The Top 4 Reasons for Manufactured Home Complaints

Manufactured homes have a bad reputation. It’s one of the things that keep a lot of people from considering them as a housing option so I feel it necessary to confront the issue head-on.

Manufactured homes aren’t perfect and I’m certainly not trying to say they are. If you’ve read any of my previous articles you’ll know I love the homes but not the industry. I feel as if the industry has failed time and time again both as a whole and as an independent unit.

However, manufactured homes are still the most affordable homes available and every one of them has potential. The good outweighs the bad in my opinion and if we can educate potential homebuyers and get them prepared for the manufactured homeworld we can all gain from it.

Related: Is a Manufactured Home Right for You?

Why Are There So Many Manufactured Homes Complaints?

Earlier this week I wrote about improper installation being a huge reason for homeowner issues and manufactured home complaints in ‘The Ultimate Manufactured Home Installation and Setup Guide‘. In addition to improper installation, I think there are a couple more reasons that can explain why manufactured homes get so many poor reviews and complaints from homeowners besides just poorly built homes and terrible after-sales service, though those are big reasons too.

I have no proof to back my opinions. I’ve found no studies or documented data that correlates my belief other than my own experience with living in manufactured homes my entire life, working in the construction field, and the experience I have obtained while publishing Mobile Home Living. I have spoken to countless homeowners that have both minor and major issues with their homes. I’ve also read countless reviews and complaints online and I feel that all of them can be categorized into 4 categories that explain the underlying reason for the vast negativity:

  • Building Errors
  • Improper Installation
  • Unreasonable Expectations
  • Poor After-Sale Service

Improper installation of manufactured homes ages the home quickly. It also causes leaks and cracks in walls and floors as well as other serious issues. Since I’ve already written extensively on the subject, I’ll just send you to the article if you want to read more about the installation and setup process of a manufactured home: The Ultimate Manufactured Home Installation and Setup Guide. 

Chances are if an owner is experiencing leaks around windows or doors or has creaking floors or doors that don’t open or shut properly the home is unlevel.

It’s the twenty-first century, construction technology has advanced far more than most realize. We’ve learned how to make materials in better ways and, in turn, we make homes better.

However, you can use all the technology in the world and have the best experts build a home but if the foundation is un-level it isn’t going to matter at all.

Building Errors

Even the best installation in the world wouldn’t have mattered at all if the home was poorly built. In the mid-nineties, when the manufactured home industry was experiencing a record boom, selling more homes in a week than they now sell in a year, the factories were very busy and I suspect quality control wasn’t as much as a priority as getting as many homes as possible built to meet the demand – that’s why the homes built during that time have unreasonably high negative reviews and complaints.

But, Site-Built Homes Are No Better!

Which would you trust more:

A factory-built home where employees are hired on a full-time basis with benefits and trained extensively. Where every construction phase is planned meticulously down to the nail or a home built by a bunch of people that are usually hired out of a Home Depot parking lot whenever a construction company gets a new contract? Or maybe hired right out of high school and trained just enough?

There’s little to no consumer protection for site-built home construction. At least with manufactured housing, you have a federal protection agency.

In fact, the issues and complaints regarding new site-built home construction were becoming so rampant that many states initiated a complete overhaul of licensing for anyone working on a construction site.

In WV they passed a law requiring every person working on any kind of construction site to carry at least an apprenticeship license. To obtain the license, they must pass an exam. As their experience and knowledge grow, they could apply for a journeyman license and then a master license (after passing the exam for each). The crazy thing about all that is the fact that when the law took affect anyone could grandfather themselves in by simply signing a paper stating they met the requirements (minimum hours worked under a licensed contractor) and pay a $75 fee. No exam was required for those grandfathered in. So, people that are hiring a company to build their dream home are probably paying the hourly rate for ‘journeymen’ and ‘master’ carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc but their knowledge and experience has not been proven at all. Seems fair, huh?

At least with manufactured homes, you know the people working in the factories have been trained and the process is so calculated and detailed that the potential for errors is reduced significantly.

If site-built homes were any better than factory-built homes then the show Holmes on Homes on HGTV wouldn’t have been a runaway success with thousands of applicants begging his team to repair all the issues they have!

Unreasonable Expectations

I think unreal expectations of a manufactured home buyer is a major player in the high number of negative reviews and complaints. I have no data to back this opinion but I do have 8 years experience blogging on the topic. I’ve personally answered over 7,000 comments, emails, and messages.

Unreasonable expectations could be easily remedied if the sellers would simply take the time to educate the buyers. The most important would be explaining the different tiers, or categories, of each builder.

Manufactured homes can easily be categorized into 3 simple tiers based on price and quality: Low Priced Tier, Mid-Priced Tier, and High Priced Tier:

Low-priced Tier

The low priced tier consists of the lowest priced homes available from each manufacturer or builder. Dealer lots are usually full of these homes because the low price is what brings the most people to the lot. These homes are built with the most affordable materials that are often secured together with staples and glue.

These homes can be upgraded significantly but they will never compare in quality to a site-built home. With that said, these are still great homes and can be a perfect home, as long as the buyer understands that the construction technique and materials used are different from a site built home.

The TRU series by Clayton Homes is one of the most affordable on the market. The double wide starts at $50,000 and has OSB backing under the vinyl siding which is usually only available on more expensive models.

TRU Series Double Wide by Clayton Homes

Mid-priced Tier 

Homes within the mid-priced tier are built with better materials and higher construction standards but still aren’t comparable to a site-built home construction technique. They are usually 25-35%  lower priced than a site built home and may have equivalent materials and construction techniques used.

Still, site-built homes are not as great as you think. While the materials used are more traditional, the methods used to construct the home are usually outdated unless the builder has enough capital to purchase the latest tools and has taken the time to educate themselves on new materials and construction techniques.

A mid-priced manufactured home is often better built than a standard site-built home based on modern building techniques alone.

High-priced Tier

These homes have the latest luxuries and stylish materials. No expense is spared! They may be a bit lower in price than a site-built home but you can be assured that the latest building technologies and highest graded materials have been used.

Related: The 3 Levels of Manufactured Homes Quality and Price.

Poor After-Sales Service

There’s not much I can say about this except we all know it’s true. If the dealers would just keep in mind that a happy customer is worth more than 10 new customers they would thrive as well as the buyers. I’ve always thought that the dealerships need to stop acting like a used car dealer – they are selling homes for goodness sake, not cars! Maybe the industry could gain a little bit of respectability if they would stop the practice of commission based sales people. We all know that situation isn’t known for great customer service after all!

I’m not picking on the industry. Well, maybe a little. I did read several reviews earlier today that made my blood boil.

Was saving a few hundred dollars worth having your dealership’s poor after-sale service spread all over the internet by an unhappy buyer? Was taking the shortcuts and not doing everything in your power to make your customer happy after buying their dream home from you worth the negative advertising and BBB complaints?

Any other industry would be gone with this kind attitude on customer service but the need for affordable housing and the small number of competition in the industry now (due to mergers and bankruptcies) doesn’t allow the power of capitalism to work its magic in this case. All the negative manufactured home complaints in the world won’t stop people from needing affordable homes and the industry knows that, unfortunately.

But, Site-Built Homes Are No Better!

Articles all over the internet are written about the poor after-sale service of track home builders and contractors. When it comes to building homes they all love to build them but hate to repair them, even if the repair is due to their own negligence. If you’ve ever watched Holmes on Homes or spoken to a home inspector you probably know how terrible site-built home construction can be.

It’s simply not profitable to have to correct issues after you’ve already received payment for the home’s construction. That eats away the profits and no company wants that, especially a small construction company that doesn’t have the needed capital to maintain a repair crew to handle after-sale issues.

There’s good and bad in everything and while manufactured homes aren’t perfect they can be much better than a site-built home. In an ideal world, we could all buy pre-owned mobile and manufactured homes and bypass dealers completely. Still, there is little that compares to being able to order a new home exactly how you want it.

Manufactured home buyers have many more protections afforded to them than a site-built home buyer, both on a national and state level. Even with those protections manufacture home-buyers need to understand the different levels of quality and align their expectations with them. No one can pay $39,900 for a new double wide and expect the home to have top-quality materials, exterior sheathing, large studs, or screws when staples will work. It’s simply not possible.

As always, thank you for reading Mobile Home Living!

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17 Comments
  1. wendy says

    I bought a brand new manufactured home. Never lived in. I live in AZ its hot so turned that air Conditioner the bedroom vents do not blow cold. The one is 10 degrees hotter than the others. I have called Clayton home, the third party who sold me the house and the AC company. The AC company had to come out a redo all the vents air flow under the home. The ones installed were kinked wrong size and smashed. I dont know who to contact at this point. I had to pay to have this done out of my pocket 890.00. I havent lived in this for even a year. I was told the warranty did not transfer to me because it was a third party sale. I was told when I purchased the home I had a 30 yr warranty not so. Im po beyond mad.
    I understand there is a complaint site for manufactured home owners. I am not sure what its called.
    Thank you! Wendy

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Hi Wendy,

      All brand new manufactured homes have a minimum of 1-year warranty from purchase. Did you buy it from a licensed dealer? You should continue writing them and/or emailing them and keeping a record of it. Also, contact your state’s HUD agency (follow the steps in this article). Best of luck!

  2. Ralph says

    The warranty was not worth the paper it was written on. They did not return phone calls. When they sent a person to make repairs, they were nothing short of incompetent. We spent a lot of money repairing what then would or could not do. We are extremely dissatisfied with our home.

  3. Jackie says

    I own a 1998 Dutch manfactured home my biggest complaints are no water shutoffs on plumbing under sinks and no access panels to replace faucets or plumbing problems on tubs and showers you litterally have to tear the wall out to get to it and being that it’s vinayl covered dry wall this means redrywalling the whole wall with conventional dry wall or redoing the whole room truly they don’t take this into consideration or even care how much of a pain this is to the home owner if something goes wrong and needs fixed or replaced

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Preach it, Jackie! Those are some of my biggest pet peeves as well, (especially as a plumber’s helper..lol).

  4. Marcia says

    My son and I bought our Friendship manufactured home 4.5 years ago and other than the ugly skirting around the bottom that I’m trying desperately to save enough money to replace with something more attractive, our house looks no different than any site built house (and is much, much nicer on the inside. Because of the affordability, we decked it out pretty nice). I do regret not putting it on a basement though. Someone told me that since our house is on a permanent spot of land we purchased, I could sell the chassis. Is this true?

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Hi Marcia!

      That’s a really good question that I have never been asked before. I’m no professional but I don’t think you can. Your home is built onto the chassis and cannot be removed from it because it’s cambered specifically to hold the load of the home in specific areas (in layman’s terms, it’s curved to allow the home to set properly and hold the load properly based on length, weight, and layout) and if it’s ever removed you’ve lost all structural integrity of the home. Plus, with each chassis built specifically for the model a chassis would only work on another home just like yours (if at all) so it would probably only be worth whatever scrap metal is going for.

      From what I understand, a permanently installed home really has nothing to do with foundation or skirting or even a basement. It simply means that the proper tie-downs were installed correctly and to the manufacturers specs.

      If you’re talking about just the tongue, you could probably sell it but should you ever need to move the home for any reason you’ll wish you didn’t. I’d hold onto it – it’s not worth much anyway and can be stored under the home fairly easily if it’s been cut off already.

      Hope that helps! Thanks so much for reading MHL – I appreciate you!

      1. Jim says

        We purchased a modular/manf’d home several years ago as first time home buyers. Built in 1987, by Friendship Homes of Nappanee Indiana, it is complete garbage. If, and that’s a big if, the house was built to a HUD approved plan, someone needs fired. There are no headers over windows and doors even in load bearing walls. The gable was built incorrectly. The electricity looks like it was installed by a drunken 6 year old and the plumbing by their sibling. We had huge drafts near windows and especially the front door. Most of the insulation was stuffed in with complete disregard or cut up to 18 short of the void. I can see using cost efficient materials, but at least install it with some skill and craftsmanship.
        The house checked all the boxes at the time for a young married couple but has become a money pit.
        Buyer be very aware.

      2. Crystal Adkins says

        Hi Jim,

        These types of homes are built as cheaply as possible. If it happened to be built in the mid-1990s it’s even worse due to the massive sales during that time- there’s no doubt in my mind that factories would have hired a 6-year-old if they would’ve applied. In NC, they were hiring kids straight out of high school and the only requirement was a clean drug test (I know several that worked for Clayton during that time).

        Have you thought about maybe trading it in for a better level of manufactured home?

  5. Jon Woodard says

    Thanks for the great read! Me and my wife finally decided to purchase a home from Clayton. We’ve filled out the application and awaiting approval. This will give us all the information we need to consider as we move forward and help us not to get lost in the blissful fog of “finally getting a house”.

    Your site is very informative and entertaining to read.

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Jon! Be sure to read through the Buying and Selling section so you can get the best home at the best price! There’s lots of great tips!

      Good luck – so happy for you!

  6. matthew says

    I love your site! mobile homes are a much panned genre of housing. People have trouble seeing past the stereotypes to the beauty and quality of manufactured homes.
    Your 4 reasons for complaints is totally on the mark. I worked for several years on a crew for a family owned business, and have put together 200+ homes. We were the rare exception of quality and service in an industry plagued by the problems you detail. The car-sales model of dealerships is largely at fault for creating a disconnect between homeowners dreams and the quality of the home they buy. Financing by banks does not allow for adequate labor and materials in installation, installers are often subcontractors given too little to do the job right , and their work is not checked. Buyers NEED TO BE VOCAL…Tell the dealer, call the manufacturer, call the BBB. When you buy a new home check Everything, and don’t stop until they fix it!!!
    Manufactured homes are built really well overall, but that quality can easily be lost by poor installation.
    Keep up the good work Crystal, i’ll send you the remodel pics of my brothers 195(?) Spartan when it’s done.

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Hi Mathew! It’s always great to hear from someone with so much experience in the industry! Thanks so much for commenting!

      I Can’t wait to see your brother’s Spartan, they are on my top 3 all-time favorite list. I’ve never met one I didn’t like!

      Please keep in touch, with your experience I bet we could learn a lot from you!

  7. Kay Arnold says

    In my experience what you have written is true. I have owned four MHs. two were new. The after sale service was poor and aggravating after a while they won’t answer the phone if it is you calling. Some things are puzzling like not hooking up the drain to the dishwasher!
    I now have an older low budget MH. I’ve had to repair/refurbish it because it was a HUD home. Now it is livable, comfortable and I enjoy it. Is it perfect? No, I still have projects that need to be done and may always have projects I want to do. Yet, it is home my home and it is paid for! 🙂

    1. Crystal Adkins says

      Hi Kay! It’s great to hear from you – I was trying to find our emails on FB but never could get it to scroll down far enough (I struggle with FB). So glad you commented!

      You have done so much to your home – it’s looking great! I’d still love to feature it!

      1. Billie says

        I purchased a 2019 Tru Doublewide almost 5 months. I turned in a “Punch list” within the 30 day timeline but since then I have found so many more things that need to be fixed. The dealership turned my list down yesterday because I’ve been living in my new home for 3 months already. Is there anything I can do? Thanks!

      2. Crystal Adkins says

        Hi Billie,

        You have every right to have any builder/factory issues repaired in the first 12 months. Write a letter (make a copy) and send it to the dealership certified mail. In the letter state that you will be reporting their failure to repair to the state agency and to the national HUD office. Also, state that you will start posting on social media and any review site you can find. DO NOT give up – you paid for that work in the price of the home so you have every right to get it done. Send a letter every week, or even every day, if you must. Call every day. Be prepared for the ole “blame game” where the dealer will say it’s the builder’s issue and the builder will say it’s the dealer. Tell them to work it out between themselves because it’s YOUR issue and you want it all fixed ASAP.

        This is why dealerships have such terrible reputations – they earn it fair and square. Best of luck! Let me know how it goes!