Barndominiums vs. Manufactured Housing: 2023 Comparison


A new wave of alternative housing options is emerging in homeownership, offering fresh perspectives and innovative designs that cater to diverse lifestyles and preferences.

Among these alternatives, barndominiums and manufactured homes are two increasingly popular choices. While both offer unique advantages and drawbacks, understanding their distinct characteristics is crucial for making an informed decision.

Table of Contents

Preliminary Look: Barndominiums vs. Manufactured Homes

Before we go any further, let’s quickly look at the main differences.


  • Origin: Converted metal pole barns or barn-like structures converted into living spaces.
  • Style: Rustic, modern, industrial.
  • Customization: High degree of customization.
  • Size: Typically larger than manufactured homes.
  • Cost: Generally, they’re more expensive than manufactured homes.

Manufactured Homes

  • Origin: Factory-built homes transported to the desired location and assembled.
  • Style: Traditional, contemporary, modular.
  • Customization: Limited customization options.
  • Size: Vary in size, but typically smaller than barndominiums.
  • Cost: Generally less expensive than barndominiums.

What Is A Barndominium?

Barndominiums, often called “barndos,” are metal pole barns or barn-like structures, partially or fully converted into living spaces.

The term “barndominium” blends the words “barn” and “condominium,” reflecting their versatile nature.

The Emergence of Barndominiums

The barndominium concept originated in the agricultural sector, where owners repurposed barns as living quarters for farmworkers or additional storage space.

However, barndominiums have become popular alternative housing options, particularly in rural and suburban areas.

Key Features and Characteristics

We characterize barndominiums by their spacious interiors, open-concept layouts, and high ceilings. They typically feature metal siding, providing durability and a modern aesthetic.

The versatility of barndominiums allows for a wide range of interior designs, from rustic and industrial to modern and contemporary.

Structural Design and Aesthetics

Typically, we construct barndominiums using steel framing, offering a sturdy and durable structure. The exterior walls are clad in metal siding, available in various colors and styles to complement the desired aesthetic.

The open-concept layout, with minimal interior walls, creates a spacious and airy feel.

Customization Potential

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One of the most compelling aspects of barndominiums is their high degree of customization.

From the exterior design and interior layout to the choice of finishes and fixtures, homeowners can personalize their barndominiums to match their unique preferences.

Understanding Manufactured Homes

At this point, we must understand what “manufactured homes” are.

Defining Manufactured Homes: Beyond Mobile Homes

It’s crucial to distinguish between manufactured homes and mobile homes. While many people often use the terms interchangeably, they represent distinct housing categories.

Mobile homes, also known as trailers, were primarily designed for temporary or semi-permanent living arrangements. They are typically smaller and less durable than manufactured homes.

On the other hand, manufactured homes are constructed in controlled factory environments, adhering to strict building codes and standards. They are designed to be permanent residences and offer many features and amenities comparable to site-built homes.

Distinctive Features and Design Elements

We characterize manufactured homes by their modular construction, where individual sections or modules are assembled in a factory and then transported to the desired location for final assembly.

This process offers several advantages, including:

  • Controlled Construction: Factory production ensures consistent quality and adherence to building codes.
  • Time Efficiency: The modular approach expedites construction, allowing for faster occupancy.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: The streamlined production method and standardized materials contribute to lower construction costs.

In terms of design, manufactured homes offer a diverse range of styles, from traditional ranch-style homes to contemporary designs with modern finishes.

Also, customizations can accommodate various floor plans, layouts, and amenities to suit individual needs and preferences.

Factory Production and On-Site Assembly

The factory production of manufactured homes involves several stages:

  • Design and Engineering: The home’s design is carefully planned and engineered to meet structural and safety requirements.
  • Component Manufacturing: Individual components, such as walls, floors, and roof sections, are fabricated using standardized materials.
  • On-Site Assembly: The prefabricated modules are transported to the prepared foundation and assembled by experienced professionals.

Mobility and Foundation Options

Manufactured homes are transportable, allowing for relocation if necessary. However, they require a permanent foundation to ensure stability and longevity.

Standard foundation options include:

  • Concrete Slab: A poured concrete slab provides a solid and level base for the home.
  • Crawlspace Foundation: A crawlspace foundation elevates the home, providing additional ventilation and access to plumbing and electrical

You can find more information about manufactured homes on the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) website.

Furthermore, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) also gives information on financing a manufactured home purchase.

Core Differences Between Barndominiums and Manufactured Homes

While barndominiums and manufactured homes offer unique advantages and drawbacks, understanding their fundamental differences is crucial for making an informed decision.

Here’s a detailed comparison of their construction techniques, durability, price points, affordability, customization options, longevity, and resale value considerations.

Construction Techniques and Durability


  • Construction: Typically, they are constructed using steel framing and metal siding, offering a sturdy and durable structure.
  • Durability: Barndos are known for their long-lasting durability, withstanding harsh weather conditions and providing resistance to pests and insects.
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Manufactured Homes

  • Construction: These are built using modular construction methods, with individual sections or modules assembled in a factory. Then, they’re transported to the desired location for final assembly.
  • Durability: Manufactured homes adhere to strict building codes and standards, ensuring durability and longevity. However, their lifespan may vary depending on the quality of materials and construction practices.

Price Points and Affordability


  • Initial Costs: The initial cost of building a barndominium varies depending on the size, complexity of the design, and choice of finishes. However, they generally fall within the mid-range to upper-range of housing options.
  • Long-Term Maintenance: Maintenance costs can be relatively low due to the durability of the materials and construction methods.
  • Resale Value: Resale value may vary depending on the location, condition of the barndominium, and market trends. However, they can potentially retain their value well.

Manufactured Homes

  • Initial Costs: Typically, these are more affordable than barndominiums, offering an attractive option for budget-conscious buyers.
  • Long-Term Maintenance: Maintenance costs vary depending on the age and quality of the home. However, costs may be higher than in barndominiums due to the potential for more frequent repairs and replacements.
  • Resale Value: Resale values may be lower than barndominiums due to the common perception of manufactured homes as less durable or permanent. However, well-maintained manufactured homes can retain their value.

Customization and Design Flexibility


  • Customization: Offer a high degree of customization, allowing homeowners to personalize the interior and exterior design to suit their preferences.
  • Design Flexibility: Open-concept layouts and minimal interior walls provide ample flexibility for creating unique and spacious living spaces.

Manufactured Homes

  • Customization: Limited customization options compared to barndominiums. However, some manufacturers offer a range of floor plans and finishes.
  • Design Flexibility: Floor plans are typically pre-designed, but minor modifications may be possible.

Longevity and Life Span


  • Longevity: Known for their long lifespan, they can last for decades with proper maintenance.
  • Life Span: Estimated life span of 50 years or more, depending on construction quality and regular maintenance.

Manufactured Homes

  • Longevity: They can be long-lasting with proper care and maintenance.
  • Life Span: Estimated life span of 30 to 50 years, depending on the quality of materials, construction, and maintenance.

Approximate and Estimated Construction Costs

FeatureBarndominiumsManufactured Homes
Up-front Cost$150,000-$300,000$50,000-$150,000
Land Cost$10,000-$50,000$10,000-$50,000
Site Preparation$5,000-$15,000$5,000-$15,000
Interior Finishing$25,000-$50,000$10,000-$25,000
Total Cost$195,000-$425,000$80,000-$250,000

Note: These figures are just estimates as of December 2023. The actual costs will vary depending on several factors, such as the size and complexity of the home, the location, the cost of materials and labor, and the builder’s experience.

Location, Zoning & Permitting Concerns

When considering barndominiums or manufactured homes as alternative housing options, it’s crucial to address location-specific factors, including zoning regulations, permitting requirements, and overall suitability for the desired location.

Geographic Popularity and Trends

Barndominiums have gained popularity in rural and suburban areas due to their spaciousness, affordability, and versatility. The open-concept layouts and customizable designs appeal to those seeking a unique and modern living space.

On the other hand, manufactured homes are prevalent in both rural and urban settings. Their affordability and ease of transportation make them attractive for those on a tight budget or living in areas with limited land availability.

Navigating Building Codes and Zoning Restrictions

Before starting any construction project, it’s essential to understand the local building codes and zoning regulations thoroughly. These guidelines dictate the permissible construction types, size limitations, and placement requirements for different housing options.

Barndominiums may face stricter zoning restrictions in certain areas, particularly in densely populated neighborhoods or those with established architectural guidelines.

Consult with local planning authorities to determine if barndominiums are permitted and to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.

Manufactured homes are generally subject to fewer zoning restrictions due to their classification as permanent dwellings. However, it’s still advisable to check with local authorities to confirm their status and any specific applicable regulations.

Barndominium-Specific Considerations

Barndominiums, due to their unconventional design and construction methods, may require additional considerations when navigating building codes and zoning regulations.

Some common considerations include:

  • Structural Integrity: Verifying that the barndominium’s design meets local structural requirements for wind, snow, and seismic loads. You’ll find this information in the local building codes.
  • Exterior Aesthetics: Ensuring the barndominium’s exterior design complies with the neighborhood’s architectural guidelines or aesthetic standards. This information will be part of the zoning requirements.
  • Setbacks and Placement: Adhering to property lines, setbacks, and height restrictions for the barndominium’s placement. Generally, you’ll find this information in zoning regulations.

Manufactured Home Regulations

Manufactured homes are subject to federal and state regulations that govern their construction, safety, and placement. These regulations aim to ensure that manufactured homes meet minimum standards for quality and durability.

The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) provides a comprehensive guide to manufactured home regulations, including the HUD Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards (HMCSS). These standards cover aspects such as structural design, fire safety, electrical systems, and plumbing systems.

Understanding local regulations and permitting requirements is essential before embarking on any barndominium or manufactured home project. Consulting with local planning authorities and experienced builders can help ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and avoid potential roadblocks.

US Mobile Home Pros compiled some fundamental and easily understood information about zoning for manufactured homes. It’s worth a read if you know absolutely nothing about the subject.

Note that your local authority may provide other information for your specific location. It’s always best to consult with local planning authorities and experienced builders to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Appeal of Barndominiums

Barndominiums have gained popularity in recent years due to their unique blend of affordability, versatility, and modern aesthetics.

They offer several advantages over traditional site-built homes.

Spacious Layouts and Multi-Functional Use

Barndominiums are known for their open-concept layouts, which create a sense of spaciousness and provide ample flexibility in interior design. The high ceilings and expansive living areas allow homeowners to customize the space to suit their needs and preferences.

Whether it’s a home office, a workshop, or a guest suite, barndominiums can accommodate a variety of functions.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Barndominiums can be designed with energy-efficient features, such as high-quality insulation, natural lighting, and solar panels. This feature can lead to lower energy costs and a reduced environmental impact.

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Using metal framing and durable materials contributes to the overall longevity of barndominiums, minimizing the need for frequent repairs and replacements.

The Strengths of Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes, often perceived as a less conventional housing option, offer several advantages that make them an attractive choice for many homeowners.

Rapid Construction and Installation

Manufactured homes are constructed in controlled factory environments using modular construction methods. This streamlined process allows for faster completion times and earlier occupancy compared to site-built homes.

In some cases, manufactured homes can be ready for move-in within a matter of weeks, significantly reducing the overall construction timeline.

Flexibility in Site Location

Manufactured homes are transportable, making them suitable for a broader range of site locations. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for those seeking affordable housing options in rural or remote areas where traditional construction methods may be more challenging or costly.

Manufactured homes can be easily transported to prepared foundations, allowing homeowners to choose sites that offer desirable views, privacy, or proximity to amenities. Read this article from the National Association of Realtors for more information on the benefits of manufactured homes.

To Summarize

These advantages make barndominiums and manufactured homes compelling alternatives to traditional site-built homes.

While each option has its own unique characteristics and considerations, both offer the potential for affordable, versatile, and sustainable living spaces.

Financing Options

Mortgage and Loan Considerations for Barndominiums

Securing financing for a barndominium can be more challenging than a traditional site-built home. This is because barndominiums are a relatively new housing type, and not all lenders are familiar with them or have specific financing programs available.

However, there are a few options available for financing barndominiums:

  • Conventional Loans: Some traditional lenders may offer conventional loans for barndominiums but may require a higher down payment or a stricter approval process.
  • USDA Loans: USDA loans are government-backed loans available in rural areas. They offer low interest rates and minimal downpayment requirements, but the property must meet specific eligibility requirements.
  • VA Loans: VA home loans can finance barndominiums that meet specific requirements, including location, condition, and access to utilities. VA loans offer benefits like no down payment, competitive rates, and flexible options. However, you or your spouse must be in the armed forces or a veteran. Consult a VA-approved lender for details.
  • Construction Loans: Construction loans can finance the construction of a barndominium and convert to a traditional mortgage after you’ve built the property. They are typically only available from specialized lenders and may require a larger down payment than other types of loans.

Financing Manufactured Homes: Potential Challenges

Financing manufactured homes can also present some challenges.

Lenders may view manufactured homes as a higher risk than traditional site-built homes, which can lead to higher interest rates and shorter loan terms. Additionally, not all lenders will finance manufactured homes in certain areas, such as mobile home parks.

Despite these challenges, there are a few options available for financing manufactured homes:

  • FHA Loans: FHA loans are government-backed loans available to qualified borrowers. They offer lower down payment requirements and more flexible loan terms than conventional loans.
  • VA Loans: VA loans are available to eligible veterans, service members, and spouses. They offer no downpayment requirements and low-interest rates.
  • Chattel Loans: Chattel loans are similar to personal loans and are typically used to finance manufactured homes, not permanently fixed to a foundation. They may have higher interest rates and shorter loan terms than other types of loans.

Exploring Grants and Specialized Loan Programs

In addition to traditional mortgages and loans, a few grants and specialized loan programs can help you finance a barndominium or manufactured home.

These programs may be available to low-income borrowers, first-time homebuyers, or those living in rural areas.

  • USDA Grants: USDA grants are available to help low-income borrowers purchase or improve their homes. Borrowers don’t have to repay them, but they may have specific eligibility requirements.
  • State and Local Grants: Some states and municipalities offer grants or down payment assistance programs for barndominiums and manufactured homes. We mention these in more detail later in this section.
  • Specialized Loan Programs: A few specialized loan programs are available for barndominiums and manufactured homes. These programs may have lower interest rates or more flexible loan terms than traditional loans but may have specific eligibility requirements.

It’s essential to shop around and compare interest rates, loan terms, and fees before choosing a lender. Read this article from BankRate describing manufactured home financing options.

Furthermore, before signing any paperwork, review the loan’s terms and conditions carefully.

State Grants

Many states offer grants or downpayment assistance programs for barndominiums and manufactured homes. These programs help low-income borrowers or first-time homebuyers.

However, the eligibility requirements and application process vary from state to state. 

Here are some examples of state grants, correct at the time of writing (December 2023):

Local Grants

Some cities and counties offer grants or downpayment assistance programs for barndominiums and manufactured homes. These programs help residents in specific areas or with particular needs.

Here are some examples of local grants:

Contact your state or local housing authority to find out if those organizations have similar grants available in your area. You can also search online for “state grants for manufactured homes” or “local grants for barndominiums.”

It’s important to note that state and local grants’ availability and eligibility requirements can change frequently. Therefore, checking with your local housing authority for the most up-to-date information is always best.

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Here are some more references that may assist with further information and help you decide to buy a barndominium or manufactured home:

Grants and Specialized Loan Programs

Making Your Decision: Barndominium or Manufactured Home?

Choosing between a barndominium and a manufactured home depends on your personal needs, preferences, and budget.

Both options offer unique advantages and drawbacks that align with different lifestyles and aspirations.

Assessing Lifestyle and Space Needs


  • Spacious and Versatile Interiors: Barndominiums are well known for their open-concept layouts and ample living spaces. These cater to those who prefer open and flexible living arrangements.
  • Customization and Personalization: Barndominiums offer a high degree of customization, allowing homeowners to tailor the design and layout to suit their needs and preferences.
  • Multi-Functional Use: Barndominiums can accommodate a variety of functions beyond residential living, such as home offices, workshops, or guest suites.

Manufactured Homes

  • Affordability and Value: Manufactured homes are generally more affordable than barndominiums, offering an attractive option for budget-conscious buyers.
  • Rapid Construction and Availability: Manufactured homes are constructed in factories, transported, and installed more quickly than traditional site-built homes.
  • Accessibility and Mobility: Manufactured homes are often located in communities with established amenities and services, providing easier access to essential needs.

Aesthetic Preferences and Desired Features


  • Modern and Rustic Appeal: Barndominiums offer a unique blend of modern and rustic aesthetics, with clean lines, exposed metal frames, and natural materials.
  • Architectural Flexibility: Manufacturers design barndominiums in various shapes and sizes, accommodating different architectural styles and preferences.
  • Sustainability and Energy Efficiency: Barndominiums can be designed with energy-efficient features, reducing utility costs and environmental impact.

Manufactured Homes

  • Variety of Floor Plans and Designs: Manufactured homes come in a wide range of standard floor plans and designs, catering to diverse tastes and preferences.
  • Modern Interior Finishes and Amenities: Many manufactured homes feature modern interior finishes, appliances, and amenities, providing a comfortable and contemporary living experience.
  • Community Amenities and Lifestyle: Manufactured home communities often offer amenities and activities, fostering a sense of community and engagement.

Long-Term Investment and Equity Growth


  • Potential for Higher Resale Value: Barndominiums, when well-maintained and customized, can potentially retain or even appreciate their value due to their unique design and adaptability.
  • Long-Term Durability and Resilience: Barndominiums are known for their durability and resilience, withstanding harsh weather conditions and requiring minimal maintenance.
  • Potential for Increased Equity: The open-concept layout and customizable nature of barndominiums can add to their overall value and equity potential.

Manufactured Homes

  • Affordability and Accessibility: Manufactured homes offer a more affordable path to homeownership, allowing buyers to build equity over time.
  • Relocation and Mobility: Manufactured homes offer the flexibility to relocate, providing options for lifestyle changes or future needs.
  • Potential for Value Appreciation: While resale values may vary, well-maintained manufactured homes in desirable locations can appreciate in value.

Ultimately, deciding between a barndominium and a manufactured home depends on individual priorities, lifestyle preferences, and long-term goals.

Carefully evaluate your needs, budget, and desired features to determine which option aligns best with your aspirations.

Value Appreciation Rates

  • Barndominiums: Barndominiums are a relatively new type of housing, so there is limited data on their long-term value appreciation rates. However, some experts believe that barndominiums can appreciate in value by 3-5% per year, similar to traditional site-built homes.
  • Manufactured Homes: Manufactured homes have historically appreciated in value slower than traditional site-built homes. However, their resale values have been increasing in recent years. According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, the median sales price of a new manufactured home increased by 5.5% in 2021.

Resale Values

  • Barndominiums: A barndominium’s resale value depends on several factors, including location, size, condition, and amenities. However, barndominiums in desirable locations generally can sell for $150,000 to $300,000 or more.
  • Manufactured Homes: The resale value of a manufactured home will also depend on several factors, including its location, age, condition, and amenities. However, manufactured homes in desirable locations generally can sell for $50,000 to $150,000 or more.

Approximate Resale Values by Region

Resale values of manufactured homes and barndominiums vary by region.

The following table shows the approximate minimum and maximum values.

RegionMinimum ValueMaximum Value

Note: These are approximate values, and the actual resale value of a barndominium or manufactured home will vary depending on the specific property. It is always best to consult with a local real estate agent to get an accurate estimate of the value of a particular property. Furthermore, these are just a few examples, and there may be additional resources available depending on your specific location. It is always best to consult local experts for the most up-to-date information and advice.


How Do The Insulation And Energy Efficiencies Compare?

Both barndominiums and manufactured homes can be designed with energy-efficient features, but there are some key differences between the two types of homes.

Barndominiums typically have a metal post-frame construction, which can be well-insulated with spray foam or other insulation materials. Metal roofs can also help to reflect heat away from the home, reducing energy costs.

Manufactured homes are typically built with wood framing and are not as well-insulated as barndominiums. However, manufactured homes are also typically made with energy-efficient appliances and windows.

In general, barndominiums have the potential to be more energy-efficient than manufactured homes. However, the actual energy efficiency of a home will depend on several factors, including the specific insulation materials used, the size of the house, and the local climate.

Can I Relocate A Barndominium Like A Manufactured Home?

Unlike manufactured homes designed to be transported and relocated, owners construct barndominiums on a permanent foundation, which isn’t easily relocated.

If you are considering a barndominium, choosing a location you want to stay in for the long term is essential.

What Are The Typical Build Times?

The typical build time for a barndominium is 4-6 months. This duration is longer than the build time for a manufactured home, which is typically 2-3 months.

The longer build time for barndominiums is because they are typically built on-site rather than in a factory. This means there is more variability in the construction process, and obtaining the necessary permits and inspections can take longer.

However, designers can also customize barndominiums more than manufactured homes. This means that the build time can vary depending on the complexity of the design.


Barndominiums and manufactured homes are both popular and affordable housing options.

Each type of home has unique advantages and disadvantages that you should carefully consider before deciding.

Key Differences Between Barndominiums and Manufactured Homes

We can summarize the key differences between barndominiums and manufactured homes using the following table:

FeatureBarndominiumManufactured Home
InsulationMetal framing, spray foam insulationWood framing, fiberglass insulation
Energy efficiencyPotential to be more energy-efficientLess energy-efficient, but energy-efficient appliances and windows
RelocatabilityNot easily relocatableEasily relocatable
Typical build time4-6 months2-3 months
CustomizationHighly customizableLess customizable
StyleUnique blend of modern and rusticContemporary
CostMore expensiveLess expensive
FinancingMore difficult to financeEasier to finance
LocationMay have restrictions on placementGenerally, there are no restrictions on placement

Ultimately, the best way to decide which type of home is right for you is to weigh your needs and preferences carefully.

Consider your lifestyle, budget, and long-term goals. Consult with experts, such as architects, builders, and real estate agents, for personalized advice.

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Adam Marcos

Adam Marcos, a veteran with 25+ years in custom home building, now serves as Managing Editor of BarndominiumZone. He passionately helps people on their journey of creating their dream barndo homes, offering valuable insights and practical advice. With a warm and approachable demeanor, Adam inspires readers to embrace unique living spaces that reflect their aspirations. Join him on a transformative adventure, turning ordinary spaces into extraordinary havens of creativity and fulfillment. Experience the magic of bringing visions to life, one barndo at a time.

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