How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
Are mobile homes well built?
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
All the explanations about HUD standards, storm-resistant construction, and modern manufacturing techniques are just so much “blah-blah-blah-blah-blah” until you visit a factory, watch them being built, and decide for yourself. Not all manufacturers open their factory to tours—and the fact that a particular manufacturer does not allow you on their factory floor does not mean that they are necessarily of lesser quality—but one Florida company offers a half-hour escorted walkthrough that shows the progress of the construction of their homes, from laying the floor framing on the steel undercarriage all the way to installing light fixtures and door knobs.
It’s Palm Harbor Homes, between Tampa and Lakeland, at 605 South Frontage Road, Plant City, Florida 33563 (https://www.palmharbor.com/). They do free morning and afternoon tours, three days a week. Call Palm Harbor at 813-719-3335 for details. There are also always at least a dozen furnished models of their homes encircling a pond next to the factory.
Homes are built “from-the-inside-out,” with the exterior walls going up last. It’s fascinating to see each step on the assembly line, along with the specialty departments that fabricate the cabinets and countertops, tape drywall, run the electrical wiring, and plumb the home.
Plus, if you want to make a pleasant day of it, stop by Fred’s Market for lunch before or after your tour, at 1401 West Martin Luther King Boulevard, less than 10 minutes away (https://www.fredsmarket.com/). It’s a local landmark that’s been around since 1954. They serve a reasonably priced and very popular Southern Style buffet. Call 813-752-7763 for hours.
Although a factory tour will show you firsthand how well new mobile homes are built, older ones vary in quality of construction according to how old they are and how much they cost when new. All major manufacturers have price tiers with corresponding levels of quality of the siding, doors, windows, roof, appliances, and interior detailing. Premium-priced homes are going to better built. See our blog post How can I tell if a mobile home is well constructed? for tips on how to determine the quality level of a particular mobile home.
The caliber of construction varied widely until HUD took over jurisdiction and created a nationwide building code in 1976. HUD has also raised their requirements several times over the years, particularly in storm resistance. See our blog post What year were mobile homes required to become more storm resistant? to learn more.
HUD estimates that a mobile should last 30 to 55 years, depending on maintenance, and the Manufactured Housing Institute, an industry organization, pegs it more optimistically at 55.8 years. Visit out blog post What is the life expectancy of a mobile home? for more on this.
And, yes, the picture at the top of this page really is a mobile home. It’s the interior of one of Palm Harbor’s triple-wides.
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