[DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this article is provided for educational purposes only; it is not meant to substitute for professional advice provided by a real estate expert or other professional. Please seek the advice of a professional before proceeding with any real estate transaction. The author is not an expert and is presenting this information based on personal experience only]
Mobile homes regrettably have a lot of stigma in our culture, which is a shame because they are a fantastic alternative to home ownership when that seems impossible. Real estate (and even renting) is growing more and more expensive each year. With the fairly-recent housing bubble and foreclosure crisis still fresh in our memories, owning your own home can be a daunting—or even completely impossible—prospect for many. When you’re an aging woman, thinking about your future and where you’ll live for the long-term is important. If you thought you could never be a homeowner, it’s time to consider a mobile (or manufactured) home.
A fantastic home-ownership option for aging women
Imagine having your very own home for less than you pay for an apartment or house rental, with more security, and endless opportunities to personalize your space. We’re here to encourage you to think about mobile/manufactured homes as a viable, long-term place to hang your hats. Like most of the posts on Eccentric Dames Society, we put a lot of focus on budget-minded activities, and finding an affordable place to live (now or in the future) is high on our list. If you are financially set and don’t have to worry about living arrangements, this article is probably not for you. However, mobile homes can be great vacation homes, too, so hear us out anyway! Two of our staff, including me, live in mobile homes right now, and absolutely love it. More about that later. Let’s get into the realities of mobile homes, and hopefully we can help erase some of the stigma attached to them.
Dispelling the “trailer park” myth
Mobile home parks (or communities) usually strike an unpleasant stereotype: trailer parks, trailer trash…you get the idea. It’s unfortunate that this stigma is so deeply embedded in our thinking, because there are some amazing mobile home parks out there; you just have to find them. Are there horrible, scary ones? Yes, of course. But we all know about that and can picture it in our minds, so there’s no need to re-hash it. The reality is that millions of people live in mobile/manufactured homes, and they are happy and safe. Mobile homes have so much to offer: they are easy and less expensive to repair and insure than standard homes, and typically have little maintenance and lower property taxes. They usually have no lawns to care for, so in that respect they are more like garden homes. Depending on where you live, mobile homes can be had for 25% or less of what you would pay for a standard home.
First off, let’s clear up a common misconception. When many people hear the term “mobile home,” they think of a camper or RV. A more accurate term is “manufactured home.” The fact that these homes can be moved easier than a standard house is likely where the term came from; additionally, some early single homes were literally on wheels. Things have changed!
What exactly is a mobile or manufactured home?
It’s a home that is pre-assembled at a factory and then moved to your desired location. Most of the house is built off-site, and then moved to a park or community where it has a permanent location. Utilities are attached and installed after the home is placed. Some of them are placed on foundations, and some of them are on beams with crawl space underneath. Pre-owned mobile/manufactured homes obviously have all this taken care of already, in addition to many other great amenities added after the fact.
Mobile/manufactured homes are a star in the new “tiny home” revolution; if you’re looking to downsize, one bedroom/one bath homes are plentiful. But if you need more space, don’t despair: homes as large as 2500 square feet with three bedrooms/two baths are out there. The most common is two bedroom/two baths with average of 1400 square feet.
“Many people do not realize how roomy a mobile home can me. My home has two full bathrooms, a walk in closet, and about 200 more square feet than the last house I owned,” said Cheryl “Sassy” Morris, fellow mobile home dweller and Eccentric Dames Society Co-Founder.
Why are mobile homes concentrated in communities?
Typically this is a city zoning issue. Most cities will not allow a mobile home to be placed on a lot in a neighborhood that has been established with traditional, standard homes that have have been built on site. Cities have different reasons for doing this, and it varies. Some cities and/or neighborhoods allow it. Mobile home communities were established to remove these zoning requirements. Likewise, you wouldn’t be able to build a standard home in a mobile community.
Beauty and amenities
Many of these communities are absolutely beautiful and indeed park-like: for example, my community is also an 18-hole golf course; there are ponds scattered throughout the park which attract bird life and create a very tranquil setting. It has a salt water pool, activities such as weekly water aerobics and exercise, movies, three gyms, and there’s even a weekly Buddhist meeting! We also have an annual Christmas Golf Cart Parade, where participants decorate their carts and parade through the entire community. It’s an absolute blast, and neighbors have driveway parties on that night to watch the carts. So fun!
Sassy says, “Living in a gated community has a lot of advantages, like a pool you do not have to worry about the upkeep on, common areas to meet in and use, and beautiful well-kept garden areas.”
Do you own the land the mobile home sits on?
This varies by community. Some communities offer the land, others rent or lease the land. This is an important distinction, and definitely something to ask a realtor about. In some cases, this may affect the price of a mobile home; for example, homes for sale on rented/leased land are sometimes less expensive and have significantly lower property taxes than ones where land-ownership is included.
Owning vs. renting
Some mobile home communities allow rentals; others don’t. This policy varies by community. But renting a mobile home can be a great way to get your feet wet, and it’s much better than an apartment. No shared walls, private outdoor spaces, and so much more! Finding a realtor who specialize in a mobile/manufactured homes is a good place to start; a specialized realtor can help you find homes to rent. If you rent, of course maintenance and upkeep is the responsibility of the owner, but if you are the owner, you will be responsible for all repairs on your structure and property. Typically, this is much less expensive than a regular house but it is still something to plan for.
Where do you start exploring?
If you want to explore the world of mobile/manufactured homes, here’s a quick list to get you started. It’s very important to do some homework.
- Make a list of the amenities you would like in a home (quiet, active, gated, natural settings, 55+ age restricted, large lots, number of rooms, etc). Keep these amenities in mind throughout your search process.
- Start by doing a quick Google search for “mobile home communities” with your desired city/area name. Many communities and management companies have websites for their properties. These will give you an overview of the park’s policies, amenities, and sometimes, available homes for sale/rent. Many of the major real estate websites have an option for searching mobile/manufactured homes; you can specify this in their Advanced Search options.
- Alternatively, use Mobile Home Village: a great website that specializes in mobile/manufactured listings.
- Make a list of the communities that look appealing.
- Once you have your list, take a drive and visit these communities. Drive around and see what the neighborhood is like. If you find a community that you really like, visit it during the day AND at night. Communities can vary a lot, and you want to get a good idea of the types of neighbors that live there. Some communities are gated, so you may have to call ahead of time to gain entrance.
- Contact a realtor who specializes in mobile/manufactured homes. This will be the best favor you can do for yourself in this process, because they have an understanding of the special conditions that apply to mobile homes. Do a Google search for “mobile home realtors” to find a list in your area.
- Communicate with the realtor what your desired amenities are and the communities where you have already looked and liked. Look at multiple homes, even if you see one right away that you like. Scroll down for our list of Important Questions for a mobile home realtor.
After you’ve found the perfect mobile home:
- Visit the home with your realtor at different times of the day; again, you want to get a good feel of what the community is like at different times of the day. For example, my 55+ mobile home community is quiet all day and night, which was a huge priority for me.
- Have a conversation with your realtor about specifics. Because mobile homes have special circumstances, this is an essential part of your homework.
- Get a home inspection by someone certified in mobile homes, regardless of whether it’s required in your state. Some states don’t require it, but it will give you peace of mind and uncover any potential repairs that need to be made before you buy, and this can be negotiated in the sale price.
- Shop around for mobile home insurance. Finding an agency who specifically mentions mobile/manufactured homes is ideal. Be sure to get details about what a policy will cover, and if extra coverage is available if needed (for example, earthquake and natural disaster coverage).
- Do your homework
- Make a list of pros and cons
- Get a realtor who specializes in mobile/manufactured homes
- Go to the neighborhood at different times of the day and also at night to get a feel for it (if it’s a gated community, you may have to make an appointment for this with your realtor)
- Get a home inspection by someone certified in mobile/manufactured homes, regardless of whether it’s required in your state
- Investigate homeowners insurance options / inclusions of coverage (this can be very different for mobile/manufactured homes
- Ask about property taxes / HOA fees
Questions to ask the realtor or community manager
- Do I own the land?
- If not, what is the monthly space rent/lease?
- What amenities are available for homeowners?
- Are any utilities included?
- Are pets allowed? Are there any restrictions?
- What are the property taxes?
- Is there a homeowner’s association? If so, is membership required?
- Are there any property modification rules?
- What resident support services do you offer?
- Does the community have any activities?
- Is management on or off-site?
- Is street or desginated parking allowed for guests?
So there you have it…an overview and something to think about for your housing options! Feel free to ask any questions about mobile/manufactured home life in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them.
by Stacie Herndon
Stacie is a writer, graphic designer, and web developer. Legend has it that she was born old. She has always loved outrageous older ladies, often befriending them over people her own age. She is a devoted Francophile, loves a good Sauvignon Blanc and can mix a mean cocktail. She will have red hair until the day she departs this earth.