The Home Construction Industry is very popular among consumers on our review platform. People leave their opinion and talk about their experience with modern housing while also seeking help and expert advice. As we see, consumers have lots of concerns about manufactured homes. So, we thought it would be great to provide you with credible expertise. 

So, what is a manufactured home? How much does it cost? What’s the process of buying a manufactured home? All your manufactured homes questions will be answered in this article.

We’ve invited Tony Kovach to record a series of video interviews to cover all manufactured homes FAQs. Tony is one of the key experts in the Manufactured Homes Industry with over 25 years of experience in the business. He eagerly agreed to share his expertise on manufactured homes.

Explore the details of our video interviews to learn all the truth about the manufactured homes. This article will serve you as a guide that answers to all manufactured homes FAQs you’ve even wanted to know. 

So, take an expert advice and find insider tips below:

Content

  1. What are manufactured homes?
  2. How to buy a manufactured home without problems?

1. What are Manufactured Homes?

In this first video with Tony, we talk about the basics of manufactured homes, their difference from regular and mobile homes, cost, life expectancy, and sizes.

Watch the video and follow up with an article to find answers to top consumer questions about manufactured homes:

Why Choose Manufactured Housing?

Tony Kovach: Here in the United States, there are about 22 million Americans who live in either a mobile home or a manufactured home, and this was a couple of decades ago. So it's even more relevant today than now. 

A manufactured home built to these modern standards is going to have the same kind of life expectancy as conventional homes. The federal government hires experts, they come into the factories, they're inspecting those homes. 

Even though it's less expensive, you're not sacrificing consumer protection. Actually, you're getting more than most site-built houses.

Michael Podolsky: My name is Michael Podolsky. I'm one of the co-founders at Pissed Consumer and we've been in business for the past 13 years. We get a lot of interest from our viewers and listeners to our site and our posters about manufacturing home as an industry. 

Tony Kovach, that I've met, is a specialist in the area. I'll let Tony speak to that and explain his credentials on that effect. And we have chosen to create a series of videos that will talk about home construction, specifically manufactured homes, and how we differentiate with other housing possibilities, for today's consumer.

Tony: Michael, thanks for inviting me to do the interview. I've been in the manufactured home industry for over 25 years. Years before some of the mainstream media reports that millionaires and a couple of billionaires lived in manufactured homes. 

I've personally owned and lived in manufactured homes, as well as one mobile home. And I've lived in conventional housing, anything from tiny house sized studios, to regular apartments, conventional construction in nice neighborhoods. Brand new homes and what have you. So I can say from firsthand experience that you cook, clean, eat, live, and love the same in a manufactured home as you would in other types of conventionally built housing.

Our videos and our articles have been cited by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB, National Association of Realtors, university-level research, mainstream news reports, and the congressional record. 

So as Al Cole, a senior vice president at Oxford Bank said, I've worked with factories, associations, finance companies, communities, and retail. The whole gamut, really of the industry. So we have friends and foes like any other professional. 

But the reason we have the kind of engagement that we do, is people find this credible. And therefore, they're happy to come and visit us several million times a year.

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What Is a Manufactured Home?

Michael: What is a manufactured home, tell us, please?

Tony: Great question. A manufactured home is a form of factory-built housing. So think about it, your cell or your car, your clothing, transportation, appliances. Many of the things we as consumers buy and use, they all come up from our factory or a production center. 

In Japan or Europe or other nations, factory-built housing is actually increasing in the marketplace. Here in the United States, there are about 22 million Americans who live in either a mobile home or a manufactured home. So manufactured homes are the most popular type of factory-built housing, in terms of the number of homes being purchased.

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Manufactured Homes vs Mobile House vs Regular Homes

Michael Podolsky: What is the difference? Is there a difference between manufactured home, regular home, and model home that you can point to a consumer?

Comparing Manufactured vs Mobile Homes

Tony: That's a good question. Let me start first with the difference between manufactured homes and mobile homes. Then we'll get to the difference between a manufactured home and conventional housing. 

So first of all, there is a difference between a mobile home and a manufactured home. It's not just marketing or industry lingo. There are reasons for the terminology, so a little history is helpful. If you can go back in time, trailer houses merged from the RV industry in the 1930s. By the 1950s, mobile homes emerged. They were bigger, heavier, you had to have specialized equipment to move them. 

Manufactured home vs conventional house

By the 1970s, you started getting into the manufactured housing era. So if you have something that's built on or after June 15th in 1976, and it has a red seal, like we're going to show you, that's going to be a HUD Code manufactured home. And those homes are also going to have this data plate.

And what that means is, the home is specifically certified, Michael, to meet certain snow loads, wind zone, insulation, and other construction standards. And you won't find that data plate or that red label on the back of a mobile home.

Most people today, when they think of a conventional house, they think of a home built on a slab foundation, because that's how most new houses were built. But if you go back in time, Michael, homes built 40, 50, 60 years ago, for example, a lot of those were built over a crawl space. 

So that's what you're going to see with the manufactured home. You can have one, that's what they call ground set, that costs a little bit more money. But typically what you have is one that you take two or three steps up, get on the porch, and then you walk into the home. And those are going to have some foundation enclosures or what some people call skirting. But basically, it'll be vinyl or brick or some other kind of material like a hardy board, that kind of thing.

So it's just good to know that there's been millions and millions of conventional houses that have been built like that over a crawl space. And that's how the manufactured homes are going to be built.

Manufactured Home VS Conventional House: Technical Differences

Tony: Now to get to the technical difference between a manufactured home and a conventional house. A manufactured home has to be built to this federal building code that we were talking about. In a conventional build house, that's going to be built to a local or state building code. 

We've got a quote here from Steve Duke and an attorney from the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Association. And he said this, and it makes perfect sense. The terminology matters, because the terminology determines the construction standards that a home is built to. 

So a manufactured home is built to what they call a performance code. And that's been established by the federal government for consumer safety, energy savings, durability factors like that.

A conventional house is routinely built to what they call prescriptive building standards. So that's how many nails, how many screws, what weight shingles, so on and so forth. So with the manufactured home, it has to perform the same as a conventional house, but technically it doesn't have to have the same kind of materials, usually, it does. But someday they may come up with an innovation that doesn't use the same kind of stud as a conventional house, for instance. 

So Mark Weiss, the president of the manufactured housing association of regulatory reform, describes it this way. The HUD Code manufactured home is affordable housing, built in a controlled environment to federal performance-based construction standards. That means in a practical sense, that the federal standards are designed so that a manufactured home meets the highest quality, safety, and durability standards.

Manufactured vs Regular Home

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How Long Do Manufactured Homes Last?

Michael: Do manufactured homes last long? What is the life expectancy of a manufactured home, if it is to be compared to conventional housing?

Tony: That's an important question. And actually what you're going to see if you dig into some of the research. There've been studies done by Harvard University and Iowa State University and they looked at these specific questions, Michael. And what those guys did is determined, and this was a couple of decades ago. So it's even more relevant today than now. A manufactured home built to these modern standards is going to have the same kind of life expectancy as conventional homes.

The one thing I like to tell consumers though, Michael, is this. It's important on any kind of housing, whether it's conventional or manufactured, you want to make sure that you're doing your proper maintenance. If you're doing the proper maintenance, then the life expectancy is going to be very comparable.

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How Much Does Manufactured Home Cost?

Michael: What about costs? So what about manufacturer homes? Shall I expect the cost savings to be passed on to the consumer? And that's why it would be important for consumers to take a look at the pricing and the availability of manufactured homes?

Tony: That's a really good tee up, Michael. Let me give you a couple of points to answer your question and dig a little bit deeper on what we talked about before. First of all, you're right. 

Typically, a manufactured home, apples to apples. So if you have the same kind of features in a conventional house or a manufactured house, typical savings is going to be about a third to a half over conventional housing.

You're also going to have a greener home and what I mean by that, the construction process has less wasted materials. It's one of the reasons why the cost is less. Another reason why the cost is less is frankly labor costs. When you can do something inside of a factory, you don't have the interruptions caused by the weather. All the building materials can be scheduled to be there and so on.

So what you end up with, is a home that's got A, two kinds of supervision. So besides the factory supervisors, the factory inspection with the HUD Code manufactured home. You also have third party inspectors that they're required to come into the plant and make sure that those homes are being built to those federal standards. So this isn't like an honor system. The federal government hires experts, they come into the factories, they're inspecting those homes.

Another thing that's interesting, even though you're getting a house for less, for the reasons we talked about. The updated standards that were put into effect after the year 2000, there was a dispute resolution process that was established for consumers. 

So one, if let's say that you have a warranty issue, and of course, any new homes got a warranty. The warranty will vary depending on what part of the home you're talking about. But it's generally going to be from one year to several years, depending on what feature you're looking at.

Besides the warranty, the installation is also covered. So if for any reason, a consumer has a problem. Let's say the retailer didn't have a good subcontractor to do the installation, I'm just picking an example. Then if you don't get satisfaction from the retailer or the installer, HUD has this dispute resolution process and basically what that means is this. That you can contact that HUD dispute resolution process and they will step in and they will make sure that a third party comes in. They'll look the situation over and they're there to advocate for fairness for the consumer. As well as fairness for the installer or the retailer, to make sure that someone's not making an unreasonable demand.

So it's tremendous peace of mind and to give you ideas. And not to say that these homes are perfect, I never want to give somebody that impression. But according to a federal official that I spoke with, less than one quarter of 1% of all new HUD-Code manufactured homes ever go to dispute resolution. 

That means that 99.75% of manufactured homes aren't handled through dispute resolution. Whatever warranty or things like that come up, are typically handled between the retailer, the installer, the factory, and the consumer. So even though it's less expensive, you're not sacrificing consumer protection, actually, you're getting more than most site-built houses.

what is a manufactured home

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What Are the Sizes of Manufactured Homes?

Michael: What is the largest manufacturer home, as far as square footage is concerned, that was ever manufactured in the factory?

Tony: That's a fascinating question and I'd say this. Let me take it from the other side of the question and then we'll go up. The smallest manufactured home is 320 square feet give or take. So about the size of a tiny house, a little bit bigger than some of the tiny houses that are out there. So now from that size, in a single section manufactured home, and you got single sections, you've got multi-section. 

With a single section manufactured home, maybe the most common size you see in most parts of the country today, or what they call 16x80's. That doesn't mean that the house is actually 16 feet wide, it doesn't mean that the house is actually 80 feet long, but that's the shipping size of the home. So a 16x80 might be 15 feet, 4 inches by 76 feet floor size. So you can do the math, but roughly 1,120 square feet for that size home.

A multi-section home could be 2,200-2,400 square feet. But to be very honest, there are some things that some people never think about. You can have literally a second story with some manufactured home. 

You can have a manufactured home that's built over a partial or full basement, in some parts of the country. Now for example, here in Florida, you don't have basements under anything, but different parts of the country where you can have a basement. 

If you wanted to, you could have a manufactured home built over a basement. So in terms of potential size, it would be very easy to have 3,000 or 4,000 square feet under roof in a HUD Code manufactured home, all things considered.

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Why Manufactured Homes Are Not Better Understood and Utilized?

Michael: So being an expert in the industry, given the fact that it is less expensive, less costly, why such a low percentage of homes are manufactured homes? As an expert in the industry, why do you think it's not sufficiently utilized by today's consumer?

Tony: Michael, that's maybe one of the best questions that a person can ask. I wasn't expecting you to ask that, I'd love to do a separate video on that, but let me give you a quick tease for that.

Frankly, people in our own industry have done a lousy job of explaining those differences. On our MH Living News website, we have a resource called the ultimate third party research. And we've got literally dozens of third-party studies that have been done over the years, and they all demonstrate these facts that we're talking about. 

If you went to the Manufactured Housing Institute website, another trade association, and you looked at the reports that we have on MH Living News. And then you look to see if that same report would be on the MHI website. Unfortunately, a lot of those things just aren't there.

So for whatever reason, we could talk about industry politics and things like that another time. But frankly, our industry has not done a good job of communicating that and so, even though I would say that maybe mainstream media has some level of responsibility. If the industry is not doing a good job, how can you blame the mainstream media very much for it? You know what I mean?

Michael: Tony, I would like to conclude this first video. We're going to have a second video. We're going to talk about the process, about buying a manufactured home. That's our next video and for our viewers, please continue watching this series. I and Tony are going to come back together and shoot the second video really soon.

In this first video with Tony Kovach, we discussed the term "manufactured home" and its main difference from regular and mobile houses. We explained why manufactured homes cost less and why they are still underestimated by consumers. 

In our next interview, we cover tips that you might want to consider when buying a manufactured home. So, jump to the next point to follow up.

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2. How to Buy a Manufactured Home Without Problems?

We covered the idea of what manufactured homes are and learned why consumers underestimate them. Proceeding with our quest for the truth about manufactured homes, we move on to the process of buying.

In this video, our expert Tony Kovach shares his knowledge and firsthand tips on what prospective buyers should consider when dealing with a manufactured home company. Discover the questions to ask your sales manager when making a purchase decision. Read how to avoid complaints.

For details, please follow the points below:

What Are the Reasons for Buying a Manufactured Home?

Tony:

That Elvis Presley honeymooned in a mobile home. That his mobile home had a gold plated sink and a gold plated tub and stuff like that. But so not threatening you, Mr. Seller. I'm just saying I'm going to keep being the squeaky wheel until I get the attention that I deserve.

Michael:

Hey, guys. My name is Michael. I am CEO and co-founder of Pissed Consumer. I am speaking to Tony Kovach again today. This is the second video in the series talking about manufactured homes. We brought Tony on to speak about manufactured homes to give you real tips that you can utilize in your life as you are looking to purchase housing for yourself or your loved ones.

Manufactured homes, and the expert Tony Kovach comes in to explain to us the processes that are involved in buying manufactured homes and how it will differentiate itself from buying a regular house. Tony will introduce himself again and talk about his expertise in the industry, and then we will get to questions.

Tony:

Thanks, Michael, again for having me in for this follow-up interview. One, I've lived in manufactured homes for about half of my adult life. I've lived in conventional housing, as I mentioned in the first video. Own nice houses in nice neighborhoods. So I've got firsthand experience of manufactured homes as well as literally over 25 years of professional experience.

One of the things I like to tell consumers, Michael, is that some of the rich and famous have bought and lived in manufactured homes. Going back to the mobile home era, some people don't realize that Elvis Presley honeymooned in a mobile home. Now, his mobile home had a gold plated sink and a gold plated tub and stuff like that.

But now I think that's important to know because if it's good enough for the rich and famous, it should be good enough for you and me. And they certainly have the ability to do their own homework, make sure that they're making a good investment, making a good decision.

Also, there's third-party research about the people who actually have purchased a manufactured home and how much they like or love their homes.

So for instance, according to Southeast Research, which is a professional research certified operation, 97% of owners of new manufactured homes, they describe their homes as attractive. Some like 92% of those same people said that they feel like their homes are safe.

Southeast research on manufactured homes

So about 45% of those surveyed said that they could have bought a conventional house, but they decided to buy a manufactured home instead. So these are reasons to think that it's prudent to consider buying a manufactured home.

A couple of years ago, we had the National Association of Realtors, a lady named Scholastica Gay Cororaton, she did research on manufactured housing. The market for manufactured homes, I think is what the name of her research study was. But basically what she said is that manufactured homes have evolved from the trailer house and the mobile home era to being very quality homes that actually stand up well in tornadoes and hurricanes and so on and so forth.

Scholastica Gay Cororaton quote

We have videos and articles on that, on our MH Living News website. So the common fear that people have really shouldn't be a fear factor at all. There's something like 500,000 to one odds in your favor that if you own a manufactured home that you won't be in a tornado and die, that kind of thing. So the safety factor is definitely there.

Okay. Now, having gotten rid of the typical things, let's get down to some things that there are basically two different ways somebody might buy a manufactured home. And I'm going to oversimplify.

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying a Manufactured Home?

Michael:                                                      

What are the pros and cons of buying a manufactured home? What do you see as positive sides and negatives that you can highlight to the consumers?

Tony:

The positives are really quite numerous. One, if you're buying the home, you're saving money. Two, if you're an environmentally conscious kind of person, as we said in the first video, there's actually less waste. The homes tend to be more energy-efficient and so on.

So apples to apples, with manufactured homes, there's less waste than conventional housing. They're more energy-efficient and so on.

On the negative side, quite frankly, I would say that maybe the single biggest factor that I'd say is frustration, the process can seem daunting. We want to get into that maybe a little bit more detail in a couple of minutes.

Another thing that I think can be a bit of a concern to some consumers is that there’s not as many financing options. There’s not as many manufactured homes sold as there are conventional houses.

There are not as many financing options. That said, for a serious shopper, if you really want to buy a manufactured home, there are regional and national lenders that do this kind of lending.

If you do a good Google search, you're going to find that somebody in your market is going to be able to serve you. Beyond that, there's FHA, VA, USDA, or rural housing. Many states have first time home buyers programs that manufactured homes qualify for.

So long story short, Michael, there's a lot of positives in terms of purchasing the home, but there are some hoops to jump through, and we probably ought to talk about those hoops.

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What Steps to Consider When Buying a Manufactured Home?

Michael:

There's a consumer in front of us right now who's watching this video. What shall the prospect consumer know before buying a manufactured home? What are the steps that the person should consider, and what are your insider tips for that prospect considering buying a home? And they don't know whether it's going to be a manufactured, mobile, or conventional home. What shall consumers know about manufactured homes, the industry that you are specialized in?

Tony:

Sure. So, Michael, that's such a significant question, because I think that if people are less afraid of the home buying process, then they're going to be more willing to explore it. And when they explore the process, they're going to find out that really there's a lot of benefits that they could get.

Now that said, I'm going to oversimplify this and break it into two categories. Generally speaking, you're either going to buy a manufactured home that's already installed somewhere. It may be new. It may be pre-owned. That's a pretty straightforward process.

It's going to be a lot like buying a house from a real estate agent or from a developer. So I'm not going to spend much time on that. I'm just going to say that it's a straightforward process, no real surprises or hoops, extra hoops to jump there.

So what I want to focus on for a few minutes is the idea of what if you're going to a manufactured home retailer. There's a lot of details there, and those details sometimes can seem daunting. But if you get through those details, I'm going to oversimplify this in a second.

So let me list the details first. So for instance, where do you want to put the home? So the site selection is a question. Is the proposed site that you're interested in, is it suitable for a manufactured home?

Because not every site is going to be an ideal selection. And there are people that address those kinds of issues. Do you want to buy a manufactured home that's in a retailer's inventory or would you rather custom order a home, which is going to take longer because it's coming from the factory?

What kind of floor plans do you want? Because there's a wide variety of floor plans that are out there. Where do you go for financing? What about taxes, insurance, and other costs that people may not think about early on?

So let me take the fear factor out of all those items we just talked about with this really simple principle. And if this seems like an oversimplification, sometimes the simple is just the truth, and it's this.

What a person who's looking for if they're going to buy from a retailer is you want to find a good informed agent, meaning a sales agent, and you want to find a good company that'll help you navigate those details.

Everybody wants to sell you a house. The question is this person that you're about to engage with, are they informed? Are they experienced? Do they have any consumer complaints that they might find on a site like Pissed Consumer and things like that?

So not to insult a rookie sales agent, but for example, let's say that you as a consumer went to a sales center and you're asking the sales agent some questions. If the person doesn't seem that informed, I would just stop right there and say, "Listen, I want to speak to the owner or manager." And if the owner or manager cares, then they're going to listen to your concern and they're going to assign you somebody that can do a better job for you.

The other thing that a person might encounter, Michael, what if you're talking to may be someone that's got experience, but what if they're not that ethical? And needless to say, you want to spot that unethical salesperson.

And so here's some of the things that I'd be looking for. If I'm asking somebody a straight question and it seems like they're ducking that question. Are they shading? Are they trying to dip around it?

Again, I wouldn't necessarily discount the company, but I would go to the owner or the manager and say, "Listen, I want to speak with somebody else. This may be a fine person, but we're not hitting it off." That kind of thing. "I want someone that's honest. I want someone that's ethical," so on.

Now, so if you have someone that's honest, that's professional, then that is really maybe the most important thing that a consumer can do. Because once you sit down with that informed agent, then the rest of those items that we talked about, location, do you want to buy an inventory, all those different things, financing, or whatever, all that can come into focus.

They can simplify that process because they do that every day of their lives. We, as consumers, buy a house a few times a year, a few times in our lifetime, pardon me, and that's it. But those people in the industry, if they're good at their job, they do it all the time, so they should do a good job.

I'd give two more quick tips and then we can move on to whatever you have next Michael, but that's this. Don't let personality persuade you. I've seen people that are maybe not the most personable, but they're as honest as the day is long.

 I've also seen people that have great personalities, and unfortunately, they may have a reputation for being manipulative or whatever. So don't let personality be what guides you. What you want is someone that's going to shoot straight.

And don't be bashful to ask somebody at that same location to speak to someone who is an expert that's going to be fair. And if you don't think you've got that, then I'd go on to the next place. I just wouldn't do business there.

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What Questions Should You Ask a Sales Manager?

Michael:

Would you be able to give a tip on how to recognize that player in the manufactured housing industry? Is there a question that you would suggest asking?

Tony:

Even before I'd go into a retail center, and this isn't a secret, but it's sometimes useful for people that maybe have never thought about it before. I'd go to the Better Business Bureau, I'd go to Google ratings, and you certainly want to look at those things.

And if you see a problem, I would ask a sales person, "Hey, here's a rating that I saw online. What was the situation with that?" So everybody can have a ... You can be a good retailer and maybe you had a customer complaint and maybe the complaint was even a legitimate complaint. But what you didn't see is the resolution on that.

You and I have talked about the fact that you had a customer complaint and it was resolved and you did a follow-up video. So those kinds of things can happen. So just because there has been a complaint, that wouldn't cause me to disqualify somebody.

But what I'd say is there are a few things that I look for. One, is a location a magnet for bad news? And here's what I mean by that, and I'll get into some specifics in a little bit.

 If you do a Google search of a company name, and I use searches in quotes. So let's say that I was going to do a search for the biggest in our industry, Clayton Homes. I'd put Clayton Homes in quotes, and I would do a search for consumer complaints. And I'd put that in quotes, and then I'd hit enter.

And if a person does that, they're going to find all kinds of information that you may not find with a regular Google search. So I think that's an important thing to do. That one, is the location a magnet for bad news?

With new homes, again, one thing that you have with the manufactured home we talked about in the first video, Michael, even if you bought from a bad retailer, God forbid, and I don't recommend doing that, but if you bought from somebody that has a reputation, you still have that dispute resolution process that HUD set up.

 So that's a consumer safeguard that you don't want to overly lean on, but you certainly want to be aware of. So those are some things that I think that you want to look for.

But basically I would just ask some questions about, "Hey, would you have some of your own customers that I could speak with, people that have already bought a home from you?" If they hesitate doing that, I think that's a red flag. If they do give you the opportunity to do that and there's no hesitation, I think that's a good signal.

One other thing that I recommend doing is this. I would tell a retailer that I was seriously thinking about doing business with, I'd say, "Look, if you treat me well, I'm going to tell my friends. If you treat me badly, I'm going to tell my friends. And I may not just tell my friends. I may go to Pissed Consumer and tell them about you, too." So if you do that, then I think you're more likely to end up with that honest, ethical salesperson and honest, ethical retailer.

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How to Choose a Manufactured Home Retailer?

Michael:

Does a typical retailer of manufactured homes, do they work with one company or multiple companies that manufacture homes?

Tony:

Great question and you're going to find some that do both. So you're going to find some that only sell for one particular producer or manufacturer. Some will work with several manufacturers.

Big manufacturer VS Small manufacturer

Michael:

As a consumer, shall I be buying from a big manufacturer or a smaller manufacturer? Are there differences to who manufactures my home?

Yeah, so I have plans. I looked at the plans. Of course, the factory will provide a set of standard plans. I'm making an assumption. Style home is chosen. I am sure that these factories produce somewhat typical homes with some customization possible into that. But as a consumer, should I consider big companies, small companies? What shall be my criteria?

Tony:

Michael, fascinating question. And one, I'd say if it were me and I had the option apples to apples of picking a big company or picking a smaller company, almost every time I'd say pick the smaller company.

Why? I would use the example of, let's say, buying a shoe. If you go to a big box store and you want to buy a shoe, they may help you, but usually not very much.

With a smaller company, they're typically going to give you that extra attention precisely because they want to grow. They want to satisfy their customer. And so nine times out of 10, I would encourage people to go with that more mom and pop size of operation.

Now, I'd also encourage people to do business with somebody that's local for the same reason. You're going to see that person at Walmart. You're going to see that person at the local bank or wherever, maybe at your church or your synagogue or your place of worship. So when you're doing business with that local person, I think you routinely have benefits from that.

Taking the factory tour

Michael:

So I understand the personalization that you get from a smaller company. Am I going to be able to get a tour of the factory if I am buying?

Tony:

I love to encourage people to go to the factory. Wonderful question, Michael. I've been through many factories myself. And if a person goes to the factory, almost every time they're going to walk away very impressed.

And let's take a step back before we dig deeper into this. I'm going to say very quickly that there are two general types of manufactured homes. There's what they call basic or entry-level or shade and shelter manufactured homes. And then there's more residential style manufactured homes that are going to look like basically any other site-built house.

So once a person understands that, if you're going to the factory, you're going to see with your own eyes what those construction standards are like. And yes, to your point, typically if you're buying from an independent often that smaller company, they love scheduling a factory tour.

You generally have to set a day and a time for that, because there's safety considerations. They make you wear a hardhat and so on. So you can't just pop into the factory and expect to be toured.

So you do have to go to a retailer for that, that's set up with that factory, but it's a tremendous experience, and I can't think of a single time that a customer that I worked with toured a factory that didn't buy a manufactured home. It's just impressive.

Michael:

So that's probably one of the questions, one of the suggestions we can make to consumers, right? The suggestion of actually if you're considering buying a home, for most people you buy a house once or twice in your life. It's a big purchasing decision. Before buying, go tour the factory.

Tony:

I think that's a great idea. I really do.

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The Industry Leaders and Red Flags

Michael:

So a respectable retail location actually wouldn't mind for you to tour the factory to see what's going on. And then you can make a decision. So we spoke about big companies. We spoke about small companies. Who do you think the industry leaders are and why?

Tony:

I really don't like the term industry leaders. I understand it, so I'm not picking on you, Michael. Generally, consumers might think of bigger companies as a "leader". For reasons we already talked about, I'd be a big advocate in favor of the smaller companies. And I don't give a specific endorsement to any company, because frankly, things change.

Management at a company can change. The workforce can change. Again, the good news is that with a HUD code manufactured home, all of those factories have to build to the federal standards. So there are some people that'll talk about, "My home's better than your home." Well, your home may be fancier than somebody else's home, may have more amenities, but that doesn't mean that it's "better".

Now, that said, so let's put that aside for a minute. I mentioned Clayton Homes a few minutes ago. They're the biggest. Now, does that mean that they're the leader? Now, according to statistical surveys, which is a third-party research organization or federal data, roughly half the industry is built by Clayton Homes.

And unfortunately, for whatever reason, we can talk about conspiracy theories or things like that, but the reality is that in news media accounts like Seattle Times, NPR, the Center for Public Integrity, Forbes, The Financial Times, Group Focus, there's lots of allegations in mainstream media about what they call predatory practices at Clayton Homes, and that's often tied in with lending.

There's allegations about racial bias and things like that. This isn't a secret, but these are the kinds of things that maybe a consumer may not normally think about.

So again, to go back to what we were talking about earlier, if we take a good Google search, and I put the search in quotes, so you take the word Clayton Homes, put it in quotes. Take the word consumer complaints, put it in quotes. Don't just do an all search.

I do two different searches, one under all, one under news. Do both searches. When you do it under news, you're going to come up with all kinds of articles. And you can do this with any manufacturer, not just Clayton.

So if you do that, now what you're going to see is literally third parties reporting on what they say consumer experiences are with respect to Clayton or for that matter anybody else.

I'd elaborate this a bit more and say that several lawmakers, they're often Democrats, but not always, I'll use Maxine Waters as an example. She and some of her colleagues wrote a letter to the Justice Department a few years ago and the CFPB literally asked for an investigation of Clayton Homes and what they call predatory practices.

And frankly, Clayton Homes has admitted that they've been fined by the federal government. They've had to refund money to consumers. So certainly those are factors that I think a consumer should consider.

Now, does that mean that you should not buy from them? That's something that a person has to weigh, but anytime that there's that many red flags, I would personally as an industry expert and as an advocate for consumers as well as for business, I'd say you've got to look for those red flags, and it would be a big caution for me.

Michael:

Is Clayton Homes, as compared to the second and third, a runner up in the industry?

Tony:

Yeah. About half of the industry is Clayton Homes. And frankly, there's some indications, I won't say proof, but there's indications that they and some others in the Manufactured Housing Institute have it maybe are working with each other in certain ways.

There was a video done by a guy on HBO. His name is John Oliver, and he has a program called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. This was last year. It's a 16-minute video. Oliver is kind of a satirist, but he covers news topics with a satirical twist.

And in this video, we did some research on MH Living News so a person could go and see that. Literally every company in that video, and they had both community operators and people that Clayton Homes was prominently featured, every one of these companies were Manufactured Housing Institute members.

Now, you would think that, and by the way, I don't want to say that the Manufactured Housing Institute means that everybody in there is shady or dishonest or whatever. I personally know people in that organization that are fine. And I should give as a disclosure that I used to be on the board of directors of the suppliers' division at MHI until we parted ways a few years ago.

But that said, when you've got just numbers and numbers of complaints and things like that John Oliver video that cites their sources. So it's not just a bunch of allegations. There are allegations with documentation.

 Those are reasons to sit back and think twice. Another thing that John Oliver hit and a big thing for consumers is the community side of the industry, Michael. You can either buy a home and put it on your own property or you can buy a home and go into a manufactured home community, what some people call mobile home parks.

So one of the guys in that John Oliver video is a guy named Frank Raul, and he and his partner, they're quite large in our industry and they're getting big.

And exhibit C, which I'll show you a copy of, it's letters from Senator Elizabeth Warren, and she actually names a number of these companies, so it's a very good consumer resource in my mind, that had been accused of doing improper things with residents and manufactured home communities.

Letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren

So if I was a consumer, whether I was a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, I would look at that list of companies that Senator Warren cited and I would put that on my red flag list.

 Is this the kind of place I want to do business? And a number of members of Congress have done similar kinds of communications about specific companies.

That said, I would want to stress my goal that just because there's some big players and purportedly problematic or predatory players, that's not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There's lots of good companies in the industry, and again, they just tend to be smaller companies. So if a person can find those honest, ethical, smaller companies, I think you're routinely better off.

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How to Avoid Complaints After Buying a Manufactured Home?

Michael:

So let's say a person bought a manufactured home. What is typical? I know you've done some research on Pissed Consumer and you've seen some of the complaints, plus your expertise as far as the industry is concerned, right? What are the typical consumer complaints that you've seen?

Tony:

The kinds of complaints that I think are the most common are going to fall into broadly three categories. There's finance complaints, there's complaints about installation, and there's complaints about service.

So if you're looking at an installation complaint, if I was the consumer and you're watching this video or you're on my website and you're looking at this video on my website, I'm going to have a link to that HUD dispute resolution.

I would tell the retailer very quickly, "Hey, if you don't take care of this, I will contact the state and HUD, and one way or another, you're going to fix this."

So A, Michael, the best thing I can tell a consumer, let's take two steps back, and then we'll take a step forward. The best thing that you can do is avoid the problem in the first place, right? And the way you avoid the problem is by telling the retailer, "Everything that we discuss, I want it in writing. I want it in my paperwork."

And so there's none of this he said, she said. There's none of this, "Well, you promised me." Anything that a consumer has on their mind before they buy, that's when it should be reduced to writing.

And I personally had a manufactured home retail center. We were in business for several years, and I'm not saying I'm the only one, because there are others that could probably say similarly.

I never had a letter from an attorney on behalf of a consumer. I never was sued on behalf of a consumer, because we did exactly what we promised. So if you do what you promise, then 90% of the consumer complaints are going to go away.

Now, if you have that complaint, to specifically address your question, what I would be doing, Michael, is this. I would say, "Look, I'm an educated consumer. I know about websites like Pissed Consumer. I know about the HUD dispute resolution process. If you don't take care of this situation, it's going to cost your business. That's not a threat. It's a reality. I'm going to make my complaints. Other people are going to see the complaints, and it's going to cost you more to lose somebody else's a possible business than it would satisfy me as the customer."

And so to elaborate on that, in fairness to our industry, and I did a search on YouTube. You can have consumer complaints about three, four, 500, $600,000 site-built homes.

So I just picked one. It's D.R. Horton. It's a builder I happen to know. It's a big regional/national builder. There's certainly plenty of others out there, Lennar, whoever, but I did a web search under D.R. Horton.

It's interesting. Your video on Pissed Consumer was the first one that came up. So you can have consumer complaints on literally very expensive conventional housing. So again, you want to look at this thing not just from a manufactured housing perspective.

If I'm thinking about buying between a manufactured home and a site-built home, frankly, there are more consumer protections for a manufactured home, in most cases. And you could spend many thousands of dollars more on that conventional house.

So at the end of the day, what a person should be doing is looking for a way to communicate effectively with that retailer and say, "Look, one way or another, you're going to make me happy. And if I were you, I'm just going to suggest. I'm not threatening you, Mr. Seller. I'm just saying I'm going to keep being the squeaky wheel until I get the attention that I deserve."

Now, last thought, I think, on that subject unless you want to elaborate more. I think there are times that a consumer, in all fairness, has an unrealistic expectation. If you buy a shade and shelter manufactured home, for example, the cabinetry in there may be basic cabinets as opposed to fancy cabinets.

The same thing can happen in an apartment. The same thing can happen on a site-built home. So if you have an entry-level manufactured home, for instance, that has what they call a wrapped cabinet. So you've got a photo finish or something over particle board or OSB or some kind of surface like that. If you have a dog or a cat and they start scratching away at that, guess what? It's going to look like heck.

Is that the seller's fault? Absolutely not. And so that's not really something that HUD would care about, the state won't care about, the manufacturer won't care about. And odds are really good that that's going to be covered in your closing paperwork.

That said, as long as you're asking about something that's a legitimate consumer complaint, the home wasn't properly installed, there's a roof leak, there's a plumbing leak. Usually those kinds of things, a good real retailer, they want to get that taken care of quickly.

It's easier to solve a water problem on the front end than to let it persist and now the problems are just going to become more expensive. So a good retailer, a good factory, they want to address that quickly. And the simplest thing to do is just let them know, "Hey, listen, this is an important issue. Please take care of it quickly. If you don't, you're going to hear from me again and again until it's done."

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What Is the Warranty on the Manufactured Home?

Michael:

What is a typical warranty on the manufactured home?

Tony:

Excellent question. So the structure itself is going to have a warranty and each manufacturer is going to offer something a little bit different, but the typical minimum warranty is going to be one year on the structure.

That doesn't mean that you can't get a longer warranty. You can also buy what they call extended warranties, and so that's available. The other thing that you're going to be looking at is warranty on things like the siding, on things like shingles.

A typical warranty on the shingles of a home is going to be 15 to 20, sometimes 30 years. A typical warranty on, let's say, vinyl siding, it maybe 20, 30 or more years on the vinyl siding. There's a kind of a siding called Hardie Board or Smartboard or things like that.

There are different brand names for that. Those will often have multi-decade warranties. So they're good products. They last a long time, and they have good warranties.

Then you have appliance warranties or you have heating and air conditioning warranties, and those are also manufacturer specific. And technically it's not the manufactured home builder that's warranting that. It's the maker of that appliance or the maker of that heater or that air condition.

Michael:

I really enjoyed our second meeting or the second video. Thank you very much. I very much appreciate your time and your knowledge that you're sharing with our consumers. We're putting together this series of videos to educate the consumers about the pros, cons associated with manufactured homes, and I appreciate you spending time with us talking about it.

Tony:

First I would say that we have a lot of respect for your resource. That's how we met is I contacted you because of a video that you had. And I think you guys do a great job of giving consumers a place where they can complain outside the normal stream. I think that's useful.

But to your point, especially the older consumer, if somebody is let's say a 50-year-old, and that's about half of our industry's market, a lot of those people have already owned a site-built home, and a lot of them will after they've toured that factory, they're happy to buy the manufactured home. And they may be selling a site-built home and buying a manufactured home.

So you're 100% right. If you are thinking about a manufactured home, especially if this is a second home for you, then I would think that going to the factory is going to answer a lot of questions.

I would quickly add that not every factory does customizations. Many do, but if you want to customize your home, there's obviously going to be a charge for that, but it's still going to be less expensive than having a site-built home.

So the long and the short of it is you do learn a lot from going to the factory. And if you're working with a good, ethical retailer, especially someone that's been in business for a while, then a lot of the typical headaches that consumer experiences can be avoidance.

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Michael:

Consumers, please subscribe to our channel. This is video number two out of a collection of probably five or six videos that we're going to do with Tony. We're really going to do deep dive into the industry of manufactured homes trying to bring to you the useful information about home purchasing experience. Tony, thank you very much. Do you have any closing?

Tony:

Thank you, Michael. I appreciate the opportunity.

In this second video interview, we dived into the details of the buying process. Tony shared his expert tips on how to choose your manufactured home retailer, what questions to ask before contracting with them, and how to avoid headaches after purchasing the house.

We appreciate the insights that Tony gives here as well as his desire to help consumers be informed about the peculiarities of the manufactured home buying process.

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