The Manufactured Home Foundation and the Engineer’s Certification

To Cert or Not to Cert?   Our Opinion—Not So Fast

am a female manufactured home contractor specializing in manufactured home foundation repair.   It’s not the most glamorous job in the world and mainly consists of crawling underneath the darkside of people’s homes, often in claustrophobic tight conditions and in poor air circulation environments.

Some manufactured homes are set in a pit to give an attractive low profile curb appeal, much like a site built home.    Others are installed above ground and some even on full basement.   On the subset types, there’s not a lot of room for the configuration of the female form to navigate easily from one end of the home to the other.

While trying to do the military crawl underneath, my bottom inevitably pops up and then when I try to balance out, my head often jerks up and whamm—straight into the I-beam.  My male co-workers find this particularly funny and when they hear my yelps as my body parts bang and clang against metal, I hear uncontrollable laughter.

Fortunately YouTube has yet to find me underneath the dank and dirty world that is the manufactured home contractor’s domain.   Believe me, we see it all, spiders, snakes, rats, centipedes, scorpions, dead carcasses (cats, rats, bunnies, and yes even a coyotes) not to mention standing water, sewer leaks, falling insulation, splitting marriage lines, overextended screw jacks, shifting or compromised supports.   I have yet to find any buried treasure but we frequently find several cases of empty beer cans which may be the reason many of the homes we work on seem to be set up off kilter right from the beginning.

Having worked in the business for twenty some years, we have strived to maintain our business model as closely associated with the name of our company, On The Level, as possible and have tried to avoid the trampy style of some of our competition who frighten the mobilehome senior market with scare tactics,convincing widows to buy  overpriced “foundation systems”,”earthquake bracing”, locktops, or “marriage rods et. al.   In most cases, these products were unnecessary or unpermitted and a waste of homeowner’s money.

WALLA! Enter the Lenders and RE Industry: And yet necessary upgrades for manufactured home foundations suddenly made an appearance when the lending market (specifically FHA and VA Loans) imposed foundation standards for permanent attachment in order to meet loan criteria. Without an engineer’s certification proving that the manufactured home’s foundation met FHA-insured standards (THE PERMANENT  FOUNDATION GUIDE FOR MANUFACTURED HOMES, HUD 1996) , an FHA or VA loan could not move forward.  The good news is that there are dozens of state-certified alternate and pre-fabricated systems available in the marketplace so that a home can have foundation repairs without  having to renovate the entire understructure.

While the foundation standard is defined in the HUD Permanent Foundation Handbook, the problem is that individual states have divergent installation, titling, and real property provisions so each home must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.   But as a company, On The Level does not stop at the evaluation of just the foundation.  It  is our opinion that a foundation certification is NOT a stand-alone document.

Proving that the foundation is compliant should NOT be the first step on the long laundry list of conditions.   IT SHOULD BE THE LAST CONDITION! Let me explain, in many cases, we have evaluated the foundation  and we know it can certify or it will certify with a retrofit but we refuse to move forward with the actual letter.    Why?   Our competition takes the attitude that they are only being hired to assess the foundation so that’s what they do:   assess the foundation in a vacumn irrespective of other data, then they write a pass or fail certification,  and take the money and run.

So what if a $3000 retrofit could potentially kill the loan?  Who cares if there is evidence that the home was moved from another location?   Who cares if the home is located in a flood plain?   Who cares if the home doesn’t have HUD tags?   That’s not the engineer’s or retrofitter’s job, right?    The engineer only needs to write a determination of the foundation itself.  End of story.

We disagree.   My point is that this is state-by-state tricky wicket.   In most cases, I’ll get a demand from an enthusiastic loan officer, “I just need the cert”. When I say, “Not so fast—our research shows issues in other areas”, I think most of them think we are trying to drag our feet.   Not true!    It is our policy as a company never to charge for a failed foundation inspection report—we only charge the borrower or lender once a foundation report certifies that the foundation meets the PERMANENT FOUNDATION GUIDE FOR MANUFACTURED HOMES, HUD 1996.

We provide a one-stop shop for borrowers, lenders, processors to get nationwide engineer’s certifications quickly and accurately.   No charges for failed reports EVER!!!!

And if you don’t have a lender, a manufactured home specialist: