Buying an On-frame Manufactured Home

on frame modular

What is an On-frame Manufactured home?

Commonly referred to as ‘double-wide’s these homes still have the steel frame or chassis in place that was used to transport the home.  Manufactured homes are distinct from modular homes which are discussed in another article.  On-frame manufactured homes have unique lending, appraisal and construction considerations– some of which are listed below.  Manufactured homes are often the most affordable option for first time home buyers, FHA/VA buyers, and lower-income buyers by offering more square footage and lot size for the price than traditional site-built homes.  These homes may also offer entice investors for short and long-term rental opportunities.  See the bottom of the article for this home inspector’s opinions, advice and tips for buyers, owners and sellers of manufactured homes.

HUD.gov definition: ‘A manufactured home (formerly known as a mobile home) is built to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) and displays a red certification label on the exterior of each transportable section. Manufactured homes are built in the controlled environment of a manufacturing plant and are transported in one or more sections on a permanent chassis.’
Note: Manufactured homes built after June 15, 1976 were built according to FHA/HUD guidelines.

Lending Requirements for manufactured homes

Buying a Manufactured home built before June 1976

Manufactured homes built before June 1976 did not comply with HUD guidelines.  Many lenders do not finance manufactured homes that were built before June 1976.

FHA/VA:

FHA and VA lenders will require a structural engineer to complete a foundation certification that is separate from the home inspection in order to satisfy the loan- these typically cost between $400 and $600.

From FHA.com:  To be eligible for FHA mortgage insurance, the manufactured home must be built after June 15, 1976 and there must be a certification label to prove it.  Manufactured home floor space can not be smaller than 400 square feet and must be classified as real estate.

FDIC:

From FDIC.gov: ‘Property type: Properties may only be single units. The manufactured home must have been built on or after June 15, 1976, and be permanently affixed to a foundation and utilities. The home must be at least 12 feet wide and have a minimum 600 square feet of gross living area. Real property requirements: Manufactured homes must be legally classified as real property in the state where the borrower proposes to locate the subject property. The manufactured home must be affixed to a permanent foundation in a way that makes it part of the real property. ‘

HUD:

From HUD.gov:  An Eligible Manufactured Home Must

  • Meet the Model Manufactured Home Installation Standards.
  • Carry a one-year manufacturer’s warranty if the unit is new.
  • Be installed on a homesite that meets established local standards for site suitability and has adequate water supply and sewage disposal facilities available.

Other Lender Requirements:

Lender requirements vary for manufactured homes.  It is recommended to ask your lender for more information about financing requirements for manufactured homes.

Appraisals and Consumer Sentiment for manufactured homes

Appraisers (different from home inspectors) use a separate appraisal form for manufactured homes and typically will only use other manufactured homes as comparables or ‘comps’.  Because manufactured homes throughout the country have had a history of higher depreciation and foreclosure rates, manufactured homes are generally valued less per square foot than site-built homes.  (Keep in mind that the difference in public perception and bank appraisals can be an opportunity for some buyers)

Typical construction practices and considerations for manufactured homes

Roof framing: No or limited Attic access and budget framing.

Most manufactured homes do not have attic areas (vaulted) or they are inaccessible.  Some of the roof framing trusses are constructed of 2×2 or 2×3 truss framing which is shallower than the typical 2×4 engineered trusses of site-built homes.  Ideally all larger attic areas should be accessible for inspection, maintenance and repair access.

Budget or Lower Quality Appliances, fixtures, and finishes

Typically many of the original components in a manufactured home are budget or entry level– these include lighting/plumbing fixtures, the water heater, heating/cooling equipment, and finishes such as cabinets/countertops/flooring.   The cheaper components often experience shorter life expectancy and more frequent failure than their more expensive counterparts.  Most of these components have a 25 year life expectancy or less in all homes, including site built homes, so after the initial 25 years many of these components will have already been replaced- sometimes with higher quality materials.

HUD Thermal and Roof Load Zones

Occasionally we will inspect manufactured homes that were intended for a warmer climate (or a different HUD Thermal or Roof Load Zone).  In this case we may see single pane windows and minimal insulation (we are located in the mountains of Western North Carolina or Zone 2)   It should be verified that the home was designed for the climate where it was installed to prevent energy loss, condensation issues and possible structural issues due to snow loads or wind uplift.

Unique Structure and crawl space environment

The Skirting

Manufactured homes do not have a structurally supporting foundation wall around the perimeter like site built homes.  If there is a block wall at the perimeter of the home, typically they are not load-bearing.  The purpose of the skirting around the perimeter is primarily cosmetic and intended to keep pests out.  Skirting is typically made of vinyl but some are made of metal, block, wood or other materials.  The skirting should be in good condition and allow for a means of ventilation.

Pier and tie-down system

The structural heavy lifting of the manufactured home is performed not by walls but by piers (typically block piers in our area) and a metal tie-down and and anchor system.  It is important that drainage is directed away from the pier footing areas to prevent erosion and settling over the long-term.  It is not uncommon to see leaning piers, bent frames and sloped floors due to un-controlled grading and drainage issues.  Metal tie-downs should be tautly secured at piers to prevent settling.  The tie-downs, anchors and frame should be protected from excessive humidity and corrosion.

Belly wrap or moisture barrier

Manufactured homes typically have a plastic moisture barrier of polyethylene, commonly called a Belly Wrap, installed under the floor framing.  The purpose of the plastic sheeting is to prevent pest and moisture damage to the insulation and framing.  Unfortunately this plastic barrier limits the inspection, maintenance and repair access to the floor framing, plumbing and other components which is why it is not uncommon for there to be many tears or openings in the Belly Wrap over time.  A plumbing leak is the most common cause of repair, and most plumbers in our area rarely take the time to repair the Belly Wrap.  When the plastic sheeting has large openings in it, or if there are active plumbing leaks, it can cause more harm than good by trapping moisture against the framing and insulation.  Polyethylene can degrade over time which lessens the moisture protection.

Budget framing

Earlier or budget models will often have fiberboard sheathing at the floors, walls and roof framing which is more prone to swelling and deterioration when moisture damaged than other types of sheathing such as OSB or plywood.  It is not uncommon to see 2×4 or 2×6 floor framing joists, or 2×2 web trusses which are shallower than typical and more prone to decay.   Under ideal environments the framing can last many decades but water intrusion can quickly shorten the life expectancy of cheaper framing components.  It is not uncommon to experience soft or ‘squishy’ floors in manufactured homes with a long history of high humidity in the crawl space.

Inspecting a Manufactured Home

A manufactured home that has been well maintained can often be an ‘easy’ inspection because these homes are manufactured and built in controlled environments.  Generally most of the components conform to code and regulations- at least during the time that it was constructed.  Additions to manufactured homes are an exception and are carefully evaluated.  Typically the biggest talking points for most manufactured home inspections are related to the crawl space ‘environment’.  Grading/drainage issues, improper ventilation and plumbing leaks can combine to create a poor crawl space environment that depreciates the home more quickly than typical by damaging the insulation, framing, structure and finishes of the home over time.  Aside from the crawl space environment other talking points are decks, and additions (site-built features) and aging components that should have been maintained better or replaced sooner.

Manufactured homes: One Home Inspector’s Perspective

Many buyers are tempted by the low price point and larger square footage and lot sizes of manufactured homes in our area.  For the informed buyer with the right skill set or repair network these homes can be great opportunities– but only if the buyer is committed to maintaining the home and taking steps toward directing water away from the home as best as possible (grading/roof-drainage/regular plumbing repairs/dehumidification/etc…).  It is highly recommended that owners of manufactured homes take steps to upgrade the moisture control measures in the crawl space, especially in our geographical area, by upgrading to a thicker 20 mil ground vapor retarder and providing mechanical dehumidification for the warmer months.  This cannot be over-emphasized:  providing a consistently dry crawl space environment is one of the best things you can do to help protect your investment over the long-term.  An argument could be made that a homeowner with the right perspective and work ethic on maintenance and prevention could make a manufactured home last as long or longer than a site-built home with average or below average maintenance.

Asheville Manufactured Home Inspectors

Builder Buddy is your resource for Manufactured Home Inspections in the Asheville area.  We also provide Manufactured Home Radon testing, Manufactured Home Mold testing, Manufactured Home Water testing, Manufactured Home Well Inspections, and Manufactured Home Septic Inspections.  Schedule online or call with questions.

 

 

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