Buying a Manufactured Home

Buying a Manufactured Home bb3 Nov 4, 2013

By Staff Writer State Farm™ Employee

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If you're thinking about buying a manufactured home, you'll find a lot has changed in terms of how manufactured homes are constructed, utilized, and perceived by communities and the marketplace.

For starters, there's sometimes confusion about exactly what is a "manufactured home." Rule number one: Don't call them "trailers" or "mobile homes."

What's the Difference Between Prefab, Mobile, Manufactured, and Modular Homes?

  • Prefabricated Homes This is the general term used to refer to any type of home that is constructed off-site (in a production plant or factory) and then transported to the building site.
    • Modular Homes Prefab homes that are constructed in two or more sections at the factory and then usually transported to the building site on a flatbed truck. Constructed to conventional building codes, they may have multiple floors and more steeply pitched roofs.
    • Panelized Home Unlike modular homes, these are constructed as separate wall sections and then assembled by the builders at the site. ("Pre-cut" homes are a type of panelized homes.)
  • Manufactured Homes Today's manufactured homes are somewhere between the mobile homes of the past and current modular homes. Usually single-story, they mostly come in double-wide or triple-wide configurations that are much roomier and more "house-like" than the outdated idea of a single-wide (narrow) "trailer." The most recognized difference with modular homes is that that they have a permanent steel I-beam chassis and wheels under the floor so they can be towed rather than carried on the back of a truck.
    • Mobile Homes Mobile homes are a type of manufactured home, and you'll often see the term used interchangeably when referring to today's manufactured homes. From an industry standpoint, however, the term "mobile home" only applies to dwellings built before June 1976, when the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) went into effect and defined rigorous guidelines for manufactured homes.

Why Would You Buy a Manufactured Home?

Let's focus specifically on modern manufactured homes. The advantages of buying a manufactured home are its lower cost and the relative ease and expediency of its "set up." And with today's double- and triple-wide homes, you're not going to sacrifice much in the way of style, floor space, and amenities. A manufactured home also gives you the option of someday moving it with relative ease off its initial site, although more of today's manufactured homes are intended to stay put.

Buying a manufactured home is going to be much cheaper up front, but there are drawbacks. You may find that some financial institutions are reluctant to offer a home loan for a manufactured home unless it will rest on a permanent foundation or you already own the land it will be set up on (or are taking out a loan to buy the land as well).

Another potential drawback to buying a manufactured home is the relatively low resale value. Although attitudes toward manufactured homes are changing they're still probably not going to hold as much equity as a standard home, depreciating in value more like an automobile. However, manufactured homes sold as part of a land package can sometimes hold equity more like a standard home, depending on upkeep, landscaping, and local real-estate conditions.

Manufactured homes are usually insured under a manufactured home plan. Learn more about State Farm's Manufactured Homeowners Insurance Program.

Where Are You Going to Place It?

If you're moving into a manufactured home rental community (or what used to be known as a "trailer park"), you'll want to check the community fees and any rules involving your home, including construction requirements and restrictions. If you'll be on your own property, you'll want to find out if local zoning laws permit manufactured homes on your site.

You'll also want to make sure you understand all of the extra costs involved in transporting and setting up a manufactured home on your site. Part of the negotiation is often who will pay for the move costs, you or the home dealer (or the person selling you a used home). And while a manufactured home is easier to set up than a newly constructed one, you will still need a foundation and underpinning in place, and utilities will have to be connected.

The Final Inspection

As with any home purchase, you're going to want to carefully and thoroughly check out the manufactured home before you put your money down. While this applies to a new home as well, it's especially important if you're buying a used manufactured home. In addition to all the usual things you'd check out in any home (such as plumbing, wiring, and heating and cooling), with a used manufactured home you'll want to take a close look at:

  • Windows and doors. Make sure they're insulated, and keep an eye out for gaps around the frames. Look for any cracks in the windows, and make sure the doors all open and close easily.
  • Floors. Test their strength (no squeaking or sagging), look for any warping, and avoid floors constructed with particle board because it tends to warp or rot when wet.
  • Belly wrap. This thick plastic goes under the floor and insulation and helps keep out animals and moisture. Check the insulation under the wrap to make sure it's not damp.
  • Walls. Look for any interior leaks. Vinyl exterior siding is preferable to metal (which can buckle) or hardboard (which can have water problems).
  • Roof. Avoid the old-style flat metal roofs, which can leak and make cooling the home difficult, and look for a shingled roof with an overhang to aid in rain runoff.
  • Lumber. Walls should use 2x6" lumber with studs 16" apart.
  • Settling and leveling. Older manufactured homes can settle over time, twisting the home's frame and leaving it unleveled.
  • Anchoring. Check that the home's anchoring system is still sturdy and well-attached.

Buying a manufactured home is a big commitment and investment, so do your homework, check all your options, and follow up on any safety, construction, and finance questions you might have. Remember, you're not buying a "mobile home," you're buying your home.

Additional Reading

How to Buy a Manufactured Home - ManufacturedHousing.Org

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