30 Most Helpful Tips for Manufactured Home Buyers
Buying a new manufactured home is stressful but exhilarating! There are so many decisions to make. Buyers have to choose the home builder, the right dealer, the best model, the perfect floor plan, and their favorite materials and style. That’s not including financing, insuring, and installing the home. We’ve collected our most helpful This article has 30 of our most helpful tips for manufactured home buyers that should help to make the whole process a little easier.
It’s no secret that I dislike the way manufactured homes are sold. I feel commissioned salespeople without licensing requirements or stronger regulations open up the potential for overpromises and misleading information. Keep in mind, salespeople can sell anything, the product doesn’t much matter. Sales is a numbers game regardless of what you’re selling. John Grissom, the writer of The Grissim Buyer’s Guide to Manufactured Homes and Land, claims that “a good percentage of people working at manufactured home dealerships have backgrounds in car sales…many don’t understand construction..” If it acts looks like a used car dealer and acts like a used car dealer, chances are it’s a used car dealer.
With that said, there are a lot of really good manufactured home salespeople working in respectable dealerships. They just want to help good people buy good homes. Find those dealerships and buy a better home with these 30 tips for manufactured home buyers.
1. Know the Profit Margin
Manufactured home dealers are similar to a car dealership. They use the same mark-up and commissions system. The average commission for a manufactured home dealership is about $11,000 per home. The salesperson usually gets 20% of that.
Salespeople can make $2,000 commission on a new manufactured home! This gives them a great incentive to do or say whatever it takes to sell a home.
2. Know What You Want In a New Manufactured Home
Knowing your target price and financing options before you visit a dealer is your best strategy against high-pressure sales tactics. Do as much online research as you can. Reading this article is a great start!
Research everything and use as many different resources as possible. Know what manufacturer you like best as well as your favorite floor plan and features.
Upgrades increase the price but there are smart upgrades that will pay for themselves quickly, such as larger wall studs and insulation. We made a list of our 10 favorite smart upgrades here.
3. 9 Smart Features and Upgrades
Certain features and upgrades can drastically extend the life of your home. They can also make it more cost-efficient and comfortable.
9 Smart Upgrades for New Manufactured Homes
- Choose a shingled roof, rather than a flat roof, if possible.
- Make sure the eave is at least 6″.
- Exterior wall studs 16 inches apart (as opposed to 24 inches).
- Choose virgin vinyl siding rather than metal or hardboard siding
- Exterior walls at least 7 1/2 feet high.
- Request a shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture.
- Better insulation is always a good idea
- Larger doors are a top upgrade choice of experts
- Avoid particleboard subfloors.
4. The 3 ‘Classes’ of Manufactured Homes
You get what you pay for in the manufactured housing world. You will not be able to pay $50,000 for a double wide and get the same fixtures, materials, and construction aspects as a $150,000.00 home. It’s simply not possible.
Owners are often upset or dissatisfied because their home has cheaper flooring materials, or flimsy trim, or thin carpet but they only paid $34,900.00 for a brand new 1200 square foot double wide. With that said, the home should be well constructed and every owner should be 100% happy but expectations must align with the price.
5. Understand the True Competition
Never settle on a home or a dealer without visiting at least 3 lots. Ideally, these 3 lots will be true competitors, not just a different brand name owned by the same company. For example, Clayton Homes operates under 18 different brands. Here’s a list of manufactured home builders that will help.
6. Never Settle on the First Home or Dealer
Although you may have chosen your favorite manufacturer, you may get a better price from a different one. Use online reviews and ask for customer testimonials. Getting the best price for the features you want is just as important as after sale customer service and good references from the companies past purchasers. Of course, pretty is important but longevity and service are more important!
Avoid pinning your hopes on only one home or one dealer. Get firm prices from several dealers and several brands either online or via phone, since dealer markups on homes can vary widely.
7. Get the New Home Appraised
For $20 you can have NADA appraise the new manufactured home you are considering to learn it’s true value. Use this appraisal as a base for negotiating a better price. An $11,000 profit on every home leaves them plenty of room to wiggle.
Check the “blue book” value for a similar make and model from the previous year listed in the appraisal guides online.Click here for NADA Manufactured Home Value Reports
8. Know Your Comparables
It never hurts to know the prices of substitute housing options in your area such as condos, houses, and apartments. This is especially helpful in areas that have real estate markets that are rapidly raising or decreasing. Understanding the lot rents and other required monthly costs helps give you a larger perspective of your total monthly costs.
9. Investigate Financing Options Before You Visit the Dealer’s Lot
Investigate your financing options before setting foot on a lot. Check out banks and credit unions as well as traditional manufactured housing lenders.
Avoid Dealer-financing at all costs. If it’s the only way to get financed make sure you know exactly what you are getting into. How to Buy a Mobile Home with Bad Credit
Traditionally, dealers finance mobile homes using personal property or chattel loans rather than mortgage loans. These loans have high interest.
Dealers often get a commission for obtaining credit for you so talk directly with the lenders. Even if you end up getting financing through the dealer, you’ll be able to negotiate better if you know your options. Same goes for insurance.
10. Don’t Wrap the Taxes, Insurance, and Other Costs into the Loan
Be sure to evaluate all costs of homeownership, including land rental (or purchase), financing charges, insurance, taxes, maintenance and more. Avoid wrapping costs unnecessarily into your home purchase loan. Interest rates on manufactured home loans that are not tied to land are typically several percentage points higher than typical mortgage loans.
11. Think Carefully about Where You Place the New Manufactured Home
Think carefully about where you place your home. Placing your home in a rental community reduces the chances you will gain equity from your purchase.
Even the best rental communities are subject to ownership changes and rent increases, which can add unexpected costs to your monthly budget. If you own the land, you can reduce your financing costs as well as increase the stability of your tenure.
12. Price Comparison on Manufactured Homes
Once you have chosen the manufacturer, features and the financing, start price comparing your local or state dealers online.
Get firm prices from several dealers and several brands either online or via phone if possible, since dealer markups on homes can vary widely.
Do not give your personal information to each dealer to run your credit, when multiple dealers check your credit it can actually reduce your score, ask them to give you a home price and estimate of the loan terms based on the credit information you give to them, notate names, dates, and discussions.
13. Beware the ABCs
Salespeople start closing on the home the second you set foot on the lot. It’s called ‘Always Be Closing’ and it works so be prepared.
On your first visit to the dealer establish quickly that you are a serious and knowledgeable buyer, not just a browser. Don’t say: “I’m looking for a double wide.” Say instead: “I plan to buy a Clayton Celebration 3bdrm/2bth within the next month and I know exactly what features I want. I will buy where I get the best price. Let’s talk about it.”
This puts you in control from the beginning.
14. Don’t Worry About the Monthly Payment
Don’t let the dealer coax you into naming a price or a monthly payment you’d be willing to pay. Ask for a total cash price, and negotiate from that. Better yet, ask to see the invoice price. Dealers may resist, but it is better to negotiate up from the invoice price than down from the retail price.
It is important to buy a home that fits in your budget, not the home that a salesperson wants to sell you. That means watching the total cost as well as the monthly payment.
Dealers may cite reasonable sounding monthly payments – but remember, the length of the contract can vary from 7 to 30 years. The interest rate can vary greatly as well. Higher interest over a longer term can more than double the actual cost of the home. What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Mobile Home
15. Do Not Put a Deposit Down Until You Have Visited at Least 3 Lots
Do not put money down on a home until you are 1000% positive that you are buying that home. You may have trouble getting your money back if you change your mind, especially if you ask for any customization.
16. Shop Around for Each Component of your Package
Dealers may offer to act as your real estate broker, insurance broker, and mortgage company, but he or she may not be able to offer you the best deal on these services.
Don’t buy insurance from a manufactured housing dealership. They aren’t insurance agents and chances are you can find a policy at half or ever a quarter the cost the dealership offers.
17. Do Not Wrap Insurance or Lot Rent into the Loan
One of the best tips for manufactured home buyers is to not add additionals onto your loan. Items like prepaid park rent, insurance premiums, or even furniture and stereo systems are often allowed on chattel loans – don’t do it.
This will cut into your equity in the home and given the relatively high-interest rates on personal property and chattel loans, it will cost you more than the items are worth in the long run.
18. Resist High-Pressure Sales
Do all you can to resist the high-pressure sales tactics the dealership and salespeople use and they start the second you exit your car. There are no special deals and the salesperson probably doesn’t have to run a thing by his boss. Those are well-known sales techniques done to make you sweat and make the salesperson appear to be on your side. They are not.
19. The Salesperson and Manager are Not Your Friends
Buying a site-built home takes a ton of paperwork and several different adencies and attorneys that are all watching out for dirty tactics. In contrast, manufactured home dealers have a salesperson and a manager. Neither care about you.
20. Don’t Rush
Sometimes a dealer can get you approved and have a contract ready for you to sign in a matter of hours. Resist high-pressure sales techniques that entice you to “sign today.”
- Reputable dealers will still want to sell you a home next week.
- Be skeptical of “special” prices, freebies, and other enticements to sign quickly.
- Be prepared to walk away from the deal if you ever feel uncomfortable. Follow your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away.
- Have someone else with you that doesn’t have a strong emotional investment, they can sometimes see things that you aren’t able to.
21. Be Weary of the Warranties
Find out what, if any, regular home maintenance is needed to keep the warranty in force. Recently, we learned that one carpet manufacturer requires that you get your carpet professionally clean at least once a year to keep the warranty in effect.
Manufacturers, retailers, installers, and component manufacturers may offer separate warranties, each of which covers a different part of the home. These warranties have a lot of fine print and the least little thing will negate the coverage.
22. Be Prepared for the Blame Game
Our tips for manufactured home buyers doesn’t stop after the home is purchased. After you buy a manufactured home make sure all your paperwork is in order and be prepared for the notorious blame game.
Many home buyers complain that when an issue falls well within the 1 year warranty time frame the dealers will tell them their issue is the builder’s problem but the builder will tell you it’s the dealers. This goes on until that 1-year time frame runs out and then it’s the homeowner’s problem. They did my parents like this on their new 1986 double wide when the roof leaked around the chimney. Dad finally did it himself.
Consumers can have trouble determining who is responsible if problems after the purchase. To keep this from happening, manufactured home buyers need to request a list of all the things that are the builder’s responsibilities and another list for the dealers. Learn more about Buying a Manufactured Home: Warranties and How to Handle Issues After the Sell here.
Don’t forget about the installers – that’s a whole new can of worms.
23. Factory Dealers May Be a Better Choice
There are 2 types of dealers – independent and factory. Independent dealers will sell several different brands on their lot. Factory dealerships only sell one brand. This bypasses the regulation that prohibits manufactured home builders from offering homes directly to the public – there has to be a middle man.
In a recent survey and request for tips for manufactured home buyers, it was found that people who purchased directly from the factory dealer had fewer problems after the sale than those that bought from an independent dealer. This may be because there is less red tape perhaps?
24. Proper Site Prep and Installation is Critical
Ask the retailer or manufacturer to examine your lot and certify that your site preparation meets the standards required by the warranty.
Do not spend a single penny on site prep or utilities until the loan has been signed and sealed. There’s a little trick that some dealerships like to use where they get buyers with less than perfect credit to go ahead and pay for the installers or the utility poles before the home loan is signed. Doing this puts the buyer in a position where walking away from the loan (home) simply costs too much.
25. Fine Print is Usually the Most Important
Little details are usually much more important than the larger ones, and small print is ALWAYS more important than larger print!
26. Financing the Manufactured Home
The following tips for manufactured home buyers all fall under financing so we’re not highlighting each one as we did above.
- Once you’ve settled on a home and a price, you’ll sit down with the dealer to sign the purchase contract and loan documents.
- Carefully review the contracts, making sure the numbers (home price, interest rate, payment, points, charges, etc.) all are listed as you believe they should be. If they are not, don’t be afraid to leave and come back when the papers are in order.
- Stop and review the disclosures and warnings such as the “formaldehyde health notice.”
Be prepared to halt the transaction if you do not agree with or understand anything.
27. No Added Fees
Beware of contracts that appear to charge you finance fees (origination fees, prepaid points, “buyer” fees) then appear to deduct these fees from the “amount financed” as if you are not actually required to pay them. You will pay these, plus interest.
28. The Chances of Refinancing is Slim to None
This happened in my own family and I think it’s a very important tip for manufactured home buyers. A young couple needed their parents to co-sign on their new single wide manufactured home loan (through the dealer). The salesperson told the family that once the young couple made their payments on time for 24 months they could refinance the loan to get a better interest rate and remove their parents from the agreement. The refinancing never occurred.
In fact, the last stats I saw on the subject showed that less than 1% of all manufactured home loans financed through the dealer were ever refinanced. Less than 1%!
This has actually happened in my family. A son and his wife needed his parents to co-sign but the salesman promised that in a couple of years the young couple could refinance and put the home completely into their name. That’s the only reason the parents did it – they thought it was a short term risk. They later found out that nothing can be changed until the home is completely paid off.
29. No Blanks or ‘To Be Determined’ on the Paperwork
Get details of the deals such as the date ownership transfers in writing. Also, make certain that all the blanks on the contracts are filled in when you sign them. When you leave the closing, take fully signed copies of the contracts with you. None of that “we’ll send them to you” stuff.
30. Never Sign Anything You Don’t Understand
Never sign any documents you do not fully understand. Do not rely upon representations made by the salesperson about these contracts. If you do not understand them, bring someone you trust with you who can explain them to you. Remember, a purchase contract is a legally binding document-don’t be afraid to wait until you have help if you need it!
Get more great tips for manufactured home buyers in the Grissim Buyer’s Guide to Manufactured Home and Land Guide:
Conclusion for Tips for Manufactured Homebuyers
That was a lot of information! I’m confident these tips for manufactured homebuyers will be helpful. Dealers and salespeople are not all bad but they aren’t all good either. They have to feed their family and commissioned based salaries open the door for lying and cheating.
I’ve been pretty open that out of 5 family members that have purchased a new manufactured home 4 were either outright lied to or went through the blame game until the warranty period ran out. The dealers and the industry in general have earned their poor reputation fair and square.
I hope this gives you a base to jump-start your research. Buying a new manufactured home is truly a life-changing event and should be considered as such.
Please research and educate yourself further so that you may make the best decisions for you and your family. After all, there’s a reason the manufactured home industry has a bad reputation.
Get more expert tips for buying a new manufactured home here.
As always, thank you for reading Mobile Home Living!
This article was first published January 18, 2012 and updated May 7, 2019