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Manufactured Housing

Choose your new home with deliberation

By LEN BONIFIELD Special to the Times
Published May 12, 2007


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If you are contemplating the purchase of a new home – whether it is a manufactured home, a modular home, site-built or panel-built – you want to take steps to assure that you are making wise rather than emotional decisions.

It is easy to get caught up in all the excitement of choosing a new home. But I urge you to proceed slowly and thoroughly to avoid making costly mistakes. Here are just a few of the points you should consider:

• Understand each type of construction and know the differences among them. I live in a manufactured home so, naturally, I favor them. A manufactured home can be ready to move into sooner than a site-built home and usually faster than a modular. A manufactured home is built entirely inside the factory, under controlled conditions.

• Check out a number of manufacturers. Today's manufactured homes can range from 900 to more than 3, 000 square feet. Manufactured homes typically cost 20 to 30 percent less per square foot than site-built homes.

• Study the floor plans. Ask how much you can customize and what options are available for your home. Most importantly, learn all the construction features of each manufacturer.

• If you are going to finance your home i.e., take out a mortgage, check with several lenders to be sure you are getting the best deal. See if you are eligible for FHA or VA loans.

• Installation is extremely important. Florida installation laws are the strictest in the United States. But installation is no better than the installer, who must be licensed in Florida. A proper installation, depending on which section of the state you live in, will withstand winds ranging from 90 to 110 miles per hour. Make sure the installation is inspected by county or local officials.

• Shop the various manufacturers for the best warranty and make sure you understand what is covered and what is not. Insist that your retailer or seller put in writing any promises of warranty coverage. Most manufacturers offer a warranty that covers performance of the structure and factory-installed plumbing, heating and electrical systems.

Manufactured homes are built to federal standards, known as HUD Code. They regulate design and construction, strength and durability, transportability, fire resistance, energy efficiency and quality control. Each section of your manufactured home must have a HUD Code label affixed.

• Where to place your home? You have the option of placing it on land you own, in a land-lease (rental) community, or in a community owned by the residents (ROC). Land-leased and ROC communities are specifically planned and consist solely of manufactured homes. If you plan to buy land, check local zoning ordinances at city or county hall to ensure that manufactured housing is permitted in that area. Contact the local utilities to check on the availability of electric, water, sewer or gas. Will you have to drill a well for water, or install a septic tank?

• Your home has been built and installed. Now you will want to carefully inspect it before moving in. Many of the manufacturers require you to complete a checklist that shows you have inspected and checked everything. I think it is worthwhile to hire a professional home inspection service to identify any problems. A few dollars spent here can save you aggravation and money.

• Think long and hard about where you are going to place your home. It is possible to move a manufactured home to a different location, but it is complex and expensive. Choose your site as if it is going to be permanent.

• Anticipate that you will find problems and have complaints, just as you would with any new home, site-built, modular or manufactured. It happens. Pursue each complaint thoroughly and always in writing. First, contact the retailer who sold you the home. If necessary, contact the installer, again in writing, if there are installation problems. Anticipate that the three principals you will be dealing with (manufacturer, retailer and installer) can bounce you over to the "other guy."

If necessary, get all parties involved, always put your complaints in writing, and follow up. If your problems are not corrected, contact the agency that administers the Federal Manufactured Housing Program. Call the federal department of Housing and Urban Development consumer help line for manufactured housing toll-free at 1-800-927-2891 or e-mail mhs@hud.gov.

Planning, taking your time with each step of the process, and being thorough will provide you with a great manufactured home that you will enjoy for years to come.

Send comments or questions to Len Bonifield at elb@gate.net or write him at 2914 Dollar Bonnet Lane, Lakeland, FL 33810. Please include your e-mail and mailing address. Because of the volume of mail, he can't respond personally to every query. Bonifield is a manufactured-home resident and a former member and officer of the Lakeland area board of the Federation of Manufactured Home Owners.

[Last modified May 11, 2007, 12:41:06]


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