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Posted November 8, 2010

Do Not Buy A Manufactured Home

We did. And brother, are we ever sorry. Let us count the ways.

It is reasonable to assume that every manufacturing home business is run in the same manner. Our manufacturer, Summit Crap Homes (as we affectionately call Summit Crest Homes), was owned and operated by Champion Homes which owned and operated a number of home manufacturing businesses under a variety of names. We understand Champion Homes filed for bankruptcy and based upon our experiences, we can understand why. The word "worthless" comes to mind.

The Real Customer
To begin with, when you buy a manufactured home you are not the customer. The broker, the dealer from whom you bought the home, is the actual customer as far as the manufacturer is concerned. The broker buys the home from the manufacturer and then sells it to you. Since the manufacturer gets the money from the broker, and not from you, the manufacturer's only allegiance is to the broker. While both the broker and the manufacturer will claim otherwise, they have the business relationship and you are simply a source of revenue. Mistake number 1 is buying a manufactured home.

Model Homes
Model homes are just that - model homes. Usually they will be top-of-the-line as opposed to what your budget is. Everything in a model home is an up-grade. That is why it looks so good. The kitchen counters and cabinets look great because they are. The sale people know that you are looking to save as much money as possible, and frankly, they get paid only if you buy the home. So they have no interest in telling you anything that will cause you to leave and not buy. They will not tell you, unless you ask, that the carpeting in the model home is far better than the carpeting you are selecting. They will not tell you that the home manufacturer has periodic specials for the broker so the broker will promote certain accessories that did not sell well in the past.

You cannot simply buy a manufactured home and have it delivered ready for habitation like you order an automobile that is ready to drive. You need a contractor. A licensed contractor. Usually, the broker doubles as a contractor and the broker will tell you they charge a small flat fee to do the job since you purchased the home from them. Mistake number 2 is using the broker as the contractor. An independent contractor's allegiance is to you while the broker/contractor has another sucker hooked. Before hiring a contractor, take the time to go to the county building offices and ask to see the files on the contractor. All complaints and other problems will be in that file. We did not do that before but rather after. That was a mistake. The file on our broker/contractor, one Barbara Robbins of NorthStar Homes, was about two inches thick: complaint after complaint after complaint. Her file in the next county was worse. Mistake number 3 is not doing your homework on your contractor.

Your contract to buy the home will usually include an inspection clause that gives you some 48 hours immediately after the home is delivered to reject the home. That is, if you are given the delivery date and the home is actually delivered on time. If you live out of state, or several states away, dropping everything to get to the building site real fast is a logistical nightmare. You see, you will be given one or two days notice that the home has left the factory. In many cases, delivery will take one to two days once it has left the factory. If you do not really hustle, you will not be able to inspect the home within the allowed 48 hours for inspection. The home parts will be delivered on a chassis that is considered to be part of the home. When removed from the chassis and placed upon the foundation, the chassis now becomes scrap, but, as part of the house, that scrap belong to you. And unscrupulous contractor, or broker/contractor, will sell the chassis and pocket the money because you did not know better. When we questioned Summit Crest concerning this, Summit Crest ducked the question. The home manufacturers know the scam happens but when it is one of their brokers, they look the other way.

Site Preparation
Before your newly purchased manufactured home can be used, there are a number of things that must be done. Permits must be pulled. A licensed contractor will make sure you have signed the proper papers so the contractor can function on your behalf. Our contractor forged signatures on documents filed with the county. Relevant papers and copies of licenses pulled in your name will be on file in the county building offices for you to see.

Generally a simple task but our contractor failed the driveway inspection a week after the license was pulled. The driveway marker was not according to county standards, and the county included a drawing of how the marker was to look. Our contractor, Barbara Robbins of NorthStar Homes, failed even when a drawing was included? In built-up areas the driveway marker lets crews and inspector know where the home is going.

Under the house

Your home has to sit on something. If you opt for no basement, there will be a crawl space under the house. You must have access to gas lines and water lines coming into the house. You should demand that your crawl space have a few electrical outlets, switches and lights for when you have to go under the house. And you will. If you are on well water, as we are, you will have the water line coming from the well into a holding tank under the house. This tank will provide your water pressure.

If you are not on municipal water and sewer, you will have a hook-up through the foundation to your septic. You want to make sure that the external covers for the septic are at ground level and accessible because you will need to get the septic pumped every year or two. Replacing a septic is far more expensive than having it pumped out.

If you are not on municipal water take the time to have your well water tested for contaminates. Well water will often have sediment that will accumulate in your water heater and other places. Having an in-line water filter installed under the house helps remove this sediment. This is far cheaper and easier to do this when the house is being places rather than later on. Minerals will often be in the water as well. These minerals will accumulate on your coffee maker causing it to wear out faster. These minerals, and the sediment that gets past the water filter, will also accumulate in your body. Minerals are very difficult to remove using standard in-home filtration. We suggest using distilled water for coffee and other drinking. The well water is fine for all other uses. If you have a high mineral content, distilled water is an inexpensive alternative.

County regulations will require vents under the house. It seems that virtually all counties have become bureaucratic fascists and want to regulate all aspects of ones existence. Where we are, in the middle of Colorado at 9,000 feet in a valley, it is very dry. The vents are to allow moisture buildup to escape. But we have no moisture buildup under the house. What our vents do is to allow heat to escape from under the house during the very cold winters and endangering the water pipes especially when the temperature goes below zero.

The bottom of the manufactured home will be insulated and sealed in heavy plastic. The only openings will be for waste water and sewage. This is reasonable but it does present a problem working under the house when one attempts to locate lines.

Remembering that we are talking about manufactured homes so there are some things you will not see until it is too late. Since the home is somewhat self-contained, and the house pieces must be transported, the factory must make adjustments that you would not see in a stick built home. One of these adjustments is the drainage from the baths and the toilets. There is a very limited amount of space going down and do not forget the thick layer of insulation and the heavy plastic sheeting. So, to accommodate for the limited space, the drains do not have much of a drop like regular drains. For example, the bath drain drops about 5 inches and then immediately comes up 4 ½ inches and runs off to the side a foot or so before it drops again. This makes for a very slow drain which tends to clog easily. A better way would be to have an opening through the insulation to drop the drains under the house but that would require more foundation expense, not a lot more considering, but their goal is to sell houses so costs are trimmed everywhere.

Middle Seam
Your manufactured home will have a seam down the middle. This causes two problems for you that the dealer will never mention. Carpeting is the only practical way of covering the seam. There goes being able to ever have hardwood flooring and/or vinyl tile. And the carpeting offered by the dealer/manufacturer is below crap. The installer works for the dealer, not you, so any complaints and problems go through the dealer first, who is not going to agree with your assessment. The second problem is seams along the ceiling. There will be cracks everywhere and there is nothing that can be done except using caulk which has to be replaced every few years. These problems do not exist in well-built stick homes. Stick-built homes are not really more expensive nor do they take significantly longer.

We did not know that Whirlpool had a Piece-Of-Shit line of appliances and our manufactured home came with the complete line. We are on solar power so we monitor electrical use closely. Lights get turned off and certain appliances get run only when it is sunny. The Whirlpool dishwasher was getting used maybe every two weeks. It died after nine months. Pump shot. Right after the warranty ran out. The Whirlpool refrigerator was an energy eater. After a few years we replaced the refrigerator with a Sears refrigerator and a small chest freezer, both of which draw less power than the Whirlpool refrigerator did. When we inquired about not getting a refrigerator and other appliances with the house, we were told by Craig Davis that the credit for not getting the stock refrigerator was $50.00. Likewise small credits for not getting the other stock appliances. Why? Profit. The stove routinely loses its pilot lights and the oven fluctuates by 50 degrees, over and under, from the oven knob setting. The water heater was 30 gallons which should have been 40 gallons but then again, the bottom line is their profit, not your house.

Sinks are generally made of ceramic or stainless steel. Or at least, that is what one would come to expect from experience. We were not told that our sinks were going to be hard plastic. We found this out when a knife was dropped and it stuck in the sink. Cheap plastic instead of standard materials.

As one bath was being redone, it was discovered that electrical wiring was running through the wall near and under the water lines. That is disturbing. A water leak could have been a major disaster. The wiring in manufactured homes is not inspected by the county since the homes are delivered finished. The light switches are non-standard equipment and when they break, and they will, they must be rewired and replaced. And some switches are not attached to studs, as is standard, which makes replacing them all the more difficult.

The shower knobs and the 3-way attachment for the shower were plastic and non-standard equipment. When a shower knob broke, it was discovered there was no access panel to the water supply for the shower. Of course not: those cost money. After cutting through the wall, it was discovered there were no shut-off valves to the water supply going to the shower. Of course not: those cost money and the buyer cannot see the lack of them until too late. Since the shower plumbing was non-standard, after the cutoffs were installed, it required a plumber to install new shower hardware. This had to be done in both baths.

What looks like interior doors, and feels like wood, is not. They are pressed material made to look like wood and they have a cardboard interior. Cheap is the word that comes to mind first followed by con job.

As we said, Do Not Buy A Manufactured Home.