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Buyer Beware: Buying a Manufactured or Modular Home Online

By Laurie Mercurio, WHA Communications Director

Did you think we’d ever get to a point where consumers could purchase a home online?!  Or that some consumers are choosing to purchase a home online site unseen?  No surprise, then, that we’re hearing more and more stories about the issues and downfalls of ordering homes online.

An Alliance member retailer encountered a prospective buyer who changed her mind on the home she was going to purchase because she found a better deal online.  Curious about what we would encounter, I posed as a prospective buyer and called that same online retailer to inquire about the same home this woman was interested in.

The salesman I spoke to said the sales price was $45,602, which matched the price on their website.  But he said that particular home is made for a warmer climate and would need thicker walls, which would add $3000.00 to the cost of the home.

I asked how much it would cost to install the home, and he said “We don’t do install or setup, since we’re in Indiana…but not including installation allows for savings of 25-45%.”  He mentioned that there are a “variety of setup options.”  I asked what those were, and he said it depends on local codes…that you can use a basement, a crawl space or piers, and that I should see if the community owner I planned to move the home to could offer me a deal on installation. 

I asked how much it would cost to ship the home and gave him an address to a manufactured home community in Waunakee, Wisconsin, since that’s where I live.  He said the shipping would cost $7100.00.

He mentioned a incentive program where they fly consumers to Indiana, put them up in a hotel and have them tour their factory, with travel expenses paid up to $325.  I asked if I had to tour the factory, and he said “No, but you should probably want to see the home you’re going to buy.”

I asked about sales tax, and he said they don’t collect Wisconsin sales tax and that we would have to take care of that here.  Executive Director, Amy Bliss, checked with the Department of Revenue and found that they should, in fact, be charging the appropriate Wisconsin sales tax.

He asked how soon I wanted to purchase the home.  I told him within a month, and he said it would take “8 weeks to produce a house.” 

So while the salesman was correct about much of what he said, their website is misleading.  The site has virtually no information about the cost of installation, and the extra cost for the added roof load.  This accounted for an additional $10,100.00, which would add 22%, almost a quarter of the cost of the home.

When it comes to pictures on their site, a footnote reads, “Photos may reflect non-standard, upgraded items”…meaning, you may not be getting what you think you are.  There’s also a disclaimer at the bottom of the page that reads “Important: Due to our policy of continuing improvement, all information in our brochures and  photos may vary from actual home. The right is reserved to make changes at any time, without notice or obligation, in colors, materials, specifications, processes, and models.”

So consumers, just be aware that that online bargin may not be such a great deal.

4 responses to “Buyer Beware: Buying a Manufactured or Modular Home Online”

  1. Maida says:

    This is a fantastic article about the pitfalls of purchasing these homes online. Thank you for writing and investigating!

  2. Sharon says:

    This was very helpful! I am so new at all of this! I recently decided to contact Factory Expo Home Centers in Topeka, Indiana. It sounds almost the same situation about the building upgrades. He said mine would cost nearly $35,000 with no upgrades needed. Supposedly, it already has them up to code for my area, which would be Washington County,WI near West Bend. I need help finding a manufacturer nearest Wisconsin!Can you offer more advice?! Thank you SO much!

    • Laurie Mercurio says:


      On our website under “Home Buyers Guide,” go to “Find a Home” ( then “Sales Centers.” You will then be able to search for manufactured home retailers by county. If it doesn’t give you too many options, also click on surrounding counties to widen your search. If you have any other questions, please let us know.

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