The first thing you should know is that no modular manufacturer is the same. Selecting a modular home manufacturer is similar to most any buying decision you make; there is the good, the bad and the ugly. Manufacturers come in a range of sizes from small to medium to large. Some build literally over a thousand homes per year and others less than a few dozen. Some manufactures specialize in dealing with a very custom product and others may be limited in their options and amenities. Most manufacturers are limited in the geographic area they market to and are generally limited to a 300 mile radius that they can ship due to cost considerations. Also, manufacturers typically have different series of homes that focus on various design applications, such as vacation homes, custom homes and even multi-family homes.
When choosing the right manufacturer for you, be sure to take an “apples to apples” approach when comparing the materials used in the building of your new home. All manufacturers build to a different standard specification. Some start with a bare bones specification in order to provide the lowest cost possible, however you can purchase options a la carte to obtain a better spec. Others begin with a much higher standard but may have a higher base cost up front. For example, some manufacturers use all plywood construction and others use OSB; some use 2×4 exterior walls while others use 2×6; and some use high insulation values exceeding code requirements and others provide just enough to meet the code. The list can go on and on…
Once you have a comfort level with the “Nuts and Bolts” of the construction of your home, consider these tips in choosing the right manufacturer.
1. 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? Are they transparent? Do they engage in social media? Are you getting the information that you need to come to a decisions? If you ask them a question, how quickly do they respond to you?
2. Check Them Out: Consult friends, neighbors, the Better Business Bureau, pose questions to online discussion groups, look at Facebook etc. Keep in mind that you are never going to get all thumbs up or five stars. Take comments with a grain of salt. People are more likely to complain than give compliments, especially online.
3. What’s Their 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 those companies that have been around longer, have their systems and production techniques down pat and are better organized.
4. What If Something Goes Wrong? There is no such thing as a perfect house. Some problems can be expected. Ask what is the manufacturer’s warranty on the home and their responsibilities after you acquire the home.
5. Tour the Plant: Take advantage of touring the plant. The experience can be very worthwhile and extremely informative. You will not only be able to compare the manufacturer specifications but you will also get a feel for the attitude of the company and the kind of quality put into each home. Ask a lot of questions and ask to speak to some of the factory workers. If you are able, bring along a building professional if you can for added expertise and input.
6. Trust Your Gut: Morale can be a significant factor. What is the feeling when you visit the plant and office? Ask questions like: “What is it like to work here?” While you are in the plant pay attention to the attitude of the workers on the line. 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 it can be symptomatic of larger problems in the workforce that could result in inattention and a poor workmanship.
7. Do You Hear Yes More Than No: I think you will agree hearing a Yes is much better than hearing a No. When No is the answer you are give do they give you alternatives? Some modular home companies can be very rule laden and rigid. Many times their No’s are merely for the sake of their own production benefit. Other times the No’s 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?
8. Are They Green: Green is not going away and down the road it can save you a significant amount of money? Most all 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. What are the things that need to be done on the jobsite? Am I eligible for credits from my local electric utility?
9. Customization: If you come to the manufacturer with your own plan will they attempt to make it work or will they try dissuading into choosing a 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 Chief Architect to help to help you visualize and help you custom your design the home?
10. Does the manufacturer take responsibility for the set of the house?: A manufacturer could build a flawless house in the factory but if the house is not set on the foundation properly it could mean trouble. Be sure to ask your manufacturer if they set the home with their own crew or do they leave this up to the local builder.
By now you might be scratching your head; why do I need a local builder if I already have a manufacturer? Please note, that in most all cases you will not purchase your home directly from the modular manufacturer. You will purchase it from a local builder who the manufacturer has authorized to market and build their homes. If you contact a manufacturer they will refer you to a homebuilder that is a part of their network that is closest to you. The local builder plays a vital role in the building of your new home. From engineering the land, working on your home design to fit your lot, spending the time with you to customize your design, preparing the site to accept the home and the complete finish of the home after it is set on the foundation.
These are just a few of the things that came to mind that we thought might be helpful. We are sure there are many more. The importance of selecting the best manufacturer for you should not be diminished. Getting this decision right is probably one of the most essential factors in building your new dream home.
We’d love to hear from you, have thoughts or questions about finding the Modular Home Manufacturer that is right for you? Feel free to post your comments section below.