Tell me more about Manufactured Homes

I checked out this thread from 2003, but I have some other questions, and am also interested in the opinions of some other members who may have experiences but either weren’t here or didn’t see that thread.

Here’s the situation:

My husband and I are living in an apartment in Seattle. Houses are very expensive here. We’d like at least a three bedroom house, because we’d like to start having babies, and we’d also like a room to put my parents and brother in when they come to visit. The houses we’ve been looking at that suit our needs are $350,000+. We just can’t afford that much. There are cheaper, but they are in bad neighbourhoods, too far from work, or just big money pits.
Now, when I talk about manufactured homes, I’m talking about these dealies. I don’t think they are modular homes, since there is a difference in price. The modular homes cost closer to $200,000, and we figure if we were going to spend that much, we may as well look harder for a stick built. No, the ones we were glancing at on the internet are much cheaper. We like the ones around the $90,000-$120,000 range. We think we do, anyway.

What we do know:

We know they don’t increase dramatically in value.
We may or may not stay there for a long time. If we decide to move out of it one day, we were thinking of renting it out. (We might “inherit” (or buy very cheap) my FIL’s three-bedroom home, but we can’t rely on that, and don’t want to wait the five or more years it may or may not take for him to move out and give us the house.)
We know that you can’t just plop them down anywhere, and they have to be placed in a neighbouhood that allows manufactured homes to be built.
I don’t believe a manufactured home has a foundation.

Our concerns:

Are they really shabby? Are they poor, poor quality? Are there things you absolutely cannot do with a manufactured home?
We live in an earthquake-prone area. With a foundation, if it cracks, you’re screwed. Will no foundation be a benefit, or a drawback in an earthquake? (I mean, unless the earth splits under your home, but then you’d be more than screwed, anyway.)

They don’t appear to be like the trailers of old. The ones we like don’t even have the flat roof that used to be a telltale sign of the manufactured home. They seem spacious. I understand that some quality is lost compared to a stick built home, how noticible is this? Does it turn into a money pit?

And a few final questions for those who bought one: Do you enjoy your home? Do you have any regrets, or would you do something different? Do you have any recommendations?

Apologies for so many questions. I want to hear about your experiences with these things. Any little bit of information is welcome.

About five years ago my mom bought a house similar to the one in your link, I believe. The thing is pretty darned cool-- the way it was explained to me, is that they’re just regular houses, only built at a factory. I’m no expert on construction, but I’ve learned to really dislike trailers or mobile homes (no offense, I just don’t like how they sag, shake and rattle). My mom’s home looks and performs just like any traditionally built house, even to my picky standards. In some ways, it’s even better. My sister had her current home built on site and had all sorts of delays and cost over runs because of weather and then wild fires. Sis has hairline cracks in the walls from settling and such, Mom hasn’t a one.

Mom’s house was trucked in and set on the foundation, a couple of days of hooking things up and spackling a few seams, and she moved right in. They can be plopped down anywhere, but Mom went with a development type deal where they sold lots along with the houses. All manufactured home companies are different of course, but if you can get one as good as my mom’s, I’d say you’d have a pretty nice home.

If that doesn’t pan out, I’ve got a cousin in Seattle who still has an incredibly fuel inefficient, bajillion dollar home for sale that she might be willing to part with.

Like any thing else, it depends on the quality.

I have been in pre-fab homes that were very nice. On the other hand, my cousin bought a pre-fab home that’s a piece of junk. A couple years after plopping it down on their 5 acres of land, settling cracks in the dry wall showed up everywhere. And the finishing work is bad… cheap trim, cheap windows, cheap carpet, cheap gutters. I think half the (fake wood) trim in the house has already fallen off.

Oh, and get this: all the waterlines are constructed of cheap, flexible plastic. (Our home uses copper.) He has had endless problems with it.

The reason they live in a crappy pre-fab is because the purchased a large but inexpensive home.

As with anything else, you get what you pay for. Check out the quality of construction and materials thoroughly before buying a pre-fab.

What would I look for in terms of quality? Any specific type of wood, etc? I’m pretty sure the company we’ve been researching uses copper for the water pipes, but of course, we will go in to question and see things with our own eyes, first.
I had noticed on the floorplans pages we were looking at that there were cheaper versions of similar sized home we were interested in. I didn’t understand why, then, I just thought maybe they didn’t come with certain features. In this case, is it possible that the price is reflecting the quality? One we had our eye on was something like $106,000, but the same size one further down, same company, but a different “model” was around $70,000 (ie: we like the Silvercrest “Artisan” series, but the cheaper ones are called the Silvercrest “Discovery”, or something like that). They seem to be similar in size and the way the space is divided, but why is one cheaper?

Oh, and Ashes, if I had a bajillion dollars to spend on a home, I’d not be looking at the pre-fabs. :wink: :stuck_out_tongue:

Our family used to own a mobile home park. We also sold mobile homes and modular homes. Now this was back in the 70’s, and even then, modular and mobile homes where light years apart.

The homes you are looking at look to be modular. They come on a trailer. Some pre-built homes are just pre-built walls that are assembled on site.

In any case, I would recommend that you look at them first. Modular floor plans can be a bit limited, but the ones you a looking at seem nice. The most recent modular I saw was purchased by a friend of ours. It was very nice. Except for one thing. The interior doors, door knobs and hinges. Junk. Wouldn’t bother most people, but it would bug me. That’s why I think you need to see a model home.

And they can be set on a basement. No big deal there. We used to do it all the time. Depends on the home I guess.

The site you linked to says they use ‘pex’ for pipe, a plastic. My boss also has a modular, it’s nice, but he has replaced all the interior doors(I think for asthetic reasons), and is going to replace the pex with copper(not sure why). It’s about 14 years old.

The specs on the discovery say it’s a knock down drywall finish, which is fine. But is it ½” drywall? I think my bosses home is 3/8s.

Probably things like carpet, doors, sinks, and appliances. Maybe windows too.
They both have to meet certain building codes.

Oh, I dunno. But I know quality when I see it. I guess I’d be looking for the following:

Framing. Is it 2 x 4? 2 x 2? What is it?

Drywall. How thick is it?

Shingles. Are they 10-year shingles? 15-year? 25-year?

Insulation. Are the walls insulated? How about the attic/ceiling? What’s the R-rating?

Floor. How is the floor constructed? Is there a sub-floor?

Plumbing. I would accept nothing but copper.

Windows. Are they warranted?

Siding. What’s the thickness of the siding? (Some siding is really thin and really cheap. I like the thicker stuff.)

Carpet. I would want to know the exact brand and type of carpet used. You may find it’s bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.

Floor tile. I would want to know the exact brand and type of tile used in the kitchen & baths. You may find it’s bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.

Trim boards inside house. Is it cheap, imitation stuff? Or is it wood?

Craw space. Can you get above the ceiling to run electrical wires (or whatever) for future modifications (e.g. installing a new outlet somewhere)? And is the attic ventilated?

Appliances, faucets, etc. Despite the fact that my cousin’s house is a POS, the kitchen appliances are nice. I thought this was ironic. But then it dawned on me… the home builder did this on purpose. They included nice appliances to woo the customer into buying the home. It also distracts the customer to the point that they’ll (hopefully) overlook more important deficiencies (shingles, siding, etc.)
A few more things about my cousin’s pre-fab:

  1. The HVAC air handler is extremely noisy. It’s not the air handler’s fault… it’s because of the location. (It’s installed right next to the bedrooms, and there’s nothing but thin, un-insulated walls between the HVAC room and the bedrooms.) Of course, they didn’t know this when they walked through the demo unit. The problem only materialized after they moved into their house.

  2. The home installer screwed up… the home is too low! The foundation should have been 6 inches higher. Oh, well, too late now. (As you can imagine, this gets to be a real problem when my cousin has to crawl under the house and fix the damn plastic plumbing every winter.)

This is all excellent information so far. Thanks to everyone who answered already, and to those who may answer still.

Crafter Man, big thanks, I’m writing down everything and making a rough “checklist” of things to go over when we get to that point. We’re still researching builders at this point and likely won’t be looking into buying the home until next year (or whenever we get this immigration junk finished up, whichever comes first), but hey, that’s why we’re doing the research now.

And keep it coming, if anyone else has had any experiences with these types of homes, good or bad, I’d love to hear your input.

My guess is that, within the constraints of the local codes, there is as much variability in stick built as there is in prefeb/modular.

I worked for a few years in a factory which made “panelized” homes - these are the ones in which the walls, roof trusses, floor systems, decks, etc., are all built in advance, set on a truck, then set in place on the foundation with a crane.

I would not hesitate to live in one of the homes we sold, because I saw firsthand the quality that went into the lumber and the workmanship. We had other reasons for building this way, too… most of our subdivisions were in small towns in Wyoming. Therefore (1) the weather was so unpredictable that we needed to build a house which could be “closed in” from the weather very quickly; and (2) the small towns we were building in often didn’t have enough reliable local tradesmen to count on for what we were building. Probably not a problem in Seattle.

But I certainly can’t guarantee that other builders did it the same way we did… there’s a lot of junk out there too.

The list of stuff to look for above is a good start. I’d also find out how far apart the floor joists are (16" On Center [OC]?, 24" OC?) and if so, how big are the joists and how thick is the underlayment? (This should be subject to local codes.)

Mrs. Giraffe has been drooling over the manufactered homes designed by Michelle Kaufman: the Breeze House and the Glide House. They look well built and have a well thought-out floor plan. If real estate wasn’t so godforsaken expensive out here, we’d probably consider buying one.

Good point. Better to have two more stairs to the landing than a ‘crawl space’ that you can’t even crawl in.

My Wife’s first home was a Mobile home with siding. And shingles. It was called a modular, but it was a mobile as far as I’m concerned. It was on a steel frame with 2” interior walls. She ended up making nearly $30,000 when she sold it. Yep. Location, location, location.

It was set on piers. With a skirting around it like a mobile home. It was absolute hell to get in under it. I could not roll over under it. Go in on your stomach, come out on your stomach. Go in on your back, come out on your back. It was like working on a car.

I used to help set modulars for the family business in my early teens (back in the 70s). One time, we where setting a slide off 24x60 on a full foundation. This was done by sliding the house half off the low-boy trailer on I-beams onto more I-beams onto the foundation. Lots of winches, jacks, cribbing and pullys are involved. And plenty of sweat.

The foundation was 1 foot too long. Well, when the truck pulls up, you have to get it as aligned as possible. Withing an inch or two. So you have a guy in front and one in back.

“Forward! Back! Forward some more! No, back!” Heh. Long day. We ate it on that job. Long story short, they ended up with a very nice 1’ wide concrete planter on the end of the house.

Today, I think most are set by crane. It’s pretty amazing what a good crane operator can do.

Other crazy stories…… Having the company ship two of the same sides of the same house. Or different house sides. These are just delays, and I’m sure are really, really rare. They would be just a delay to you. I’m sure that 99% of modulars go off with out a hitch. But, like any project, things come up, mistakes are made. Stick built or modular.

Modulars -
The good news- Modulars are made in a much more controled enviornment. Materials should be at least good. It could be set in a matter of days, and ready to move into.
The bad news – They are made for people that are trying to save a buck. They also have to work in the $10,000 or so dollars (seat of the pants estimate) for shiping and setting (crane work). They are made light. For shiping purposes if nothing else. Customizing it, or working on it later may be a problem.

Stick Built –
The good news – You can do anything you like. If you have a good contractor, he will assist you. And pull the best products he can for your budget. A good carpenter, electrition, plumber will make things right. It’s his ass on the line. And, from what I have seen, they take great pride in there work.
The bad news – You could get a bad contractor. But they don’t last long. Probably the worst you will get is someone that does not get things done on time. Which is almost to be expected. You will need to be much, much more involved (I think that’s a good thing myself).

I’m building a modular home right now. This is NOT a “Manufactured Home”, which is built to a HUD building code. Mine is completely UBC code, just like a site-built home.

It’s in 4 sections, on a very permanent 6 foot deep foundation, with a crawl space. And this thing is sturdy. I took pictures during the crane set last Friday, and the engineered floor joists and 2x6 exterior wall construction are so sturdy, there was never any deflection at all.

And since I’m also acting as my own GC (owner-builder), I made damn sure my foundation was exactly perfect. The house fits within about an 8th of an inch all the way around.

Bottom line, I’m so happy with this house. I know how sturdy it is because it’s built to withstand a 700-mile trip from the factory. And, it doesn’t get rained on during construction.

The main benefit is cost, of course. And time, which equals cost. See, while I’m having the foundation built, the factory is building the module. Suddenly, I have an almost complete house in just one day. It’s awesome.

By the way, I went with a totally custom floorplan that my wife and I designed with the help of an archietect. The engineering cost a little more, but it’s very worth it. It’s a very modern look, with flat roof sections and very interesting window groupings, etc.

Okay, this is what I thought. We’re looking at a 100,000-130,000 price range, are modular homes much more expensive than that? I haven’t found a lot in terms of pricing, but the ones I did find (that I liked) were $200,000+. They do look wonderful, though, and since they are so much like stick-built homes, we might consider them if we don’t find a manufactured home we love. (That’s the bottom line, after we ensure the quality, we have to love the home, because we may live in it for a long, long time!) It might take us a little longer to move out, though, if we consider anything pricier. I still need to get a job. :wink: My husband can afford a manufactured home right now on his own, and we don’t want to rely on my getting a job immediately/holding it down right away and jump into buying something more expensive.

Oh, yes, and congratulations on your new home, Jpeg Jones! :cool: