Mobile and manufactured homes are a different beast than standard construction. While the basic skills needed to work on them are mostly the same, there are some notable differences when it comes to their setup. And with more young adults looking at these types of homes as affordable starter housing and more specialty contractors who work on mobile homes reaching retirement age, the need for contractors who can setup and remodel mobile homes has risen. Depending on your location, you may need extra licensure or registration to qualify as a contractor who can claim a piece of this pie.
The Differences Between Mobile Homes and Standard Homes
One of the biggest advantages to working on factory-built homes is that you’ll almost always know where wiring, plumbing, and HVAC elements are. There’s relatively little variation in where these important elements are located – and you’ll rarely have to look too hard to find the source of a problem. Mobile and manufactured homes are built to be easy, straightforward and standardized.
While standards used in mobile and manufactured homes change over time, the changes aren’t that drastic. Compared to slab-built housing, factory-built homes tend to use smaller elements – you may find yourself needing to source custom sized-windows, for example, or heating vents that work for the home. Sometimes you’ll need to source materials from a specialty mobile home parts store.
Compare and contrast this with slab housing, where there’s a greater degree of variation depending on when the home was built, how many owners have made changes and what materials were used. You’ll do a greater degree of troubleshooting trying to identify the location of the problem and may have to use your knowledge and skill to come up with creative, workable solutions.
Why Does This Area Lack Contractors?
The mobile and manufactured housing market lacks contractors willing to work on this type of housing for several reasons. First, there’s the aging workforce that dominated the work in this market. Setup and leveling mobile homes, never mind fixing them if there’s a problem, is a young contractor’s game that requires a great degree of crouching, crawling and bending close to the ground. If you’ve been working for 30+ years in the field, chances are your back won’t be too happy at the prospect. Older contractors who know how to do this work simply may not be able or willing to anymore.
Next, there’s the stigma of factory-built homes – and their owners – being hard to work on or for. Many contractors have a bad experience with one ancient mobile home and write off all factory-built housing as a nightmare to work on. This influences the opinion of those they tell about the experience, leading to an overall idea that mobile and manufactured homes are difficult to work with. The same goes for the clientele who typically own these homes, who may be low income, on a fixed income or otherwise budget-minded. When you enter into the field of working on factory-built housing, you can normally expect most of your clients to have a strict budget in mind – even if they aren’t upfront about it – and you’ll need to work with them to figure out what you can reasonably or logically do within their budget.
Licensing and Registration Requirements
Is your general contractor’s license enough to qualify you to work on mobile homes? Maybe, depending on your location. Some jurisdictions maintain a separate set of standards for professionals working on factory-built housing, and you may need to complete additional qualifications to work on this type of housing.
If you’re looking to move or complete the setup, tie-down, and leveling of a mobile home, you’ll almost certainly need a separate license or registration from your state. Talk to your state’s Department of Manufactured Housing or Department of Commerce to see what’s required of mobile home contractors performing these tasks. Your local county or regional authorities may also place additional requirements for contractors working on mobile homes.
Do You Have What It Takes?
Many contractors refuse to touch factory-built housing. Whether it’s low quality, flimsy materials used in the initial construction, the jurisdictional red tape required to even touch one in some locations or the reputation they or their owners carry, mobile and manufactured homes are an untouched segment of the housing market that needs contractors who are knowledgeable, reputable and willing to face the challenges. With more millennials looking at these types of homes as an affordable way to become homeowners and boomers downgrading to smaller, easier to maintain homes in the form of factory-built housing, the need for contractors is growing. Speak to your local department of manufactured housing or department of commerce to find out if you meet the requirements to work on mobile and manufactured homes.
Have you ever done a remodeling job on a mobile home? Did it go well, for both you and your client?