A single wide mobile home being delivered
July 30, 2020

Site Preparation for a Mobile Home: What It Means and Why it Matters

Site Inspections, Contractors, and What to Expect on Delivery Day

We talked about the most important aspects to consider when purchasing a piece of property for your mobile home / manufactured home, and today, we want to cover what happens after you buy the land before it is ready for delivery of your new home.

It’s time for the all important site preparation.

This is a multi-step process that should be completed with a trained general contractor who has experience with mobile homes. We love DIY and saving a buck where it makes sense, but this is one of those situations where an inch off could cost you thousands of dollars or “it looks good” could hide problems that will cause you huge headaches down the road.

Just in case you didn’t get the hint, this is an area where we highly recommend you use a professional with experience. It will cost you a little more up front, but it will be done with guarantees, certifications, and, in some cases, warranties.

Always Get a Site Inspection!

Rule number one in buying a manufactured home—Get a site inspection. I would say NO exceptions, but there are some very, very few exceptions. You probably aren’t one of them.

A responsible, knowledgeable manufactured home dealership will have a site inspection scheduled usually after your credit approval has been processed by the target lender for your home. It is after the credit approval because you want to ensure you can afford the home before paying for something like a site inspection. It is before you actually buy the home, because you want to know what it will take to put a home on your property.

Surprises are uncovered during site inspections all the time. One customer found the perfect land, put money down on a home, and the site inspection revealed a gas line running right underneath where the home was to be parked. The seller of the land failed to disclose the gas line when selling the property. Can you imagine discovering that issue after you were locked into buying the home?

Whether or not your property is well suited for a mobile home is not something you want to find out after you buy it.

What Happens During the Site Inspection?

A site inspection is essential for the safe and smooth delivery of your home. During a site inspection, an experienced manufactured home delivery professional will evaluate all aspects of your property—from the trees, soil, county, elevation, distance to utilities, fences, etc.

If you have already purchased property and haven’t yet done research into the county permits, possible floodplains, or availability of utilities, the site inspection agent will typically be able to offer insight about these requirements in your area.

A professional will also evaluate the approach to your property. There may be trees overhanging the road that could damage your house on the way to your property. A power line may also be in the way from delivering your house.

Typically, after the site inspection, a list of necessary steps for preparing your property with an estimate will be drawn up on the work needed to ready the property for a home. This could include things such tree-limb removal, county permits, base-pad, or fence removal.

Know your rights. Just because you receive an estimate from the site inspection company does not mean you must permit them to do the work. You have the option of finding your own local contractors and getting your own estimates for the work required for the home delivery. You may even choose to do some of the work yourself.

Many people will often let their mobile home dealer work with the contractors. There are some pros and cons to having your dealer work with the contractors.

In favor of your mobile home dealer taking care of all the work is you save a lot of headaches finding and managing contractors. You also have to deal with one person, and if anything goes wrong, it is on the mobile home dealership, since they made all the arrangements. In other words, there is no finger pointing and no excuses as to why it is someone else’s fault and responsibility. As far as you are concerned, the dealership is responsible for it all.

A quality mobile home dealership will also have vetted out their contractors for quality and price. They don’t want headaches just like you don’t want headaches, so they probably already have a list of good contractors who have reasonable pricing.

The con is that you will pay more. The dealership is taking time to manage the contractors, and they will need to be compensated for the time. Depending on how much work needs to be done to prepare your property, it could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars to hire the contractors yourself.

A dump truck dumping dirt on a lot

Hiring Your Own Contractors

Taking control of your site work can feel daunting. Contractors sometimes get a bad rap, and it seems everyone knows someone with a bad experience.

However, there are many, honest, hard-working, reasonable companies that would love to have your business and help you become a homeowner.

Your responsibility when looking to hire a contractor is to research them. Go to their website, look for reviews, ask around your neighborhood, visit their place of business and make sure they are licensed, bonded and insured. This will be necessary in permit approval, loan requirements for the work, and making sure they can pay for any mistakes!

Your sales team should be willing to review the estimates and help you determine the legitimacy and accuracy of the bid.

NEVER choose a contractor that asks for money in full before the work is completed. Full payment up front is usually a big warning sign that you are about to get ripped off. It should never be a requirement, and if it is, go with another company.

On the flip side, if you have a lot of work that needs to be done, some contractors may ask for a deposit up front. Just like you don’t want to get ripped-off, contractors don’t like getting ripped-off, and most have experienced a customer who failed to pay. If a contractor asks for a deposit up front, you can usually verify with your mobile home sales person whether the requested amount is fair.

Also, be sure to communicate your schedule needs with the contractors to ensure they can finish the work by the factory’s estimated completion date for your home. Contractors will certainly have other jobs, so be aware of their realistic timeline.

Note, there is an exception to being your own general contractor (the person in charge of choosing and scheduling contractors). Certain loans, especially government loans, require you hire a general contractor. In this instance, your home dealership will be in charge of coordinating the site preparation as there are more requirements and legalities involved for these situations.

a lot with grading work complete in preparation of placing a mobile home on the lot

Base Pads

Base pads are an essential component of site preparation and are required pretty much anywhere you want to place your home. Base pads ensure proper water drainage, keep humidity under the home down, and help keep the foundation from shifting.

A typical base pad in South Texas is referred to as caliche, a kind of gravel with lots of calcium carbonate that acts as a type of natural cement. This is the base pad needed when buying with a conventional loan or with cash. The caliche is rolled and compacted into a level surface of about 4 to 6 inches in height and 1 foot larger on each side than the home to be placed there. The cost depends on how far the material needs to be transported, how much material needs to be used, and the labor costs charged by your local contractors. In South Texas, a caliche base pads typically cost from $2,500 to $5000.

The base pad requirements change if the loan is a government loan such as a FHA or VA loan. For these loan types, concrete runners are required. The concrete runners allow for permanent anchors to be fixed into the home and foundation. For this base pad the cost goes up considerably with a typical range of $6,500 to $10,000.

To learn more about base pads, you can read our blog post dedicated to base pads.

For more in depth details of base pad needs on your manufactured home please download our free Buyer’s Guide, which describes not only base pad options, but also every single aspect of a manufactured home purchase.

An end loader doing grading work on a lot

Site Preparation Matters

Nothing can be more of a disappointment to you and your family than delivery delays of your home. But it can and will happen if the home site has not been properly prepared for the home.

Remember that the site preparation items are required items, not a suggestion. If permits need to be acquired, tree limbs need to be removed, areas need to be leveled, or a base pad needs to be a certain height, this is a requirement.

Oftentimes before a delivery, the delivery coordinator will request pictures to confirm all site preparation is completed. This is normal and reasonable, and could potentially save you thousands in additional delivery or even storage costs if the home arrives and work is are needed on your property prior to home installation.

Although the delivery process can at times be frustrating or confusing, it is important to remain flexible with the understanding that there are many parts working together. There are factors such as your home’s factory “offline” date, the availability of drivers, the permit approval for transport, and even (especially) weather are all factors that contribute to delivery scheduling. Failure to prepare your site only adds to this already delicate balance.

A single wide mobile home being delivered

Delivery Day

We strive to ensure our buyers don’t encounter too many surprises during the home-buying process. That’s why we offer up front pricing, schedule site inspections, and provide a delivery estimates on website.

After all the paperwork is signed, you have officially “closed” on your home. Between the close and the delivery is when the site preparation of your property gets finished which may include removing low hanging limbs, scheduling the installation of your base pad, getting on the waiting list for utility service. Then finally comes the time for your home to be delivered!

Yes, this is a BIG DAY. Often, a home buyer will have been working through the process for months—loan paperwork, ordering their home, preparing their site—and it all comes down to this moment!

But wait. Delivery date is NOT your move-in date.

If you are not ready for that reality, you may be in for a shock. Your home is delivered, placed on the base pad… and then nothing.

Remember, a manufactured home installation is a multi-step process. The delivery of your home is only the beginning. It is typically 24-72 hours until the home enters the “set-up” process.

Set-up is where the home is placed on cinderblocks and leveled, the tires are removed, and steps are brought to access the front door. If you purchased a single wide home, this is the step you waited for before you can move in, though you may have some other site-work still needed.

For double-wide homes, which are transported in two halves, another step is required called “trim-out”.

This is where the home’s interior and exterior are seamed together with trim, paint, and the finishing of carpet/linoleum. You should not move anything in until after the trim-out is complete. In most cases, trim-out will take place about 3 days from the day of set-up, but depending on weather conditions, location of your home site, and density of the schedule, it could take a week or more.

The good news is you don’t have to wait from the trim-out to get your utilities hooked up. Once the home is set-up, you can hookup your water and electric plus get that air conditioning unit set-up. (Note, if you are handling hiring all your contractors, make sure you have the a/c disconnect box hooked up before the HVAC guy or gal gets there.)

Key Factors Influencing Land Preparation Costs

Land preparation costs can vary significantly, influenced by factors such as the geographical location, the condition of the land, and local regulations. Each of these elements plays a pivotal role in shaping the overall cost of your mobile home project. 

Location and Local Regulations

The cost of land preparation for a mobile home is significantly influenced by its location and local building codes. Different regions have varying requirements for mobile home installations, affecting overall expenses. For instance, areas prone to natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes may require additional safety measures, thereby increasing costs. Additionally, local zoning and land use regulations can dictate the type of work permitted and the necessary permits, impacting the cost. You can generally find many of these regulations on local government websites. For example, you’ll find Odessa, Texas, zoning information on Odessa-tx.gov.

Land Condition and Size

The condition and size of the land are pivotal in determining the preparation costs. A larger plot may require more extensive clearing and leveling, increasing expenses. The nature of the terrain also plays a crucial role; rocky or uneven land necessitates more work and equipment, such as excavation and grading, to create a suitable foundation for the mobile home. Conversely, a smaller, flatter plot might incur lower preparation costs due to less intensive labor and equipment needs.

Utility Connections and Infrastructure

Establishing utility connections is a major component of land preparation costs. The expenses involved in setting up water, electricity, sewage, and internet services can vary widely. Factors such as the proximity of utility lines to the site and the need for new installations or upgrades can significantly influence the cost. Rural areas, for instance, might require installing a septic system or a well, adding to the overall budget.

Average Cost Breakdown

A general cost breakdown for preparing land for a mobile home includes several key components:

  • Land Purchase: The cost of acquiring the land itself.
  • Site Preparation: Expenses for clearing, leveling, and grading the land.
  • Utility Connections: Costs for connecting water, electricity, sewage, and internet services.
  • Permits and Fees: Expenses for obtaining necessary building and zoning permits.

For example, in northern Texas, a typical scenario might involve a land purchase cost of around $25,000, site preparation costs averaging $25,000, utility connection fees (depending on proximity to existing infrastructure), and permit fees ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Additional Considerations

When budgeting for land preparation, it’s crucial to consider potential hidden costs or unexpected expenses. These might include environmental impact assessments, additional landscaping requirements, or unforeseen construction challenges. It’s advisable to allocate a contingency fund to cover these uncertainties, typically 10-20% of the total estimated cost.

Three people signing paperwork

Professionals Are Essential

The key to all of this is—use professionals! As you can see, the site preparation and installation of a mobile home is not always cut and dry. Professionals who have been in the industry for a long time have experience. They know the lingo, the tedious rules, and how to solve a problem before it happens.

Buying a home is hard enough without having to navigate all of this new territory by yourself. Choose a dealership willing to not only sell you the home you want, but to guide you through the other components as well.

Look for a mobile home dealer willing to answer any question, talk you through any procedure, and ultimately make you feel comfortable with each decision—whether it has to do with the financing, transportation, installation, or utilities of your home.

Information is power, some companies want you to have that power and others want to keep you in the dark in order to have power over you. Look for a mobile home dealer who wants you in the driver seat while you are buying your home.

Want to learn more about buying mobile homes? Visit our Braustin Academy for Mobile Homes where we packed in just about everything you might want to know about when you are in the market to buy a mobile home.

This post was originally published May 3, 2018 and was updated to ensure relevancy.

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