Modular Home Question

12 Replies

I'm planning to bid on a modular home in a tax deed sale in a few days, but just learned that there is a possibility that the previous owner could still hold the title to the modular and potentially remove it from the property once purchased.  My question is: Has anyone ever ran into this problem and how do I find out who holds the title to this modular?  Thank you for any feedback or ideas on this one!

You need a document called affidavit of a fixture.  This ties the modular to the property.  They can be extremely difficult to get a loan on.

Couple things to watch for: Need to fund HUD tags, on frame or by water heater

Built date: cant be built before 1976, if built before that you cant get a loan on it

Need structural inspection, plan on about $900 for inspections.

Good luck, we do a ton of them so if you need help feel free to reach out

Thank you so much for the response!  Since this is being purchased from the county, would they likely have the affidavit of fixture or is that something that is fairly easy to get once buying the property?  Or is it a gamble and the original owner could come back and reclaim the home?

In California (I know you aren't in California, i am), the form is called a 433A certification. There are probably similar forms/names for the same thing in other states). I believe in Michigan its called an "Engineer's Certification". I've seen them @ $400-$500 for these certs.  This or similar form would be required to obtain a loan. This certification/form converts personal property to real property. There are no requirements to have it permanently affixed. Lenders require it to lend and, maybe, local rules might require it but unless it is, its recognized the same as if someone parked an RV on the land.

Considering this is a tax sale, that doesn't help in your research. HUD tags are only going to tell you the standards it was built to and/or when it was built but, won't tell you if its "permanent". Looking under the home to see if its strapped might give you some insight. Are the axles removed? That might tell you more as well.

Sounds like a gamble in any event. 

If I'm not mistaken (and I might be), it sounds like @Tim Johnson and @Ron S. might be confusing mobile and modular homes.  @Lindsay Thomas said it was a modular home, which would not have a frame or axles.

Mobile homes are (at least in MA) not considered real estate.  They are purchased with chattel (personal property) loans.

Modular homes are similar to stick-built, but large sections are built in a factory and shipped to the site to be assembled on top of either a slab or standard excavated foundation. 

Once in place, it's pretty tough to distinguish a modular home from a standard stick built.  Not so with mobile homes.

I think it's worth buying a half hour of a local attorney's time to get a handle on how this should all work.

Originally posted by @Charlie MacPherson:

If I'm not mistaken (and I might be), it sounds like @Tim Johnson and @Ron S. might be confusing mobile and modular homes.  @Lindsay Thomas said it was a modular home, which would not have a frame or axles.

Mobile homes are (at least in MA) not considered real estate.  They are purchased with chattel (personal property) loans.

Modular homes are similar to stick-built, but large sections are built in a factory and shipped to the site to be assembled on top of either a slab or standard excavated foundation. 

Once in place, it's pretty tough to distinguish a modular home from a standard stick built.  Not so with mobile homes.

I think it's worth buying a half hour of a local attorney's time to get a handle on how this should all work.


As the industry confuses, mixes, and interchanges the two distinctly different home types frequently, I do as well. You are correct, a modular is the same to a lender/tax authority as a stick built is. If it's a modular, this entire thread is practice for us all but if its a "Mobile", read on...

While she said "Modular", i'm assuming she meant mobile because, as you point out, a modular is a stick built for all practical purposes. It would not be logical in my opinion to be having a conversation about the concern of someone coming back and driving off with their modular home, if it were in fact a modular home.

Guess we need to figure out what the property is in question.

Tons of different type of modular

BOCA, panel, singles, double triples, manufactured, everyone calls them something different and they all have different construction and design features. But they all need affidavit of a fixture in Michigan to get a loan. This ties it to the property. They usually have crawl space or full height basement in Michigan with steel beams that the unit or units sit on. In michigan they generally put HUD tags on Modular homes, they will say the built date on them. We see them with frames all the time.

If its a trailer with wheels, your out of luck.  Mobile homes have wheels, they are typical removed on install. In Michigan you can generally tell the difference between a manufactured and mobile based on if it has a crawl space or basement.  No crawl space or basement its a mobile home and getting a loan is difficult.  They have lenders that do it, but its a unique market.

Thank you to everyone for the input, and I apologize for the confusion. When I review the tax records on the county website, it is listed as Manufactured, and then Occupancy says Mobile Home but Style says Manufactured.  I can tell by looking at it that it is the type that was brought on a truck in two halves and set on a basement (it does have a poured basement).  I hope that helps clear up this important detail!  

@Lindsay Thomas

We normal start by email, see if one is on file. I can't post email so if you need it google it or send me a pm

If not you need to have original title or certificate of origin, everyone calls it something different. Fill out the paperwork they send believe its $90 for the application and 14 days later you get it back in the mail if everything is good.  I think we processed about 200 loans last year and maybe 30 we couldn't get it to work. Need to check build date thats the most important thing and then structural inspection and then origin paperwork  The only reason a loan is so important because if you plan to sell, 99% of the buyers will need a loan.

Very nice feedback from everyone on this thread.

@Lindsay Thomas From my interpretation as this property has a basement; this should fall under modular home and supposed to be part of the property.  This has to be tied in with the basement with support structures.  Most mobile homes I have seen do not have a basement and they are like a matchbox/ranch type.

For a modular home, the city should have a record on the approvals and permits.  That might help as well by talking with the building department. 

Thank you so much to everyone for your responses and help!  I called the Register of Deeds today and found out that it was purchased in 1993, before Affidavit of Affixture was required, or maybe even before they existed.  So it is not affixed to the property.  After that, each transfer of title did not have a mortgage, so it was never an issue.  So they referred me to the Secretary of State to inquire about the title and how that would work.  SOS told me that I could request the history via a form (BVDR-154 for anyone in MI researching this down the road) that has to be faxed in, then they mail history to me.  From there, I would have to try to contact the person, likely a next of kin because the original owner's deed transferred to his estate.  In the meantime, I would need a surety bond for double the value for 3 years that protects me.  She wasn't clear on what would happen after that if contact isn't made, but recommended I talk to an atty about that.  I'm not quite sure if I will still bid on this, but I sure did get an education!  Thanks again everyone for the input!

If the deal makes sense even if the 'shell' was removed, fine. If the deal only makes sense if the shell remains in place, look at the bond as a cost of your bid. If you can find someone to sign the right document for less than the cost of the bond and you are sure they can sign, then you know how much you can pay them to complete the paperwork.

People make profits when they solve problems. Even if you end up not bidding on this one or you are out-bid, you will have learned a bunch about the process by which a manufactured home can be converted into real estate once it is permanently (legally) affixed to the ground.

Just because a manufactured home has a basement doesn't mean the title has been eliminated. Glad you checked it out and got some info.

I have eliminated title in 2 states and it was pretty much the same process. Manufactured homes were treated like cars so auto licensing office actually had the info. We recently did one in Washington state. We had to do some trotting around the county offices but they were helpful. It cost a couple hundred bucks. 

I have run into lots that have a manufactured home where the lot loan is held by one company/person and the manufactured home is held by a financing company. It is good that you double checked before buying since you would need to negotiate with the estate to get title to the trailer. We had to do this once. The trailer was crap and we just wanted to be able to demo it. We told the estate that they could come get it within 30 days or start paying us $800 per month in lot space rent. We weren't living out there at the time. One day it was gone. I think we scared them because we threatened to file an eviction order and naming each of the adult children. This would have impacted their credit all because their flaky brother didn't do what he was supposed to.