Positive attitudes toward manufactured homes seem to emanate from personal experience. Those who have not experienced manufactured homes sometimes show disdain toward descriptors such as single wide, double wide, or the most derisive term – “trailer park unit.”
Even manufactured homes from decades ago can be kept squeaky clean and well-maintained. The grunginess of manufactured housing as depicted in TV dramas is not inevitable. A unit’s hygiene and state of repair is more a reflection of the resident’s habits.
In all new homes built during 2013, 613,000 single family homes, 208,000 residential units in multi-unit buildings. 55,500 manufactured homes were shipped. Although they represent just 6.3% of the total new homes, manufactured homes are an important option for Americans who want to keep housing costs low.
In January 2014, the average new manufactured home sold for $66,600, making it ideal for small mortgage payments. If sited on an un-serviced lot, $15,000 more would be needed to install a septic system, water, electric and gas utilities. Of course, a used manufactured home connected to existing services avoids those costs and is sometimes priced as low as $4,000, although $25,000 is more typical for a 2 bedroom, two bathroom model at 1,300 square feet. Transporting a used mobile home to another lot can cost thousands. If you do not own a lot, you will likely face land rent of between $250 and $450 per month.
Manufactured homes built decades ago by high quality makers (e.g. Palm Harbor) are durable and can be found for sale in good condition despite weathering. Before retirement, many working families in temperate climates rely on manufactured housing as their affordable home. These families tend to live in rural areas where the planning authorities have not precluded the use of manufactured homes.
In urban and suburban areas, restrictions and quotas on manufactured homes are typically the result of conventional housing owners’ reluctance to let manufactured homes depress the average housing price.
In sun-belt areas, manufactured home parks often come with a clubhouse, library, games tables, a pool, athletic activities and an active social schedule geared to retirees. Choosing a manufactured home in these communities can make for an enjoyable and affordable retirement. Since all homes are similarly compact, keeping up with the Joneses is as affordable as having chrome hubs on your golf cart.
Manufactured housing is not for everyone but it is a welcomed option for lower income families and for retirees.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research