Author Topic: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?  (Read 3904 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« on: July 24, 2016, 12:58:13 PM »
I've always been fascinated by alternative living options such as prefab, modular, tiny houses, shipping container houses, etc. After thinking about all of this for a while, many of these options seem to just be reinventing a system that manufactured (mobile) home manufacturers have been working to perfect for decades. I am not super knowledgable about the subject, but after seeing on a couple tiny house blog sites that people were saying "that tiny house is just an expensive trailer," and stumbling across Clayton homes when researching modular prefab houses, I thought I should at least take a look and educate myself a little more on the subject. Here's what I am seeing:

The general internet consensus is that manufactured homes:
-depreciate like a car or other personal property
-are not able to be financed easily or like a traditional mortgage
-are not energy efficient
-are impossible or difficult to insure because they are (either poorly built or prone to catching on fire, depending on where you read)
-are generally hard or cost prohibitive to repair

Ok...all of that makes sense, seems like the bad reputation is fitting. But after more research, what I'm actually seeing are houses like this:

Price delivered and installed on site roughly $72,000. Approx 1600 sq ft. 3 bed 2 bath
Energy Star Certified Package
Double Reverse Gable Elevation with Accent Siding and Columns
Serenity Ceramic Shower in Master Bath
Freestanding Soaking Tub in Master Bath
Translucent Accent Window with Shelving and Pegs in Utility/Craft Room
Granite Countertop on Kitchen Island
Full-Height Ceramic Backsplash at Kitchen Countertop
Sleek Spring Gooseneck Kitchen Faucet with Pull-Out Spray Head
Side-by-Side Refrigerator with Ice and Water through the Door
Microwave Oven/Range Hood Combo
2x6 Sidewalls with R-19 Fiberglass Insulation
R-22 Floor Insulation
R-36 Ceiling Insulation
30 year architectural shingles
My note: this one I'm using as an example doesn't particularly look like a "trailer" and looks more like a basic ranch home, if taken off the wheels and chasis, which I would of course do.

The main things that jump out at me in the positives are the energy star rating including 2x6 wall construction with r-19 insulation, higher than minimum standard ceiling insulation, an insulated floor, granite in the kitchen, roofing, all (energy star whirlpool) appliances included, soaker tub and ceramic tile in the master bath.

There are obvious cost cutting measures as well which  aren't stated, but I can gather by looking at the pictures, such as laminate counters in the bathrooms with plastic insert sink basins, LVT (vinyl tile) hardwood-look flooring in kitchen and bathrooms, what is probably very low quality carpet in the bedrooms and living room. hard to tell the quality of the cabinetry, I'd expect it is perhaps a notch above or on par with the builder-grade generic oak cabinets that are in most houses in the mid $150k's in my area.

With specs like that, the manufactured home just doesn't scream terrible quality to me, as opposed to the "trailers" from back in the day.

I just don't get how this is as awful of an option as everyone makes it out to be. What's wrong with ordering a house like this and permanently attaching it to a foundation so that it can be converted to real property? The only real downside I see is that the floorplan doesn't allow for much future expansion (if any) and there is no garage built in. I could honestly purchase several acres in my area and put one of these on a prepared foundation and build a 2 or 3 car garage for what a builder-grade cookie cutter house in a crowded neighborhood would cost. Converting it to "real property" would take care of the not being able to finance it part of it. Not clear on if it would help with insurance or not. I just feel like I have to be missing something here. Anyone have more insight to share with me?


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2016, 03:54:09 PM »
What ypu are "actually seeing" sounds like a sales pitch from a manufacturer.
I'm in the "they can be okay" camp.  I think the truth is somewhere in between what you've heard and what the manufacturer claims.
I wouldn't buy a new one because of the rapid depreciation.  They are favored by folks who couldn't qualify for traditional homes, meaning lots of of defaults.  There's a whole lot of used ones out there so I would shop for a used one over new.  These are bought to live in, not to garner longterm appreciation.

They do seem to require more maintenance to stay nice (at least older ones do, anyway).  Every one I've known developed roof leaks.  Leaks are brutal and must he attended to asap.  I donít understand why they would be considered hard to repair or maintain?  They can be hauled down the road at Highway speeds and arrive intact,  so there's a bit of a difference in the way they're's a different kind of beast.

They will burn really fast in a fire, so take extra extra precautions on that front.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2016, 04:46:20 PM »
Thanks for the feedback. And yes, I guess I'm specifically asking about NEW manufactured/mobile homes, because the info they're putting out about some of them is all about energy efficiency, quality of materials, etc now. Obviously they have identified the stigma of their industry and are trying to overcome it. If that means a well-built home for less than a stick built home while they're trying to convince the market, then I'm game for that. The logistics of the industry make a lot of sense to me. Like the cost savings of buying all of those building supplies in massive amounts and building the homes in a controlled environment, etc.

I guess I just don't see, if the materials are normal materials such as 2x6 studs, taped/mudded drywall walls, normal insulation, etc, why does that mean they have to depreciate? I have seen cases throughout the internet of the homes appreciating as well, however this seems to be the exception to the rule.

Here is the home that I was using as an example initially. I had to do some digging to find the price and some of the more specific details and options like Energy Star rating I listed, as they were not on that site, but it gives the best overview of the home.

And I definitely don't think I'm the target market for most of these homes, as I have an 800 credit score and could probably pay cash for a very nice home, if I so desired. But, that's not going to stop me from thinking outside of the box when it comes to affordable housing! :-)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2016, 05:04:34 PM »
Hi, just joined, thought I could help.

I looked into this a few months back. Seems like you described two things.

Manufactured (mobile) home:
You're general consensus is pretty accurate. I helped my mom renovate a mobile home about 12 years ago. It WAS a PITA. All the flooring went UNDER the walls, including carpet! The subfloor had a million staples in it (hard to remember but I think everything was stapled,) was made of particle board (sawdust and glue,) and also went under the walls. They really do depreciate fast because as soon as particleboard gets wet it's near useless and mould also grows really fast in it. The walls were made with lumber smaller than 2x4s (maybe 2x3 can't remember) the ceiling is similar to the walls, but the lumber is curved. Might last awhile in a dry climate but renovations will still be difficult. They are built to DOT codes and not building codes.

Modular (prefab) home:
Usually use high quality material but this is all manufacturer dependent and usually more than 2 modules in size (I think these are all the double-wides you see), some as large as 10 or more modules (mansion) and stacked 2+ high (with a crane). Have yet to work on one but from everything i've read you can't tell the difference between a modular and a stick built. Also most of the finish work like tiles is done on site. Could also refer to just wall panels built off site and assembled on your plot. I saw one company used pre-cast concrete wall panels that already had insulation/conduit/pipes/etc. in the panels. This could be a good idea for a basement foundation when you're too far away from a concrete plant.

Shipping container:
Inherently poor for climate extremes, we had an field office in one and it really can't breathe, water condensation problems all the time (NYC). Not good for humid areas, step into one thats been sitting in the sun all day, I DARE you! (free sauna!)

Tiny Home:
Most of the hype is about it being mobile.
If you want a permanent tiny house have someone build you a 2-3 car garage or a barn. Partition off the rooms and build the walls yourself, Ikea kitchen cabinets, Lowe's/HD Vanity@sink combo for the bath, plumbing and electrical, toilets and sinks and a pre-fab shower stall and you have a cheap tiny house.

Also look at Dome Homes (2x6 minimum) if you're looking to save money by doing most of the work yourself. Just not a good idea if you need to have sheetrock walls because of all the seams on all the triangles, now that would be a PITA. One company suggests smooth plywood with caulk in the seams and painting it, with a think primer I imagine it would probably look like sheetrock.

From what I've seen so far it looks like a manufactured home is not built to last more than 5-10 years and a modular home is built like a regular house, as in, there are good and bad builders.

Check reviews, better yet check out some that have been lived in for a while.
As always you (usually) get what you pay for.
I have decided to go for an existing house because the cost of having all the utilities ran, and the foundation, and the time all this would take just seems like a hassle.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2016, 05:27:16 PM »
Thanks. Yeah, I definitely don't have the terms mixed up, I'm pretty clear on the differences between all of them, although I hadn't heard of/looked into dome houses much. I'll check those out, thanks! My big hang up on this whole thing is I keep seeing: "don't buy new because they depreciate so badly. But also don't buy an old one because the old ones are built poorly, with cardboard walls and floors, and 1x4 studs." So...if that's true, why on earth would I buy something used that's of way lesser quality than I could get if I bought new? And if the old ones depreciate so much because of their poor quality, then shouldn't then by that logic, the new ones actually appreciate, if they truly are of better quality? There's a lot of circular logic surrounding this whole thing that I'm just trying to make sense of.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2016, 05:34:12 PM by BAMxi »


  • Senior Mustachian
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2016, 01:14:19 AM »
Anecdotal input only. I freely admit I am no expert. This type of housing is not all that popular in CA. As expensive as property is here, plus the fact that we don't have hurricanes or tornadoes, you'd think it would be.

My sister bought a foreclosed home on five acres that had a fairly new (<4 years old) double wide on the property. The sellers trashed the house and did worse to the modular. Cut through walls and bathtubs with chainsaws, poured acid on all the flooring, broke every window, took hatchets to the appliances, etc. Fucking criminal, IMO. Her boys are handy types and they decided they wanted to strip it and sell the frame, because that's all that was salvageable beyond metal scrap. Initially they had hoped to salvage more of the building materials, but other than the decking, the rest was useless. Everything is built for show in these homes. The building materials used are unbelievably flimsy. There were corrugated cardboard coils between the walls to keep them from caving in on each other. No such thing as a 2x4. The supports looked like furring strips ripped in half. It turned my stomach that these places are represented as safe homes for families.

I'd guess that they depreciate because they are simply not built to last.

BTW, Dome houses are kinda cool, but still an oddity, with limited upside resale. Unless you happen to build it on prime real estate. Then the next buyer will tear it down and throw up a stick built house or two on the lot.


  • Stubble
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2016, 07:18:50 AM »
Fwiw, FIL is a firefighter, and claims that newer trailers don't burn super quickly like the older ones did. 

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  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2016, 10:21:22 AM »
What you are missing is that even if you're right, you're wrong.  Maybe the construction of these homes have improved, that's certainly possible and even probable, but if the reputation of the homes is poor then that is what will drive appreciation/depreciation.  There still, rightly or wrongly, is a big segment of the population that would not consider buying a modular/manufactured/etc. home so you are fighting city hall trying to prove that they're really better than the perception.  It really doesn't matter, the fact is it will likely depreciate due to the perception of the product. 


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2016, 02:14:53 PM »
The quality of pre-manufactured homes is all over the board.  With the better upper end stuff you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them and a good site built home.
The high end ones have stackable, separate roof sections with higher sidewalls and steeper roof slopes.

The lower priced stuff is the majority of what is sold however, and it's easy to spot and will not hold it's value for good reason.
Although these lower end homes are perfectly functional, they typically have very low slope 3:12 roofs and low sidewall heights so they can be transported down the road clearing bridges, etc.  Interior walls are often pre-finished paneling type material, siding is all vinyl, doors and trims are pre-finished cheap stuff, corners are cut on cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, HVAC systems, etc.

Seems like they usually get set up cheap as possible too on a foundation that doesn't elevate them far enough out of the ground with bare minimum patios, entry work and landscaping.  Almost no amount of remodeling can make one of these cheaper ones look right, due to the basic rectangular shape, height, and roof slope necessary for transportation.


  • Stubble
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Re: What am I missing about a new manufactured home?
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2016, 12:14:52 AM »
Hi all, check out the cool, well priced modular homes from Modular, Well Designed, and Beautiful. More expensive and smaller than a clayton home per say, but I believe the quality is high and I don't think there would be any problem with the resale value. It is what we plan to do as we work towards Fi. We will buy and place on some property.