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ARE MANUFACTURED HOMES HARDER TO REPAIR?

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Often owners of manufactured homes call Rosie on the House to say they’re having a tough time getting repair companies to visit their houses to fix plumbing or electricity or broken windows or whatever seems to be broken.

So we’re wondering why that happens and how the issue can be resolved. After all, these homes have played a big role in the lifestyle and history of Arizona and still provide a place to live for many of our citizens.

Back in the 1940s and ’50s, the early “trailers” or mobile homes provided a place to live for construction workers building the Glen Canyon Dam and other landmarks, for example, but also housed the first snowbirds coming here for winter sunshine.

Today’s manufactured or modular homes can differ sharply from the mobile homes of yesterday, of course. The very first trailer parks were built when zoning regulations were non-existent. Lots could be tiny; some homes were no more than 10 feet wide. In some cases, homes required no more than 50 amps of electricity. Gradually, all that changed as trailers hauled here in those early years were rapidly replaced by manufactured homes built for permanent living.

New communities of beautiful manufactured homes that look very much like individually built homes are particularly attractive to retired people on a limited income who want to move to Arizona or spend winters here. They’re more affordable, of course. But one issue that potential buyers need to consider is that in buying a manufactured house, they usually do not buy the land a home sits on. Instead owners pay monthly rent for a home site, although they don’t pay property taxes.

So are there problems about maintaining and repairing today’s manufactured houses? Some contractors say they hesitate to work on them because the plumbing and electrical systems differ from those they are familiar with.

But Neal T. Haney of Mesa, who owns a property management firm that handles manufactured home parks all over Arizona, told us that today’s manufactured homes are constructed to the same building codes and use the same products and procedures as traditional homes all over the state. “One minor difference is that some of the plumbing is underneath the home, but it’s still more accessible generally than it is under some other types of conventional houses,” he said.

Haney believes that manufactured home communities need to educate contractors and remodelers about the fact that modern manufactured homes have been built to a much higher standard in recent years.

Of course, there are still some homes, particularly older models, with unique components and hard- to-replace parts not sold at the local big-box store. Aging manufactured homes located in older communities can even have smaller toilets and sinks and other fixtures. But companies do exist that can supply those parts, like Westland Distributing in Tempe and Arizona Home Supply in Phoenix, for example.

But it’s always important to do repairs to keep up the value of a home so that someday it can still be resold, instead of being torn down so that something can replace it.

Haney contends: “Any home that has been kept in good repair and had upgrades as needed through the years remains a viable housing unit. … It is when necessary repairs are left undone or are done in a slipshod manner that problems arise.”

If you’re thinking of buying a manufactured home or have recently done so, here are some suggestions about repairs:

  • Your best bet for getting can be the manager of the development where you live. Communities often have a list of local people who specialize in repairing manufactured homes. A local handy man may also be a good option, according to Nancy Kling of Manufactured Housing Communities of Arizona, an industry association.
  • Talk to your neighbors, too, about repair people and contractors that they may have used successfully and get some phone numbers. Find out what issues are most likely to come up in houses built at about the same time.
  • According to Kling, some home parks have staff to help maintain the park as a whole but who will work for individual homeowners for a fee.
  • Find out as much as you can about your home, including the materials and techniques used to build it.

This issue is a great one for uniting like-minded neighbors to work together. It’s a problem that you can solve while making new friends. And that’s one thing that everyone says about manufactured housing communities: They’re very, very friendly.

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