If you’re looking to get the most out of your “housing dollar,” you should consider a manufactured home. Depending on the region of the country, construction costs per square foot for a new manufactured home are up to 50 percent less than a comparable site-built home, excluding the cost of land. All manufactured homes are built to specifications and codes that require the highest standards in every aspect of construction.
Many of today’s manufactured homes feature innovative designs and custom home features like state of-the-art kitchens, luxury bathrooms, and wood-burning fireplaces. Some are also available in amenity-rich communities, which include swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and more – the same features you might find at a resort. The options for today’s consumer are much more like traditional homes than they were 30 years ago.
Manufactured homes provide quality housing and an opportunity for home-ownership. They often cost less than renting, and can offer more square footage and distance from neighbors than an apartment. The cost per square foot for a new manufactured home can be up to 50 percent less than the cost of a comparable site-built home, excluding land costs.
A manufactured home is constructed entirely in a controlled factory environment, built to the federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, better known as the HUD Code. A site-built home is built “on-site” using traditional building techniques that meet either a local or state building code. Starting in 1976, the HUD Code established a stringent series of construction and safety standards that ensure that today’s manufactured homes are superior to “mobile homes,” the term used for factory-built homes produced prior to the HUD Code. Since then, manufactured homes are dramatically different in appearance and quality those built before 1976. Manufactured homes, like site-built homes, are now available in a variety of designs, floor plans, and amenities. Today, they are often indistinguishable from site-built homes and are fully compatible with neighborhood architectural styles.
Most manufactured homes are sold through retail sales centers, many of which are independently owned and operated. Others are owned and operated by a manufacturer. In some states, you may also buy from a manufactured home community owner or developer, or if you’re purchasing a previously owned home, a real estate agent. Most states do not allow you to purchase a home directly from the manufacturer. Retailers offer a variety of products and services, including helping you customize the home to fit your needs and budget. Typically, the retailer is also responsible for coordinating the delivery and installation of your home. And, once you’ve moved in, the retailer is often the contact for warranty service.
Today’s manufactured homes are built with the same building materials as site-built homes, but in a controlled factory environment where the quality of construction is superior to what can be done outdoors. HUD’s building code for manufactured housing regulates the design and construction, strength and durability, transportability, fire resistance, energy efficiency, and overall quality of a home. It also sets standards for the heating, plumbing, air-conditioning, thermal and electrical systems. The HUD Code homes also adhere to a thorough inspection system that takes place at each step during the home construction process in the factory. There are major benefits to having your home built in a factory:
With the vast majority of manufacturers now using the latest in computer-assisted design, you have the flexibility of customizing your home’s floor plans, interior finishes, and exterior designs. Manufactured homes come with “standard” features that you would find in a site-built home. Many floor plans are available that range from basic models to more elaborate designs that feature vaulted ceilings, drywall, fully-equipped modern kitchens, comfortable bedrooms with walk-in closets, and bathrooms with recessed bathtubs and whirlpools. You may also select from a variety of exterior designs and siding materials, including wood, hardboard, or vinyl siding. Many manufacturers also provide homes that are accessible for those with special needs. If you are interested in such a home, please work with your retailer to order a home with accessible features, such as extra-wide halls and doorways, accessible counters and appliances, and specially-equipped bathrooms.
Many cities and towns, still relying on outdated perceptions and stereotypes of “mobile homes,” have zoning regulations limiting where you can place a manufactured home. However, more and more urban and suburban governments are recognizing that today’s manufactured homes are virtually indistinguishable from site-built homes and are allowing manufactured homes to be placed in their communities. Before purchasing a manufactured home, be sure to check the zoning regulations in the area where you want to live.
Most states have laws that govern the installation of a new manufactured home. Your retailer or the subcontractor installing the home is responsible for ensuring that the home is installed in accordance with state regulations and the manufacturer’s installation instructions or with an installation designed and approved by a licensed, registered engineer. The proper method of installing the home will depend on the home’s design and the location’s conditions, such as climate and soil type. Depending on the type of loan used to finance the home, the lender may have some specific requirements for the foundation and installation of the home as well.
Most manufacturers now offer warranties to guarantee the quality, workmanship, and major heating and cooling systems of the home for a specified time, usually ranging from one to five years. This warranty also tells the homebuyer what to do if a problem arises. Makers of the appliances provided in the homes also provide either “full” or “limited” warranties. There are major differences among warranties and these warranties should be provided to you in writing. The retailer also has distinct responsibilities in the installation and servicing of the home. Be sure to have the retailer clearly state in writing its responsibilities and warranty coverage for the home’s transportation and installation.
Generally, a home is a great investment. Appreciation on any home — either site-built or manufactured — is affected by the similar factors: the desirability and stability of the community, supply and demand for homes in the local market, location, and maintenance and upkeep of the home. When properly installed and maintained, today’s manufactured homes can appreciate the same as surrounding site-built homes.
Just as there are choices when you buy a site-built home, there are a variety of financing options when you buy a manufactured home. If you are buying the home and land together, or plan to place the home on land you already own, some financial institutions offer traditional real estate mortgages with similar interest rates. Should you be purchasing the manufactured home separately from the land on which it will be located, the home will probably be financed as a personal property manufactured home loan, usually with a somewhat higher interest rate, and the down payment amount will reflect the amount of the entire loan, including the home and land costs being financed. FHA-insured and Department of Veterans Affairs-guaranteed (called FHA and VA) loans are available to manufactured home buyers. These types of loans may offer lower interest rates or lower down payment requirements if available in your area. They require more paperwork during the credit application and approval process and, therefore, may take longer for approval than a conventional loan.
Modern manufactured homes are as safe as traditional site-built homes and pre-1976 mobile homes. The manufactured housing industry produces safe and fire-resistant homes that are in the market today. They are no more prone to fires than homes built on-site. In fact, studies prove it. The results of a 2013 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report comparing the impacts of fires on manufactured and traditional housing showed:
Studies indicate that the vast majority of fires in manufactured homes are related to human carelessness, disproving the assumption that the structure is at fault. The second leading cause of fires in manufactured homes involves mechanical failures in the homes’ heating systems that can occur in all types of homes. Fire resistance provisions of the HUD Code include strict standards for fire retardation and smoke generation in materials, large windows in all bedrooms, smoke alarms, and at least two exterior doors which must be separate from each other and reachable without having to pass through other doors that can be locked. Site-built homes are required to have only one exterior door and no “reachability” requirement.
Manufactured homes perform as well as site-built homes during a storm. In fact, the explanation for the reports of damage to manufactured homes from tornadoes is quite simple: manufactured housing is largely found in rural and suburban areas where tornadoes are most likely to occur. As to hurricanes, valuable lessons were learned from the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which destroyed or damaged thousands of site-built and manufactured homes. Now, in areas prone to hurricane-force winds, the standards for manufactured homes are equivalent to or more stringent than the current regional and national building codes for site-built homes in these high wind zones. These new standards were put to the test in during the hurricanes that struck Florida in 2004. The result was that not one manufactured home built and installed after 1994 was destroyed by hurricane force winds. Also, proper installation and anchoring of the home is a key element is how a manufactured home will perform in severe weather situations.