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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!