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Thinking of Buying a Manufactured Home? Here’s What to Know

Nov 17 2020

This post is part of our ongoing series on manufactured, mobile, and modular homes.

What’s the first thing you think of when you think the words “manufactured home”?

For some, it’s an old-school trailer or mobile home. For others, it’s a trendy tiny house. For about 18 million Americans, it’s just home sweet home.

There are a lot of myths about manufactured homes. Contrary to common misconceptions, today’s manufactured homes are high quality, energy efficient, and more affordable per square foot than conventional site-built homes. Plus, most look the same as any other house.

“The quality of today’s manufactured homes makes them indistinguishable from traditional site built homes,” explains Paul Barretto of the Manufactured Housing Institute. “In many cases they offer comparable amenities and outperform on energy efficiency at a fraction of the cost.”

If you’re thinking of buying a manufactured home, or don’t know what they are but want to learn, below is a quick breakdown.

Psst – confused about the difference between mobile, modular, and manufactured homes? We explain!

Here's the Tea

Where can you put a manufactured home and how do you pay for one?

When it comes to manufactured homes, these two questions are connected. You have two choices: You can place the home on land you own, or on land you rent.

If you permanently affix a manufactured home to land you own, it can legally be considered “real property,” meaning the home can be paid for with a mortgage loan.

If you don’t own the land, the home will be considered “chattel,” the technical term for personal property like a car or a boat. Because chattel is not considered real estate, it can’t be paid for with a mortgage loan. Instead, the types of financing available for manufactured homes on rented land are more like car loans.

Head’s up: Once you place a new manufactured home on a formerly empty piece of land, its property taxes will go up. Find out how much yours would cost you.

Can you put a manufactured home anywhere?

Not quite. Some communities restrict the use of manufactured housing, so check with the town to make sure it’s permitted on the site you have in mind.

The site must be large enough and accessible for the large trucks and cranes used to place your new home on its foundation. The soil conditions must also be stable enough to keep the foundation flat and level.

Manufactured homes require the same water, sewer, and power infrastructure as any other home, so you’ll want to make sure all the services you need are available.

Where can you buy a manufactured home?

To buy a new manufactured home, you’ll need to go through a dealer (again, similar to a car). Research dealers just as you would any other business: Scope out their reputation and recent customer reviews. Find out which manufacturer’s homes they sell and how those homes are rated.

Since transportation costs can vary, ask where the home will be manufactured and shipped from.

Can I customize a manufactured home?

Yes! Modern manufacturers offer a wide array of design options, finishes, and amenities from basic to luxury. Many homes are available with an ENERGY STAR rating making them extra energy efficient.

How do you install a manufactured home?

Well, you don’t (this is definitely not a DIY project!). For the safety and durability of the home, it’s necessary that it’s properly installed, leveled, anchored, and connected to water, sewer, and electrical services. Most dealers offer installation services, but you get to choose them so it’s worth taking extra time to research your options.

In summation, the quality of the installation is as important as the quality of the home itself.

How do you maintain a manufactured home?

Just like any other home, a little TLC and regular maintenance and upkeep will help make it a healthy long-term investment.

For a step-by-step guide, check out our post on manufactured home maintenance.

Do manufactured homes go up in value?

Well, there are no sure things in life, but recent research shows that manufactured home values can have the same potential for growth has any other home when they are on land you own.

There are some misconceptions about manufactured homes due to the stigma associated with mobile homes and trailers, but manufactured homes have come a long way in terms of their quality.

The gist: Manufactured homes can be an affordable, high-quality option for homebuyers, particularly in places where vacant plots of land are available.

Interested in more creative ways to buy a home? Here are some more ideas:

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