If you’re looking for an affordable pathway to homeownership, manufactured homes may have caught your attention.
Manufactured home options have gotten a serious upgrade in recent years, with some new models offering spacious layouts, four or more bedrooms, and amenities such as covered porches and attics.
Even more enticing is their price point. Nationwide, the average cost of a manufactured home in April 2021 was $100,200, according to the U.S. Census. The average cost of a site-built home, on the other hand, was more than $391,000.
“A manufactured home offers comparable square feet to stick build for a lower price per square foot,” said William Dawes, a branch manger with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation (Fairway owns Home.com).
But you have to look beyond the sticker price. For example, the above-mentioned manufactured home price doesn’t include land. How much does a manufactured home cost? It depends. And it’s important to know all the possible expenses before going all in one of these homes.
What's in this Article?
The term “manufactured home” probably calls to mind classic single- or double-wide trailers. And those are still available, including brand-new models with energy-efficient appliances.
However, manufactured homes have evolved in recent years. These days, manufacturers offer models with floor plans of 2,000+ square feet, multiple bedrooms and sitting rooms, covered porches, and more.
More importantly, they’re built to much stricter safety standards and codes than they were a few decades ago.
In the past, mobile homes were created as affordable and flexible housing options that could be moved with relative ease. But post-1976, new federal building codes were enacted that governed the construction of these homes.
Modern manufactured homes are also different from the mobile homes of yesteryear in that they are built with more sustainable materials and may be designed to be affixed to more permanent foundations.
You may have also heard the term “modular home.” These are similar to manufactured homes except that they are built to state and local building codes, rather than federal requirements. Another key difference is that manufactured homes have a trailer hitch and axles built in when they come off the manufacturing line, according to Dawes.
The trailer hitch and axle, which are attached to a steel beam that runs the length of the manufactured home unit, are necessary for transporting the home to its location and are key differentiators from from modular and stick-built, or site-built, homes.
Manufactured homes offer homebuyers both affordability and flexibility — two things in short supply in some U.S. markets. With home prices having risen steeply, the possibility of purchasing a brand-new home for $90,000 or $110,000 may seem like a golden ticket to homeownership.
Manufactured home standards
For one thing, the manufactured home you want to buy must meet government standards to qualify for a conventional conforming loan or government-backed mortgage.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a specific definition of a manufactured home: a “transportable structure, comprised of one or more modules, each built on a permanent chassis, with or without a permanent foundation, designed for occupancy as a principal residence by a single family.”
That structure must adhere to HUD’s Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (MHCSS) requirements, which is confirmed by the presence of two HUD labels on the exterior of the home.
Any home manufactured prior to 1976 does not meet HUD’s latest guidelines, and some programs will only allow you to purchase a manufactured home that is a double-wide or larger.
If you’re interested in buying a manufactured home, make sure to get preapproved* before you start looking at houses. Your lender will tell you which loan programs you qualify for, and therefore which property requirements to keep in mind during your search.
Is it harder to buy a manufactured home?
Buying a manufactured home can be more complex than buying a traditional home, especially if you’re also purchasing land and needing to coordinate with city inspectors and contractors.
To a homeowner, a manufactured home functions exactly the same as a traditional house. It’s where you live. But from a lender’s perspective, they’re not the same.
“A manufactured home is given a ‘shelf life’ or ‘only guaranteed’ by the manufacturer for a period of 30 years,” Dawes said. “This is the major reason they are difficult to finance – most homes do not have a ‘shelf life’ or ‘life expectancy’ when they’re built.”
For that reason, not all lenders offer financing for manufactured homes. Those that do may have higher qualification requirements. Dawes said that the credit score requirements for buying a manufactured home are generally higher than for traditional homes. He noted that lenders will also estimate higher homeowners insurance premiums and higher interest rates when calculating a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to approve them for a loan.
Insurance and interest rates tend to be more expensive on manufactured homes, according to Dawes, and a higher DTI calculation can mean you’re approved for a lower loan amount.
Not all lenders do loans for all types of manufactured homes. Some will only lend on manufactured homes that are double-wides or larger.
Dawes advised that if you’re in the market for a manufactured home, you make sure the home has exterior HUD labels and an interior HUD plate. These verify that the home was built to HUD requirements and provide the year, make, model, and serial number of the home — all of which will be necessary for the home to be approved for financing.
Buying a manufactured home: How much will it really cost you?
The all-in cost of buying a manufactured home depends on a number of factors, and they can all vary based on your local market, local laws, and the manufactured home options available where you live.
But here’s a rundown of the major costs to consider.
Manufactured homes come in a range of sizes, from single-wide to doublewide to even triple-wide and above.
A double-wide is twice the size of a single-wide (it’s made with two single-wides), with prices that are also roughly twice as high in most areas of the country.
In the Northeast, for example, a single-wide costs, on average, $73,800 according to the U.S. Census, while a double-wide runs $113,300.
Meanwhile, in the South, the average cost for a single-wide is $67,700 but $122,200 for a double-wide.
A triple-wide is roughly three times the size of a single-wide, and correspondingly more expensive.
It’s important to think about how much living space you and your family really need. As you look at larger and more expensive models, the prices may become comparable to some site-built homes. At that point, you have to weigh the other costs and logistics of getting a manufactured home against buying something that is move-in ready.
How much a new manufactured home costs depends on your square footage and the amenities you want included in the home. A doublewide with a standard layout that’s 1,200 feet or less could run you $100,000 or less.
But a more luxurious model, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and living room — in other words, something similar to a traditional site-built home — could put you close to (if not over) $200,000, especially if you purchase brand-new appliances through the home manufacturing company as well.
That’s new models, though, straight from the factory floor. You may be able to save on the purchase price if you opt for an older home. A manufactured home that’s in good condition but needs some cosmetic upgrades can be a good way to keep your homebuying budget low, while leaving funds available for upgrading appliances and fixtures once you’ve moved in.
Aside from the home itself, land is the other biggest additional cost in the equation – if you plan to purchase the property on which the home will sit.
For many, though, that is part of the attraction of a manufactured home. A homebuyer can choose the acreage and features of their lot – something that is more difficult when looking at existing homes.
Just keep in mind that costs for land can vary widely depending where you live and how much property you’re buying.
You may be able to get an acre or two for $10,000 or less in a rural area. But closer to a city or tourist hot spot, a small plot of land could cost you tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of dollars.
In California, for example, a development impact fee could run $20,000-$30,000, according to Khari Washington, owner of 1st United Realty & Mortgage in Riverside. Total development costs could equal $80,000, he said, depending on the location, size, county, and other factors.
Fortunately, there are several loan programs that allow you to finance the purchase of the manufactured home and the land in a single mortgage.
If you purchase undeveloped land for the manufactured home, you may also need to pay to have it cleared, have a driveway paved, and to add utility hook-ups to the property.
Costs vary depending on the site and the requirements. Washington said that in California, water and sewer fees range from $5,000 to $10,000, while building permits range from $3,000 to $4,000. California also may require school district fees and city fees that average $1,500 each, depending upon location.
You’ll want to research these fees in your area before you buy property or even the manufactured home itself.
You will also need to find out if there are any zoning restrictions or neighborhood covenants on the land you wish to buy that may affect your ability to put a manufactured home on the property.
If the land that is not already approved for the siting of a manufactured home, you will need to find out if the land is suitable for the installation of a manufactured home. Briefly, the land will likely need to meet state, local, and possibly manufacturer requirements for the following:
- Building permits
- Septic, electrical, septic, and other utility hook-ups/dryer vent discharge
- Physical access to the site
- Appropriate site preparation
- Stable soil and a proper foundation for the soil class
- Perimeter enclosure
- School district and city fees, if applicable
You can avoid some of these hurdles by purchasing a plot in a land-owned manufactured home community. But you may have to pay homeowner association (HOA) fees similar to those in condominium communities. HOAs can provide community amenities, such as landscaping, recreational facilities, and more. HOA fees can range from $100 to $300 or more per month.
You don’t have to purchase land to buy a manufactured home, however.
If you’d prefer not to, whether for budgetary reasons or because you don’t want the responsibility of clearing and maintaining the land, you can rent a plot in a manufactured home park.
The average cost of lot rent nationwide is $300 per month, but that number varies significantly as well. The price of land in the region generally, the size of the lot, the services included (such as utilities), and the community’s amenities all affect land rental rates.
Costs in states where real estate is more expensive, such as California, can rise as high as $800 per month.
It’s also worth noting that once you move your manufactured home into one of these communities, it’s not easy to move out again. Despite the term “mobile home,” these houses aren’t actually all that mobile and aren’t designed for multiple moves. If you put the home on a foundation, it will be even more difficult to pull up stakes.
For that reason, think carefully before choosing a manufactured home community. Weigh the monthly rental costs against the possible cost of a mortgage, and consider whether rental price hikes might ultimately make this option untenable.
While renting the land may be more convenient short-term, owning may provide more stability and control over your expenses.
Some manufactured home builders include the price of transporting the home to its location in their purchase price. Be sure to ask before you sign the contract, though, because not all do.
If delivery is not included, the cost to transport the home can range from $1,000 to $5,000 within a 100-mile radius. If you want it transported more than 100 miles, you’ll likely be charged from $6.00 to $15.00 per mile.
In some locales, you will also need an escort to ensure safety (think of those trucks with the signs that say “wide load” to warn passing motorists). Escorts can cost from $1.00 to $2.00 per mile.
There are a number of good reasons to put your manufactured home on a foundation. A foundation can stave off structural issues, and manufactured homes without foundations can be more susceptible to weather damage and pest infestations.
If you choose a basement foundation, you can also increase your living and storage space if your manufactured home is on the smaller side.
Depending on where you live, local building laws may mandate that the home be put on a foundation.
Be sure to check your local requirements, zoning, and building codes, plus the requirements of communities you are considering moving into.
Foundations vary enormously in price, depending on the type, materials used, and amenities. Some can include areas like basements (finished or unfinished) or crawl spaces. The average cost ranges from $4,500 to $12,000 — but can range steeply upward, depending on complexity, materials, climate, soil, and other factors.
Foundations and the materials used can exert a large influence on the long-term value of a manufactured home. Choosing to go with no foundation will likely cause the home’s value to drop because it jeopardizes the home’s value and potential for resale. A permanent foundation that makes the house look and function more like a site-built home has a better chance of holding its value.
Lastly, you likely can’t get financing on a manufactured home until it is set on a foundation and its vehicle title has been “eliminated.” This means it’s no longer classified as a vehicle but real estate. Permanently affixing it to a foundation seals the deal that it’s a home and can’t legally be moved.
Another cost factor: structural certification. “An inspection by a state-licensed structural engineer is required to confirm that the home was attached to its permanent foundation according to code,” Dawes said.
Taxes can be more complicated for a manufactured home than they are for a site-built home, largely because the taxes depend on the classification of your home and whether you own or rent the property it sits on. In addition, taxation varies significantly by state and locality.
If you own your manufactured home and it’s classified as “real property” – in other words, real estate – you will likely pay property tax on it. In many states, these tax rates are roughly the same as for a site-built home, but in some, you may pay at a different rate.
Additionally, In many areas, for the home to be considered real property, you must own the land the home is on, the home must be on a permanent foundation, and it needs to be titled as real property.
Many manufactured homes are not classified as real property, however. Instead, they are classified as personal property. In that case, your home will be taxed as personal property according to the local tax laws. In some states, that means taxing in roughly the same way as cars and other vehicles.
You may be able to have the house reclassified as a real property after you’ve purchased it, which can also help it keep its value and stay marketable if you choose to sell it down the road (not literally, of course!).
If you own the land, you will likely pay the assessed property tax on it. If you rent or lease the lot, the owner of the organization that runs or manages the community will pay the relevant property tax, though your rental agreement may include fees that go toward this payment.
Manufactured homes can be covered by homeowners’ insurance, just as site-built homes can. But bear in mind: “A manufactured home is more expensive to insure than a standard stick built home,” according to Dawes. And that means your homeowners insurance premiums will likely be higher than for a traditional property.
The costs of insuring a mobile home are affected by many factors. You may pay more for fire coverage, for instance, because fire tends to spread more quickly in mobile homes, partly due to the relative space constraints and single-level layout. You may also pay more because manufactured homes are less insulated and thus you may be more prone to frozen pipes and related damage.
Finally, because of their size, manufactured homes may be much more susceptible to damage from high winds — and this is especially true if you’ve elected to go without a foundation or the way the home is affixed to the lot is not secure.
Permit requirements vary widely across the country — and so do permit prices. Because permitting is complicated, it’s best to work with an experienced real estate professional who specializes in manufactured housing within your area, to get a sense of what is required and the corresponding costs.
Custom Fixtures and Layouts
The opportunities for custom fixtures and layouts in manufactured homes are vast. You can have a custom bathroom or kitchen, just as you can in a site-built home. You can decide on customized siding or trim, roofing, and doors.
Many retailers offer blueprints with variable layouts to choose from.
Because customized fixtures and layouts vary so widely, and your choices are so individual, it’s prudent to consult with a Realtor or salesperson about the range of choices and their cost.
How much does a manufactured home cost FAQs
Nationwide, the cost of a manufactured home is $55 per square foot versus $114 per square foot for a stick-built home, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute. So, generally, manufactured homes are less expensive!
But you have to look beyond the sticker price to the total cost of buying a new manufactured home. You may need to purchase or rent the land on which the home will sit, and you may need to pay for clearing the land, delivery of the home, installation of utilities, and a foundation.
So, it can be cheaper to buy a manufactured home, but you need to work with your lender and real estate agent to run the numbers. Depending on your location and the size and customization of the manufactured home you’re buying, opting to build or buy a modest traditional home may be more affordable.
Manufactured homes can be much more affordable than site-built homes. But you need to look at all the associated costs, including land purchase or rental rates, utilities, installation, and other expenses.
Research has shown that manufactured homes hold their value compared with site-built homes. So buying a manufactured home can be a prudent housing choice, especially in areas with high housing costs for stick-built homes or overheated markets where it is difficult to get a bid accepted due to competition.
The cost of putting a basement under a manufactured home can range enormously, depending upon your materials, the land it is sited on, whether you must excavate the ground, the grade, whether you choose a finished or unfinished basement, and more. It will also likely be more expensive if you choose to put a basement in after the home is on a foundation.
The most prudent thing to do is consult with a contractor in your area who can give you a quote based on the size of your home and the land on which it will sit.
Manufactured homes can be a great alternative to purchasing a traditional home, especially in a competitive or high-priced market.
When you understand the full spectrum of costs associated with these options, you can decide whether a manufactured home fits within your budget and whether it’s a good choice for your homeownership goals.
And if it does, this can be a path to a brand-new, customized home that you and your family can enjoy for years to come.
*Pre-approval is based on a preliminary review of credit information provided to Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, which has not been reviewed by underwriting. If you have submitted verifying documentation, you have done so voluntarily. Final loan approval is subject to a full underwriting review of support documentation including, but not limited to, applicants’ creditworthiness, assets, income information, and a satisfactory appraisal.
Some references sourced within this article have not been prepared by Fairway and are distributed for educational purposes only. The information is not guaranteed to be accurate and may not entirely represent the opinions of Fairway.