Pre-Built Homes: Manufactured Housing and Standards
The term "manufactured home" was adopted in 1980 by the the
United States Congress to describe a type of house that is
constructed in a factory to comply with a building code
developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD). In the past, manufactured homes were called "mobile
homes," a term that many people still use. However, "mobile" is
no longer an accurate name because fewer than five percent of
such homes are ever moved off the owner's original site.
WARRANTIES & OTHER PROTECTIONS FOR THE HOME PURCHASER
Federal standards and written warranties protect buyers of
manufactured homes. Every manufactured home now offered for sale
has a small red and silver seal that certifies that the home has
been inspected during construction and meets federal home
construction and safety standards. These standards were
developed to assure a suitable level of performance in every
manufactured home constructed in the U.S. Such standards,
together with the manufacturers' warranties, serve to protect
you -- the home buyer.
FEDERAL CONSTRUCTION AND SAFETY STANDARDS
Since mid-1976, all manufactured homes have been constructed to
meet the federal building standards adopted and administered by
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This
national code is called the National Manufactured Home
Construction and Safety Standards. The code regulates
manufactured home design and construction, strength and
durability, fire resistance, and energy efficiency. It also
prescribes the performance standards for the heating, plumbing,
air conditioning, thermal, and electrical systems. The National
Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act also
requires that you receive a home owner's manual when you buy
your home. This manual will explain, among other things, what to
do if something goes wrong with your home. Some of the important
subjects covered in the home owner's manual include general
maintenance, safety (including a fire safety checklist), and
state agencies involved in enforcing the federal manufactured
THE MANUFACTURER'S WARRANTY
Warranties vary among different manufacturers.
Ask to see the warranties on the manufactured homes that
interest you and compare them before you buy. All retailers are
required to have copies of the manufacturers' warranties that
are offered on the homes they sell, and they will make them
available to you if you ask to see them. By reading the warranty
before you buy your home, you can make sure the home you buy is
covered by the kind of warranty protection you want.
When you buy your manufactured home, you will receive the
manufacturer's written warranty from your retailer. The
manufacturer's written warranty usually covers substantial
defects in workmanship in the structure; factory-installed
plumbing, heating, and electrical systems and factory-installed
appliances (these also may be covered by appliance warranties).
It is important to understand that the manufacturer's warranty
will not provide coverage for problems resulting from lack of
proper installation or maintenance, accidents, owner's
negligence or unauthorized repairs. Therefore, to make sure that
your home's warranty will be honored carefully follow the
manufacturer's instructions for installing, maintaining, and
repairing your home. In many cases, the retailer will perform
service under the manufacturer's warranty. However, it is the
manufacturer who has the final responsibility. Be aware that if
the retailer must order parts from the manufacturer to make a
warranty repair, shipping and delivery of those parts may affect
the amount of time it takes to get service. Before you buy your
manufactured home, ask to see the written warranties offered on
the homes the retailer sells. Manufacturers warranties cover
many, but not all, types of potential problems.
The answers to the following questions should help you get
the kind of warranty protection you want:
What warranties come with the manufactured home? You may get
warranties from the home manufacturer, the retailer, the
transporter, the installer, and the appliance manufacturers.
What exactly does each of these warranties cover? What do
they not cover?
Do the manufacturer's or retailer's written warranties on
the home cover transportation and installation? If not, are
installation and transportation covered by separate written
How long do the warranties last?
How do you get warranty service?
Who will provide service under the warranties?
Where will the warranty service be performed?
Consider these important questions about warranty coverage
before you decide which home to buy. Implied warranties are
unspoken, unwritten promises created by state law. Ask to see
all warranties in writing. Make sure you understand who offers
the warranty, who performs the service, and what is and is not
covered before selecting and buying your manufactured home. In
addition to any written warranty offered by the manufacturer,
you may have certain "implied warranties" when you buy a
manufactured home. An implied warranty is an unspoken, unwritten
promise that a product is fit to be sold and used for its
intended purposes--for example, that a manufactured home is fit
to be sold and lived in. These implied warranties protect you
even if no written warranty is offered by the manufacturer or
retailer. Most states allow sales that exclude implied
warranties ("as is" sales). However, some states do not permit a
seller to exclude or limit implied warranties. Contact your
state or local consumer protection office to ask about implied
warranty protections in your state. When buying a manufactured
house, especially a used one, make sure you know whether it is
being sold "as is" -- with no implied or written warranty.
THE RETAILER'S WARRANTY
A retailer may offer a written warranty on a home. Written
warranties are not alike. But, typically, the retailer's
warranty will tell you the terms of the warranty, what you must
do to keep the warranty in effect, what you can reasonably
expect from the retailer, and that the home has been installed
according to manufacturer specifications and local regulations.
The warranty also will guarantee that the home has a HUD
inspection seal and that optional appliances and equipment have
been properly installed. Remember, ask to see the retailer's
warranty before buying to check on what it does and does not
cover. You should know that a retailer's warranty will not
provide coverage for problems that arise from owner's
negligence, failure to provide proper notice for service, and
The appliances in your home also will be covered
by warranties. In many cases, these warranties, along with use
and care manuals, are provided by the individual appliance
manufacturers. In addition, some states require that the home
manufacturer's warranty cover the appliances that come with your
home. Read the appliance warranties and note the duration and
terms. In addition, check instructions in the warranty about how
to get service. In most cases, the quickest service can be
obtained from the appliance manufacturer's authorized service
centers. Check the use and care information on the appliance
warranties for a list of such service centers or service agents.
However, if warranty service is not available from the appliance
manufacturer or its servicer, contact your retailer for
assistance. The home manufacturer's warranty, if any, may
provide warranty service for your problem. The retailer may
offer a written warranty, but not everything will be covered.
PLACEMENT & SELECTION OF YOUR MANUFACTURED HOME
Manufactured homes offer a wide variety of styles and prices.
There is a manufactured home to fit almost every pocketbook.
Some models are designed for those whose budget limits them to a
lower-cost home. Other models have such higher-priced features
as cathedral ceilings, formal dining rooms, and wood burning
fireplaces. The home can be a single-section unit or a larger
multi-section unit. Multi-section homes come from the factory in
two or more parts that are joined at the site. A single-section
home comes from the factory as one complete unit. With more than
150 companies building manufactured homes in more than 400
factories, and with manufactured home sales centers located
throughout the United States, you have an opportunity to choose
from a wide variety of home styles.
PLACING YOUR MANUFACTURED HOME
Before you select and buy your home, you should
decide where it will be located. There are three basic options
you can consider. First, you could plan to place your
manufactured home on land you own or intend to buy. If you
choose this option, you must consider zoning laws, restrictive
covenants, and hookup regulations. Such restrictions may prevent
you from placing a manufactured home on a particular piece of
land. Second, you could plan to place your manufactured home on
a leased home site in a manufactured housing development, in
which case the company managing the development will normally
take care of these considerations. Third, you could decide to
buy a home already on a home site in a planned community. Then,
of course, you would not be faced with the typical placement
PLACING YOUR HOME ON YOUR OWN LAND
If you own or plan to buy land for your manufactured home, there
are several matters you should consider. Zoning in cities and
suburban areas, and in some semirural areas, you may face zoning
requirements that must be met. In certain areas, there may be a
prohibition against manufactured homes, or certain requirements
regarding their size and exterior appearance. You can find out
if there are any restrictions or requirements by contacting the
local community's planning and land use department. Consult your
local telephone directory for the office nearest you.
Restrictive Covenants limitations in property deeds that control
how you can use the land. These may include a requirement that
homes be a certain size or a prohibition that lands not be used
for certain purposes. The title search, conducted when you buy
the land may reveal information about such restrictions.
Sometimes, however, the restrictions are described in ways that
are difficult to understand. You may want to check with an
experienced real estate attorney to see if there are any
restrictive covenants that would keep you from placing your home
on the land you are considering. Utilities- although a
manufactured home comes complete with plumbing, electrical, and
heating systems, it must, like all homes, be connected to
electrical, water, and sewerage facilities. If your site is in a
well-developed area, all necessary utilities may be available,
subject to connection charges. Find out exactly what utilities
are available and how much it will cost to connect your home to
all utility sources. Contact your local public utilities
division for information about utility services in your area.
Make sure the the applicable zoning and the deed on your land
will allow a manufactured home to be placed there.
There are a number of important questions to
consider when placing your manufactured home in a rental
Electrical Facilities. Electricity is usually available in all
areas. But if the area where you plan to live does not have
ready access to electric power, connection could be quite
expensive. Check with the local power company to find out
whether electricity is readily accessible.
Water Facilities. In many locations, there may not be local
government-supplied water lines. If there is no water, you may
have to drill a well. Do not assume that all drilling will
provide water. Check with a local well-drilling company about
costs and whether success is guaranteed. Also, check with local
health authorities to make certain there are no problems with
the quality of the water in the area.
Sewerage Facilities. Many areas still rely on septic tank
systems instead of a city or county sanitary sewerage system. If
you cannot connect your home to a sewerage system, you must
check with local authorities about installing a septic tank.
Properly installed septic systems can work quite well. But
sometimes they cannot be used. For example, where the soft is
not able to absorb the discharged waste. For more information,
contact the local health department or the office responsible
for granting building permits.
PLACING YOUR HOME IN A RENTAL COMMUNITY
You may want to place your home on a leased site in a community
especially planned for manufactured housing. Placing your home
in such a community usually involves fewer practical problems.
If you are interested in a rental community, visit the ones in
the area where you wish to live. In addition, some manufactured
home retailers may operate their own rental communities, so you
may wish to ask the retailer for information and advice about
them. Find out what each community offers and the differences
among them, including the financial aspects, such as rental and
installation costs and any miscellaneous service charges. There
also are several questions you will want to ask before deciding
upon a particular rental community.
Is a written lease required and, if so, for how long?
What are the charges for utility connections or other
Do the community's rules require that it be responsible for
installing your home, or can you let your retailer do the
What charges will be made for installation? Who will be
responsible for ground maintenance, snow removal, refuse
collection, street maintenance, and mail?
What are the community's rules and regulations? For example,
are pets prohibited? Can you accept and live with such
Are there any special requirements or restrictions when you
sell your home?
Are there any provisions to protect you if the owner of the
manufactured home community where you lease your home site
sells the property for another purpose?
BUYING A MANUFACTURED HOME IN A PLANNED
You may want to consider another alternative and buy a home that
already is located in a planned community. As with a rental
community, there are fewer practical problems involved because
you do not have to concern yourself about placement. Be sure to
check into the costs, services, and rules of any planned
community before you buy. You should consider the matters such
as who is responsible for utility connections, if there will be
any restrictions on resale of your home, and whether you can
live with that community's rules.
CHOOSING A MANUFACTURED HOME
There are several matters you may want to
consider when choosing a home. How do I want my home to look?
You may select from a variety of exterior designs, depending
upon your taste and your budget. External siding options come in
a variety of colors and materials including metal, vinyl, wood,
or hardboard. You also may select such outside design features
as a bay window, a gable front, or a pitched roof with shingles.
Awnings, enclosures around the crawl space, patio covers, decks,
and steps also are available. What size home and floor plan do I
want or need? Manufactured homes are available in a variety of
floor plans that include spacious living rooms, dining rooms,
fully equipped kitchens, one or more bedrooms, family rooms, and
utility rooms. Depending upon your needs and the size of your
lot, you can choose a single-section home plan or a larger
multi-section design. Homes range in size from 400 to 2500
Check state laws- they may limit the movement of your home after
installation. If there is a chance that you might relocate your
home to another state, find out about state laws covering
transportation of manufactured homes. Some states, particularly
eastern states, have certain regulations, such as weight, size,
or width limitations, that may prevent you from moving your
home. Before you purchase, check with the appropriate
authorities in the states through which you may want to
transport your home. If you do move your home you will be faced
with extra expenses. Besides transporting costs, which include
licensing fees to take your home through a state, you again will
have the cost of foundation construction, installation, and
What interior options and features are available? Manufactured
homes have many options and features for a variety of floor
plans. You also can choose color and quality options for carpets
and wall coverings and you can choose other features such as
custom cabinets, window designs, and wood-burning fireplaces.
Some home models and manufacturers offer more custom options
than others. Ask your retailer what options are offered on homes
What appliance packages are available? Most
manufactured homes are sold with a refrigerator and range. But
some appliance packages may include microwave oven, trash
compactor, garbage disposal, washer/dryer, and built-in indoor
grill. Central air conditioning also is an option. Be sure your
energy package is designed for the climate zone where your home
What energy-efficiency options are available? The National
Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards require
separate energy efficiency levels for the three different
temperature zones of the United States. However, you may wish to
increase your home's energy efficiency. There are a variety of
optional energy packages available, such as increased
insulation, double- and triple-glazed windows, sheathing
products, self-storing storm windows, and "high-efficiency"
water heaters, furnaces, refrigerators, and air conditioners.
Ask your retailer about available energy-saving features and
their costs. You especially should note the "heating
certificate," which specifies the temperature zone for which the
home is designed, and the "comfort cooling certificate," which
specifies the appropriate central air conditioning system for
the home. Both certificates are located on the inside of the
home. You should not place your home in a climate zone for which
it was not designed.
What written warranty coverage is offered on the home, its
transportation, and its installation on the home site? Nearly
all manufacturers offer a written warranty on the home itself.
There are, however, important differences among warranties. For
example, manufacturers' warranties may exclude coverage of
installation and transportation (although reliable retailers or
contractors usually offer written warranties on these services).
Although you may never need such warranty services, it is a good
idea to check the coverage of any warranties that are offered
before you buy.
BUYING A MANUFACTURED HOME
Most likely you will buy your home from a retail sales center,
although today, in some states, you also could buy your
manufactured home from a real estate agent if the home is
already located in a community. Some retail sales centers are
owned and operated by a home manufacturing company, but most
retail businesses are independently owned and operated. They
sell homes built by several manufacturers. You should. use as
much care in choosing your retailer as you do in choosing your
home and its features. This is because the retailer will help
you choose your home and, if you wish, custom order it from the
factory. In addition, the retailer usually will be the one
responsible for having your home delivered and installed. The
retailer also may arrange for financing and insurance for your
home. Finally, after you move into your home, your retailer
often will be the person you contact for warranty service.
One of the best ways to find a reputable retailer is to talk
with friends who live in manufactured homes and get their
recommendations. You also might ask them to recommend a home
manufacturer. You may wish to contact your local Better Business
Bureau to find out if a particular retailer or manufacturer has
a record of unsettled or unresolved complaints on file. You also
may wish to contact your state manufactured home association and
request the names and addresses of manufacturers or retailers in
your area. Compare warranties offered by various manufacturers
SITE PREPARATION, TRANSPORTATION & HOME INSTALLATION
Proper site preparation and installation are
necessary for comfort, durability, and correct functioning of
your home. Make sure the transporting company warrants its
services in writing. Before your home is installed, you must
ensure that the site has been prepared properly. If you are
placing your home on your own land, your retailer can provide
advice on how to prepare the site. If you will be living in a
rental community, the community manager will probably take care
of site preparation. Before signing your lease, ask about this
and any other costs.
If you are having your home installed on your own land, you are
responsible for site preparation. However, it is a good idea to
ask your retailer (or whoever is going to install your home and
warrant the installation) to inspect the site prior to
installation to make sure that everything has been prepared
properly. Here are some guidelines that must be followed in
preparing the site:
The site must be accessible by the truck transporting your
The site must be as level as possible.
The precise site area must be cleared of trees, rocks, and
any other surface debris.
The soil must be graded and sloped for water runoff.
The soil must be compacted so that the foundation will not
sink or shift on loose earth fill.
Although you may be able to do some work yourself, such as
removing trees and shrubs, most site-preparation tasks, such as
grading and compacting the soil, require technical expertise.
You will need to contract for expert assistance to ensure that
your home is installed on firm land that adequately drains.
TRANSPORTING YOUR HOME
In most instances, your home will be transported first from the
factory to the retail sales center. At the center, your retailer
will use a checklist to make sure your home arrived undamaged,
and if any problem occurred while your home was being
transported from the factory, it will be repaired before
delivery to your home site. If any damage occurs while the home
is being transported to your site, the company transporting your
home is usually responsible. Therefore, you should check for
damage as soon as your home is delivered. If you find any
damage, contact the transporting company immediately. If you
allow your home to be transported by a company that does not
provide a written transportation warranty, it may be difficult
to obtain free repairs, if any are necessary. Therefore, before
you purchase your home, make certain that the transporting of
your new home is protected by a written warranty.
INSTALLING YOUR HOME
After you have chosen the retailer and your home,
have complied with local building and zoning requirements, have
obtained state inspections when necessary, have properly
prepared the site, and have gotten good warranty protection on
the home and its transportation and installation, you are ready
to have your home installed on a home site. This also requires
Every manufacturer is required by the federal standards to
provide instructions for installing your home. However, the
actual installation typically is not within the manufacturer's
control. Therefore, the installation of your manufactured home
is not covered by the manufacturer's warranty. These cautions
are not designed to worry you, but rather to alert you to the
importance of installation. Hundreds of thousands of
manufactured homes are installed on sites each year without
major problems. You should not have problems if your home is
installed by a reliable retailer or by a company that
specializes in manufactured home installation. Check for damage
as soon as you receive your home and report any problems to the
retailer or transporter as soon as possible. The manufacturer's
written warranty on the home usually will not cover problems
that are caused by improper installation. Usually, the retailer
will install your home or contract with a professional
installation crew to do the work. In most cases, the price of
your home will include the cost of installation by such
qualified professionals. Be sure to check this with your
retailer before you sign the sales contract. If installation is
not included in the price, you may have to contract with a
separate company to install your home. Ask your retailer for the
names of such companies.
Clarify in writing what installation services are provided, who
is providing them, and who warrants the work. The retailer
should spell out in writing the full scope of installation
services that are included in the price of your home. This
should assure you that everything is covered and that there will
be no misunderstandings about who is responsible for what.
Regardless of whether the retailer or a separate company
installs your home, you should follow several guidelines.
Discuss with the contractor the steps involved in
installation so you understand them.
Have the contractor write these steps into the contract.
Ask if there is a written warranty covering your home's
installation. If not, then ask to have it put in writing.
By following these guidelines, you will know exactly what you
are paying for, how to check your home to see that the work has
been done properly and, equally important, what kind of warranty
protection covers each step. Installing your home involves six
steps. The price of your home usually includes all of these
steps. Therefore, ask to see an itemized list in writing before
signing the contract to purchase your home.
1.Transporting Your Home From the Retailer's Sales Center to
Your Home Site.
The manufacturer normally is responsible for transporting the
home from the factory to the retailer, and the retailer is
usually responsible for getting the home to your land. However,
if the roads are not adequate or there are obstacles that will
make it difficult to get the home to your site, your retailer
may be unable to accept responsibility for delivering your home.
Be sure to check the route to your home site for such things as
low-hanging tree limbs and loose rocks.
2. Constructing a Foundation for Home
In addition to following the manufacturer's instructions and
complying with local law, find out if the institution financing
your home (or the rental community in which you place your home)
has foundation requirements. The Federal Housing Administration
(FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA) also have special
foundation requirements. Remind your retailer about the kind of
financing you are using so that all applicable foundation
requirements will be met. If you place your home on your own
property, you have the option of choosing from a number of
different foundation types. Several types of foundations are
available, from concrete slabs to full basements. Remember,
local codes reflecting the different climates and soil
conditions must be followed. A professional installer will know
which foundation codes are required by local law or what is
required by your financing institution.
3. Leveling Your Home.
It is essential that an experienced crew installs your home to
assure that it is leveled correctly. Leveling is one of the most
important steps in setting up your home. It must be done
according to the manufacturer's specifications. If your home is
not level on its foundation, the weight of the home will not be
distributed evenly. Poor leveling could result in such problems
as doors that do not open and close easily or floors or walls
that buckle. If any of these problems do occur because your home
was not properly leveled, the manufacturer's warranty will not
cover the repairs. Remember, the manufacturer's warranty only
covers problems resulting from faulty construction. Insist on
walking through the home before the installation crew leaves to
check for signs that your home may not be level. Leveling is
critical and must be performed by a professional crew. Walk
through your home before the installation crew leaves to assure
that the home is level. After installation has been completed
and you have checked out the installed home, it is very
important to periodically recheck the leveling of your home.
This is important because, over time, such things as foundation
supports may settle unevenly and create an un-level condition.
Such conditions can, in extreme cases, cause serious damage to
the walls and floors. Normally, you should recheck leveling
about 60 to 90 days following installation and, perhaps, once a
year after that.
4. Securing Your Home to the Foundation.
It is not sufficient merely to place your home on
a properly constructed foundation. There are certain minimum
requirements that should be met. To ensure that your home does
not shift and become damaged, it must be anchored to the ground
according to the manufacturer's instructions or as required by
local codes. Anchoring should prevent severe winds from damaging
your home. Although your home will come with instructions for
properly securing it to its foundation, anchoring is not a
do-it-yourself project. Talk with your retailer about anchoring,
and be sure that your home's installation includes this very
necessary step. Anchoring your home to the ground should be done
5. Finishing Your Home.
Once your home is secured to the foundation, finishing work may
be needed, such as an enclosure around the crawl space or
landscaping. If your home is a multi-section, finishing may
include applying molding and joining carpet on the interior or
completing work on the exterior siding.
6. Connecting Your Home to Utilities.
Installation services should include connecting your home to the
necessary water, electrical, gas, and sewerage lines. If this is
not included in your installation price, you will have to
contract for these services yourself. Your retailer can tell you
how to make arrangements for utility connections. Alternatively,
you can obtain the information from the local government agency
that oversees building permits.
INSPECTION OF YOUR NEW MANUFACTURED HOME
When you take possession of your new home, the
first thing to do is to check it over thoroughly. It is
important to discover problems early and report them to the
retailer or the installer within the warranty's time limits.
First, check to see that your home was installed properly. If
you are present during installation, ask the installation crew
manager to walk through your home with you to assist in
identifying problems and to answer your questions. Open and
close all interior and exterior doors. If a door does not open
and close smoothly, it may indicate a need for a minor hinge
adjustment, but it also may be a sign that the home is not
level. Immediately call this to the attention of the person
responsible for installation. Also, examine the entire house.
Look at the walls, the floors, and the ceilings. Be certain that
all faucets and appliances work.
You will want to make your inspection of the home
in an organized way. A good strategy is to inspect the outside
of your home first and then check the interior, carefully going
through each room. Many manufacturers provide a checklist in the
owner's manual of items you should inspect. You should fill out
the checklist and return it to the manufacturer as soon as
possible. As you make your inspection, jot down on paper every
item you think requires service. When you are finished, make
copies of the list -- one for you, one for your retailer, and an
extra copy for the manufacturer. It is also a good idea to put
the date of your inspection on the list. Carefully inspect your
home for any problems as soon as it is installed; make sure that
it is level-check doors, windows, and drawers. *Remember that
installation is the key to durability and proper functioning of