:45 PM