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How to Choose a Modular or Manufactured Home Builder

By Jared Moats

You’re searching for a new home and decided that a manufactured or modular home is the right choice for you. That’s a great choice! But how do you decide which modular and manufactured home builder to purchase your home new from?

There are plenty of questions you might be asking.

“What company can give me the best value for my money?”

“Which builder carries the best homes for me to choose from?”

“Which builder will help me design a home I’ll love?”

“How can I be sure my home will actually be good quality?”

Is there even a way to tell if a home builder is better than another?”

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It's natural to wonder these things. But choosing your home builder doesn’t have to be confusing. In the end, it all comes down to a reliable company that will give you a home you love at a great price.

Here are five questions you need answered before you decide which manufactured or modular home builder to trust with your home.

Who are the builder’s manufacturers?

If you’re going to trust a home builder to build you the home you love at a great price, you need to find out who their manufacturers are.

Modular and manufactured home builders are often responsible for assembling and finishing your home on your property, but they typically don’t construct your home’s modules themselves. A factory constructs your home’s modules, and then your home builder picks up the modules from the factory, delivers them to your site, and assembles the modules.

While your home builder does play a big role in your home’s construction, they are not entirely responsible for the quality of your home. The quality of your home’s modules is the factory’s responsibility, while the quality of your home’s assembly and finishes are your home builder’s responsibility.

However, if your home’s modules are not built by a reliable manufacturer or held to high standards, then it doesn’t matter how well your builder assembles and finishes your home. A bad start makes a bad home, no matter how good it looks at first.

Reputable manufacturers do a fantastic job when constructing your home’s modules. However, be on guard if a home builder uses manufacturers that are not well-known in the industry or have a poor reputation.

There are plenty of reputable manufacturers out there. But no matter which manufacturer the builder relies on, research them online and look at the manufacturer’s portfolio.

Some manufacturers even let you tour their factory to see the process they use when they build a home’s modules. It could be worth it to examine their work in person before you sign a contract with a home builder.

What is and isn’t included in the builder’s pricing?

Price is one of the things home buyers wonder about the most. A home is one of the most important purchases you will ever make, so you need to know how a builder arrives at the quote they give you.

Every home builder prices their homes differently. When you’re shopping for your home, you need to ask each home builder what they do include in their pricing and what they don’t include in their pricing.

Some home builders remove certain items and services from their pricing to make it seem like their customers receive a great deal, only to surprise them with extra costs later.

For example, some builders will only include the home’s base price and optional subtotal when they give customers a quote. They won’t include services like the foundation, crane set, pier set, pier blocks, air conditioner or furnace installation, water and sewer hookup, delivery and setup, trim out, finishing, and more.

All these services are unavoidable when purchasing your home, but that doesn’t mean a home builder will include them in your home’s price. If the builder does not include these services in your home’s price, you will have to pay for them later, no matter what.

These services can add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of your home. Here is how much they generally cost:

  • Delivery and Setup – $15,000 - $20,000
  • Crane Set (modular home only) – $4,000+
  • Foundation – $20,000 - $60,000+
  • Skirting Installation/Roll Set (manufactured home only) – $1,000 - $2,000
  • Pier Set
  • Furnace and Ductwork – $6,000 - $10,000
  • Central A/C Installation – $2,500 - $7,000
  • Water and Sewer Hookup – $2,000 - $3,000

Since these are unavoidable expenses, why do some builder’s remove them from your home’s price?

One reason may be because the builder does not provide these services. In that case, you would need to hire contractors to do these things for you. But that is exactly what causes the builder’s homes to seem less expensive than they actually are.

For example, a certain home builder may say your 4 bed, 2 bath, and 1,664 sq. ft. manufactured home will cost $87,990. You may be happy with that price and commit to buying the home.

However, if you don’t know that the builder may add on $15,000 - $20,000 for delivery and setup fees, $2,500 for A/C installation, and $6,000 for a furnace later in the process, then you’ll spend way more than you planned for.

That’s why you need to understand what’s included in your home’s price.

Thankfully, not all home builders sneak these prices in later. There are many home builders who include these services in your home’s price. That way you know exactly what you will pay and won’t be surprised by any expenses.

Make sure you ask any builder you consider what they include in your home’s price. Do they only include the home’s base price and subtotal, or do they also include services like the foundation, crane set, and more?

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Is the builder an established company with a good reputation?

A builder’s good reputation and long history are signs you can trust them with your home. But if a builder has a poor reputation or hasn’t been around long, consider doing business elsewhere.

There are a few ways to find out if a builder has a good reputation.

First, turn to the Internet. Read the builder’s reviews on Google, Facebook, GuildQuality, and other platforms to see if previous customers had a good experience with the builder.

Of course, every business is going to have unhappy customers. Unhappy customers are often more vocal than happy ones! With that in mind, it’s okay if the builder does not have a perfect five-star rating on review websites. What you’re looking for is open, honest reviews from happy and unhappy customers which form an accurate representation of the company.

Don’t stop with customer reviews, though. Meet with a builder’s sales representative and ask forward questions about the company’s capabilities, services, and history.

Keep the questions related to what would affect you as a customer. Here are some questions to ask a builder so you can better understand the company:

  • How many homes do you sell each year?
  • With all the customers you serve, can you still guarantee a timely delivery of my home?
  • What quality assurance measures do you take to make sure I receive a quality home?
  • Why should I do business with you instead of your competitors?
  • Can you tell me about some unhappy customers you’ve had? Why weren’t they satisfied?
  • Do you have your own in-house delivery and service employees who are responsible for my home?

These are only a few questions you can ask to evaluate a home builder. Come up with some of your own questions before you meet with a sales representative. Know what information you want ahead of time so you can get exactly what you need out of the meeting.

The home builder isn’t where your questions should stop. Consider interviewing some of the home builder’s previous customers, too. This will ensure you get the builder’s perspective as well as the customers’ perspective.

Did the customer have a positive experience? Are they satisfied with their home? What didn’t they like about the builder? Do they wish anything had been done differently?

Will the builder let you customize your home?

Customizability is a huge advantage of a manufactured or modular home. You can customize your home’s floor plan, components, room options, and more. Aside from great prices, this is a reason modular and manufactured homes have been rising in popularity.

But will the builder let you customize your home?

Although customization is an advantage of modular and manufactured homes, some builders won’t let you customize your home.

Are you able to change your floor plan? Upgrade components? Upgrade appliances? Change colors? Swap materials? Add extra rooms? Lengthen or shorten your home? Upgrade the showers? Change flooring?

A builder who doesn’t let you customize your home sells “cookie cutter” homes. Sure, the home might be good quality, but every home they sell is the same.

Perhaps you don’t want to customize your home. It’s okay if you don’t! In that case, a cookie cutter home would be great for you, so you should stick with a builder that sells them. But many customers want a home they love, whether it’s because they are building their dream home or building a home that fits their specific needs.

Are you interested in a home you can customize? If so, make sure to ask your builder if they allow it.

Does the builder handle everything, or will you have to hire contractors?

As strange as it may seem, do not assume a home builder handles anything except delivery. Some home builders handle everything, other builders handle some things, and some builders handle almost nothing.

Here are some things that need taken care of besides delivering the home to your site:

  • Foundation work (if you buy a modular home)
  • Pier set and blocks (if you buy a manufactured home)
  • A/C installation
  • Water and sewer hookup
  • Trim out
  • Finishing work
  • Garage construction
  • Porches and decks
  • Much more

So, does your home builder take care of the whole job, or will it fall back on you to make sure these things get done?

Unless you have a lot of free time and the right skills, you won’t be able to handle this on your own. You’ll need to hire contractors to finish the job.

The right contractors can do amazing work for you, but they can also make the amount you spend increase. On top of that, you may have to hire several different contractors to make sure everything is taken care of.

You become your own construction manager. You have to hire several contractors, make sure everything is taken care of, and make sure it’s done right.

For example, a contractor that focuses on constructing your home’s foundation probably won’t install your home’s A/C. And the contractor who installs the A/C probably doesn’t do gas work.

When you need to hire so many different companies and contractors to get the job done, your budget increases, and you will probably spend more money than you planned to.

But money isn’t the only thing to be concerned about if you need to hire contractors. Keep the amount of stress in mind, too.

Would it be too hard for you to handle all of these moving parts? Can you make sure the contractors have all the needed information and ensure they get the project done on time? What if a contractor doesn’t finish a job on time and pushes back your project’s timeline?

If this sounds like too much to worry about, then consider choosing a home builder that takes care of the entire process, whether through their own employees or through subcontractors they oversee. This cuts down on spending and eliminates stress.

Time to Pick Your Builder

Those are five questions you need answered when picking a manufactured or modular home builder. You are in a great place to make the right decision once you get these answers from all the builders you’re considering.

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Tags: modular home, manufactured home, home builder