In the world of modular home manufacturing, just like in anything, there are the good and the not so good. Manufacturers come in a range of sizes from small to large. Some build over a thousand homes per year and others less than a few dozen. Some manufactures specialize in dealing with a very custom products and others may be limited in their options and amenities. Most manufacturers are limited to the geographic area that they can ship to and will have a product line of homes and/or collections with specific baseline specifications.
Please note that in most cases you will not purchase your home directly from the modular manufacturer. You will purchase it from a local builder. If you contact a manufacturer they will refer you to an independent home builder close to you that is a part of their network. The pre-planning is the longest part of the process and will take a minimum several weeks, and possibly months to complete. Your readiness to build is predicated on many things such as your accessibility to land, ability in acquiring a loan, and the process of selecting the floor plan and features.
When choosing the manufacturer, you should take an apples to apples approach when possible and comparison shop. Make your decision on facts like: home designs; specifications; options and amenities; and delivery times.
To find out more about modular manufacturers, go to the Building Systems Council website www.nahb.org/bsc, which is a part of the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). Here are some suggestions on the categories and questions to consider when selecting the modular manufacturer that’s right for you:
- First Impression: Does the manufacturer’s website answer your questions? Are you able to access the floor plans, photographs and options that satisfy your needs? Do they engage in social media? Are you getting the information that you need to come to a decision? If you ask them a question, how quickly do they respond to you?
- Check Them Out: Consult friends, neighbors, the Better Business Bureau, pose questions to online discussion groups, look at Facebook and Angie’s List, etc. Keep in mind that you are never going to get all thumbs up or five stars. Take comments with a grain of salt as people are more likely to complain than give compliments, especially online.
- Company History: How long have they been building homes? Ask specifically how long they have been building modular homes, not RV’s or mobile homes. Typically the companies that have been around longer have their systems and production techniques down pat and are better organized to deliver the results you are looking for.
- What If Something Goes Wrong? There is no such thing as a perfect house. Some problems can be expected. Ask about the manufacturer’s warranty on the home and what their responsibilities are after you acquire the home.
- Tour the Plant: Touring the plant can be very informative and interesting and you will most likely be glad you made the effort. During your tour, ask to talk to a worker on the line and ask what they are doing and why it is important. Take along a building professional if you can for added expertise and input.
- Trust Your Gut: Morale can be a significant factor. What is the feeling when you visit the plant or office? Ask questions like: “What is it like to work here?” While you are in their facility, pay attention to the attitude of the workers and observe. Do they go about their work with competence, skill and vigor, or does it appear like drudgery to them? If it is the latter, that can be symptomatic of larger problems in the workforce that could result in inattention and poor workmanship.
- Do You Hear Yes More Than No? I think you will agree hearing a Yes is much better than hearing a No. When you do hear “No”, do they give you alternatives? Some modular home companies can be very rule laden and rigid. Many times their NOs are merely for the sake of their own production benefit. Other times, the NOs are necessary, well reasoned and rational. It is up to you to discern what you are able to concede and what your most coveted “must haves” are. Remember you are the customer and it is your right to ask “Why?”
- Are They Green? Green is here to stay and environmentally-conscious building can save you a significant amount of money down the road. Most modular homes are intrinsically energy efficient by the manner in which they are constructed and are very resourceful in their material usage when compared to site building. Does the manufacturer go the extra mile and have energy efficient options to help the home owner? What are the things that need to be done on the jobsite?
- Customization: If you come to the manufacturer with your own plan, will they attempt to make it work or will they steer you toward choosing an off-the-shelf stock plan? Can you attain the degree of customization and detail that you expect? Are your needs being listened to? Do they use 3-D computer software to help you visualize and custom design the home?
These are just a few of the things that you should consider when choosing a modular manufacturer and there may be more, depending on your priorities. The importance of selecting the best manufacturer should not be diminished and your decision is probably one of the most essential factors in building a home that you will be happy in.
We welcome hearing your thoughts and questions about how to choose a modular home manufacturer. Feel free to post your questions and ideas in the comments section below or contact Westchester Module’s friendly team.