Manufactured Homes – A Viable Option for Low-Cost Living

by Cassandra McCullersMay 2, 2018

In 1976, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development set forth federal standards for regulating the construction and performance of housing built in factories. They are built off-site on a steel chassis, with sections transported to the final location, set on a foundation and assembled on site. The national standards typically allow manufactured homes to avoid the complication of having to comply with building codes specific to their destinations. Although manufactured homes are technically “mobile,” they are rarely relocated like a mobile home might be.
Manufactured Home

Benefits and Convenience

The advantages of manufactured homes are numerous, fueling increased interest in their use in recent years. Because manufactured homes have the advantage of being built under covered, controlled conditions, they typically avoid the unexpected delays and costs that might be associated with weather conditions for a traditional build. They are generally extremely affordable, with new units averaging around $70,600 in 2016. According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, 9% of new single-family home starts are in a manufactured home, and the average price per square foot is only $49, compared to $107 per square foot for a comparable home built on-site. Manufactured homes also have very strict regulations that they must comply with for sale in the US. Federal codes set minimum standards for their design, type of construction, quality of materials used, long-term durability, fire resistance, escape windows, qualify of appliances, and energy efficiency. Manufactured homes can often also be financed like personal property or through a conventional mortgage for real property, affording home buyers options when it comes to financing their purchase.

Concerns and Risks

While manufactured homes offer considerable advantages for some situations, there are challenges that may need to be overcome. Clearly, the greatest issue is that you need appropriate land on which to place your manufactured home, and some neighborhoods have zoning restrictions that may limit or ban their placement. And just like a traditional home, you will have to pay taxes on your land as well as appropriate utilities like water, sewer, and electricity. Some homeowners of manufactured homes have found that they can depreciate in value quickly, though newer models are changing this trend. And be particularly careful when purchasing an older manufactured home. Regulations may be outdated and older models may be energy inefficient. Banks may also consider a manufactured home to be riskier when used as collateral for a loan or mortgage agreement, so it is to your advantage to talk to your banker early in the home purchasing process.
Manufactured Home roof installation

Maintenance and Lifespan

Like traditional wood framed and even brick homes, the lifespan of your manufactured home will depend greatly on the quality of ongoing maintenance and care you give it over time. Older mobile homes typically last between 30 and 55 years, but homes built after regulations were tightened up following Hurricane Andrew’s devastation in 1992 can have a lifespan that can approach that of a traditional wood framed house and may last up to 100 years. And unlike traditional construction, manufactured homes do not face the same problems if issues arise with settling or a shifting foundation. Foundation repair for a traditional home can cost several thousands of dollars, but a manufactured home might only require a few hours of re-leveling to resolve an issue with a sagging foundation. Check the level of your home once a year, to minimize the chance of cracks, leaks, or ill-fitting doors and windows. Other maintenance concerns relating to manufactured homes include:

  • Frame – Because the frame of your home is metal, it can become susceptible to corrosion or rust if damaged or exposed. Treat any exposed metal on the frame with a metal paint designed for that purpose.
  • Windows and Doors – Over time small cracks can appear around the rim of windows or doors. Fill with a weatherproof caulk or use weatherstripping to help doors seal properly and keep out those annoying drafts.
  • Siding – Most manufactured homes have vinyl siding, but fiber cement, foam backed siding and wood siding are also popular choices. Regardless of the type of siding used, regular cleaning will prevent the build-up of dust, grime, and algae. Be sure to research the best methods of cleaning different types of siding… for example, a solution may be great for vinyl but could discolor cedar shingles.
  • Heating and Air Systems – Just like a traditional home, you’ll need to clean the vents and change the filters on your air system. Most homes require this maintenance every three to six months depending on the air quality of where you live or if you have pets that shed, etc.
  • Roof – The roof of a manufactured home may not have as steep a pitch as traditional construction, making them at increased risk for damage from the elements or broken tree limbs. Inspect your roof once a year for damage, missing shingles or debris and reseal as needed.


The reality is that the American standard of what a home should include, namely a kitchen, eating area, living or family room, bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets, hasn’t significantly changed in over a hundred years. The design of manufactured homes generally aligns with those standards, with simple fixtures and appliances that designed to appeal to a large range of consumers. Making cosmetic changes to these homes, from changing out the bathroom fixtures, replacing knobs, and painting or adding wallpaper, are all easy ways of customizing your home to fit your particular design preferences.

Manufactured homes are just one more option that homebuyers can consider in determining the best fit for their situation. Newer models offer a world of options to meet the needs of young families and retirees, designed with energy efficiency and affordability in mind.

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About The Author
Cassandra McCullers
Cassandra is a writer with a background in engineering, enjoying the rural life in the Virginian Appalachians. When not working, she enjoys writing fiction, running a blog, camping, working in the garden, and tending to her flock of chickens! In addition to writing, she has a passion for art and graphic design. Her interests include disaster preparedness, homesteading, landscaping, cooking with natural ingredients, history, and animal husbandry.