There are, in fact, homesin the U.S. that are from the 1700’s – from the beginning of our nation. Those homes are 300+ years inage. And over in Europe, there are homes that are several hundred years older than that. So what goesinto a stick-built home that makes them eligible for such long life spans? Basically just lumber. The samekind of lumber that goes into a manufactured home. Humans have been building with lumber since theyfirst learned how to use tools. So I guess we’re all in agreement that lumber has no shelf life.
But if a stick-built home and a manufactured home are both built out of lumber, what makes the stick-built permanent and the manufactured home temporary?
Maybe the foundation is the key
“But a stick-built home has a slab or pier-and-beam foundation”, you may say. Well, the manufacturedhome has a metal “foundation” in the form of the steel outriggers that hold up the floors. And by nottouching the ground, the wooden supports and floors of the manufactured home are even less prone torot and decay. In addition, stick-built foundations are subject to cracks and complete failure due to shiftsin the soil. Not true in manufactured homes.
Can it be the roofs?
No, I think you’d find that manufactured home roofs – whether metal or shingle – have the exactsame longevity as stick-built roofs have. In fact, since manufactured homes are significantly smaller,they are even less prone to problems since there is less square footage at work. Additionally, sincemanufactured home roofs are smaller and cheaper to fix, there is every reason to believe that they getmore maintenance than stick-built roofs do. Also, there are few gutters on manufactured homes – otherthan some of the newest models – so there’s no stopped-up gutters to cause problems.
What about the siding?
On the classic design of metal-on-metal, the home is surrounded by steel – far more durable than thewood that surrounds stick-built homes of that same vintage. On modern manufactured homes, it’s thesame vinyl siding that stick-built homes enjoy. There was, however, a period in which some models useda very poor imitation wood product. This siding, while suitable if kept free of moisture, is the only weak link in the structural chain. But the good news is that it can be readily replaced with better materials ifrot has set in. And it is only a small subset of the manufactured home inventory out there.
What about floor-plan obsolescence?
Yes, the really old manufactured home inventory has really small rooms. But so does the stick-builthousing of that same era. The concept of huge bedrooms and living rooms is fairly new. Have you everlooked at a 4-bedroom, 1,000 sq. ft. stick-built house in Boston? As long as a manufactured home has abathroom, kitchen, and bedroom, it has the basics needed for habitation. And let’s face it, most of ourcustomers are not the pickiest people in the world. They are looking for affordable housing and willingto make do with what they can find that meets their budget.
So why does everyone think that manufactured homes can’t last forever?
I think you can lay some of the blame on the dealer network in the U.S., who has always been trying toconvince customers to “trade-in that old home” for a new one. For a long time – and especially duringthe go-go late 90’s – dealers saw a great opportunity in getting customers to trade-in their old “paid-for”homes so they could buy a new one. This created a feeling that these homes were more like cars thandwellings, and should be traded in every few years. Now, of course, that pressure no longer exists.
Manufactured homes can live forever. You don’t have to be selling new homes constantly to repopulatethe vacant lots left by old inventory that had to be thrown in the trash. It is possible to have a healthycommunity business in the complete absence of new home construction, just as a built-out stick-builtsubdivision doesn’t really care if Centex sales are going well a few subdivisions only. I can tell you thatwe only lose about one or two old homes per year out of our 5,000 lots – and those are normally to fire.
The myth about shelf-life of manufactured homes is not based on fact, only on opinion ofuneducated “experts”. Ask anyone who owns a manufactured home community for the real story.