So you have decided to buy a modular home, congratulations. There might however other costs in addition to the home that is to be delivered! You need to plan for (or discount) each. The below page is not guaranteed to be complete, but it should be helpful. The intent is not to scare you off, rather it is to inform you, so you can plan, based on lessons learned by others who have gone through this experience before you.
Besides the cost of the modular home itself, there may well be additional costs that you should ask about, and plan for those extra costs if they apply to your situation. That planning needs to include those costs in the amount of your mortgage, so the bank will want to see the estimated breakdown of all of these other costs! If you are a handy person who thinks that they can do some of this work themselves (or have friends and family who can do it for you, and are willing to, and have the time to do it when it needs to be done), great, but still put it on the list and that note beside it. Some things a handyman can do for you, other things require a licensed professional. Nothing is cheap!
Large parts of the below work, needs various types of trades to not only cooperate with one another, but to 'do so well', and not create needless work for one another (and thus expense for you). One critical combination is getting the surveyor, excavator, concrete forming, and concrete floor finishing guys to all work 'well' together. If possible, try to find a set of companies that have a good history of working well together, and this way many potential problems and extra expenses may be avoided!
It is also key that the dates these trades are available to do your work, line up with the delivery dates of the house. More precisely, the basement needs to be complete, and well dried, well before the house arrives! Also leave some fudge factor in case of bad weather (rain storm and flooding), or equipment breakdown (excavator blew a hydraulic line and will be down for a few days), etc. Expect something unforeseen to go wrong. These trades also need a bit of fudge factor between their tasks. Also do not forget that the builidng inspector may need to do specific inspections of every stage of their work, before the next stage can start! (These inspections may also need to be booked in advance.)
Modular homes can be delivered in the dead of winter in northern climates (not fun I can assure you first hand, but it can be done). However excavating frozen ground is not a lot of fun! It is also very hard on the machinery, and many companies may just say no. Pouring concrete in cold weather is not recommended if it can be at all avoided, (and if it is needed, and if the special concrete is even available, then there are a lot of extra costs for heating etc, if the trades will even agree to do such work in cold weather, and that is a big 'if'). Doing anything in cold weather usually takes a lot longer and costs more.
There might be mortgage application fees, etc. There might also be a need for more than one appraisal over the period of time covered by the construction, and each may involve a fee. The type of financing may be a 'construction Mortgage' which is then converted to a regular mortgage when the house (and all the other work) is completed. You may need to start making interest payment on the mortgage as funds are advanced to pay for the percentages of the work completed. It is recommended that you read up on the topic of construction mortgage, so you understand how it all works, or ask your bank to explain the basics to you.
You will need a lot to place the house on. This may involve an expense to buy it. Either way put it on your list of expenses. If possible try to find out a bit about the history of the lot, especially if there were ever any septic tanks or wells on the lot, and if so if they were property decommissioned or not, and where were/are they, etc. Also were they ever any underground fuel tanks? Anything else underground? Once you own a lot, you now need to cut the grass and pick up the litter etc, on an ongoing basis.
Likely there will be development fees of some sort. Ask your local municpality for more information. You will also know hen they would need to be paid.
A building permit will be required, and then the local building inspector will be by at all the various stages (if you book him, and you will need to book him), and he will usually need to perform various inspections before the work can progress to the next stage. Try to have a good relationship with him, getting on his bad side can do you no good. If your tradesmen and contractors screw up, it will be your problem as far as the building inspector is concerned. It will be your problem to get things fixed to his satisfaction (at your expense), before the work can continue. You may need to book the required inspections in advance, as he is not 'on call'. Sometimes the contractors can make mistakes, such as forgetting to follow the building code, or having a different interpretation of it than the building inspector has. It is like being a new recruit in the Army, everything is your fault, only he (or she) will be more gently about it. One major permit you will likely need passed before you can move in may be called an 'Occupancy Permit'.
Rental of a Porta Potty (or chemical outhouse, the names vary a lot from place to place, but you get the drift) should be on your list of expenses, and it is likely a weekly expense. Sooner or later, (likely sooner than later), someone onsite will need one. It is an expense that you will need to plan for, and that time period might be a lot longer than you might initially think! By the way, kids like to push these things over at night (great fun for them, not so much for you), so if possible please try to secure it in an upright position to try to it harder for them to push over. The company that rents them may charge extra everytime you call them to come stand it up again and do the extra cleaning that will be needed each time which is above and beyond the usual costs. Be sure to give some advance thought to where it is to be placed, so that it will not be in the way or have to be moved later on, but will also be accessible to the truck which will have to park next to it each week to pump it out and clean it.
You need to ask about this. In many places it is a free service, but it needs to be booked in advance. There can be steep fines for hitting undergroud utilities. People can also be killed. (They will not locate 'private' items like abandoned spetic tanks, abandoned wells, old foundations, and old abandonded water and sewer lines, stuff you might not even know is there.)
When you buy a lot, you inherrit any underground issues that come with it, even if you did not know that they were there! You are liable. There could be one (or more) old wells, and/or more than one old septic tank on your lot. Even if you asked when you bought the lot, they said there were none, there still might be, from long ago, surprise! If you drive over one, the lid may collapse, which could cause serious injury or death. Most people get lucky when they find these sorts of surprises, and nobody gets hurt, but the potential is there for a tragedy (now or later on). Old stuff tends to just be covered over and forgotten about (some times rather conveniently forgotten about when an old lot is being sold). If you have to deal with old wells or septic tanks, please consult an expert, and have the work done correctly, much safer that way. Do not enter old septic tanks, or breath in the air from them, they could kill you. If you find one, fence it off immediately and put danger signs on the fencing, so nobody or their little kids or pets fall into it and die a rather horrible death.
You will need appliances. Many modular home companies offer appliances with the home, or at a very good price. They would come in the home at the time it is delivered. These can include a fridge, stove, dishwasher and microwave. They might include a washer and dryer for an extra cost. For some unknown reason, they might not include a dryer vent to the outside (even if asked to include it), that may be an extra cost you may need a handyman to do for you.
Not usually included, but may be required for occupancy permit. A separate permit may be required for these. You may wish to hire an handyman to build them, if you need them, but make sure that he follows the local building code!
The basement is key. The house will sit on the basement (if there is to be one). The basement must be in the right place on the lot, and it must be at the right depth (in terms of what the final grade will be later on). All of this must be correct, 'close' does not count! It is hard (impossible) to 'move' a basement later on! Everyone will tend to want to assume that the current ground level on the lot is the same as what the final grade ground level will be, when often they two will be very different, and this can lead to all kinds of costly mistakes. If these guys do not get along well with each other, then they can cause all kinds of extra work, rework, etc, each with a price tag that you end up having to pay, as each might blame the other.
The bank is going to want a survey, from a licenses land surveyor. As well, if is recommended to have the same surveyor come out and mark the location for the excavator to dig out the basement. You need to get the excavator and the survey to talk to each other (and play nice), so that there are no screw ups! Do not leave anything to chance!
You may also want to arrange things, so that once the basement has been excavated, the surveyor comes back and checks the depth to ensure all is correct before the forms are built and the footings are poured. By the way the footings may require crushed stone to go under them, between the ground and the cement that is to be poured. Sometimes re-bar is also required in the footings. If in doubt ask the local building department.
Ideally you will have a surveyor, excavator, and concrete forming guy who all know one another very well (in a good way), and work well together. Otherwise you may end up a lot of 'misunderstandings' which can cost you a great deal of money and time delays, or worse!
Please note that water flows downhill. Seems obvious. As much as possible try to ask the local municipality how deep the sewer lateral (pipe) at the road is, that you will need to connect to. You do not want to end up later on in a situation where the basement sewer line has to flow 'uphill', because the basement is deeper than the sewer line at the street! (If that happens there is a work around called a sewer pit and pump.) Ideally the house plans and building permit, will have the house basement, and the basement floor sewer line flowing one a nice downhill angle to the sewer lateral on the street, and also take into account required depths to prevent freezing. As another note, when you ask for the building permit, they may ask you how high the peek of the house will be above final grade, and that is worth taking the time to calculate in advance.
Before you can dig (excavate) the basement, you may need to prepare the lot. This might involved tree removals for any trees which will be within the area to be excavated, or later on will be a problem in relation to the incoming home. It is a lot easier and cheaper to deal with tree issues now, than later.
Try to save the current topsoil, as topsoil can be expensive to have to buy later on when you will surely need it! Try to have to scraped out of the way and piled up on an out of the way part of the lot for re-use later on when the final grade and landscaping is done. Site preperation and basement excavation are usually done by an excavation company. If they find burried treasure they may keep it, and likely will not even charge you for that!
Before the cement basement floor is poured, all sewer piping should be complete, including for any future rough in bathroom, as well as for the floor drain and the sump pump. If a sewer pt and sewer pump are required (normally they are not needed), then they should be in place as well, before the basement floor is poured. Plus everything needs to be at the correct level, including taking into account any crushed stone or a specific kind of gravel which will be under the cement floor (recommended and may be required by the building inspector), plus the thickness of the cement floor. Best to ask exactly what kind of gravel or crushed stone is needed, and how thick, how much of it, and how much that will cost. In addition, the gravel or crushed stone need to be perfectly level after it is dumped and spread out, and perhaps even compacted. Sounds like nit picking, but it is not. Failure to get all of this correct may result in having to have your new cement basement floor broken up and replaced, so best to get it all correct the first time around!
In northern areas, the basement footings are usually made of poured concrete, and have to be atleast a set depth below the frost line (in relation to the final grade). Prior to pouring the footings, the forms for the footings have to be made of wood. The forms have to be in exactly the correct locations on the lot, and at exacting the correct elevations on the lot, in relation to the final grade and the house plans and the building permit. The footings are 'mission critical', they have to be perfect. In addition crushed stone (of a set depth), as well as re-bar might be required. Footings are not a 'do it yourself' type of thing. In cannot be stressed enough how critical it is to get all of this perfect. Once poured the footings will need to dry for a number of days, and cannot be walked on. All of the footings work is usually done by a 'concrete forming' company.
Basement walls are usually of poured concrete. They usually sit on concrete footings. The footings need to dry for a period of time before the walls can be put on them. The basement walls are usually done by the same 'concrete forming company' that did the footings. ONce poured, it will be a set number of days (or longer) before the basement walls can support any weight (like a modular home). The longer the basement walls can dry (in good weather), the better. You need to ask the concrete forming company, how many days will be needed for the walls to dry enough to bear the weight of the modular home, and then perhaps add some more days.
Believe it or not, concrete tends to soak up water. This can be a very bad thing for a concrete basement. The solutions (usually mandatory) is to apply tar or some sort of exterior wrap to the outside of the basement walls, before they are back-filled. In addition something called weeping tile (they look like long black drainage hoses) need to be laid around the outside of the footings, after the walls are dried and before the back-filling.
Back filling is usually best done with sand, but other materials are possible, as long as there is nothing sharp that will tear the wrap or tar coating on the basement walls. The concrete forming guys usually do not do back-filling, that is usually an excavating company, or a guy with a backhoe or bobcat. The back-filling will settle over the course of a year, it may even settle a lot. Slope the back-fill so water drains away from the house.
Some companies will do the leveling of the gravel or crushed stone for you. Some of the companies that do cement basement floor finishing also do this. Some use a lazer level, and chaulk lines, to help them get things exactly level!
Depending on where in North America you live, you might be required to insulate the basement walls (to a specific standard, and have that inspected), before you will be allowed to move into the house. The type of insulation will vary by the builidng code of that state or province. One or more inspections of this may be needed by the local building inspector, before some other work might be allowed to occur. best to ask him ahead of time.
A few tips on basement windows. If you ever plan to build a bedroom in the basement in the future, the windows will need to be of a certain size so that they can be used as fire exits. That size may vary from place to place. It is easy to make windows larger when you are planning, but much harder to make them larger after the house is built! Besides, larger windows in basements let in more light. In more northern climates, basements tend to get finished and becoming living space, so larger basement windows tend to be very welcome. Basement windows should be above grade, if at all possible to avoid the need for window wells.
basement floor finishing (after water and sewer etc). The same guys who do the concrete forming for the basement walls, usually do not do basement floors. There are other guys who do that. Be sure to have the ground/gravel of the basement floor leveled before the basement floor is poured, and ideally before the sump pump and floor drain are installed. Guys who do basement floors assume that you have already leveled it! (They might be willing to level it for you, for an extra fee, if you ask them well in advance.)
If you have a basement, and your plans assume that there will be basement stairs, please note that the basement stairs themselves are usually not included with the house. You will need someone to measure (after the basmeent floor is in place), make and install the basmeent stairs. There can be a lot involved building code wise with basement stairs and the 'guards' (hand railings and sides) that go with them. Add them as a line item in your expenses.
You may need to pay someone to come back and dig the trenches for the water and sewer line, then hire a plumber to lay the later and sewer lines and connect both to the municipal lines under the street. Then there is the cost to connect the modular house plumbing to the water and sewer lines which have been run in from the road. Your basement may require a sump pump. Even if it is not required, it is recommended.
If there is to be a a rough in for a future bathroom, then the sewer pipes should be laid under the basement floor before the basement floor is poured, and connected to the sewer lines going out to the street at that time. This bathroom rough in needs to take into account what the basement floor level will be when it is leveled, before the cement floor is poured. This can be a but tricky to arrange. Same applies to the basement floor drain and the sump pump. A high level of coordination may be needed! Do not make assumptions, they can be costly! By the way plumbers often charge for each visit, plus their time. A basement rough in may also need a sewer vent stack.
The HRV may need a drain line. The hot water heater will need water lines. The furnace may need a drain line. The water line to the outdoor tap, may need an interior shut off for winter. The building ispector may require a 'pressure test' of the house water lines, which the plumber can do.
You will be amazed at how much garbage (and recyclables) a project may generate. Please plan for them. It is not going to haul itself away! You might also not have garbage & recycling collection until you get the occupancy permit. If you do not lock your bin, lots of other people may use it as well, especially at night!
A crane is usually needed to unload each module of the modular home. You should budget for one day of crane rental. The crane has to be of the correct size (or weight - cranes are not one size fits all) for the modules of the house in question, and whatever it may have to lift the modules over (such as power lines). Crane rental needs to be 'with operator', as you cannot operate it yourself. The presence of overhead hydro wires, may greatly increase the crane costs, if a larger crane is needed to lift the house modules over the wires, instead of the truck driving them under the wires. Cranes usually need to be booked long in advance, and they can be costly. Some cranes need a gravel to be prepared for them in advance, in a spot that they pick in advance, which may require a site vist in advance. If the crane cannot work due to weather, then you may have to pay for a second day, etc. You might also need to have the local municpality close the road for the day (and there would likely be a small fee for that).
Exterior stitch up refers to joining the outside of the house modules together. This may involve a little bit of vnyal siding work, or it may involve a lot of vnyal siding work. Depends on the company and the house design, best to ask.
There will likley be some roof work required. It may be as simple as one row of shinges arrosss the peak of the house, a quick and easy job. Or, it may be a whole lot more involved than that, and it may be sevral days of work for several guys. You will need to ask. They may even quote you a price to do the work for you.
The amount of interior stitch up work varies by model of modular home. Basically it involves the cosmetic joining of the two modules or the home together. Things like joining carpet, floor tile, and drywall, and maybe painting on some white drywall primer paint (without slopping paint all over the carpet, tile, etc). For joining carpet it is recommended to hire a local carpet layer to do the work as special tools are usually required and one has to know how to do that sort of work.
Within the house, there may well be electrical wiring between the modules, which has been designed to be plugged together under the main floor house (in the basement if there is one). You may wish to ask the electrican to do this for you (then you know it was done right), as you are going to need the services of one at some point anyways!
The house usually comes with an electrical panel in the kitchen, or for an extra fee it could be in the basement. Connecting the panel to the electrical grid is not included. You will need a licensed electrican to do that. If the panel is to be in the basement, then he will likely also need to mount it on the basement wall (the people who deliver the house usually will not touch anything electrical), and he will likely need to install one plug beside it. He may need to come back to do additional wiring work for the furnace, hot water heater, HRV, Air Conditioner, plus any lights or plugs that you might want in the basement.
If the house is to be serviced with natural gas, then the gas line will need to be run in from the road (or wherever), to the side of the house. In many places, the custom (for safety reasons) is to keep the natural gas on one side of the house, and the electrical connection on a different side of the house, not both on the same side!
A natural gas meter will be required. Usually the gas company looks after running the gas line and installing the gas meter. Then, everything else after the meter is usually the customer's responsibility. Best though to confirm all that for the area the house will be delivered to.
If the modular home comes with a furnace, that is great news. Likely though, it will not come with a furnace or any duct work. These can be expensive. Various inspections may be required by the gas company and the building inspector at various stages of the work. The electrician will also need to be involved. Usually one hires an HVAC company (or a plumbing and heating company) to look after the duct work, furnace, hot water heater, HRV, and air conditioner. All together this is a lot of work and it is very expensive, and it is not the kind of work you can do yourself. (Also, as small but key note, please ensure the Air Conditioner is installed high enough off the ground, taking into account what the final grade will be, not what it is now!)
Ensure that the ground slops away from the house, to have rain water, etc, flow away from the house, not towards the house and then into the basement.
You may be required (or not) to have a driveway and a sidewalk. Best advice on this is to do the minimum required to start with. Then later on when (if) there is more money on hand you can make it fancier. Also, please note that in the first year the ground may settle, which could damage a driveway or sidewalk.
Depending on where you live this may be a trivial matter, or it may be a whole lot more involved that you might imagine. Best to ask the local building department. This might include top soil, and sod or grass seed. If you plan to lay sod, plan to water it and look after it, or it might quickly die, otherwise do not invest in sod at this time. Either way be sure to keep the grass (or the weeds) cut on a regular basis to keep the neighbors happy.