The Ultimate Guide to Building and Living in Mobile Homes

Are you looking for a new place to call home? Well, the housing market is filled with opportunities and risks. You must know exactly what you want since a house is a huge investment. After all, it’s not that easy to save money in a time where everything is becoming costly. Well, have you ever considered getting a mobile home? You might be visualizing an outdated and bulky trailer, but the real modern mobile home is much better than that. With our guide, you’ll learn why more and more people are getting mobile homes.

What are Mobile Homes ?

Mobile homes have an overall negative reputation due to how media has portrayed them back then. It’s possible that your first impressions were made after watching a show that featured a grumpy old person living in an isolated trailer park.
While that perception still has its basis from reality, the truth is that mobile homes have undergone a significant change for the better. Today, the mobile home is rebranded as the manufactured home.

Shift to Manufactured Homes

If you’re looking for a new house, a sales agent might entice you into getting a manufactured home. While it is true that each house is technically a manufactured product, what they’re referring to is the modern mobile home. 

There are at two significant factors that enabled the transition from mobile homes to manufactured homes: a long history and the HUD code. Thanks to these, people now think of mobile homes as a viable option for individuals and families alike.

A History of Mobile Homes

Nearly a century ago in the 1920s, the rise of automobiles resulted in the production of trailers. These vehicles were carried along by a truck or van. If you were going on a vacation with your family, a trailer was a good choice.

  • Strong Consumer Demand

A decade later, trailers began to differ from one another as manufactured scrambled to meet the demand. Factories were now developing trailers that vary in length, width, and features. Eventually, people began living in these wheeled machines for good.

  • Tarnished Image

However, the reputation of trailer homes wasn’t good. By the 1950s, developers had to rebrand them as mobile homes. Instead of advertising them as ideal vehicles for travel, mobile homes were described as wheeled homes that were temporarily fixed in one location.

Mobile homes were organized similarly to cars. They had the same financing options and were differentiated from one another through their vehicle identification numbers (VINs). Fast forward to 1976, and manufacturers took another step and renamed mobile homes into manufactured homes.

The HUD Code and What It Meant for Mobile Homes

What led to manufactured homes is the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, which became a federal law in 1976. It’s the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that was responsible for this law commonly known today as the HUD Code.

According to Cascade Loans, mobile homes became synonymous with manufactured homes by 1976. Each one must be built according to the Manufactured Home Construct and Safety Standards. If the home meets the criteria, it will have a certification label — giving buyers a quick indicator of quality.

Thus, people now had a good reason to get a manufactured home. Regulations kept factors such as design, durability, fire resistance, mobility, and energy efficiency in check. Mobile homes were now made with safety and functionality in mind.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Living in Mobile Homes?

While mobile homes today are far better than their first iterations, they are not meant for everyone. Like any other type of house, a mobile home has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of a Mobile Home

  • Safety

There’s a notion that mobile homes aren’t safe to live in and will easily succumb to severe weather conditions. In truth, the modern mobile home is made to be as tough as any other type of home — all thanks to the aforementioned HUD Code.

You don’t have to worry about flimsy construction. All manufactured homes are mandated to have optimal systems for electricity and heating. They are checked for structural integrity, which includes wind and fire safety. Plus, the steel anchors help keep mobile homes in place.

 

  • Affordable Choice

Even if mobile homes have greatly improved in overall appeal and reliability, their price has remained very competitive. They are still significantly a cheaper option compared to purchasing a traditional house or renting out an apartment unit.

While there are indeed apartment and even condominiums that are as affordable as your standard mobile home, they’re likely to be found in unimpressive parts of the city.

The average household can save money by renting out in mobile home parks, which only cost between $200 and $600 every month. Families can comfortably stay in double-wide mobile homes costing for just about $45,000 to $80,000, which is a far cry from the $200,000 price tag of traditional homes.

  • Quick Delivery

As noted by Triad Financial Services, mobile homes are not only affordable but they’re also completed faster than traditional houses. These structures are manufactured in specialized factories. Each company follows a strict set of guidelines to consistently produce quality mobile homes as quickly as possible.

Think about the stark difference in waiting time. On average, a traditional single-family house would take seven months to be fully constructed. There could also be delays due to weather conditions or mishandling by construction workers, engineers, or architects.
In contrast, a mobile home could be done in less than a week. You could have one done in just two days — and opting for a bit of customization and expansion won’t lead to months of waiting. Similarly, the lot can be arranged in a matter of days as well.

  • Encourages Living a Simpler Life

Instead of living a life of excess, why not strive to be a wise consumer? Today, more people are discovering the wonders of living in a simple or minimalist manner. Living in a mobile home encourages households to appreciate the space they have.
Embracing a minimalist lifestyle is good for one’s mental health. You don’t have to worry about finding more storage space or maintaining so many unnecessary products. While some mobile homes can still boast a relatively large space, the typical mobile home lets you prioritize only what is essential.

  • Customizability

As we’ve mentioned before, a mobile home can be customized to suit your preferences. No longer do you have to settle for a drab trailer home. While there are standard layouts to choose from, you can tweak them to achieve your desired space.

Even if you don’t have prior experience in customizing a home, your final design will be realized with assistance from computer-aided design (CAD). Ask the manufacturer what extra features they can offer — you might just get a fancy porch for your mobile home.

  • Energy Efficient

Homes that are mass-produced in specialized factories are at the forefront of innovation. This is due to how mobile home manufacturers need to find better methods to assemble homes. After all, a good-looking home attracts potential buyers.

Mobile homes are designed with energy efficiency in mind. The plumbing in these houses is at times better than those in stick-built homes. In particular, some mobile homes now use cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes that are durable, freeze-tolerant, and affordable enough to replace and repair.

It’s easy to add solar panels and insulation to your new mobile home. Plus, the way manufacturers construct mobile homes is smart. The process produces up to 90 percent less waste compared to stick-built house construction.

  • Often Comes with a Warranty

Mobiles homes are genuine places for people to live in, but they are not treated as real estate. Instead, they are labeled as personal property. While this seems disadvantageous, this actually means that your mobile home will likely come with a warranty.
After all, the manufacturer develops and delivers your ordered product that happens to be a house. A warranty protects your investment. Still, it’s important to read the fine print and check if the manufacturer is reputable and doesn’t just void the warranty for questionable reasons.

Cons of a Mobile Home

  • Likely to Depreciate in Value

Similar to cars, most mobile homes often dip in value over time. People looking for a good source of investment should acquire the land as well and have the home rented out. Otherwise, a mobile home is a hard sell.

Likewise, mobile homes located in parks are far from attractive choices to potential homeowners. If it’s located in your own property, the land won’t necessarily compensate for the decreasing value of the mobile home.

  • Less Mobility Than Before

Another issue with mobile homes is that they aren’t as mobile as before. No longer are they as easy to move around like the old trailer homes. They still have axles, but these are only for delivering the home to your place. It’s unlikely you’d be able to tow the structure using your own vehicle.

You’d have to pay about $2,000 to relocate a single-wide manufactured home. Any larger variants of mobile homes will cost you more than $10,000. Still, this isn’t a big deal for people looking for a permanent home in the same piece of land.

Where Are Mobile Homes Located?

Mobile homes can still be placed in dedicated parks but you also have the option to place them in your own property.

  • Mobile Home Parks

Living in a dedicated park for manufactured homes is good if you want to save money and have a sense of community. Such a park provides a variety of amenities to help families live a normal life. If you choose to live here, you must rent a piece of land and possibly hire a landlord to manage the area.

Note that parks vary by their target residents. There are mixed-use parks that have rental services for holiday cabins and tents along with mobile homes. You might also see residential parks containing mobile homes occupied by senior citizens and retirees, as noted by SeniorLiving.org.

There is no scarcity as each U.S. state contains mobile home parks. However, they’re certainly not for everyone. Some parks are more strict than others and you might not like the rules and regulations. Similarly, not enough rules could lead to an undesirable community.

  • On Private Land

In contrast to living in mobile home parks where you’re just renting a spot, you can buy a mobile home and place it in your own land. This is a more costly option, but it gives you the comfort of having your own private property.

By having private land, you have a better chance of having low-interest rates and a traditional mortgage. This also protects the value of your property since the land could increases in value even if the mobile home itself loses luster.

Before you purchase land, seek assistance from the local government to check zoning laws and building codes. Ensure that your mobile home can be legally built in your desired area.

What Are The Design Options?

Modern mobile homes don’t have to follow a standard layout. If you have the budget and the creativity, you can have a house that you can truly call your own.

  • Customizable Furniture

You don’t have to settle for any ordinary pieces of furniture. If you have a lot of books to store, you can have customized shelves to store them. Likewise, walk-in closets and distinct cabinets are all good options — just like how stick-built houses can have customized furniture.

  • Variety of Floor Plans and Decor

No matter the size of your mobile home, you can always experiment with the overall layout. A single-wide home can still look spacious if you practice a minimalist lifestyle. Similarly, double-wide and triple-wide variants will appear better if they’re properly personalized.

The layout of your bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms can differ in size and shape. Your bedroom can have its own shower room while the living room transitions smoothly into the dining area. As for the kitchen, it can be made of quartz, marble, or granite.

As noted by HomeTips.com, you can experiment with flooring materials such as tiles, concrete, marble, granite, and wood to give each room a distinct personality. You can have awnings and steps installed. And if you live in a cold region, allotting for a fireplace is suggested.

What Are The Financial Costs ?

Mobile homes are no longer as mobile as trailer homes, but they’re also not automatically regarded as real estate. If you are intent on living in a mobile home, you have to know how you can pay for it.

 

Purchasing a Mobile Home by Loan

If you have a tight budget but you need to a mobile home as soon as possible, there are at least four ways to acquire a loan.

  •  Chattel Loan

This type of loan is basically a mortgage not on real estate but on personal property. The Balance reports that 80 percent of mobile homes in 2015 was tagged as personal property. In this case, you are loaning for the mobile home only and not the land as well.

While it’s not difficult to acquire like the other options, the annual percentage rate (APR) of a chattel loan (CL) is 1.5 percent more than a traditional mortgage loan.  Similarly, the interest rate might deter some from trying this option.

Still, you also have to consider that processing fees for a CL is up to 50 percent lower than a mortgage loan. Plus, you don’t have to convert your mobile home into a real estate to qualify.

  •  VA Home Loan

If you’re a veteran or a service member currently working in any military branch, you may opt for a VA home loan. However, your mobile home must first become real estate and it must be your primary residence.  You cannot use it for secondary or investment properties.

The mobile home must also follow the HUD code and have a permanent foundation. What’s great about a VA loan is that there are no down payment or even monthly insurance requirements — provided that you meet the financial requirements and that the lender is okay with it.

  •  Standard Mortgage

This requires your mobile home to become real estate. To achieve this, you need to have it permanently attached to one location. Take out all the components needed for transporting the house and let it stay in your property.

Now that it has a permanent foundation costing about $10,000, you can seek the mortgage services of banks, brokers, and credit unions. Talk to your trusted real estate agent and ask other mobile homeowners about the traditional mortgage process.

  •  FHA Loan

This popular type of loan is backed by the Federal Housing Administration. To be eligible, your mobile home must have been built after the HUD code went into effect, which was on the 15th of June 1976. Second, the home must have a HUD tag or certification label.

Single-wides must have one HUD tag while double-wides and triple-wides have two and three tags, respectively.  In addition, ensure that any customizations still abide by the HUD code and any local housing regulations.

An FHA-backed loan is suitable for many aspiring homeowners since it has a low down payment and a fixed interest rate. An FHA Title I loan is used if you don’t own the land while a Title II loan is for financing both the mobile home and the land. You can read more about FHA loans at My Mortgage Insider.

Buying a Used or Secondhand Mobile Home

A split in half mobile home.
mobile home 10

Apart from renting one out, the cheapest way to live in a mobile home is by purchasing a used mobile home. A brand new single-wide mobile home will cost you around $50,000 but a used variant can go for as low as $10,000.

Still, you must ensure that you’re going to get a mobile home in a decent state. As noted by the U.S. Mobile Home Pros, the home must be leveled with no signs of settling whatsoever. Likewise, check the insulation and the flooring if they have significant issues.

  • Purchasing or Leasing Land

A mobile home needs a location. While the rental fee in mobile home parks varies from state to state, you should be fine with a monthly budget of $600. Usually, this already includes payment for water and sewage but there are parks that include internet and cable television as well.

On the other hand, you can buy land for your mobile home. The overall price also differs from state to state, as reported by How Much. In California, an acre of land will cost about $39,000 while it’s only worth $7,000 in Missouri, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.

Purchasing land for your mobile home might seem too costly, but do remember the benefits. One is that land usually increases in value over time. Second, having a mobile home in your own property makes it possible to have a standard mortgage and better interest rates.

  • Maintenance Costs

This involves many different expenses that add up over time. Apart from utility expenses, you must pay insurance fees and property taxes. There are also maintenance costs ranging from repairs to replacements of mobile home fixtures and furniture.

What Are The Factors Affecting The Value Of a Mobile Home?

Once you have your own mobile home, you should strive to maintain or improve its value. Doing so will help you sell or have it rented out in the future. Below are the primary factors that influence the overall value of a mobile home.

 

  • Size

First, the size of your mobile home is largely dependent on its size. Single-wides are much cheaper than double-wides. Similarly, triple-wides are much bigger than double-wides and are worth as much as a standard stick-built house.

The value of a mobile home depends on both the total size area and the number of rooms. After all, families are more likely to view sizable homes offering enough bedrooms and bathrooms. Still, having a single-wide isn’t bad since there are people looking for budget options.

  • Age

While there are certain stick-built houses that grow in value as the years go by, most houses don’t fare as well as they grow old. If your mobile home has been around before the HUD code was enacted in 1976, chances are that no one will buy it. This is because they will doubt its quality.

Mobile homes manufactured once the HUD code became federal law will be perceived better. Furthermore, the newest mobile homes will be easier to market since they will feature better materials and construction methods.

  • Depreciation

As mentioned before, mobile homes will depreciate over time as people see them as having deteriorated due to extensive use. On average, the price will decrease by three percent annually. But if you own the land as well, its likely rise in value will compensate for the mobile home.

  • Maintenance and Upgrades

Your mobile home can still have a decent value even if it’s old as long as it’s well maintained. Keeping everything neat and working well ensures potential buyers that the house can last with proper care. Floors, ceilings, cabinets, and kitchen counters should remain neat.

Moreover, the roof must be maintained through recoating. This helps it withstand severe storms. Repainting the walls or replacing the panels keeps your mobile home looking up to date. Check if your home is leveled and that both doors and windows open and close with ease.

Avoid making your mobile home look outdated. Check the fixtures if they need repairs or upgrades. Faucets, electric sockets, and plumbing installations must all work as intended. Moreover, don’t forget that installing eaves, awnings, and porches will attract more potential buyers.

Conclusion

Mobile homes provide individuals and families alike a practical way to have their own house. With the enactment of the HUD code in 1976, no longer do mobile homes resemble dismal trailer homes. You can have single-wides, double-wides, and even deluxe triple-wides to accommodate each family member.

Today, you can have a mobile home that’s as beautiful and safe as any stick-built home — all at the fraction of a cost. You can pick between renting at residential parks and buying your own house and land to enable a variety of financing options.

With proper maintenance, your mobile home will always look as good as new. So if you’re looking to get your first house, there’s no better way to do so than getting a mobile home.

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