Is Living In A Mobile Home The Smart Choice? The Benefits & Realities
Mobile homes have been rising in popularity. Perhaps you’ve been considering whether or not you should make one your next home. Well, there are a lot of things to think about before you do – both good and bad. Keep in mind that any dwelling is an important investment in your future. And a significant part of living happily in one is checking your expectations and knowing what you are in for ahead of time. So, read on to find out if living in a mobile home is the smart choice for you.
Benefits of mobile home living
Bang for your buck
There is no doubt about it. Most people find mobile homes attractive because of their extremely low price in comparison to traditional stick-built homes. In the current housing crisis, they are many citizens’ only option when looking for a family home. Even compared to renting out an apartment or condo, mobile homes (lot rent included) often come out cheaper.
Apartments and condos that compete with mobile homes in terms of prices are not located in the best neighborhoods. Most of them fall in inner-city suburbs and are not the biggest or fanciest around.
A mobile home gives you the opportunity to buy (or rent) a full-sized family home at a fraction of the cost. The average mobile home rent in a park (lot and home included) is around $600-$700 depending on location and amenities. That’s almost half the average apartment rent, which is around $1,200+ per month. When it comes to buying a mobile home, things get even better. The average double-wide costs around $60,000-$80,000 which is almost a quarter of the $200,000 price tag on a stick-built family home.
This means you and your family could be living comfortably with a small yard, in a good neighborhood for a fraction of the cost.
Speed of construction
If you need a mobile home fast, manufactured homes are also the way to go. We have all suffered from, or heard of other’s suffering, at the hands of contractors and construction projects. These projects are often prone to delays, extra costs, and the contractee being held at ransom by the contractor.
The good thing about manufactured homes is the manufacturing process itself. These homes are constructed in factories, just like cars, using assembly-line techniques. They take advantage of standard design techniques and repeatable processes to turn out homes of the same quality in a relatively short time.
Once the request for a home has been processed, most factories can construct homes in less than a week. It could be longer or shorter depending on the specific home and the extra options you chose. Some are even able to construct them within two days!
If necessary, constructing a foundation or preparing the lot for a manufactured home should also only take a day or two at most. This means it can be completed before the home is finished. Transporting the home and setting it up can also be completed in a day.
Compare that to the average 7-month construction time for a stick-built home and mobile homes have a huge advantage.
Cutting-edge materials & energy efficiency
Because of how they are built, mobile homes are rapidly progressing and advancing on many fronts. One of them is their energy efficiency. Manufacturers can, and do, constantly test out new materials and techniques to improve their products regularly. In fact, in some areas, such as plumbing, mobile homes are sometimes ahead of their stick-built counterparts.
More and more manufactured homes are built using plastic pipes or the newer PEX pipes. These pipes last longer, are cheaper to replace or fix and don’t freeze over as easily in winter. For these reasons, they are often preferred over the metal and copper pipes usually found in traditional homes.
Mobile home manufacturers usually allow you to choose energy efficient add-ons or homes. One example is the “i-house” by Clayton homes, owned by Warren Buffet. These homes have solar panels and other energy-saving appliances, as well as sleek and stylish designs. They are often referred to as homes of the future.
It’s also very easy to improve the energy efficiency of a mobile home once you own it. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to roof over your mobile home with a material such as a cooling membrane or to add insulation to the walls, ceiling or floor.
Amenities and flexibility of design
Many manufacturers allow their customers to choose a layout for their home from a predefined set of layouts or to completely customize it at additional cost. Through the help of computer-aided design (CAD) and modern manufacturing techniques, it’s fairly simple to construct a home to specification within a short amount of time.
Sure, your options may not be as vast as with a stick-built home but the fact that it’s so easy and you still get it in a timely manner makes a huge difference. You would also be surprised to find out how many amenities or additions are provided by manufacturers nowadays. You can basically have every type of room or addition that a traditional home has. From jacuzzies to porches to fireplaces.
Since mobile homes are considered personal property and not real estate, there is an added benefit. They come with a warranty. Since manufactured homes are ordered from, built by, and delivered by a supplier, the supplier is responsible for the quality of the “product”
Most reputable mobile home manufacturers offer warranties on their homes. This gives you a lot of peace of mind when it comes to owning a mobile home, especially if it’s for the first time. However, as with any warranty, you should read it carefully and make sure you understand and are aware of all the sub-clauses and fine print.
Consider the length of the warranty, previous customer’s experiences (a warranty doesn’t mean anything if the company doesn’t provide good service, the actions that can void a warranty, and what exactly is covered by it.
Realities of Mobile Home Living
Financing is harder and more limited
By now, you should’ve realized that manufactured housing is not considered “real estate.” Although mobile homes are no longer truly moveable dwellings, they still have a chassis, axles, and wheels so that they can technically be moved to their location. One of the caveats of real estate is that it’s unmoveable.
This and the fact that manufactured homes are perceived (sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly) to be less safe, and because their owners are sometimes stereotyped, the game is against mobile homes when it comes to securing a loan or mortgage.
Mobile homes can qualify for traditional mortgages if they have all their mobility components removed and are permanently affixed to the location. A permanent foundation also helps in this regard. They can then be converted to real estate. It’s also near-impossible to finance a home that’s been moved more than once.
Still, there are 4 types of financing available to manufactured homeowners:
- Traditional mortgage – As we mentioned, your home will need to be converted to real estate to qualify for this kind of loan.
- FHA backed loans – You get a loan from a normal lender but the FHA promises to pay should you become unable to. This leads to better terms for you and a higher chance of securing one.
- VA loans – Work exactly like FHA loans but are backed by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
- Chattel loans – These are literally mortgages on personal property. They are easier to secure but are not as safe or as low in rates as the above options.
Depreciation and resale value
Unfortunately for manufactured homeowners, it is very rare for these homes to appreciate in value. Think of them more like cars that lose value from the moment they leave the podium and keep dropping with time. This means that generally speaking, a mobile home by itself is not a great investment if you do not buy the land with it or buy it with the intention of renting it out.
If you own the land and the home, the land itself might appreciate enough to offset the depreciation of the mobile home. Furthermore, mobile homes aren’t great investments because they are typically located in mobile home parks. These parks aren’t for everyone and are still heavily stigmatized.
All this leads to a resale value that on average is much lower than the price you bought it for. However, this might be completely overshadowed by the amount of money you were able to save when buying the home and that you could have invested elsewhere.
Not really that mobile
Yes, mobile homes did originate from trailer homes that were popular in the 60’s and 70’s. However, let’s not forget that today’s structures, officially called “manufactured homes,” are a far cry from these early pioneers.
Most of the changes have been for the better, though. Today’s homes are much safer, constructed of much better materials, hold their value better, and can be as large as stick-built homes at a fraction of the cost.
This has come at a cost of mobility. Manufactured homes still come with the chassis and axles needed to transport them from one location to the other but these only come into play to deliver the home to the lot. (Except in rare cases.) It’s also not like you can hook these up to your truck and tow it around yourself.
Moving a manufactured home is very expensive. Even a local move for a single-wide home costs over $2,000. And longer moves with larger homes can go well over $10,000. Don’t forget that your chances of financing the home become non-existent after multiple moves. With these conditions in mind, most people prefer to just pack up and move.
Stigma and stereotypes
“Tinderboxes.” “Tornado magnets.” If a criticism exists of any type of housing, then it has been leveled at mobile homes before. These stereotypes largely stem from decades of improper and insufficient legislation and safety standards that were comprehensively addressed in the HUD Code of 1976. Unfortunately, we all know how long it takes to shape a bad reputation once it has formed in the public’s mind. Yes, mobile homes are still nowhere near stick-built homes when it comes to safety in extreme weather conditions but they are improving with time.
Safety isn’t the only such stereotype facing mobile homes. The owners themselves face a lot of unfair stereotyping as well. Many people think only the poor, infirmed, or undesirables live in these homes and in these parks. However, many parks are filled with everyday families that subscribe to all the values of every other good American.
People don’t want mobile homes in their neighborhoods because they think it lowers the value of their own homes. This has been found to be largely exaggerated and, in most cases, plain wrong.
Be that as it may, anyone living in a mobile home should be prepared for the silent judgment or surprise when they first mention it.
Mobile home parks
Parks aren’t for everyone. This downside is not mobile home specific. But since most mobile homes are located inside of parks, it is a particularly tangible reality. Park owners or landlords can come up with their own rules and regulations and these don’t agree with everyone.
Not having enough rules and criteria is also a problem. This means just about anyone can live and remain in the park. If some of the other homes look dilapidated or the neighbors are unruly, it could seriously affect your living conditions or your ability to sell the home later on.
So, is living in a mobile home for you?
That’s not for us to decide. Our job is to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on what’s best for you and your family. The biggest downside is the depreciation and low resale value. But by far the biggest benefit of living in a mobile home is that you can get all the amenities, size, and feel of a real family home at a bargain price. No squeezing into small condos or apartments in dodgy neighborhoods.