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Are manufactured homes cheaper than other housing?

The Cost of Living Mobile
Manufactured homes cost 10 to 35 percent less per square foot to build than site-built homes
Manufactured homes cost 10 to 35 percent less per square foot to build than site-built homes
© Nicholas

Five years ago, Richard Doherty made his final payment on his manufactured home. For 15 years, Doherty had his home on a rented lot in the Barrington Estates in Barrington, N.H., a bright and airy community with neat gardens and manicured streets. Doherty and 73 other families liked living in the community. When the owner decided to sell in 2005, a wave of angst gripped residents. They feared they would all have to move [source: Kirchhoff].

As it turns out, Barrington Estates is still around, providing a decent, affordable life for those who live there. And that, experts say, is the beauty of manufactured homes. Compared with site-built homes, manufactured homes are affordable, less expensive to maintain, and just downright cheaper.

For one thing, manufactured homes cost 10 to 35 percent less per square foot to build than site-built homes [source:]. Homeowners achieve most of these savings at the factory where builders benefit from economies of scale. The factories can purchase massive amounts of materials, products and appliances at cheaper rates than a typical on-site home builder [source:].

In addition, workers build manufactured homes on an assembly line, which is far more controlled and efficient than building a house on-site. Too often, bad weather, theft of building materials and vandalism, not to mention the vagaries of agreements with contractors and subcontractors, hamper on-site construction projects. Factories also control labor costs by managing their workers effectively [source:].

Those who buy manufactured homes not only save money because the construction process is cheaper, but they can also save by living in special communities that handle expenses for services like lawn maintenance, trash removal, snow plowing and other on-site repairs as part of the rent. Homeowners can rent or own the land on which the house sits. More than 75 percent of manufactured homes are located on private property, while the remaining 25 percent are located in communities where the homeowner leases the lot [source:].

A study by the University of New Hampshire concluded that residents who own their own manufactured home communities can sell their homes more quickly and at a higher price than those living in leased communities. Additionally, residents say they have greater control over their lots, and worry less about their park being closed [source: Ward, French, Kelly].