The much-maligned mobile home is actually an amazingly versatile housing option. It has allowed millions of people to own their own homes at a minimal cost, and modern homes are durable, livable, and appealing. What happens underneath a mobile home is important, though! Installing a mobile home on the right kind of foundation is always a good idea.
First, it is important that you understand the distinction between “manufactured” and “modular” homes. The words “manufactured home” have become synonymous for mobile homes, and they refer to the same type of structure: One that leaves the factory fully assembled or in a few (two or three) pieces.
Modular homes are also factory manufactured housing, but they are shipped to the site in much smaller pieces. They require far more construction work on-site and are also almost always more expensive than mobile or manufactured homes. However, they do not have to deal with the special foundation concerns that mobile homes do.
Financial Advantages To Firm Foundations
Even though the overwhelming majority of manufactured homes are never moved again after they are delivered to their owners, they are still theoretically movable. This leads many banks and other lenders to treat them as “personal” rather than “real” property. This is a huge difference! Personal property depreciates over time while real property increases in value.
Fortunately, lenders will consider a mobile home real property once it has been permanently attached to a robust foundation. This allows the owner to take out mortgages and hopefully, enjoy rising property values over time. The precise foundation requirements for consideration as real property vary from state to state.
The most common form of foundation installed beneath a mobile home is the so-called “pier and ground” system. Here the home rests on individual piers located underneath the steel structure of the home at key points. While the edge of the house may be surrounded by a permanent curtain wall and a crawlspace may be created beneath the home, a pier and ground system is rarely sufficient to qualify a home as real property. It is still employed due to its simplicity and affordability, though.
A concrete slab foundation is typically durable enough to make the transition to real property for a manufactured home. Many homes use “hybrid” systems that blend elements of the slab and pier designs. As long as the home is connected to an insulated, continuous slab it usually qualifies as real property.
One of the most expensive but also most valuable foundation options for mobile homes is the basement foundation. This is basically a sunken concrete box poured before the home is delivered. It must be built carefully to ensure its dimensions match the home above. Basement foundations are not appropriate in areas where flooding is a risk, but they are extremely useful in other regions.
Finally, there are a number of proprietary home anchoring systems on the market today, most of which involve permanent steel connections between the structure of a mobile home and concrete footings. Most of these can qualify a home as real property. This fact needs to be carefully verified before any foundation decisions are made.
Expanding A Mobile Home
A permanent foundation that turns a mobile home into a piece of real property can be created before the home is delivered or retrofitted at a later time. When a retrofit foundation is installed, homeowners often take a long view at their future needs and elect to plan for expansions at the same time.
Although mobile home expansions can be connected to the original manufactured structure, they cannot safely bear weight on it. They have to stand independently. The same holds true for expansion foundations, even if they are created at the same time as the original home’s foundation. These are typically separated by an expansion joint that allows the two foundations to function independently.
Anchoring a mobile home to a permanent foundation really does convert it into a “manufactured” home as well as a piece of real property. While it may not always be within a homeowner’s budget, it is generally an excellent idea for those owners who are thinking in the long term.
Carol Robson is a retired social worker who believes in living simply, being ecologically friendly, and leaving a small footprint. For more helpful information for others looking to do the same, check out Tiny House Plans.