Mobile Homes
July 12, 2004 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Please relate your mobile home experiences...

We're in a bit of a real estate bubble in my town. Prices are hyperinflated, IMO, with homes I'd never pay more than $130k for going for $200k.

So it occurs to me that maybe I should take advantage of this opportunity by selling my condo, and putting the cash into a mobile home for a couple years. When the market collapses, bingo!, I'll have a shipload of money ready to snap up all the good deals.

However, there's a certain stigma attached to mobile home parks. Are they truly an environment to be feared? Is living in a mobile going to really be nasty? Keep in mind I'm currently in a 900sqft condo, 2br/1ba, own entry, own garage, and neighbours I like...

Thanks in advance for any stories, advice, and suchlike!
posted by five fresh fish to Home & Garden (20 answers total)
Put the money into T-Bills or the stock market, not a mobile home. Rent. When the market tanks condos and mobile homes will sink first, IMHO (does anybody still use that acronym).
posted by caddis at 7:29 PM on July 12, 2004

Condominiums are a bad real estate buy?
posted by the fire you left me at 7:32 PM on July 12, 2004

Bear in mind the distinction between mobile homes (or these days, they call 'em "manufactured homes") that really are meant to be moved onto their lot and never/rarely move again, and RVs or trailers, that are more roadgoing vehicles. I'm not sure which, exactly, you're considering. RV parks and mobile-home parks also seem to be pretty much separate

I don't live in either, but I have a close friend who does live in a trailer, and who has made RV living a bit of a personal crusade (contact me directly for more info). Through her I have learned that, for RV parks at least, they come in all flavors--upmarket and downmarket. There are upmarket ones that have rules on the age and quality of your RV every bit as intrusive as some homeowners associations, others that are quite funky in character. I've seen some parks that are not scary but decidedly unpleasant because they are situated along highways, etc. I've seen others that are quite cozy. And of course, there are some for nudists. I think it's fair to say there are good neighborhoods and bad.

Both mobile homes and RVs depreciate, unlike houses. I'm not sure which depreciates faster. Also remember that you'll be facing a serious tax hit if you don't re-invest the profits from your condo sale in a new home within a year (I think--need to double-check). And finally, as you probably know, that bubble might not collapse. You might want to talk to a financial planner about that side of things.
posted by adamrice at 7:33 PM on July 12, 2004

Nyet, nyet, nyet. In short: mobile homes don't appreciate in value--in fact, quite the contrary. Property values are tied to the land, not to the house, and one normally rents a lot in a mobile home park.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:35 PM on July 12, 2004

As you've already grasped, more important than the mobile home itself is the place where it's situated! I've known people who've sold their home and moved into mobile homes temporarily without complaint. The only niggles they had were over things like heating, which can be tough if you don't have the equipment that's up to the task, as they're not usually the best insulated places in the world. You're also going to want to throw a lot of stuff away, or get it into storage.. (throwing stuff away is good, as far as I look at it) Go on a tour of your local parks, and try to find one which is primarily full of older people. What you really don't want is to end up next to Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel and his ten kids.

I hope your bubble corrects itself soon. It hasn't in the UK for ten years now, although I know the North American market is a bit more volatile, what with the oodles of space you have to just build more places :-)

(Did you consider buying a plot of land, living in a mobile home on it, and building your own place as your budget allows? This way you can get a house on the cheap, and have your temporary mobile home away from any nasty neighbors!!)
posted by wackybrit at 7:36 PM on July 12, 2004

I owned one (a 14' x 70' single wide manufactured home) when I first married in the late 80's. Don't do it. You are at the mercy of park management for one thing. They are just like a landlord, other than you own the home, but they own the land it sits on. You have to play by their rules. Park management is their own little fifedom. They can make your life miserable.

Do your research, and check out how much lot rent costs. It can add an extra $200 - $300 to your housing bill on top of your house payment. (Assuming you take a loan to buy) it.

They are roomier than an apartment or small condo, but are not made as well. I can vouch for the lack of quality workmanship when I did some upgrading of carpeting and trim.

They depreciate much like a car. Their value drops consdierably as soon as you buy it. I sold mine after 3+ years, and barely made enough to pay off the loan. I was VERY lucky to find a buyer, considering a new mobile home wasn't all that much more expensive than a new one at the time.

I'm sure things have changed some over the last 15 years since I've owned one. But I'm sure you'll find out that it's still a losing proposition financially.
posted by bawanaal at 8:00 PM on July 12, 2004

Check very carefully on your theory of the bubble bursting before you sell. We keep hearing people here say the same sort of thing - "I am not going to buy now, I will wait until prices go down". In my experience, prices never go down by any worthwhie amount for long, the yjust stabilise until the real value catches up with market value. Add the legal and other costs of buying and selling on top of inflation and the tax you will pay on any money you invest and you suddenly found that you sold the home you love and ended up back where you started in a few years time (or even worse off).
posted by dg at 8:34 PM on July 12, 2004

in the US, you expose yourself to capital gains tax if you don't reinvest those funds in another home.
posted by quonsar at 8:37 PM on July 12, 2004

i'd sublet the condo for way more than your monthly payments/taxes/etc and rent something small and cheap, then sell at the top of the market, and buy something nice(r).
posted by amberglow at 8:44 PM on July 12, 2004

If I'm not mistaken, you live in Vancouver, or thereabouts, FFF. I'd be surprised if you could even find a mobile home park closer than Abbostford. And once you've bought land to put it on, well, you might just, as well put an actual house on it.

Add in the costs of buying the unit (no, you won't get any reasonable amount of money back, they depreciate like a car) to your pad rental, taxes, utilities (they're a bitch to heat, as someone else mentioned), insurance (they tend to go up in flames like an okanagan forest at the slightest spark) and you're probably not that far ahead of renting.

Plus, there's an element of stigma associated with living in a trailer. I grew up in one that was permanently affixed to a nice quarter acre of property in the country and had large additions built on, such that it was a fair sized house. I still get under breath comments about trailer trash when people find that out.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:58 PM on July 12, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not sure what the tax laws are in Canada. I'll have to check into it.

With the profits from the condo sale, we can purchase a manufactured home outright. The only expense after that would be the $200-300 pad rental. If/when the market breaks, we'd likely rent the mobile home.

If the market doesn't break, then we'd be a bit screwed.

We are also looking at property and building, but I haven't been able to get a good feel for what the building costs would be. I find it difficult to believe we could purchase a lot and build for less than purchasing a "used" home.

In this town we have new homes on small lots with amazing views selling for $300k-$400k. We have newish homes on larger lots with good views going for $200-300k. We have old home on largish lots, usually without a great view, going from $180-250k depending on size, mature landscaping, and other features. And our decrepit old falling-apart wartime homes are going for around $130k, which is just insane. Trailers ("manufactured homes") of the single- and double-wide variety going from $15-100k, depending largely on age, size, quality of build, and lot size.

Ten years ago the wartime homes would have been $80k fixer-uppers, the older fullsize homes $120k, and new homes wouldn't have been over $225k. Heck, two years ago the prices would have been been about that! It's just in the past year that prices have skyrocketed unreasonably.

Property prices have usually been $10k/acre for large unserviced acreages; $60-130k for serviced lots in developments, depending on the size, location, view, and construction constraints.

What I really want is a Healthy Home Designs home of the 1500sqft variety, designed for a couple without kids. Or a Not So Big home. Either way, the emphasis is on quality space, not quantity space.

But I've no idea the cost to build, particularly in this location and its booming market. Could be a bugger to even find a builder right now. :-(

(I live in the Okanagan, Jacqui.)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:06 PM on July 12, 2004

Response by poster: (I'll offer my condo to sell or rent to any MeFi member who cares to live here! It's not a bad unit. Private front entrance, top floor, south-facing, huge deck, large master bedroom, small second bedroom, nice garage, very quiet 14-unit complex that hasn't been tyrannical about stupid things.

About 20m drive to Silver Star Mountain ski resort, Sovereign Lake Nordic Ski trails, several lakes including the enormous Okanagan Lake, in a valley filled to the brim with fruit orchards and wineries.

Certainly one of the best places on earth. Asking $125k. Makes one hell of a vacation home if you've got the big bucks. Makes a great starter home if you don't have kids.)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:13 PM on July 12, 2004

in the US, you expose yourself to capital gains tax if you don't reinvest those funds in another home.

posted by majick at 9:17 PM on July 12, 2004

FFF, I used to deliver pizzas to a bunch of mobile home parks -- back in the proverbial day -- and even though some people are very cool, you are packed so tightly that you will, inevitably, have to deal with some dickwad that you would never have to deal with if you stayed in your condo. I'm talking camaro-on-blocks-babies-running-around-in-diapers sort of dickwads, the 1 in 20 fuckwits who make places like that bad for everyone else. Hassles like that aren't worth the speculation that the bubble will burst and you'll get more for your money. Since you already know you're screwed if the bubble doesn't burst, don't take the chance you'll be stuck in a situation like that.
posted by subgenius at 10:27 PM on July 12, 2004

Response by poster: So Trailer Park Boys is essentially true-to-life, eh? Damn.

I found a local manufactured home manufacturer. Prices start at $60kish and move up to about twice that. At the low end are what I'd call "mobile homes," those 12x36' single-wide units to "prefab homes," which can be much wider and double-storied.

An acreage and one of those would do me well. If it were a large enough acreage, put a single-wide on a far corner to live in while a custom home is being built, then lease it out; if a small acreage, the fanciest of their homes would do me nicely. For about the same cost as some beater 20 yr old home on a generous city lot, I could have a new home on five to thirty acres of land...
posted by five fresh fish at 11:25 PM on July 12, 2004

Where I live in Vermont there are a lot of mobile homes. In fact, towns around here seem to be filled with half old farmhouse fixers and half mobile homes/manufactured homes. I know a few things about them:

* they're cold in the winter and tough to insulate properly, especially underneath where the pipes go into them. When we had the cold snap two years back [not the cold snap last year] I had some plumbing issues and was put waaaaaay at the end of the plumber's priority list because he was basically fixing every mobile home in town first
* neighborly issues - it's definitely a class thing in the US but people who live in mobile home parks are often people who can't afford to live someplace with better insulated homes and not in as close proximity to their neighbors, not crafty resellers like yourself. It's the Amtrak v. Greyhound issue. I've had some good friends who live in mobile home parks, but there have been ongoing issues living near a concentration of rural poor folks [domestic violence here especially, but also chained up dogs, loud buttrock at all hours, snowmobiling in the backyard]. You'll also find seniors on fixed incomes and a panoply of others, but at least where I live, some of the stereotypes ring true.
* holding value - they don't, or don't tend to. Around here you see signs where people are basically giving away older mobile homes [15-20 years] for FREE as long as you move them off the property.

The thing people tend to do out this way is buy some reasonable acreage, get electricity/water and a mobil home and live there scheming and saving money until they can afford to build a real house on the plot. Then they sell the mobile home, give it away, or use it as a guest room or chicken coop, what you just said. If you have your own land and aren't in a trailer park, and think you're enterprising enough to pull it off, it's a sound plan.
posted by jessamyn at 6:27 AM on July 13, 2004

I can't speak to property values and depreciation and the like, and I'm in the US, but my family lived in a trailer for about a year after my mom married my stepfather. I imagine the attached stigma of trailer living depends on the area, but living in a brittle tin and veneer tubes can have a depressive effect on your outlook. It's almost like there's a hopelessness built in to the experience, heightened by the fact that when the washer hits the spin cycle, the entire place rattles like a poorly assembled carnival ride.

The park where we lived was okay, though. It wasn't far from the beach so a lot of the folks there were more of the beach bum variety than the white trash variety, although I did cultivate the beginnings of a 14-year smoking habit when we lived there.
posted by jennyb at 6:43 AM on July 13, 2004

I find it difficult to believe we could purchase a lot and build for less than purchasing a "used" home.

Again, I can't speak for North America, but in Europe you can generally buy land and build a house for significantly less than "used" price. :-)
posted by wackybrit at 8:05 AM on July 13, 2004

Response by poster: Is this a mobile home? I say not. It is built in a factory and assembled in a few large chunks, but it's a wood-frame house.

Is this a mobile home? I say it's getting damn close. But again, it's built in a factory, assembled in two large chunks, given a trussed roof, and is wood-framed.

Is this a mobile home? I say the answer is an unqualified YES. Thing of it is, though, it's built exactly the same as the the non-mobiles above! Perhaps one key difference is that the walls are very likely not gyproc/sheetrock with mudding, but pressboard with section-joiners.

I know the latter style of mobile/manufactured home depreciates like an automobile. I'm not so sure the other two, and particularly the first.

I'm beginning to like the idea of buying a large acreage, tossing up one of the full manufactured homes, living in it while building a nice not-so-big style of home, and then renting out or selling the manufactured home... it'd be worth a fair bit of money if I also sold it with an acre of land ten years from now.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 AM on July 13, 2004

Actually, fff, if you're intent on the mobile-while-building scheme, it really sounds like the answer is to find one of those free-if-you-tow-it mobiles to use as your temp structure.
posted by NortonDC at 7:10 PM on July 13, 2004

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