Our homestead did not have a home for us already in place. We were leaning heavily towards a manufactured home, but we also were open to a site-built home. Because we are starting from scratch, we came up with a wish list of items that are important for us in our new home. We spent months touring manufactured homes from all the options in our area. Once we compared the manufactured home options available to us and how they matched our wish list, we realized a manufactured home was NOT the right choice for us. There were 5 major reasons we said “No”:

  1. Small door width
  2. Limited storage space
  3. Maintenance concerns
  4. Siding issues
  5. Total cost

Our Wish List

Our homestead is in the desert and shopping options are a good distance away. The most important features of a home for us are:

  • Large pantry
  • Room for freezer and second fridge
  • Room for water treatment equipment
  • Space for exercise equipment
  • Energy efficient
  • Supports aging in place (mobility issues, minimizing maintenance)
  • Suited to our extreme weather challenges and rodent issues
  • Cost (initial and ongoing)

Once we started evaluating the manufactured homes against our wish list, we found 5 major areas that made them the wrong choice for our homestead.

1. Small Door Width

We are an older couple and we want to age in place as long as we possibly can. We also have exercise equipment that we have had trouble fitting through some doors. We measured the doors in our previous home and determined what minimum width would be acceptable in our new home.

Every manufactured home we toured had secondary bedroom doors that were very narrow. Our exercise equipment would not fit through them. If I was using a walker, wheelchair, or crutches, I would not be able to use those rooms. With the floorplans we considered, most of the rooms did not have the space to upgrade to larger door widths.

2. Limited Storage Space

Because our homestead is in a rural area with a well, we need significant storage space. We can’t easily run to the store for missing items. We need to have room to store items we purchase as well as food from our future gardens and orchards. We also need to have water treatment equipment for our well water for the house.

If a manufactured home we saw had a pantry, it was very small. In our previous home we had the water equipment and the extra fridge and freezer in the laundry room. No home we saw had a laundry room that could accommodate all those items – in fact, most could not even hold a small freezer. We felt most of the laundry rooms were too large with a lot of space that could not be used. The HVAC unit had to be in the laundry room. This could not be moved anywhere else.

Manufactured homes do not have a garage. Our well equipment and the fridge and freezer could be in a garage, but that would be a significant extra expense.

3. Maintenance Concerns

As we age, we are very aware that our ability to manage ongoing maintenance items ourselves might become a problem. The manufactured homes we toured had ducts and wiring underneath the home. When we spoke with neighbors in our area, they all told us about serious problems with rodents chewing the wiring. We need to make sure we minimize the opportunity for rodents to damage our home. If rodents would chew the wiring, going under the home to repair the damage would be very difficult.

As we toured the model homes, we noticed many instances of areas that would need ongoing maintenance or repairs. If the model home had been on site during our monsoon season, we noticed water damage around the front doors. When we asked a sales representative about that, we were advised to add security doors and/or a covered entry. These would need to be done after the home was delivered. If we wanted to add a covered entry or a patio cover, we would need to pay for the “awning ready” option.

As we researched manufactured homes, we noticed many articles mentioning the need to maintain a manufactured home to reduce the depreciation in the home’s value if we wanted to sell. With this in mind, we made note of items in the homes that appeared to need maintenance after just a few months as model homes. We noticed loose baseboards and trim. Cabinets had loose hinges. If we needed to replace the secondary bathroom’s tub, it wasn’t one we could easily get at a big name hardware store.

4. Siding Issues

The manufactured homes available in our area all had one siding option. The manufacturer that had the highest quality home overall installed the siding directly to the studs. There was no barrier between the siding and the insulation. There was no option available to add house wrap or any other protective material between the siding and the insulation.

I visited the siding manufacturer’s website. Their installation instructions specifically called for a barrier between the siding and the studs. When I expressed my concerns to the manufactured home sales representative, I was sent a document detailing their installation instructions stating no barrier necessary due to HUD requirements. They never answered why they were not following the manufacturer’s installation instructions. I also googled the siding and discovered there might be legal action pending over water damage in manufactured homes with this siding. We get very strong monsoon rains here and water damage is a serious concern.

5. Total Cost

As we quickly learned as we researched and toured manufactured homes, the enticingly low price listed in bold for these homes does not include many required costs or optional costs. In the end, the initial low price quickly escalated as we added the required items and options to best meet our needs. Some of the most expensive additional needs for us were:

  • Complete siding replacement due to water damage concerns and no factory options to minimize the problem
  • Site prep to include the option to have home placed only a few steps above ground level
  • Foundation to hopefully limit rodents chewing on wiring underneath the home
  • Awning ready to allow covered entry to reduce water damage at the front door
  • 9-foot ceilings to allow overhead ducts (needed for a/c efficiency here in the desert – floor ducts were standard)
  • Overhead ducts
  • Upgraded insulation
  • Cost for a detached garage and plumbing to the house – needed for exercise equipment, freezer, fridge, and well equipment
  • Permit fees, electrical pedestal, taxes, and other required fees

Our Decision

In the end, after totaling all the costs to have a manufactured home and separate garage, we realized the cost was very close to that of a semi-custom site-built home. The quality and features of the site-built home were far superior to the manufactured home for very little extra money. We decided to say no to a manufactured home since it did not make financial sense for us.

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