Manufactured Homes, Do or Don’t?


Manufactured homes may not be the most glamorous housing option, but they can be a cost-effective way to own a home in this down economy. With maintenance included, formal dining rooms, hardwood floors, large yards, and multiple bedrooms, manufactured homes can be an attractive option to many. Although they are not considered prestigious, the savings are undeniable. But we wondered about the drawbacks? Are they as structurally sound as traditional homes? Are there hidden fees?

Why We’re Asking:

When you are trying to make financially sound decisions, it is important to be able to weigh out all options.  Manufactured homes can be a great option to keep monthly housing rates low, but is it worth the loss in status?

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What are the primary advantages of manufactured home ownership?

It is apparent that they are cost effective, but are there hidden fees? Higher interest rates than typical mortgage loans, etc?
Can manufactured homes withstand a storm well? How can you ensure it has a solid foundation?
Are there better places to place your home in the long run? Rental communities? Purchase your own plot of land?

We look forward to learning the ins and outs of manufactured homes from our experts. Check back next week to see what they have to say!

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. Pre-fab housing has been thought of as something less than a real home for a long time. In the last few years, I’ve seen some incredible very modern LEED built pre-fab homes in many national magazines and my own Sunday newspaper. I think these would be great for small families or even when my husband and I retire and downsize. Many of the things you would think about when buying a home would apply to the location of these structures. Is the lot in a flood plain, near a river or in a high fire danger hillside? I would build a very sound foundation based on the pre-fab engineering and I’d probably hire a structural engineer for a site visit and any additional work necessary to meet my local codes. If I was doing this for myself I’d also investigate the cost of a thermal heating system. If you’ve got a bulldozer out there for the foundation why not included digging down for the heating system.

    I must admit, I am assuming that I would buy a lot and not rent an area for a typical mobile home. I went online and found a number of pre-fab home builders that do a more standard and probably less expensive options that would be fine in many communities. I think that’s the key, would this home be out of place with the neighborhood. Are there community restrictions that would not allow this? If you are renting a space for the mobile home with utility costs I believe you might be better served in an apartment and put what you would spend on the mobile home itself in a savings account earmarked for a purchase of a more traditional home or condo.

  2. A few years ago a client came to us with a very aggressive budget. They loved our custom homes but gave us a challenge to combine our architectural design talent with the efficiency of modular housing. We designed a home and coordinated with the modular factory. The factory sent us “shop drawings” which we reviewed and returned to them marked up with any changes or corrections. Then a short while later the home was delivered on six flat bed trucks. We had the foundation in place and our local contractor assisted as the company set the “boxes” in place using a crane.

    I was not sure to expect and to be honest set a “low bar” for my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the construction. At the price point it was hard to argue with the cost per square foot being a good value for the quality.

    I would warn anyone to look into the company supplying the home. A good number of mobile home companies also do modular and the quality is not up to par. Plan on sending the shop drawings back and forth a few times to get everything covered but as I said it brought our design price point down to our client’s budget.

    Christopher A Rose, AIA, ASID; President, Christopher Rose Architects, P. A.

  3. Modular Homes offer a lot, but the location needs to be a good choice for you. Your own lot is a good option. As for storms, building codes require tie wires that are quite good, if done correctly by a licensed and quality contractor who specializes in doing them.

    I have owned one and I have repaired hundreds. What can be a loss and very problematic is the quality of plumbing fixtures themselves. The industry is famous for unrepairable fixtures, or ones that have no repair parts available when needed. Another grief is back to back showers that have no access. Fittings and installation is where I have seen most of the trouble. Issues include tension on tubing, tubing fittings cheap plastic or brass that breaks, or crimp rings that are not crimped straight. Tubing should be separate and not touch other temperature tubing. Another real issue is the water heater and AC unit closets. They are often too small and piping is cramped, making replacement of anything very difficult.

    As for solutions, put the house on a block foundation. I would have 36″ high crawl space if I did one. Put pea gravel on the ground below or even better, a slab. Rodents can be very costly as can larger animals, more effort is needed for an absolutely clean & sealed crawl space. What I see as trouble is often caused by the installer of the modular home.

    Why are problems so prevalent with modulars? The FHA is the authority with jurisdiction, not the plumbing or building code. Some areas have trained inspectors for these units and some do not. Odd appliances and parts are a problem. I would require that only universal appliances and tubs and showers be used. Steel studs would be my choice and I would be in regular communication with the manufacturer on every detail. If a park having many units from same manufacture was an option, that might offer group support in the event of issues.

  4. Today, two of every ten housing starts in the U.S. are manufactured homes. Manufactured homes, whether they are modular, manufactured, mobile, pre-cut, pre-fab, panelized, on site, stick build or a trailer fall into two categories: manufactured homes and stick build homes.

    Manufactured Homes, the current standard term, includes mobile homes and trailers. Stick built homes, the second category, are the current generation of the homes that have been built for centuries, starting with log cabins, then timber framed (post and beam), then balloon framed and, currently, platform framed. These are all stick built homes, on permanent foundations, regulated by local, site-specific building codes including modular, pre-cut, pre-fab, panelized and site built. Pre-cut is similar to site built but some materials are pre-cut for a specific design and arrive more as a kit than just a pile of materials. The pre-cut pieces are typically produced in a factory-like environment. Panelized is similar to pre-cut but some pre-cut pieces are pre-assembled into sections for a specific design. The most comprehensive form of stick built homes is modular. Proponents of modular construction argue that it benefits from more quality control since most of the work takes place in a controlled manufacturing environment. The term pre-fab is a reference to modular homes and is currently enjoying a bit of revival in popularity; see Manufactured homes have to follow the same standards as any other home with regard to storm, wind and insulation.

    When searching for a mortgage for a manufactured home, the degree to which the home becomes “immobile” and whether or not you own the land on which it is placed are two key factors that the lender will consider. In addition, the majority of manufactured home mortgages are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), a part of HUD. In the past to qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage, the applicant’s home must adhere to regulations regarding size, classification, foundation, utility connectivity, transportation method, mortgage type and the unit cannot have been previously installed or occupied.

    Financing a manufactured home offers a few more challenges than a site built home. The Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 replaced the name mobile home with manufactured housing and gave HUD jurisdiction and responsibility to enforce the federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards that went into effect in June 1976. This standard, updated in the past few years , is extensive and comparable to most building codes. In some states, manufactured homes are still viewed as personal property. Manufactured homes may therefore not qualify for certain tax benefits normally afforded loans for stick built property. In recent years, however, mortgages for manufactured homes have become more readily available. Several banks actually specialize in these mortgages.

    The essential differences relating to Code Jurisdiction, which primarily apply to homes build on-site, are that manufactured homes are governed by the federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards administered by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Agency and first published in 1976. Stick built homes are governed by the building codes, if any, of the municipality in which they are built. Regarding basic construction manufactured homes are defined in federal regulations as built to be “transportable in one or more sections…built on a permanent chassis and designed to be used as a permanent dwelling with or without a permanent foundation when connected to the appropriate utilities.” It should be noted, however, that once a manufactured home is placed on a permanent foundation, all subsequent changes are subject to local building codes.

    Whether it is Wheel Estate or Real Estate I still think home is where the heart is.

  5. While, manufactured homes seem like an attractive money-saving option, they may include many hidden fees.

    1) Typically, manufactured homes are sold separately from the land they will reside on. It is important to calculate the cost of both the land and the home into your total costs.

    2) If you choose to place your home in a park, be sure to check for park fees. These fees often pay for improvements in driveways and carports. These extra fees will add to your monthly rent costs.

    3) In the first year of ownership, new manufactured home owners sometimes deal with large repair costs. Even with warranties, owners need to pay for insurance, utilities, taxes, maintenance and repairs.

    My best advice to account for all extra fees and then compare the price to the cost of an apartment, condo, and/or home in your desired city. Comparing costs, ensures you made the best decision for yourself financially.

  6. There are some great comments here about what to watch out for when purchasing a manufactured home. With so many things to remember, my best recommendation would be to hire an attorney to help guide you through the process. Often, when problems do arise, the connection between the homebuyer and home manufacturer is too far gone to get quick resolutions. An attorney can help ensure that you don’t get ripped off. In addition to an attorney, I would recommend that you get a third-party inspector to go over the home before you move in. Have the inspector give the house a complete survey, from electrical and plumbing down to the structure and foundation. If they do find any problems, they can work with your attorney to get things fixed before you move in.

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