The home looked perfect - clean, bright, nicely-finished, good-looking cabinets and flooring, plenty of electrical outlets, recessed lighting . . . and the price was very attractive. We had it placed on a permanent block foundation, with three bedrooms, an office or den, a shortened third section with fireplace and entertainment area.
It wasn't as expensive as a stick-built home, not of the same level of quality, but we thought it would be fine for the twenty years or so of retirement before the inevitable departure for a long-term care home. "Low-maintenance" we were told, and "the company stands behind its product."
Now we've had it for 9 years, and the defects have become clear.
1. The materials used are of the lowest quality possible - mouldings are foam, bath cabinets are not painted wood but plastic-sheathed pressboard - and the glue holding on the plastic does not last. Pieces fall off and have to be re-glued. The roof is lightweight - so lightweight that a person weighing more than 100 lbs can not stand on it to clean gutters (which have to be added after delivery at your cost), sweep away leaves and seeds falling from trees, or replace the shingles that curl up. Floors are weak, and walking by a piece of furniture makes it shake enough to topple light items on shelves.
2. Paint cracks and peels about 13 months after delivery - just in time for the manufacturer to respond that the guarantee exxpires after a year. The exterior moldings are susceptible to rotting - as they are not primed, just spray-painted, and only on the front, with no caulking to keep moisture from seeping.
3. Light switches are placed in non-intuitive spots - and the general electrical work is poor - junction boxes are not anchored well enough to putt a plug without pulling out the entire box - mostly because the wallboard is thinner than normal - less than 3/8ths in thick.
4. Thin, light-weight walls crack easily - and door stops are so poorly attached as well as small, that a door opened too energetically results in the handle going right through the wallboard.
5. Plumbing is PVC - while it meets code, it is by the skin if a gnat's teeth - it has a tendency to split without warning, so regular inspections are needed under the house to catch little cracks before they turn into gushing slashes - or be replaced with decent pipe beforehand. Have you seen the price on copper pipe these days?
6. Insurance is problematic. Once the home is mroe than a few years old, insurance companies won't insure for replacement value or anything close - if they cover at all. And rates are scandalous - we pay more than $7 per thousand for a policy that covers only half the replacement cost, not including delivery and removal of the old house. That's more than twice the rate for a stick-built home.
7. Taxes are unforgiving - although the value of a manufactured home declines with age, the assessment does not - in fact, unless you sell the home at its depreciated value in order to establish a lower market value, most assessors will not budge on the assessment. Even with an appraisal by a qualified independent appraiser meets with a "so what" at the assessor's temple.
8. Refinancing is out. A ten-year old home with the 30-year mortgage paid down normally to around 80% of the original mortgage amount (do the math - it's scary) will not qualify for a new mortgage - because the assessed valuation of the home decreases, and the land is not increasing enough in value to make up the difference. Banks run from the file faster than a gazelle runs from a cheetah.
9. Selling a modular home takes twice as long as a similarly-sixed stick-built home - and at a much lower price per square foot.
In short, consider purchase of a modular home only if you must - and vet the manufacturer VERY carefully. Fleetwood may have just the right home on paper, but in the cold light of almost ten years later, we are far from convinced that the price is worth paying, as the costs of ownership are far higher than with a real house.
We regret our purchase from Fleetwood - and you may too.