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Expert Tips for Buying a New Manufactured Home


Ready to buy a new manufactured home? The following tips have been cultivated over the last 8 years from books, articles, and personal conversations with industry experts.

In this article, you’ll find advice on the best upgrades for a manufactured home and how to negotiate with the dealers to get the best home at the best price.

If you follow these tips you can buy a better made manufactured home that will last longer, have more function and comfort for your family, and will have a higher resale value.

Get the Best Home, Not the Cheapest

Everyone wants a good deal when buying a new manufactured home but what does ‘a goodf deal’ really mean?

A good deal for most all manufactured home buyers is finding a home that has strong structural integrity and a long lifespan.

If you’ve chosen wisely, the added cost of the upgrades will pay for themselves tenfold.

Why not start at the cheapest home on the lot and just add upgrades?

You can but it’s not a good idea.

LD Lewis offers the best example against this in his latest book, Things You Should Know (Before you buy a manufactured home):


“You will pay for quality of the home you choose – either at the initial purchase for high quality; or in maintenance, repairs, upkeep, and utility expenses for low quality”

– LD Lewis

Let’s say you found an extremely affordable single wide but you want the 2×4 studs to be 2x6s because bigger studs are always better, right?

Not in every case.

The manufactured home’s framing needs to be properly designed for the additional weight.

Separation and sagging, known as crowning, are common if the home has cheap Asian steel, isn’t cambered properly, or the outriggers aren’t properly positioned.

Lewis’ small book is a goldmine of insight and knowledge of the manufactured housing industry and the homes. Though his chapters are short and to the point, he has a great writing style. For $9.99, it’s a great buy, especially if you are about to buy a new manufactured home that costs $90,000! You can buy the book on Amazon.


Expert Tips for Buying a New Manufactured Home 1
Focus on function over fads, especially in kitchens.
Source: Palm Harbor Homes

Always Focus on the Construction, Not the Cosmetics

Leave the home decor trends and fads to Pinterest. You are buying a home to live in, not a stage for a photo shoot.

Keep in mind that major home decor trends usually only last a few years before they become outdated.

Clayton sells a farmhouse style double wide called The Lulamae for $120,000. It is a huge hit with shiplap and distressed surfaces but will it still be trendy in 10 years?

buying a new manufactured home - Claytons Farmhouse mode
The Lulamae
Source: Clayton Homes

Best Interior Upgrades When Buying a New Manufactured Home

Thankfully, mobile homes have become more like site-built homes but there are a few more things that the industry needs to improve.

Steven Taylor covers the changes and upgrades that the manufactured home buyers should consider in his book, Manufactured Homes: The Buyer’s Guide. For $5.99 you get 144 pages of well-researched information about buying a manufactured home along with charts and forms are written by an industry insider.

Upgrade your Sub-flooring

Most experts agree to stay away from particleboard sub-flooring, also called Novadeck or Novoflor because it can be damaged by water so easily. A new manufactured home should have plywood or OSB.

buying a New Manufactured Home - bathroom tips

Upgrade Plumbing: Size and Material Matter

When you buy a new manufactured home, it’s important to pay attention to sizes and materials.

Amenities such as tubs, doors, and sinks should be the same size as a site-built home. Ideally, you want to be able to buy all your replacement parts from Lowe’s or Home Depot.

The smaller manufactured home bathtubs have been a huge source of contention with homeowners. The odd size means you either pay a higher price for a special mobile home sized tub or you retrofit a standard size tub which usually requires moving a wall. Read more about mobile home bathtubs and bathrooms here.

All new manufactured homes should have bathtubs that are the same size as a site-built home and made from higher quality material like fiberglass. Plastic cracks too easy and the odd sizes make replacement difficult. Mobile and manufactured homes are notorious for having bathtubs that yellow. It’s supposedly caused by a coating that is added to the petrochemical compound used to create the tub. We’ve found 3 methods to repair yellowing bathtubs here.

In addition to size, it’s important to consider the materials used in the home. Sinks, tubs, and faucets should not be made with cheap plastic. However, this is one of those upgrades that a typical homeowner could do themselves or have done after installation at a lower cost than ordering through the factory.

“Are the sinks porcelain, vitreous china, or plastic? How about the tub and shower stall? Remember: Plastic is bad. The shower stall should be made of ceramic tiles or of one-piece fiberglass, not plastic, and not two-piece anything.” –

Steven Taylor

Does the Home Have PEX Supply Lines?

Nowadays, most new manufactured homes have PEX water supply lines which are the industry standard for residential construction – make sure your new home will have it. Another plumbing upgrade involves cut off valves at each source of water.

Are There Cut Off Valves at Every Toilet and Faucet?

Plastic cut off valves and faucets are not ideal because plastic is not a long-lasting material. Ideally, cut off valves should be brass and faucets should be metal, not metallic coated plastic.

Does the Home Have a High Capacity Water Heater?

In addition to the PEX and the cut-off valves, it’s also a good idea to have a high capacity water heater, especially with large families. 40 gallons is a must for families of 3 or more.

Does the Home Have Drywall?

The vinyl and paper on gypsum wallboards used in manufactured homes are one of the most contested features of factory-built housing. Homeowners hate these walls but manufactured home builders love them because they are easy to install and doesn’t require finishing work after the home has been installed. Homeowners love drywall because it is smooth and makes the home feel more site-built. Drywall will likely increase your resale value. You will want this upgrade done in the factory.

Are There Enough Outlets and Light Switches? How About Overhead Light Fixtures?

Manufactured homes have silly light switches and not enough outlets. Many builders don’t even put overhead lights in every room. This is a huge inconvenience for most people. Make sure your outlets are placed where you need them and the lights and light switches work for your lifestyle.

buying a new manufactured home Clayton Homes Graphic
Clayton Homes shows the features available to new homes on their website.
Source: Clayton Homes

Exterior Upgrades to Consider When Buying a New Manufactured Home

The best exterior upgrades to consider when buying a new home are wider eaves, roof slope, and higher quality materials.

We’ve already covered the importance of Energy Star appliances and insulation – must know those are important. The following tips aren’t so widely known.

Doors, eaves, and roof pitch are the two major cosmetic elements that differentiate a manufactured home from a site-built home.

Always Upgrade the Doors

Steven Lancaster, one of our favorite mobile home experts and creator of the Manufactured Housing and Mobile Homes Facebook group, always recommends upgrading the exterior doors when you buy a new manufactured home.

Standard site-built front doors are 80” by 36” while the average manufactured home front door is only 76” high by 32” wide.

A larger, 6-panel security door is safer, more functional, and can save on heating and cooling costs. It also adds significant curb appeal and makes a manufactured home look more like a site-built home.

A Home Advisor study determined that a higher grade front entry door was the best remodeling project based on ROI, return on investment. Almost every dollar you spend on the door and installment will be recouped when you sell the home.

Go with 12” Eaves

You can tell a lot about a manufactured home by looking at its eaves. High-quality manufactured homes will typically have 12” Eaves. Standard, more affordable, manufactured homes will normally have 4” eaves.

Wider eaves make a factory-built home look more like a site-built home and shields the side against snow and rain.

Taylor writes the width of the eaves is a sign of how ‘upscale’ a manufactured home is and that 4-inch eaves can make a manufactured home to look cheap.

Virgin Vinyl Siding

Virgin vinyl siding means it’s not made from recycled materials. It is thicker, lasts longer, and holds color better. Learn more about mobile home siding here.

buying a new manufactured home - Outriggers to the edge of the home

Related: Learn more about the 10 Smartest Upgrades to Make When Buying a New Manufactured Home

Do the Outriggers Extend to the Perimeter Walls?

Outriggers are the triangular steel tips attached to the side of the I-beams. They should extend all the way to the edge of the home and even with the exterior wall.

Cheaper homes may have shorter outriggers. This can cause crowning, where the exterior walls sag from lack of support causing the roof to eventually separate from the exterior walls. This is often confused with having an unlevel home because it also makes doors and windows to jam and walls and ceiling panels to crack.

Tips for Better Negotiating Power

buying a new manufactured home - dealership lot

Best Time to Buy a New Manufactured Home

Just like a used car lot, manufactured home salespeople make money when they sell a home, whether by commissions or bonuses. Naturally, they will do whatever is necessary to close the deal.

Whenever you are dealing with commissioned salespeople it’s smart to wait till the end of the month, quarter, or year to buy. The dealer may need one more sale to get that big year-end bonus or to secure more inventory.

Read our Ultimate Guide to Buying a New Manufactured Home here.

“Inventory must be moved at practically all costs and banks must sell as much money as possible.”

– Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor, the author of the Manufactured Homes The Buyers Guide, says the last two weeks of December is always the best time to buy a new manufactured home. He says serious buyers walking onto a lot at the end of the year can get a noticeable reduction in price on lot models and it even helps buyers with marginal credit obtain financing easier.

Order a NADA Appraisal Report

The manufactured home’s NADA appraised value is crucial to getting the best deal. You can order a report for a new or used manufactured homes before you start negotiating. Never pay more than that appraisal.

Expert Tips for Buying a New Manufactured Home 2

“The NADA value considers the quality of construction as it relates to the longevity of the home and its resale value.”

– LD Lewis

Sample of NADA’s New Manufactured Home Price Report

NADA appraisals are based on the structural components, construction method, and materials of the home to determine worth and longevity.

You can order a new manufactured home appraisal report for $35 here.

Get more tips and information, along with ratings for each manufactured home builder in Grissim’s Buyer’s Guide to Manufactured Home and Land Guide here:

Conclusion

In the manufactured home industry, the best deal isn’t the least expensive.  As the quote above states, you will pay for quality one way or another – either through upgrades that increase the energy efficiency, resell value, and comfort of the home or through higher energy bills, lost appreciation potential, or inconvenience.

Buying a new manufactured home is a decision that will impact every aspect of you and your family’s lives.  Make sure you take the time to find the right home. Hopefully, these tips will help.

Do you have any tips or advice for someone looking to buy a new manufactured home? Please share them in the comments below.

As always, thank you for reading Mobile Home Living!

Featured Image: Live Oaks

4 thoughts on “Expert Tips for Buying a New Manufactured Home”

  1. Downsizing and getting ready for retirement in a new MH. Your posts have helped immensely, as I’m trying to do my due diligence and educate myself. Thank you so much, each article is so informative.

  2. Hi Crystal,

    Thanks for all the info and the book recommendations. I’m thinking of buying them.

    I have been slowly compiling a list of what I want. It’s almost two pages, single-spaced! About 2/3 is construction/framing stuff. I’m sure a lot of them aren’t gonna happen, but I have them prioritized from musts to wants. Will probably raise the price at least $10,000.

    I also want them to build a floor plan that I drew myself, because I think I do a better job than whoever the “professionals” are that come up with some of the oddball-sized rooms and layouts. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled that I don’t like ANY of their floor plans 🙂

    Another problem is that here in Michigan there are almost no dealers,especially in my area. I think I may have to drive to Indiana and talk to the actual factory people. I don’t know if they even allow that kind of thing.

    I really miss the days when there were a bunch of dealers with inventory on their lots.

    Thanks for all the research you do.

    mobile_home_dude

    1. i also am planning on buying a new mobile home w/in the year, after selling my house of 30 years. If you wouldn’t mind, I would appreciate seeing your list…..it possibly includes items that I haven’t considered.
      Others would probably appreciate it also.

      Fellow-midwesterner (WI)

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