The residents of Ridgeway, Va., are holding their collective breath. For years the Shady Rest mobile home park on U.S. 220 was an eyesore. Some of the homes were poorly maintained and stacked close together like cord wood. The park itself was littered with debris [source: Collins].
Finally, the mobile home park closed and Ridgeway residents exhaled. Now, Atul Chumble, the new owner of the property, wants to reopen the park, and the neighbors of the former Shady Rest are once again upset. They don't want to see another rundown park built in its place. But Chumble says his plan is to update Shady Rest and turn it into a nice, livable community. Still, Ridgeway residents want local officials to keep an eye on the project. As for Chumble, he told neighbors that he doesn't like eyesores himself [source: Collins].
The reaction of Ridgeway is understandable. Manufactured home parks, more commonly known as trailer parks, are like the Rodney Dangerfield of homeownership -- they get very little respect. So, when one is planned for a community, all heck breaks loose. Neighbors immediately fear property values will go down, crime will run rampant, and the park itself will be littered with junk cars, sofas on the front lawn (if there is a lawn) and kids in sagging diapers.
Little do the residents of Ridgeway realize that a new era of manufactured homes has dawned. Today, most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a manufactured home and a site-built home. Manufactured homes now come with landscaped lawns and garages. Many are multi-story structures that have energy efficient heating and cooling systems and ENERGY STAR appliances.
More than 17 million Americans live in manufactured homes. What do they know that the rest of us don't? Read on to find out the 10 advantages of a manufactured home.
In 2007, Jim and Debby Laramie moved into a new 1,720-square-foot modular home in Gulfport, Fla. At the time, they paid $118,000 [source: Swider]. The Laramies couldn't believe their good fortune. In 2007, the median price of a single single-family house in Pinellas County, where Gulfport is located, was $210,000. The Laramies were getting a bargain, and they knew it. They bought a brand new, modern house for $92,000 less than what a typical single-family home was worth [source: Swider].
Manufactured housing is an affordable option for Americans to purchase their own homes. Manufactured homes can cost an average of $62,600, compared with $272,200 for a single-family site-built home [source: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Census Bureau]. Manufactured homes also cost 10 to 35 percent less per square foot to build than site-built homes [source: ManufacturedHousing.org].
The middle class loves manufactured homes. According to ManufacturedHousing.org, median annual income for those living in a manufactured home is $34,700. Twenty-four percent of all households, however, bring home $50,000 or more each year. In addition, the average household size is 2.7 people [ManufacturedHousing.org].
Anyone who has ever built a home can tell horror stories of cost overruns, delayed construction and snarly contractors. Such problems are foreign to the manufactured home industry because the homes are built in factories under strict rules and tight federal regulations. The factories build the homes on assembly lines, which leaves little room for error. Additionally, the manufacturing process maximizes the efficiency of workers. Moreover, manufactured homes are built in a controlled environment that is not impacted by bad weather, vandalism, and the potential unreliability of contractors and subcontractors [source: ManufacturedHousing.org].
Such control over the building process allows homeowners to reap the benefits of money saved during construction. In addition, factories can purchase massive amounts of materials, products and appliances at a cheaper rate than a typical on-site home builder, and pass the cost savings on to the homeowner.
Although the homeowner is responsible for the foundation, and for establishing utilities like electricity and sewage before manufactured homes arrive onsite for final construction, factories can build a typical double-wide or single-wide manufactured home in about one-third of the time it takes a contractor to construct a site-built home [source: ManufacturedHousing.org]. When the house gets to your property, it is nearly 90 percent complete, which allows you to move into your new home much faster, as well [source: Nationwide Homes]. And just because construction and set up moves at a rapid pace doesn't mean the builders can ignore safety and building codes. In-house and third-party inspectors examine each structure before and after the home is on site [source: Modular Center].
If you haven't figured it out yet, manufactured homes are not your granddad's mobile homes. Some of the designs are even elaborate. Modular homes, for example, have more than one story. They have porches, garages and decks, and vaulted ceilings. And depending on the lots, homeowners can add beautiful lawns and landscaping. Builders can also customize houses to customer's specific needs -- want stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors and granite countertops? No problem. Some companies even specialize in upscale modular homes. One firm, the Modular Center, has a "Masterpiece Collection," which features homes that range from 2,000 square feet (185.8 square meters) to more than 5,000 square feet (464.5 square meters) [source: Modular Center].
The new generations of manufactured homes are energy efficient. Factories now outfit manufactured homes with ENERGY STAR appliances. Builders take great care in making sure each home is tightly constructed with efficient heating and cooling systems, water heaters, and high-performance windows.
How much money can a manufactured home save a person? Let's look at one example. A few years ago, North Carolina A&T University and the U.S. Department of Energy studied the energy efficiency of one type of manufactured home. The university built two houses on the Greensboro campus. Each three-bedroom, three-bath house was 1,528 square feet (142 square meters) [source: U.S. Department of Energy].
Although the homes were unoccupied, researchers rigged up the lights and appliances with timers to simulate normal energy use. One house was a "base" house that acted as a control. The other was an "energy" house, which was built with energy-efficient materials and appliances. Researchers expected the energy house to be 50 percent more energy efficient than the base house. After studying both houses for an entire winter heating season and summer cooling season, researchers found that the energy house actually exceeded expectations with an overall savings of 55 percent [source: U.S. Department of Energy].
Wall-to-wall carpet, hardwood floors, ENERGY STAR appliances, top-of-the line fixtures, 10-foot ceilings, ceramic tile. You would think your were in Derek Jeter's McMansion in Tampa, Fla. Actually, all the amenities you can find in a site-built home can also be added to manufactured homes. The only difference is that workers install everything in the house before it reaches your property. Some manufactured homes have walk-in closets, jetted tubs and soaker bathtubs, and others come equipped with fireplaces, bay windows and gabled roofs. And it's common for homes to have more than one bathroom outfitted with double sinks and sunken tubs.
Manufactured homes come in all shades of colors, but the most important is "green," as in environmentally friendly. Builders of manufactured homes generally don't waste a lot of building materials, and whatever scraps they do end up with are often recycled. Modular construction allows builders to use less material without compromising a building's structure [source: Gorman].
Even investor Warren Buffett has gone green when it comes to modular home building. In 2009, one of Buffett's companies, Clayton Homes, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, unveiled its line of green modular homes known as the i-house. With a price tag of less than $75,000, the 750-square-foot (69.6 square-meter) i-house has low-flow faucets, high-efficiency heat pumps and roofs designed to collect rainwater. The i-house saves energy, water and reduces carbon emissions. The i-house is so eco-friendly that it achieved a Platinum rating -- the highest mark possible -- from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program run by the U.S. Green Building Council [source: Lawrence].
Despite the trailer park stereotype, many manufactured home communities are wonderful places to hang your hat. Homeowners can rent or own the land on which their houses sit. 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: ManufacturedHousing.org].
One of the biggest benefits of living in manufactured home communities is that residents don't have to worry about the expenses of lawn maintenance, trash removal, snow plowing and other on-site repair work [source: Manufactured Home Source].
Some communities are gated and secure, while other communities -- especially those for adults only -- resemble tiny resorts. They offer organized social activities, walking trails, fitness centers, pools, tennis courts and even golf courses. Many communities have common areas and are beautifully landscaped.
Many people believe that manufactured homes will never rise in value. In fact, some people say manufactured homes depreciate over time. A manufactured home is just like any other home. When it's properly built and maintained, manufactured homes appreciate just like site-built homes. But, as with all housing, the value of a manufactured home depends on a variety of market factors such as:
- the local housing market
- the local community
- the initial price of the home
- the age of the home
- the overall condition of the home
- the location of the home [source: ManufacturedHousing.org]
In addition, studies have shown that manufactured housing has little impact on property values. In 1993, researchers at the University of Michigan concluded that manufactured homes did not impact property values of site-built homes in adjacent neighborhoods [source: ManufacturedHousing.org].
Many people, including Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, think manufactured homes are a good investment. In 2003, Buffet and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, plunked down $1.7 billion to buy Clayton Homes Inc., a manufactured-housing company based in Knoxville, Tenn. In his annual letter to investors in 2011, Buffett said his company should serve as a model for those in the government who want to reform the nation's housing system [source: Howley].
When you bought your last home and something went wrong, how difficult was it to get the contractor to come and fix it? Chances are it was a hassle, and the work wasn't done in time. Manufactured homes generally come with a one-year warranty for construction and separate warranties for windows, doors, siding, faucets, appliances -- you name it. Most will even provide their customers with extended warranties.
While all new homes will have a warranty, used homes might not. Ask some of these important questions before signing off on the house:
- How long does the warranty last?
- What does the warranty cover?
- What voids the warranty?
- Does the retailer, builder or installer perform the warranty work, or is it split between all parties?
- Does the warranty become void if the installation site is not properly prepared? [source: Consumer Union]
However, buyer beware: The key is to make sure you have a copy of the complete warranty and not a summary document. And be sure to keep the warranty up to date if it requires renewing.
Most homeowners insurance won't cover your home if you're renting it via sites like Airbnb. HowStuffWorks looks at insurance policies that will.
More Great Links
- Collins, Paul. "Mobile home park turnaround hoped." Martinsville Bulletin. Feb. 28, 2011. (March, 2011).http://www.martinsvillebulletin.com/article.cfm?ID=27530
- Consumers Union. "Consumers Union's Manufactured Home Warranty Tips." (March, 2011).http://www.consumersunion.org/other/mh/wtips.htm
- Gorman, Jim. "Eco-Friendly Modular Home." Country Living. (March, 2011).http://www.countryliving.com/homes/house-tours/green-piece-1008
- Howley, Kathleen M. "Buffett Says Buying Home was Third-Best Investment he Made." Bloomberg Businessweek. March, 3, 2011. (March, 2011).http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-02-28/buffett-says-buying-home-was-third-best-investment-he-made.html
- Lawrence, Robyn Griggs. "Green Buildings: Affordable, Eco-friendly Modular Homes." Mother Earth News. October/November, 2009. (March, 2011).http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Homes/Green-Modular-Homes.aspx
- ManufacturedHousing.org. "Today's Manufactured Housing." (March, 2011).http://www.manufacturedhousing.org/understanding_today/cost_size.htm
- ManufacturedHousing.org. "Who Lives in Manufactured Housing?" (March, 2011).http://www.manufacturedhousing.org/understanding_today/graph.htm
- Modular Center. "Modular Homes." (March, 2011).http://www.modularcenter.com/modularfaq/
- Nationwide Homes. "Modular Home Construction Features." (March, 2011).http://www.nationwide-homes.com/main.cfm?pagename=modular
- Swider, Paul. "Modular homes: What's not to like?" St. Petersburg Times. Jan. 21, 2007. (March, 2010).http://www.sptimes.com/2007/01/21/Neighborhoodtimes/Modular_homes__What_s.shtml
- The Manufactured Housing Association of Oklahoma. "Myth vs. Realty." (March, 2011).http://www.mhao.org/myths.asp
- U.S. Census Bureau. "Average Sales Price of New Manufactured Homes by Region and Size of Home." (March, 2011).http://www.census.gov/const/mhs/mhstabavgsls.pdf
- U.S. Census Bureau. "Median and Average Sales Prices of New Homes Sold in the United States." (March, 2011).http://www.census.gov/const/uspriceann.pdf
- U.S. Department of Energy. "Manufactured Home Comparison." (March, 2011).http://www.baihp.org/data/NCATU/index.htm