Before You Buy a Manufactured (Mobile) Home
Not all manufactured homes are created equal
A manufactured home can be a great alternative for you if you are looking for the most square footage for the lowest price. The modern, residential-style construction and design of some of the better brands will surprise you if you haven't looked in a while.
If this is something you are considering, here's a list of some things you should look for or request:
- A custom-cambered frame. This will result in a flat plate-line while the home is in transit, avoiding much of the damage that occurs during transport.
- Floor joists that run the opposite direction of the structural I-beams. Oddly enough, some of the very cheaply made homes use longitudinal floor joists (running the length instead of the width of the home).
- Avoid particle board flooring (Nova Deck) at all costs! OSB (or Wafer board) is much better, while plywood seems to be the best.
- Check to make sure that all of the floor joists and walls (interior and exterior) are framed 16" on center.
- Make sure the carpet is 100% continuous loop nylon with stain resistance. Ask for a minimum of 5# rebond padding under the carpet. Also make sure the carpet runs wall to wall (is not stretched under the wall) and is secured with a tack strip (not stapled at the edge).
- Ask for 1/2" taped and textured Sheetrock throughout. Avoid the VOG (vinyl on gypsum) if at all possible. VOG has a much faster burn ratio and the fumes may be toxic. Real Sheetrock allows for future maintenance and you can paint or paper at will. Most manufacturers use a light to medium texture on the walls. Some Amish-built homes offer a smooth finished Sheetrock.
- Make sure the door trim and baseboards are real wood (not paper coated MDF, or plastic).
- Confirm that the exterior doors are 80" tall (residential height) and are 1-3/4" thick (residential thickness). This will avoid very high replacement costs.
- All interior doors should be 1-3/8" thick. Ask for residential (150# rated) hinges. Avoid the non-mortising hinges if possible.
- Ask for water shut-off valves at every sink and toilet. (Can be added later if unavailable)
- Request china, ceramic, or stainless steel sinks. Avoid plastic or fiberglass sinks in the bathroom and kitchen if possible.
- Make sure that the connection "spread" is a standard residential size on all sinks and fixtures.
- Avoid plastic or ASB showers and tubs! Ask for fiberglass tubs and showers. Ceramic showers are fine, but require more maintenance.
- Third-generation Pex plumbing is the best way to go for plumbing. It has a much better performance history than PVC or CPVC. Approximately 1:10 homes with PVC or CPVC will have a water leak upon setup after transport, while the number is closer to 1:100 with Pex. Avoid polypropylene plumbing (the gray pipe found in older manufactured homes)!
- Zone 3 energy rating is the highest available in the manufactured housing industry. You can see the energy rating on the HUD label that is posted (by law) in every home. This label is usually found in the kitchen or utility room. Some manufacturers have Energy Star construction or Green construction available, but very few actually build their homes to these standards. They are allowed to keep their factory Energy Star rated as long as they build at least one qualifying home per year at that location. Be careful when this is being pitched to you. There is one manufacturer based in Oklahoma that builds every double wide home Energy Star rated.
- If available, ask for the "crossover duct" to be built into the floor (on double and triple wide homes)--not flex duct under the home which is exposed (potentially) to the elements and animals.
- The wind rating is usually determined by the location of home placement. It is rated from 1 to 3. Wind Zone 3 is in a very small area on the coastline. Wind Zone 2 is within 90 miles of the coastline. Wind Zone 1 covers most of the continental U.S.
- Contrary to what many believe, adding extra "straps" or anchors does not change the wind rating of a manufactured home. Some of the better-built homes are built to withstand 140+ MPH straight winds. The width of the eave (roof overhang) is a quick indicator of the wind load construction of a manufactured home. The shorter the overhang, generally the lower the wind rating. There are specific requirements for construction regarding wind loads. No manufactured (or site-built) home is tornado or storm proof.
- Make sure the windows are Vinyl, Low E windows with welded corners. Argon gas is wasted unless you are at a high altitude.
- Avoid Masonite Siding! Hardi-Panel and SmartPanel are the most durable siding choices (SmartPanel travels better than Hardi-Panel). Vinyl is a poor second choice in most climates. The vinyl siding that is generally used in this industry is recycled vinyl. Experts will tell you that this means it has chalk and fillers added to it which will cause warping, fading, and/or chipping as it is exposed to UV rays.
- Avoid rolled metal roofing! Ask for architectural composition shingles in place of three-tab shingles. They have a better appearance and will last much longer with the lower-pitched roof that is common in the industry. Some manufacturers offer 29 gauge R-Panel Plus metal for roofing. The ridges are only 7/8" high and 9" on center. If it is not installed properly, it can be the source of expensive repairs caused by water leaks.
Things to watch out for:
- The Pro-Close bump. This is where the salesman tells you everything you want to hear regarding the payment and interest rate, then gives you the bad news at closing that you didn't qualify for the special rate so the payment is going to be higher than you were told.
- Don't be fooled into thinking Modular Homes are superior to Manufactured Homes.
- When special-ordering a home, make sure you get to sign off on the actual order sheet.
- Never allow a dealer to pull your credit before you have decided which floor plan you prefer. If you are not signing a contract, do not allow them to pull your credit for any reason.
- Shop and compare before you make a buying decision. Don't be intimidated by the urgency close used by many dealers.
- Ask for referrals of satisfied customers.
- Ask to see the warranty details. Don't be deceived by the warranty claims of some dealers. The warranty on a manufactured home is one year. The extra coverage is basically an insurance policy that is being sold to you which requires a deductible payment and the work is not performed by the dealer or manufacturer. Also, most dealers only offer a 30-90 cosmetic warranty (if any).
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
A manufactured home can be a great way to fulfill your housing needs at a very low initial price. If you make good choices, your monthly energy costs can be very low, you may qualify for residential rates for your insurance, and your maintenance costs can be very inexpensive; however, making poor choices can lead to the extreme at the other end of the cost spectrum. So, shop with care. Compare the quality of materials and construction methods.
I worked in the industry for quite a few years. I started out setting and finishing manufactured homes; then, I worked as a warranty tech, and then I was the General Manager at a sales center for eight years. I have set up, moved, repaired, bought and sold more new and used manufactured homes than I even care to remember. :)
I no longer work in the manufactured housing industry, so I have no vested interest. If you have any questions, I will be glad to help in any way I can.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.