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Consumers Union’s Tips on Mobile Homes

 
Table of Contents:
Introduction
How much home can you afford?
How much home do you need?
Select a home location
Line up financing
Selecting the home
A roof over your head
A look at the walls
Avoiding plumbing problems
Choosing windows and floors
Heating and air-conditioning
Electrical system system and appliances
Protecting the underside
Weathering the weather
Getting home and settled
Establishing a solid foundation
Do you need a warranty?
Other considerations
Dealing with the dealer
Negotiate carefully
Your purchase
If something goes wrong
Where else to turn
Important phone numbers
Checklists
Note: Though you’ll probably find "mobile homes" listed in your yellow pages, "manufactured housing" is the name preferred by the industry and Congress.  To its credit, the industry has come a long way from the stereotypical "mobile home," but consumers still commonly use the term “mobile home.”  The homes we discuss in this brochure all must meet a federal standard defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Homes built to the HUD standard do not have to comply with local building codes. 

Throughout this document, we use the terms "mobile home" and “manufactured homes” interchangeably.


Introduction

If you’re thinking about buying a mobile home, Consumers Union can help you pick the right one at the right price.  This report includes money-saving tips, as well as valuable advice, on which features to look for – and which to avoid – when purchasing a home.

New mobile homes range from small, simple, single-section homes to large, multi-section units with fancy features such as a fireplace or a cathedral ceiling.  Because of the wide price range, manufactured housing is a good housing choice for some consumers.  In fact, about 8.8 million American households live in mobile homes.

But mobile homes are not without their problems.  In a nationwide survey of mobile-home owners conducted by Consumers Union, 6 out of every 10 people reported a major problem with their homes.

To help you avoid many common problems with your mobile home, the experts at Consumers Union prepared this report, based on our survey, interviews, research and visits to several manufactured home factories, trade shows, and communities.  We’ll show you what to look for when you shop for a mobile home, as well as how to handle problems that may arise after you move in.

How Much Home Can You Afford??

Manufactured homes are often sold separately from the land on which they will be placed.  When calculating how much home you can afford, you need to factor in the cost of the land or land rental.

If you purchase land be sure to include costs to prepare it for your home: clearance and grade work, a well or septic system, electrical and water connections, driveways, porches, landscaping, and more.

If you place the home in a park, these costs may be bundled into “park packages,” which pay for improvements such as driveways and carports for lots owned by the landlord.  Don’t forget to factor in likely rent increases when budgeting this option.

Charges to transport the home from the factory and install it at its final destination may be included in the price of the home.  If you buy a used homes sold in place, you will not incur these costs.

New mobile-home owners also shoulder long term costs that need to be factored into your budget:  insurance, utilities, taxes, maintenance and repairs.  Despite warranties, surveys show new mobile-home owners can have significant out-of-pocket repair costs in the first years of ownership.

Compare the total cost of a manufactured home (not just the purchase price) to the cost of condos, houses, and apartments in your area.  Knowing all your options will also help you to negotiate the final price if you decide to buy a manufactured home.

If this is your first home, consider homeownership counseling.  A mobile home is no less a commitment than a conventional home, and a counselor can help you prepare for the purchase process and the responsibilities of homeownership.

How Much Home Do You Need?

Before buying a manufactured home, carefully consider the pros and cons of the design and floor plan.

Single-section mobile homes are made of one main unit; multi-section homes are made of two or more pieces joined together.  Compare the floor plans of single-section and multi-section homes to help you determine how much room you need and what design best meets your needs.

Retailers should provide sales literature for models you like.  The literature often shows the home’s basic construction specifications, its features, and the variety of floor plans available.

Both single-section and multi-section homes have their problems:

  •     Single-section homes tend to have more problems with floors, roofs, windows, and doors.
  •     Multi-section homes tend to have problems related to the joining of the sections.

Single-section and multi-section mobile homes come in a variety of sizes – with prices to match.  In general, single-section homes are less expensive than double-section homes, which are less expensive than triple-section homes.

The average single-section home has about 1,100 square feet of living space and costs about $30,700.
The average double-section home has about 1,700 square feet of living space and costs about $55,100.

Select a Home Location

Before you select a home, decide whether you want to rent or own your land, and find a lot.  If you own the land and place the home on a permanent foundation, you enjoy better financing options, and your home is more likely to appreciate in value.

    * Beware zoning or restrictive covenants that limit your ability to place mobile homes on some private lots.  Rental parks and some localities have restrictions on the size, type, and appearance of homes allowed in their communities.  Your home will likely have higher resale value if its design fits in well with the neighborhood.

    * If you do not buy land, be sure to examine all park rules and lease terms, including allowable rent increases.  Some rental communities require you to move your home out of the community if it is a certain age at the time you decide to sell it.  Some parks have specific rules relating to the landlord's right of access to the inside of your home, behavior of children, use of clothes lines, parking and much more that might affect your decision to live there.  It is important to be aware of these restrictions before purchasing a home.

Line Up Financing

Investigate your financing options before you even get on the lot.  Check out banks and credit unions as well as traditional manufactured housing lenders.  Traditionally, dealers finance mobile homes using personal property loans rather than mortgage loans, at rates 2-4 percentage points higher.  Dealers often get a commission for obtaining credit for you, so you may be better off talking 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.

Get your credit report and score from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) before you start shopping for financing.  They all offer easy access on-line for a small fee.

If your credit score is low, visit a credit counselor and find ways to improve your credit profile before you shop for a home.  If your score is high, you can take this information with you when you shop for a manufactured home. 

Do not give your personal information to each dealer to run your credit, but ask them to give you a home price and estimate of the loan terms based on the credit information you give to them. 

When multiple dealers check your credit, it can actually reduce your score.  Be careful, but don’t allow this to keep you from thorough comparison shopping.

If you are also buying land, combining the loan for the house and the land may save you money, especially if the house is placed on a permanent foundation and therefore eligible for a conventional mortgage at lower interest rates.

If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct the interest from a loan on a mobile home regardless of whether or not you own the land, as long as it is either your main or second home.

Keep the term of your loan to the shortest reasonable time period.  The longer the term, the slower you will build equity in the home.  With a long term and low down payment, it is easy to find yourself owing more than the home is worth.  This makes it very hard to sell or refinance the home without a loss.

If you get a variable-rate loan and the monthly payments are affordable for you today, check the highest possible payments if interest rates rise.  "Step" rate loans that start with very low interest rates are enticing because initial monthly payments are very low, but the rate (and your monthly payment) rises at regular intervals and you probably cannot refinance at the original low rate.

Selecting the Home

If you are purchasing a new or almost-new home, find out if you can visit the manufacturing plants where the homes you are considering are built.  At the end of this brochure is an extensive checklist that will assist you in comparing the various materials and production techniques used to build manufactured homes.

Remember to consider durability and reliability when choosing options in your price range.  Visual appeal and floor plans are important considerations, but upgrades “behind the walls” will help you continue to enjoy your home long after you finish paying for it.

This state-of-the-art asphalt-shingled roof has vents built into the overhang.

A Roof Over Your Head

Choose a shingled roof, rather than a metal roof, if possible.  Make sure the roof hangs over the edge of the house and that it is properly ventilated.

Look for a roof that extends beyond the sides of the house.  This overhang helps prevent rainwater from entering the walls and causing damage.  Most shingled roofs have some overhang; most metal roofs do not.

Be sure your home has adequate attic ventilation.  The attic space for most homes with metal roofs is sealed and unventilated; this can cause moisture to gather in the winter and can make the whole house hotter in the summer.  In addition, most metal roofs don’t have decking beneath them, so standing on the roof can cause damage or leaks.

In houses with shingles, an unventilated or improperly ventilated attic can shorten shingle life or void the warranty on the shingles.  New homes with shingles are likely to have proper ventilation; older homes may not.

Even though it may cost more, we recommend that you upgrade to an adequately-ventilated, shingled roof with a substantial overhang.


Better homes have 2x6-in. studs spaced 16 inches apart with wood sheathing. Vinyl siding minimizes home-maintenance needs.

A Look At The Walls

Look for a home with exterior wall studs 16 inches apart.  Choose vinyl siding rather than metal or hardboard siding.  And look for a home with exterior walls at least 7 1/2 feet high.

Exterior walls built with 2 x 6-in. lumber are sturdier than those built with 2 x 4-in. lumber, provided the grade and spacing of the studs are the same.  The wider studs also make room for more insulation in the walls. Taller exterior walls provide higher ceilings in the home and can allow the use of standard-height doorways.

Choose a home with exterior sheathing that provides structural strength.  The sheathing is typically a layer of plywood or oriented-strand board (OSB) between the studs and the siding.  Homes with metal siding may not have structural exterior sheathing.

Homes with metal and hardboard siding tend to have more water problems.  Metal siding often has a decorative railing, which can allow water to slip behind the siding, usually at the doors and windows.  In homes with hardboard siding, water can be absorbed at the seams and joints, which can cause the siding to rot.

Most interior walls are made of pre-wallpapered gypsum board.  Many people prefer the look of taped and finished drywall, but it can crack during transport.

Avoiding Plumbing Problems

Choose high-quality plumbing fixtures, such as standard kitchen and bathroom faucets and sinks (this may require an upgrade).  Request a shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture.

Plumbing problems are the most common complaints among  manufactured homeowners.  In our survey, more than one out of every three reported such problems.

Many mobile homes are equipped with low-quality sinks, tubs, showers, and faucets made of thin molded plastic, which may lead to cracks and leaks.  We recommend that you upgrade to fixtures made of heavy reinforced plastic or porcelain-covered steel.

Many toilets do not have a shutoff valve, which can be an inconvenience or cause additional problems during a repair or an emergency.  Request a shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture, and know where to find the main water shutoff valve for your home.

To stop plumbing problems before they become structural problems, periodically examine the visible connections in your plumbing system and check beneath the sinks and under your home for leaks and signs of moisture.


Mechanically joined window-frame corners can leave gaps. The welded corner seams on vinyl frames reduce drafts and water leaks.

Choosing Windows and Floors

Choose insulated (double-pane) glazed windows with welded vinyl frames. The corners of these frames are fused together, not glued or screwed, so there are no gaps for air or water to leak in.

Double-hung and sliding windows are the two main types offered in mobile homes.

Poor caulking – or none at all – between window frames and sheathing can lead to water damage by allowing rainwater to enter the walls. (Caulking is just as important between door frames and sheathing.)

Choose windows with vinyl frames, since they require little care and allow less transfer of heat and cold than aluminum frames.

If possible, choose a floor with 2x8-in. joists spaced 16 inches apart with a plywood subfloor.

Avoid particleboard subfloors. When it gets wet, particleboard is more susceptible than plywood to problems such as swelling, warping and loss of strength. Larger joists, smaller joist-spacing, and thicker subflooring can reduce floor flexing and sagging.

A plywood subfloor is more water-resistant than particleboard. To reduce floor flexing, look for 2x8-in. floor joists.


Heating and Air-conditioning

If you live in a cold climate, choose a home with heating and cooling air outlets around the edges of the rooms. If you live in a hot climate, choose a home with air outlets in the ceiling.

Almost all mobile homes have forced-air heating and air-conditioning. Air-supply outlets are typically located in one of three places: in the floor along the center of the home, in the floor along the exterior walls, or in the ceiling.

If the air ducts are under the floor, locating the outlets along exterior walls will provide greater comfort. You are also less likely to trip over them or block them with furniture. You may have to pay extra for this option.

Heating and cooling equipment should match your home’s needs as specified on the data plate (see page 11). If you live in a very hot or a very cold climate, we recommend that you chose to upgrade your home’s insulation rather than opting for oversized equipment.

Mobile homes with central heating often place heated-air outlets in inconvenient locations, such as the center of a room or in walkways.
Heating outlets placed along the cold exterior walls – an option we recommend – are more convenient and provide greater comfort.


The Electrical System and appliances

Homeowners who use electricity for cooking, heating, and air-conditioning should consider upgrading to a service higher than 100 amps, if this is not already standard.

Make sure all outdoor electrical outlets, as well as those near sinks in the bathroom and kitchen, have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection. You can recognize these outlets by buttons marked "Test" and "Reset."

The more electrical circuits in the home, the better. If you have more than one circuit serving the kitchen, for example, you are less likely to overload those circuits and trip the circuit breaker.

If you plan to add ceiling fans or chandeliers to your new house, ask the manufacturer to provide additional structural support and fixtures at the plant.

Consider buying your appliances (such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators) separately.  Purchasing them with the house limits your ability to shop for the exact model and options you desire.


Protecting The Underside

Put a protective skirt around your home, making sure the bottom of your home remains well ventilated.

The underside of a mobile home is typically covered with a plastic sheet or "belly wrap," designed to seal out moisture and hold the insulation in place.  If the belly wrap sags or tears, a gap may form in the insulation. Tears can allow moisture to enter the underside of the home.  Rodents, insects, and other pests can also enter your home through holes in the belly wrap.  

Some manufacturers use wire mesh above the bottom board to hold the insulation in case of damage to the bottom board.  We recommend that you select this option if it is available.  

About every three months and after severe weather you should inspect the belly wrap for signs of damage or sagging.  Most problems can be handled with a do-it-yourself repair kit.  

Placed around your home’s perimeter, a skirt of wood lattice or brick – or even a vinyl or aluminum prefabricated skirt from a kit – can help protect the belly wrap and improve your home’s appearance.

The underside of a mobile home is typically covered with a tarpaulinlike belly wrap. This is best protected by using skirting or a full foundation.


Weathering The Weather

The data plate indicates the home’s design wind load, heating load, and roof load. Be sure the home you buy is designed for the region where you plan to live.

Be sure your home meets government standards for the region where you live.

The government has established mobile-home minimum performance standards for various weather conditions for different regions of the U.S. These standards include:

  • Wind zones. Wind Zone 3 houses are designed for hurricane-prone areas; Wind Zone 2 houses, for other coastal areas; Wind Zone 1 houses, for most of the rest of the U.S.
  • Energy zones. Thermal Zone 3 houses (Northern U.S.) have more insulation than houses intended for Thermal Zone 2, which in turn have more insulation than Thermal Zone 1 houses.
  • Roof-load zones. These standards reflect the amount of snow-fall expected in a given area.
We recommend that you upgrade the insulation in your home. By lowering your costs to heat and cool your home, you’ll save money in the long run.  Insulation is measured by “R-values.”  The higher the R-value, the more insulation.  Be sure to check the R-value of the floor, walls and ceiling, as they are calculated separately.

Homeowners in areas prone to high wind or tornadoes may wish to upgrade their home to a higher wind zone.

To ensure that you choose a home that meets the government standards for the region where you plan to live, check the data plate. You can find it in a closet or cabinet in the kitchen, utility area, or bedroom.

Getting Home and Settled

Proper transportation and installation of your mobile home is critical.

Every manufacturer must provide instructions explaining how to prepare the home site and install and anchor your home. Get a copy of this guide and read it before your home is installed; if possible, be present yourself. Bring the installation guide and follow what the installer is doing.

Plan to spend several thousand dollars to move and install your home. Retailers may bundle this cost into the price of the home, and you can often include it in your financing package. A used home on its own land or a park site will not incur these costs. And be sure to find out your retailer’s plans for your home’s hitch and axles: They’re valuable.

Some manufacturers "certify" installers or provide "factory crews" to install their homes. Be sure your installers have experience working with the brand and model home that you choose. Factory crews most likely will be more familiar with the installation requirements of the home you buy.

If your state requires movers and installers to be licensed, be sure to use only companies that qualify. (Phone numbers for state administrative agencies are listed at the end of this booklet)

Your mobile home can be moved and installed by the dealer or by a private company. Before hiring a mover or installer, ask for references, and check them out. Also ask your new neighbors about their experiences and recommendations. Finally, look for a mover or installer who is insured and bonded – that can simplify any damage claim.

Establishing a Solid Foundation

The most important way to protect your mobile home from damage and structural problems is to place it on a solid foundation or support. Be sure your home is supported and anchored following the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you own the land where you will erect your mobile home, consider installing a permanent foundation with a poured concrete slab and a crawl space. A solid foundation will minimize damage cause by shifting and settling ground.  Studies indicate a multi-section home on a permanent foundation will perform better in high wind events such as tornadoes and hurricanes than a single section on blocks with tie-downs.

Anchors or tie-downs help prevent the house from slipping off its piers, particularly during storms and natural disasters. They may be driven or screwed into the ground, and they should be tautly connected to hold your home securely in place.

An improper support under your home can cause serious problems. Be sure any support rests on deep concrete pads or footings, not directly on the ground. Homes on metal stands or posts tend to have more problems than those on concrete posts.

The ground itself should be sloped, so rainwater runs away from your home.

Many warranties become void if the installation site is not properly prepared. Find out if the installer, retailer, park owner, or site contractor will certify that the site is properly prepared to receive a home and meet the warranty requirements. This may protect you if the manufacturer, retailer, or installer attempts to invalidate their warranty due to improper site preparation.  Find out if the final home installation will be inspected by a state inspector.

Do You Need a Warranty?

Look for a manufacturer that offers a long-term warranty with few exclusions.

Manufacturers, retailers, installers, and component manufacturers may offer separate warranties, each of which covers a different part of the home.  Consumers can have trouble determining who is responsible if problems after the purchase. 

In our survey, we found that mobile home owners who bought directly from the manufacturer tended to have fewer problems with their homes than owners who bought from an independent retailer.  When you buy direct from a manufacturer, a single company makes, sells, moves and installs your home.  Licensing laws in some states may prohibit direct to consumer sales by manufacturers.

Although many states require that mobile-home manufacturers offer warranties good for one year or longer, terms can extend to five years or even longer.  But be sure to compare the coverage of a warranty, not just its length.  Many exclude “cosmetic” items – the definition of which can be a source of contention down the line. Some exclude important items such as wall cracks, leaky faucets, doors and windows.  Others exclude problems caused by moving and installation – a common source of complaints.

Ask for copies of the complete warranty to take home and compare against those offered on other homes. Look at the combined terms of all the warranties that cover a home.

Find out what voids the warranty.  Sometimes moving or selling the home can void the warranty, as can improper site preparation. Ask the retailer or manufacturer to examine your lot and certify that your site preparation meets the standards required by the warranty.  Discover what, if any, regular home maintenance is needed to keep the warranty in force.

Used homes may have a very limited warranty or no warranty at all. Be wary of homes sold ‘as-is’ with no warranty - there may be hidden problems with the home.  We advise you to have all used homes professionally inspected prior to any purchase commitment.

Be wary of “extended warranties.” These are often little more then high-priced insurance products issued by third party companies. Terms of extended warranties may be different then the original warranty, so evaluate them as closely. If you are financing the extended warranty, factor in the additional interest cost.


Other Considerations

Arbitration clauses: These contract terms limiting your right to sue are more common in manufactured homes than conventional housing.  Ask if the retailer, manufacturer, or finance company uses mandatory binding arbitration clauses in their contracts.  If they do, find out the cost to file a claim and who gets to pick the arbitrator.  We advise consumers to avoid arbitration contracts that are both mandatory and binding.

Quality of Service:  Get references from previous customers of the manufacturer and retailer.  Check more than one, preferably people who have been in their homes long enough to experience the quality of warranty service.  You can also check the record of the manufacturer, retailer, and installer at agencies such as the state attorney general or the state manufactured housing agency.

Escrow of Funds: Some consumers report delays in warranty service. If the retailer has already been paid in full, there is less incentive for prompt service. We recommend asking the lender to escrow (i.e. delay payment of) some of the funds for the house until the installation and initial warranty repairs are complete and inspected by a third party.

Beware of "package" deals
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. You pay for items in a package deal – prepaid park rent, insurance premiums, even furniture and stereo systems – by adding the cost onto your loan. This will cut into your equity in the home.  Given the relatively high interest rates on personal property loans, it will cost you more than the items are worth in the long run.

In particular, you will pay less for your property insurance if you buy it directly from an insurance company. If you buy it from the dealer, the cost of one to five years of coverage is typically added to your loan and you will pay significant interest on it. At the end of that initial policy you will need renew or replace your insurance at an additional monthly charge, while your monthly mortgage payments will not decrease.

Dealing With The Dealer

Buying a home, any home, is a long-term commitment. In contrast, dealers can get you approved and have a contract ready for you to sign in a matter of hours or days. Don’t be rushed.  Take time to understand everything about the purchase contracts and loan documents you consider signing.

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.

Don't put money "down" until you have the loan documents in front of you with the final price and terms. A deposit reserves a specific home for you, while a down payment is actually part of the home purchase. A deposit should be relatively small ($100 to $500) and may not be necessary. Remember, manufactured housing is mass produced-more homes very similar to the one you prefer will be for sale the next time you stop by. A down payment might range from 5-20% of the purchase price, and shouldn't be paid until the loan documents are complete, approved, and in front of you.

Negotiate Carefully

Appraisal guides for manufactured homes, often available at your public library, estimate the value of used homes.  Although the actual value of a home will vary based on location and options, this can help shoppers for both new and used home place prices in perspective. 
 
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.

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.

Avoid pinning your hopes on only one home or one dealer. Get firm prices on all options from several dealers and several brands.  Dealer markups on homes can vary widely and are often negotiable.

Closing your deal

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.

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.

Over 30 years at 11%, a $4,000 up-front origination fee will cost you $9,700 in interest or a total repayment of $13,700. This extra money is nonrefundable and effectively eliminates your equity in the home over the first several years. Prepaid points that you finance can save you money if (1) you do not intend to sell the home over the course of the loan and (2) you know you are buying a significant interest rate reduction.

If the dealer tells you that a family member with better credit must co-sign or even buy the home for you, that family member may end up the permanent owner of the home. Dealers may promise to change these arrangements in the future, but be unable to fulfill such promises. Get details of these "buy-for" 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. Keep them in a safe place.

It is important that you do not sign any documentation that you know to be false. For example, don't sign papers stating you've put more money down on the house than you actually provided. This is illegal, and can limit your legal recourse later if you have problems with the loan or home

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!
 

After Your Purchase

Once you’ve bought the home, you can continue to take steps to protect your investment and ensure proper service.
  • Inspect your home after it is installed and before you move in, especially for “cosmetic” damage that may be difficult to prove wasn’t your fault later on.
  • If you are contacted by your lender about the status of the home, don’t tell them the installation is complete unless it is complete to your satisfaction. You can tell the lender it has been delivered, but has not yet been properly installed to your satisfaction.
  • Store all documents and correspondence pertaining to the sale of your home in a safe place.
  • Review the homeowner’s guidelines and other information found in the homeowner’s manual required by Federal law to be delivered with the home.
  • Follow any maintenance schedule, such as caulking windows and re-leveling foundations, recommended in the manual or by your installer.  Maintain documentation of all maintenance and repairs performed on the home.
  • As you near the end of your warranty period, carefully inspect the home for signs of problems.

If Something Goes Wrong

If you have a problem with your manufactured home that should be covered under your warranty:

  • Organize all your records and document your complaints.  Make record of all conversations with retailers, manufacturers, and state and federal agencies from this point on.
  • Contact both your retailer and your manufacturer. Contact information should be in the homeowners manual or other documentation provided at the sale. If you contact a party by phone, be sure to follow up with written notifications to both your manufacturer and retailer. Address the letters to specific people with specific titles to create a clear paper trail.  Include your name, contact information, and the label number of your home.  The label number can be found on a red seal issued by HUD and affixed to all homes built under their jurisdiction.
  • Keep the letter brief and to the point. Include the date and place you made the purchase, who performed your installation, the serial or model number and warranty terms, what went wrong and any actions you have taken to correct the problem.
  • Enclose copies of your records (store the originals in a safe place), including receipts, guarantees, warranties, cancelled checks, contracts, and any other documentation.
  • Send the letters by certified mail. Some states will require this as proof of notice.
  • If service personnel attempt to perform work, but do not complete repairs to your satisfaction, do not sign off on service orders that state the job has been completed.

Where Else to Turn

All manufactured homes should be constructed to meet the federal building standards adopted and administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD generally contracts with state agencies (State Administrative Agencies or SAAs) to enforce the code and monitor complaints.

If you cannot get your retailer or purchaser to perform the necessary repair work, you may wish to contact your SAA for a complaint form. Contact information should be in your homeowner’s manual and is also available in the appendix to this report.

Send the completed complaint form back to the SAA with dated copies of your correspondence with retailers and manufacturers and a copy of your purchase agreement. The agency will review your complaint and send an inspector or district representative out to your home. Follow up if the delay becomes unreasonable. If the agency declines to inspect you home, in some states you have the right to ask for, and receive, an inspection.

If the inspector finds your problem to be a result of a manufacturing defect, they will lobby both your manufacturer and retailer to remedy the situation. Even if your warranty has expired, some states will still force the retailer and manufacturer to compensate owners whose problems are the result of a manufacturing defect. Your state may even have a recovery fund with which to fix your problem if your retailer or manufacturer is out of business.

Used homes have shorter warranty periods, and your state may only have limited jurisdiction over them.  The SAA may also not address issues such as implied warranty and deceptive trade practices. Implied warranties are non-verbal, non-written guarantees that a product is fit to serve the purpose for which it was sold.

If the SAA directs the licensee to perform work and it is not completed to your satisfaction, tell the SAA. They may assume the work is completed and close your file if they don’t hear from you. If you have no success with your State Administrative Agency or HUD and you feel the regulatory system was not sufficient to address your problems, be sure to notify your state and federal elected officials.

Important Phone Numbers

Department of Housing and Urban Development (800) 927-2891.

State Administrative Agencies
http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/mhs/mhssaa.cfm

Manufactured Housing Institute—an industry association (703) 558-0400

Checklists

The Purchase Process Checklist
  • Determine budget
  • Arrange financing
  • Determine need (size, floorplan)
  • Shop for location (land or community)
  • Shop for home specifications (see Consumer Materials and Process Comparison Checklist)
  • Choose foundation type (permanent, block, etc.)
  • Shop for site preparation work (clearing, grading, etc.)
  • Shop for homes
  • Check references on manufacturer, dealer, and installer
  • Shop for site additions (stairs, decks, garages, etc.)   
  • Shop for insurance
  • Do not close or contract for a home until you have considered all aspects of the deal.
  • After purchase, maintain documentation of regular maintenance performed on the home.
Material and Process Comparison Checklist (Click to download PDF)

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Copyright 1997-2003

The material and process comparison checklist contains material developed in collaboration with the
following individuals affiliated with Michigan State University's Construction Management Program: Afshan S. Barshan.  Dr. Jack H. Willenbrock.  Dr. Tariq S. Abdelhamid.  Dr. Matt Syal.

   

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