Avoiding Issues During a Manufactured Home Purchase

This is another article for our Smart Buyer Series. Another article in the series is Manufactured Home Warranties and How to Properly Handle Issues After the Sell. If you are going to be a future manufactured home buyer, please read both. Knowledge is power after all! 

You’ve heard the horror stories of a manufactured home purchase: someone buys a home and it turns out to be a living nightmare. Leaks, faulty plumbing, siding or roofing issues, spotty workmanship.  High pressure sales, financing nightmares, installation errors and warranty problems….the list can go on and on. There’s plenty of examples online, all you have to do is search ‘manufactured home complaints’ and you’ll have enough reading material to keep you busy for days.

Still, we need to realize that nothing is perfect. Stick-built homes have a lot of complaints, too, so don’t think it’s just manufactured homes. The home building business is difficult and there’s a lot of factors that can happen between the first nail and the last. One small, seemingly insignificant, error can lead to a multitude of issues down the road and that’s true with any building project.

I will be the first to admit that there are some scammy manufacturers and dealers out there. They haven’t quite grasped the concept of customer service and would rather neglect a current customer to focus on a new sell. That’s the way the business is set up though. Salespeople are rewarded for selling and some will take whatever means necessary to get you to sign on the dotted line. Personally, I think the whole concept of salespeople being paid commissions should have left the way of the dinosaur long ago. It aligns the industry with that of the car business and we all know about the used car salesman. If they want to pretend to be real estate agents then they need to introduce a licensing program to keep the bad apples from continuing to ruin the barrel. The manufactured housing industries identity crisis stems from them trying to be like everyone else and not focusing on what they are and that is where I think most of the issue within the industry lies. If they can just come together and agree on what the industry is about and stop trying to being like everyone else, they may just thrive again. Well, that and start educating the public about the great benefits of the homes and stop pretending the stigma and stereotype doesn’t exist. I digress though..let’s carry on…

Avoiding issues during a manufactured home purchase can be tricky. There’s a lot of details you need to know about. How do you get the best price, the best home and the best experience possible and walk away with a smile? Knowledge is the key! Doing your due diligence and researching as much as possible will reduce headaches and expensive set backs and make the process a more rewarding one in the end.

Of course, some people experience a wonderful manufactured home buying process and speak nothing but positive things about the experience. I don’t want to ruffle feathers but I’ve read the statistics and listened to many stories and some aren’t pretty. There are still good companies out there and they want to help you find your affordable dream home. You have to depend on your research and do your homework to find them though and that’s what this article is all about: giving you a little more information about some issues that people face during a manufactured home purchase.

Know the High Pressure Sales Tactics

This is probably one of the biggest issues facing anyone that is looking to buy a new manufactured home. There’s a mistrust of salesman and there’s a reason for that mistrust; we’ve all heard the stories of the lies, the misrepresentations and the bogus promises that have been made to get a sale finalized and get your signature on the contract as soon as possible. You have to buy the home that suits you, not what the salesman wants to sale you. The first rule you should abide by is to follow your gut. If the salesman is telling you that he will get fired if they don’t write up an application or talk to you in their office, leave. If they offer enticements to sign a contract, leave. If you have a nagging feeling like something isn’t right but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is, leave. It’s really that simple. A true professional will want to help you and they will understand that by helping the buyer they will be helping themselves.

Know the Dealers Profit Margin and Your Budget

Dealers make a profit margin of between 18 to 26% over wholesale price, not including installation costs. You shouldn’t spend more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing. You must factor in taxes, maintenance and insurance.

Know the Homes Transporters, Installers and Finishing Carpenters

Due diligence is absolutely necessary with this part because most of the complaints and issues stem from transit errors. If you are buying a new home, the transportation and installation is usually added to the price of the home.  The dealer can either own the truck and employees the team that will be moving and installing your home or they can just contract another company out.

Ask for a list of current buyers, call them and ask questions about how the home was installed, set up, and connected. You should check the BBB and look online for complaints. Many times the complaints will be filed with the contracting company and not the dealership so make sure to check the contractors name as well as the dealership. If you find several complaints regarding past installations you must speak up. The dealer can’t force you to use a contractor. There’s some red tape that may be encountered with this though. Some manufactures insist that you use their people or your warranty is voided.  See? It’s a messy situation and requires a lot of research and due diligence.

The installation of a home can include all or some of the site preparation, utilities connections, and drainage installation. You want the best company possible to handle the home. Improper handling and setup of the home is usually found to be the cause of many issues down the road. Poorly trained or unmotivated employees can cause buckling walls, roof leaks, frame damage and faulty windows and doors. If the home isn’t leveled properly or isn’t tied down properly you could face some serious problems in the future. The installation also includes the joining of double wides which entails a whole lot of finishing touches like carpet, trim, doors, skirting and gutters.

The biggest post-sale complaint on manufactured homes are cosmetic complaints. Things like sticky windows, improperly installed floor covering or trim work that looks like a 2 year old did it. Chances are you are not going to notice all this stuff right away. I personally know a family that had issues with their double wides after they moved in. After a couple of days in the home they started noticing little things, lots and lots of little things that needed fixed. The problem was that they signed a paper stating that the home was to their satisfaction. They didn’t realize what they were signing because the finishing carpenter brought the clipboard out on the last day of set up (with a promise they would be back in a week to finish that skirting) and told them they simply needed to sign to prove they had been there that day. In really small print it also stated that the home had been inspected and no issues were found. That signature ended their ability to get anyone to fix the cosmetic issues that they had. The best advice I can give you is to never sign anything on a clipboard until you read it and know exactly what you are signing!

Know the Warranty

Warranty issues is where the remainder of the complaints for manufactured homes come from. There are 3 types of warranties: manufacturers written warranty, express warranty and statutory implied warranty of merchantability. A written warranty protects you against loss from “substantial defects” which is anything except cosmetic damage. There is a expiration and usually that’s 1 year. If the salesman promised a new deck if you bought last years model then that’s an express warranty. If it persuaded you during your purchasing decision but was not fulfilled then the law was possibly violated and you may be entitled to some type of damage. Implied warranties states the home must be suited for the purpose of which it was designed for. It doesn’t protect against specific defects but it is often the best protection you have. It covers things that the express and written warranties wouldn’t.

Some warranties have too much red tape and too many things that can void them. Some warranties only cover non-cosmetic issues but then go on to state that doors and windows are cosmetic. Some won’t cover any issues that arise from improper set up and installation but it was the dealer that had chosen or recommended the contractor that installed the home. It’s mind boggling! Know your warranty and get the dealer to give you the best warranty possible.

These 4 things are only some aspects that you have to consider when purchasing a manufactured home. If you are buying a used home then there’s a whole other set of things to research. Just a little due diligence and knowledge can make the difference between a happy experience and a bad one.

If you’ve had any issues, whether good or bad, let us know about them in the comment section below. Maybe your story will help someone in the future. Below are some articles I have written about the buying process of mobile homes whether new or used. You should check them out if you are a future homeowner:

As always thank you for reading Mobile and Manufactured Home Living!

 

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12 Comments
  1. Bill & Carleen Finegan says

    We paid cash for a MH the dealer said was a 2014 model and he hand wrote 2014 as the manufactured year on the sales agreement. Two months later when we asked to see the move-on permit it shows the year as 2013. The MSO also shows it as being manufactured in 2013. We have not taken delivery of it and refused to sign the form to put the title in our names. We want to nullify the agreement and get our money back but the dealer refuses. What can we do? Please give us any advice you can. I am 76 and my wife is 69…..thanks

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Hello!

      I would be hesitant to accept a home that’s a year older too! Good catch! If you can. read this article: Buying a Manufactured Home: Warranties and How to Handle Issues After the Sell. The last part of it, titled What to Do If You Experience Issues has a list of all the state agencies that may be able to help you.

      Good luck!

  2. Jessica says

    Thank you so much for this article! We keep going back and forth on whether buying a new manufactured home is what we want to do. After seeing so many horror stories it makes me sick to my stomach with nerves. But this article is actually empowering and full of wonderful advice that makes me have confidence that as long as we ‘know what we’re doing’ going in- we won’t have many issues.
    That being said- I’m probably going to find a lawyer to read over everything before I sign and explain in honest simple words what all it means!

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      That’s a smart thing to do Jessica! I’m certainly not a big fan of how manufactured home dealers have treated customers. Our only protection is knowledge!

      You may want to read this article as well (I wrote it for about.com but it has a lot of good information): http://manufacturedhomes.about.com/od/Manufactured-Homes/fl/The-Insiders-Guide-to-Manufactured-Home-Dealers.htm

      Good luck to you!

  3. Christine Clark says

    I wish I had done research before we signed the dotted line. We certainly been though hell and back with the owner/salesman of the park we are in. We did not see our home until it was here. Only pictures. We ordered things we wanted but we unaware of all the options available. So the salesman gave us the minimum of interior options. Horrible carpet, lighting, fixtures, bath tub surrounds. All horrible. Then it was placed on a lot that water drained through so we have a lake everytime it rains in our front yard. We have no recourse. We did not research. We have put all of our money into upgrading our home. Lots of time and money. Now a YEAR later, we have leveling issues. Ceiling and tile shower cracking, loud squeaking floors. I would never have done this had I known.

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      So sorry you’ve had such an awful experience Christine. Hopefully, you can put all those terrible experiences behind you and turn it into a dream home!

      Thanks so much for reading MHL!

  4. mobilehomegurl says

    Nice tips, Crystal! I definitely agree about the installation and transporting issues. So many things can happen during a move. In the past, I’ve had to add trip insurance for the transport — it’s better to be safe than sorry!! If there are trees and/or other debris along the way or at the site, it can be problematic if the transporter is not careful. Large tree branches brushing up against the home and/or the roof (especially those with shingles) can lead to some damage. Also, I’ve found some nail holes that have been problematic for the roof shingles used to secure the tent during transport. If not looked at carefully, the small holes in the shingles could be an issue down the road with weather conditions involving water (i.e. rain, hail, snow, etc). Enjoyed the write-up, thanks for sharing! :)

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Thank you so much for the great tips!! I never even thought about trip insurance! It is one of the best protections you can get, especially if you live in the mountains or you’re placing a home in the woods with a newly made road (living in WV, I’ve seen some beautiful country homesteads with a double wide sitting in the middle of it and you can’t help but wonder how they got it there..lol).

      I’ve watched my parents go through an ordeal in the late 80’s with a new double wide. The installers just really didn’t care and slacked in every way possible so I’ve always been a bit wary of them all. Why they can’t follow the directions provided to them by the manufacturers is beyond me. Nailing the sheeting to shingles and not the frame is a clear sign that the installers and transporters don’t care or at the least, don’t know what their doing.

      Appreciate you taking the time to share those great tips with us!

  5. Shirlee says

    Interesting article Crystal. We’ve looked at new homes on dealer’s lots and never experienced a high pressure sell. Thanks goodness because that would turn me off big time.

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Hi Shirley! I think they are a lot more rare these days. Back when the industry was booming (mid-90’s) it was such a crazy time and there was a lot of money to be made on commissions and a lot of competition. Now, only a handful of companies own everything. Plus, the annual unit sales went from 300,000+ to only 50,000+ so everything has calmed down and the ones selling homes are in it for the long hall so they treat the customers right.

      I’ve heard some crazy stories though..lol..Hope you are doing well!

  6. Bethany McGee says

    Great article! Another key thing to keep in mind is the Title. Many manufactured homes have a title. While doing a transfer of property recently, our lawyer told us he has so many mobile homes and manufactured homes that people have tossed their title or not kept track of where it is. This can be a nightmare for a buyer.

    Relatives of ours recently sold their home on the lake and bought a double wide. They put a bunch of money into remodeling while the FHA was doing a search on the home for the financing process. They had moved in and payed money toward the principle each month as “rent” so they could move in sooner before the mortgage went through. It took months to get a title, and once the title came through, the FHA had already grown tired of waiting. They also found in their research that the double-wide had been on another property and was moved…they were not told this and the FHA won’t touch a home that’s been moved. Ultimately, they lost $8,000 of their nest egg.

    BUYER BEWARE! Especially when buying a used manufactured home.

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Hi Bethany! Thanks for sharing and letting us know about the titles. What a horrible thing to have happen. You know, there’s so many horror stories out there that I often wonder why the industry (manufacturers, dealers, financiers, insurers, etc) can’t do better. There needs to be a streamlined protocol for the entire process so stuff like that doesn’t happen.

      PS..I’ve heard some amazing stories that prove there’s good people out there that do their jobs and care about the homeowners,too though. (I didn’t want to be too negative..lol)

      Thanks!

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