As a public service, the South Carolina Building Codes Council, a division of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR), offers consumers of modular homes the following purchasing and financing tips:
Buying Directly from a Manufacturer
Consumers may buy directly from a modular building manufacturer. If requested by a consumer, S.C. law requires the company to sell its product directly to a consumer. This eliminates any third-party seller.
If the sales representative refuses this request, you may lodge a complaint (pdf) against the manufacturer and its representative.
Financing "Out of Pocket” Items
At the time of closing, avoid financing incidental items that can be paid for out of pocket. These items include insurance, porches and steps. By adding these items to the loan amount, monthly payments are increased.
Why should a consumer avoid this practice? Over the length of the financing period, a consumer will pay two to three times more than the initial cost or value of the items.
Contract of Sale
A seller requires a contract of sale. This contract is a legal document binding the consumer and the seller to the terms of the sales agreement. Consumers should consult an attorney before signing any documents.
Once signed, the seller is obligated to provide the specific building and any other goods, equipment or services stated on the contract. Additionally, if the seller satisfies its obligation, the consumer is obligated to accept and pay for the building.
Most sellers have preprinted contract forms. A consumer may add language or conditions to the contract and has the right to state a delivery and installation date.
Keep the contract and all related paperwork in a safe place.
Upon delivery, thoroughly inspect the building. Make sure it is the exact building (year, make, model, color) that the seller agreed to provide by contract. If it is not the exact building, do not accept it unless satisfied that it is as much as, or more of a value than the original building. If it is of less value, a consumer has the right to rescind the deal or renegotiate the price.
Consumers do not have to accept a damaged building. The manufacturer or seller must repair a new modular building to meet the original design requirements of the manufacturer.
All modular buildings must have a label issued by the S.C. Building Codes Council, attached to the electrical panel cover door.This label determines if a building is classified as modular by state law.
The label is white with black lettering. It bears the state seal at the top center. A red control number is on the left side under the state seal.
Placement of Labels
Labels issued for modular buildings are only valid for the first placement of the structure. Once the building is installed, the label has served its purpose and thus rendered invalid.
Unless the building is re-certified and relabeled in accordance with state law, any movement or subsequent placement will fall under the jurisdiction of the local building inspection department. It will be subject to inspections the building official deems necessary.
In reference to a display or model unit, the initial installation of a modular building utilized for display purposes or as a model unit, is considered its first placement. Subsequently, the building is considered "used.” If the building is sold and moved from its display location and not re-certified and relabeled, it will fall under the jurisdiction of the local building inspection department and may be subject to a variety of inspections.
Additions and Renovations
Modifications, additions or renovations made to any modular building must be in compliance with the current edition of the International Building Code series and the National Electrical Code. In addition, the building inspection department for the jurisdiction in which the building is located may require one or more permits and inspections.
Before any work is performed on or in a modular building, it is strongly suggested that the consumer contact a local building inspection department for guidance.
Deed to Property
Without the advice of an attorney, a consumer should not assign a "Quit Claim” or any other deed to real estate to a modular seller. The owner could lose the property.
Wind and Seismic Requirements
Modular buildings are designed and built to withstand certain wind speeds and certain earthquake loads. It is illegal to place a modular building in any area that has a higher wind or seismic classification than the building was designed and built to withstand.
Before a consumer starts serious negotiation, he/she should determine the wind and seismic classifications for the property on which the building will be placed. The building official having responsibility for the area where the house will be located can provide wind and seismic classifications.