Are Manufactured Homes Worth it?

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We seem to be experiencing a housing crisis nearly worldwide. As the human population grows rapidly the incoming generation is unable to afford homes as much. The income earning potential of millennials etc. are a story for another website, however it’s a stark in your face problem that houses are becoming unaffordable. Manufactured homes are an attempt to address the shortage of proper housing as several middle class workers such as nurses, teachers, hotel workers and the like, can no longer afford a conventionally built home.

Manufactured homes are physically the same as regular homes. The main difference is that they were entirely built offsite in a factory, as opposed to conventionally building piece by piece from the ground up on site. Building in a factory gives benefits of uniformity of work from an assembly line and the same building materials bought  cheaper due to buying in bulk.— They are quicker to build with less time and labor. There may be more restrictions on land laws and limited design options, however they stand more resilient having little to no construction error being built in controlled conditions.

Image from INS561F Spruce Clayton | Clayton Homes

To get a prefabie frame of mind, Mobile homes, Manufactured Homes and Modular Homes all belong under “prefabricated construction.” This simply means all these houses were built in factories and not conventionally on site. “Mobile Homes” often interchangeably used with “Manufactured Homes” but with a stronger emphasis on its transportability. “Modular Homes” offer a wider variation on customization, are built site lot specific and not transportable at all.

What’s all the Hype?

Before June 1976 in the U.S, these were all considered “Mobile Homes”, and not built with all the Housing Agency regulations today. Those built after 1976, yes can still be moved but with the intention of placing them at their permanent spot. However, the stigma of trailer park homes of the past tend to cling onto these factory made homes.

How are they made?

After being fully constructed in the factory, they are delivered via a transportation company to the homesite, which will then be setup by your assembly crew.

These posed a solution to faster, cheaper homes being built and somehow are coming out stronger and sturdier. Here’s the low down on manufactured homes:

Costs You Less and Gets You More

Manufactured homes are really not mobile homes because they aren’t built with car parts, but your typical wood flooring, steel or plastic window frames, granite countertops— the works!

Being built in a factory already gets the cost down by a lot. They can order these building materials in bulk, getting the costs lower. When things are easier to build and more workers can assemble them easily, this comes out much cheaper as less labor and less time are spent. They estimatedly come out 10%-35% less per square foot than traditionally built homes (1)

“Clayton, one of the largest manufacturers in the US reports, many homes can be built in just six to seven days, and some can even be built in two days.  (2)

The largest advantage building in a factory versus on site, are the controlled conditions. Imagine no construction halts due to bad weather or transportation of materials gone wrong. No worries of building worker barracks, duration of construction permits, theft of tools or supplies, vandalism on property, unskilled or non reliable labor — all of that is eliminated with manufactured homes. Even with more money to spend, it sounds like a lot of headaches saved on my part opting to go Prefabricated over On Site. (2)

From the economics point of view, real estate agent Kristin Smallhorn greatly advocates and encourages manufactured homes for the following reasons, with some useful tips: (3)

  • They can make great investment properties as there’s a bigger opportunity to own property than just be stuck in the rent cycle
  • You can live on your own purchased lot (just check your local zoning code if their definition of “residential” will classify your manufactured home as a house and not a vehicle (even if it’s really not)
  • Able to gain equity from a manufactured home (it’s harder, but possible!)
  • It conforms to all housing standards by the government and is not at all mobile home
  • Creates a community of people especially living in a Home Park (emphasized point, NOT a trailer park)
  • Very budget friendly. Get the older models if you want a cheaper one.

For a rough idea on how much manufactured homes cost in the U.S., check out the table below. They aren’t just for single bachelors or young couples. You can pimp out that manufactured home into a smart home, decked with multiple balconies or even a swimming pool!

Image from 10 Key Things to Know Before Buying a Manufactured Home (homeia.com)

It’s Overall Added Efficiency

When manufactured homes are built, they need to conform to certain government housing standards. For the United States, it’s the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that dictates the safety standards of strength, insulation, fire resistance, quality of utility systems and energy efficiency. The HUD ensures that for the homes to withstand storms and hurricanes, these standards be followed:

  • Roof load
  • Wind resistance
  • Thermal efficiency
  • Safety and durability

Yes, they can retain their transportability, but are always built with steel frames (chassis) that can be used as a permanent foundation. (4)

Image from Picture Gallery – Adventure Homes

The HUD Code also specifies a level of energy efficiency these homes need to attain. For us homeowners, that means we spend less on our energy bills!

All are required: proper insulation, energy efficient windows, lighting, water heaters and appliances mean our heating and cooling system work less harder or expend less electricity. Water saving fixtures also lower our utility bills on water use. (4)

Not to mention, with the house being completely built off-site, there is less construction waste and pollution on your site. Often during construction some harmful chemicals can be spilt or linger onto the earth with lasting effects we don’t realize. Besides saving you from the headache of hauling out waste debris, you’re also granted peace of mind that your land is healthy and free of chemicals.

What Does it Take?

There are some other costs to account for when pursuing a manufactured home. It still comes out much cheaper than having one traditionally built, but just as if you were building one conventionally, these are the costs to bear in mind: (2)

  • Land/Home Site: Whether you buy the land (recommended), lease it or lease a space in a home park, your manufactured home still needs a place to land.
  • Site Preparation & Foundation Work: Is your site cleared of trees, trash and utility lines? Has it been properly graded, soil tested and surveyed? The pathway to your site needs to be clear enough for the truck to come in and deliver. Also the foundation work, a septic tank, separate garage or garden landscaping will incur additional costs.
  • Permits: You need to clear out the permits needed as this isn’t a conventionally built home. Therefore the sticky part is really making sure you have all the legal paperwork to get your manufactured home setup where you want it.
  • Delivery & Setup Crew: This can be a critical factor in making your move in a smooth process or problematic after living in your home. Check the credibility and background of your setup assembly crew to ensure they’ve handled projects like these in the past. Not setting up the manufactured home properly can leave some loose gaps, leaks and just not deliver the quality you were promised.

Other fees to note:

  • Heating, Ventilation & Air-Conditioning
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Closing Costs
  • Monthly rent and fees for utilities and community amenities
  • Additional exterior elements: canopy, deck, porch, stairs, cladding or skirting, balcony, etc.

Last tips as largely advised by Kristin Smalhorn, if you plan to buy your land in a home park, make sure you ask the following:

  • How is maintenance dealt with?
  • How much has rent gone up in the past 5 years?
  • What does that rent cover or include?
  • Do they maintain property taxes?
  • Are there no pending litigations and are they licensed?

(5, 6)

Is it the One for You?

Building homes conventionally can still be the way to go, but these factory homes shouldn’t be viewed as a cheap alternative. They are just as good and just built more efficiently to get the price down. Whichever way you end up buying your home is great so long as you know all your options and know that no discrimination is tied to any of it.

This is a movement sparking up worldwide. Check out the available manufacturers in your country or from another nearby that delivers internationally.

Personally as an architect, the sustainability factor of manufactured homes to me is high. Carbon emissions from transportation of labor and materials alone are already greatly reduced. Not to mention keeping your site earth clean, healthy and unpolluted.

I believe prefabricated homes are the way of the future not just to combat the housing crisis but the environmental crisis as well in meeting consumer demands.

I mean, just take a look at this house by Clayton Homes. Do you really feel like you’re compromising a lot on style, quality and functionality by living here?

References

  1. Bond, C. (2021, April 1). Ultimate Guide to Manufactured Homes. Forbes. Retrieved May 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/manufactured-homes/
  2. the HOMEiA team. (2021, February 3). 10 key things to know before buying a manufactured home. HOMEiA. Retrieved May 2022, from https://homeia.com/buy-house/key-things-to-know-before-buying-a-manufactured-home/
  3. Smallhorn, K. (2020, November 25). Don’t buy a manufactured home unless… – youtube. YouTube. Retrieved May 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRh-08YuDyA
  4. Mac, F. (2022, February 25). Why you should consider buying a manufactured home. My Home by Freddie Mac. Retrieved May 2022, from https://myhome.freddiemac.com/blog/homeownership/why-you-should-consider-buying-manufactured-home
  5. Smallhorn, K. (2022, January 25). Don’t buy a manufactured home until you watch this!! – youtube. YouTube. Retrieved May 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5mvyaI67WI
  6. Smallhorn, K. (2021, April 13). Don’t get ripped off buying a manufactured home – youtube. YouTube. Retrieved May 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZC1fyF7hJk