Modular Homes, How to Tell the Difference Between Off Frame, On Frame, & Manufactured Homes

A very popular question we receive from buyers and Realtors is, “How do I tell if a home is an off frame or on frame modular homes?”

modular home comparison
On Frame Modular vs Off Frame Modular

Looking at the outside and even walking inside of modular homes, you won’t be able to tell the difference. So if you want to know which type of modular you are looking at, you are going to have to take a peek underneath the crawl space. In this article, we explain the difference between on frame modular vs off frame modular homes. Additionally, we compare modular homes vs manufactured homes. Both modular homes and manufactured homes have great financing options.

What is an Off Frame Modular Home?

  • Has no steel frame underneath
    modular home floor frame
  • Has 2″ x 10″ floor joists, sometimes they can be as small as 2″ x 8″
  • Floor joists are 16″ centers
  • Built to same residential codes as stick built homes

What Are On Frame Modular Homes?

  • Has a steel frame underneath
  • Has 2″ x 6″ or 2″ x 8″ floor joists
  • Floor joists are up to 24″ centers
  • Basically a glorified manufactured home

It is for the reasons above that an off-frame modular home will cost a little more than on-frame.  BUT, it will generally appraise higher though. Some appraisers we have seen will choose to compare on-frame modular with doublewide manufactured home sales. Although most of the time, we treat these as stick built homes.

On Frame Modular Home Financing

Even though many lenders have or still treat on frame modular homes like manufactured homes, most of our home loans do not. When it comes to on frame modular home financing, our FHA, Fannie Mae, and VA loans allow appraisers to use stick built homes on the appraisal. By on frame modular homes being treated like regular homes, there are advantages for buyers and owners. Such advantages include better rates and the appraised value is typically higher.

On Frame Modular Homes Fannie Mae

As mentioned, our Fannie Mae guidelines treat on frame modular homes as a stick built home. This was a recent change in their guidelines. There are several reasons that Fannie Mae loans help on frame modular buyers and owners.

  • 3% minimum down payment
  • Primary, second home, and investment property financing
  • Waive escrows if equal or less than 80% of value
  • Easier for owners to sell (since more loans available to buyers)

How do I tell the difference between a modular homes and a doublewide manufactured home?

A doublewide manufactured home will have a data plate tag on the outside with HUD numbers on it.  Conversely, a modular home will have a permanent modular home seal.  This seal is located in two places within the home.  1) Data plate under the kitchen counter usually near the sink with the modular home seal and 2) Data plate with the modular home seal inside the main electrical panel box for the house.

Modular Home Seal Details

A NC modular construction validating stamp (seal) is a certification label that certifies a modular home was built to NC modular home standards.  A North Carolina modular label is approximately 2″ x 2″ with a NC state seal on a reflective silver background.  Below are examples of the labels.

modular home mortgages

There is also a Third Party Certification Agency Label.  A 3rd party certifies the home conforms to the NC modular home construction program and state building code.  These labels may vary in size but are similar in size to the seals above.  Additionally each label numbers will be listed on the data plate and it must also be within the home.  If you find a modular label on the home, it is a modular.

So it is very important to find the modular home seal inside the home.  This will at least determine if it is a modular. Next, check for on-frame or off-frame as mentioned above.

Mortgage Financing on Modular Homes and Doublewide Manufactured Homes
Low down payment mortgage loans for modular homes

Doublewide Financing:

  • FHA – A low down payment and the foundation must meet FHA foundation requirements
  • VA – No money down required for Veterans, Service members, & qualified surviving spouses
  • Conventional Loans – Available for primary and second homes
  • USDA – No money down home loan (not allowed for used manufactured or used on-frame modular)

Off-Frame Modular Homes Financing Types:
Unfinished upstairs on modular homes

All mainline mortgage products will allow off-frame modular homes as collateral. We finance a lot of newly built modular homes. Financing allows building on land already owned, purchased, or is gifted from family.

Related Resources:

Written By: Russell Smith

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