One alternative is to embrace living in a manufactured home. Mobile homes have some potential advantages over apartments. These might make them an attractive option for many people who haven’t thought of them before. However, mobile home living also isn’t for everyone. That’s why we created this comparison so that you can see the most important differences between the two and make an informed decision about which is best for you.
Few types of housing can provide a similar value-for-money proposition than manufactured homes, in our opinion. If we look at the average price breakdowns of mobile homes, then:
- Single-wides (600-1,300 sq. ft.) cost around $40,000 brand new and between $10,000 and $25,000 secondhand
- Double-wides (1,400 to 2,700 sq. ft.) cost around $75,000 brand new and between $20,000 to $50,000 secondhand
- Triple-wides (>2,700 sq. ft.) can cost anywhere between $100,000 to $250,000 new and $50,000 and up secondhand
These prices can vary dramatically depending on the model, age, condition, features and amenities, aftermarket upgrades, location, etc. However, if we take the average cost of the average double-wide, which is by far the most common type of mobile home, then you would only pay around $500 per month for a new home on a standard mortgage or $200-$300 for a secondhand one.
In most cases, mobile homes will also be located within a park. The average lot rent for a mobile home park is around $300. You may also rent a mobile home unit as well as the lot instead of buying your own home. In this case, the average rent is between $300 and $700.
That means that you will most likely pay less than $1,000 (and as low as $500) per month to live in a standalone home with a yard.
On the other hand, the average apartment rental in the U.S. is around $1,200. That means you can easily end up paying double for a place to stay that you have no ownership over and likely has less space, and definitely no yard of your own. As many apartments are also located deeper within cities, they can vary dramatically depending on the location. The prices also depend on the same factors as those that affect mobile homes.
However, it’s clear that, in most cases, living in a manufactured home is much more affordable than apartment living.
In this regard, both options have their pros and cons. Most people living in manufactured homes buy their homes and rent a lot. This is in no small part due to the fact that mobile homes cost much less to buy and are therefore within more peoples’ budgets. If you own your home, the obvious benefit is that this is extra equity against your name that you can use as collateral on loans or can sell in the future.
However, the biggest caveat is that mobile homes are still widely regarded as private property, similar to a car. Also, like a car, it starts losing value the moment it comes out of the factory and isn’t considered “new”. Mobile homes depreciate at about 3% per year.
The exception to this could be if you permanently attach your mobile home to a valuable piece of private property and convert it into real estate. The accumulative value of the property and the home can then grow with time. Contrary to popular belief, upgrades can also increase the value of your home.
Far fewer people own apartments. Most apartments are provided for rent and not for purchase. This means that most apartment residents aren’t building up any equity in the form of a house or accommodation. Instead, they’re spending their rent every month without return.
Of course, if you do own your apartment and it’s located within the center of the city or within an upcoming neighborhood, it could be a massive financial asset. In some of these locations, prices skyrocket year-on-year at a rate of over 10%. On the other hand, apartments are usually much more expensive to buy than a mobile home in the first place. And, if the neighborhood goes downhill, it’s not like you can move it.
Ownership and control
Landlords of apartment buildings are usually very strict when it comes to making decorative or aesthetic changes to your unit. For example, it’s rare that an apartment will allow you to paint the interior or even knock in some hooks for hanging artwork or picture frames. This is because they want to keep the space exactly as is, and as new as possible, for future tenants.
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Some of the stricter mobile home parks will ask you to keep the exterior of your home up to a certain standard or to look a certain way in order to blend in with the rest of the units. However, even these parks don’t care what you do to the interior.
Space and privacy
As we briefly mentioned, this is where one of the biggest benefits of living in a mobile home come into play. For about half the price of the average apartment rental, you can live in a spacious community where you have your own home and your own yard.
Worried about the neighbor upstairs starting tap dancing as a hobby? How about the neighbor below watching the TV on full-volume late at night? Or, those nosy neighbors listening in on your conversations? None of these is a problem in manufactured homes where you have a standalone unit as well as a fair bit of open ground between you and everyone else.
Mobile homes themselves can also be quite spacious on the inside. Double-wides, which are the most common type of mobile home, can reach up to about 2,700 sq. ft. They usually have 3 bedrooms, 2 or 3 bathrooms, a living area, a kitchen, a utility room, a foyer, and may even come with a deck or patio.
On the other hand, space is one thing that dramatically drives up the price of an apartment. New rental space in the U.S. is falling and currently sits at just over 900 sq. ft. You’re already paying much more for a standard apartment than for a standard mobile home, so just imagine if you try and aim for a more spacious unit. This often means apartments are not the best option for growing families.
While mobile homes might still be a few hundred square feet smaller than stick-built homes, they’ve certainly got one up over apartments.
Location, location, location. We won’t talk so much about how being located in different states affects the price of both types of accommodation. It’s mostly the same for both. However, as we mentioned, the inner parts of cities usually have exaggerated differences which tend to affect apartments more (for good and for bad).
One major difference between mobile homes and apartment buildings is that the former tend to be located further out from the city centers, and increasingly moving away from city limits. The latter is usually located within the busiest hubs.
One reason for this is because apartment buildings are just so much more space efficient. Another is that the negative perceptions of mobile homes and parks have made people fear that they will drive down their property prices. This has led to cities being very reluctant to zone land for mobile home parks in or near city limits. So much so that it’s become the main factor halting the development of more mobile home parks.
What this means is that apartments are most likely located close to malls, work opportunities, schools, and the other conveniences of modern living. It also means that you will inevitably immerse yourself more into the daily life of whichever city you are in.
Mobile homes are located in quieter areas, further away from the hustle and bustle of the city. While this does come with its own problems and inconveniences, it’s also an attractive feature for many others who prefer the quiet life. It’s also one of the reasons why mobile homes are seen as such an attractive option for retirees and age 55+ communities.
This is one factor that depends largely on your own preferences and situation as to which option is best for you.
Let’s start this one off with a bombshell: mobile homes aren’t really that mobile anymore. Since the Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1976, mobile homes have been officially named “Manufactured Housing”. This is to distinguish this type of housing more from the trailer homes and mobile homes of the past.
Most manufactured homes are only moved once: from the factory to their lot/plot of land. The first reason is that it’s so expensive to move a home that most people simply sell it and buy a new one. Costs vary dramatically but can be upwards of $10,000 for a double-wide within the same state. Another is that it can do serious structural harm to a mobile home to move it which is why a home that has been moved more twice or more can’t qualify for most types of financing.
That means that mobile homes really aren’t that different in this regard to an apartment blog. Thinking that as soon as you get tired of your current location or you get a new job that you can simply move your home with you, is not a valid reason to consider them above apartments.
Because of the negative stereotypes surrounding mobile homes, people often think that they are constantly falling apart and will require permanent maintenance. While it is the case that mobile homes require some TLC from time to time to stay in mint condition, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
In fact, with some paint, a little bit of caulk, and duct tape, you can take care of most of your mobile home’s maintenance needs. The biggest thing to look out for is cracks developing as a result of settling. And alongside that, keep an eye out for water damage since mobile homes are mostly built of wood. The upside is that because the materials used to make mobile homes are cheap and easy to work with, it’s usually much easier and cheaper to do maintenance on a mobile home than a brick-and-mortar home.
Of course, one of the upsides of living in an apartment building is that your landlord will be responsible for almost all maintenance. There’s very little you need to do yourself except to call them up. In fact, in many cases, they prefer if tenants don’t do work on the apartment themselves as they can be sensitive about any changes or potential damage. However, this also means that there are often delays in fixing a problem.
If you own your home in a mobile home park, you will, of course, be responsible for the maintenance of your own home. The lawn and utilities are usually still the responsibility of the management. If you rent the home and the park, the less serious maintenance issues are usually left up to the residents while larger issues, like faulty plumbing, structural issues, etc. are the responsibility of the park management.
Living in a manufactured home vs apartment living | Which one is for you?
We hope that this article has shed some light on the important lifestyle, financial, and general differences when it comes to living in a manufactured home and living in an apartment. For some, the glitzy city life might be too tempting an opportunity to miss out on, while others prefer the quieter and more spacious nature of a mobile home park.
If you’re just starting to look at mobile homes as a valid option to live in, you might also be curious to see how it’s different from a house. Although mobile home living can provide an amazing living experience, it’s not for everyone and it’s best that you do your research to make the right choice for you – and your family.