Everything You Want to Know About Mobile Homes

what you need to know about buying a manufactured home

Despite the fact that mobile homes are ubiquitous in modern housing—there are more than 40,000 mobile home parks on our site alone, with lively communities in every nearly every corner of every state—the general public still knows surprisingly little about this under-leveraged form of affordable housing. 

To address some of the common misconceptions and inquiries about these residences, we’re answering a few frequently asked questions regarding mobile homes. We’ll cover everything you might want to know about manufactured homes, from financing, buying, and selling to maintaining, repairing, and safeguarding.

What Is a Mobile Home?

Mobile homes, also known as manufactured homes, are factory-built dwellings towed or trailered to their permanent site.

When we talk about mobile homes, we’re most often referring to manufactured homes or homes that are built offsite at a factory and then transported to their final destination. However, technically, the mobile home classification only applies to those constructed before June 15, 1976, when the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act was passed.

Residential mobile home in a park
New residential mobile home park in South East England. Generally this type of caravan park estate is for home owners over the age of fifty years.

Homes built after June 15, 1974 were and are still required to follow a strict set of construction and safety standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Though we tend to use the phrases “mobile home” and “manufactured home” interchangeably, unless the home in question is a pre-1974 unit, it’s more than likely a manufactured home.

What Are the Benefits of Living in a Mobile Home?

Compared with site-built homes, mobile homes come with a variety of benefits. Though there are hundreds of unique advantages to this lifestyle, the five biggest ones, in our opinion, are:

  • Affordability – Because prefabricated homes are produced at scale in a factory, they cost much less to build, even for brand-new units. Buyers are able to get more higher-end amenities for a significantly lower price, meaning less compromise throughout the designing, building, and purchasing processes. Additionally, these homes are built for energy efficiency, saving on energy bills.
  • Customization – Constructing your dream home, with a layout and design you’ve conceived yourself, is within reach when you opt for the manufactured home. You’re able to select your preferred floors, finishes, colors, and size when you purchase a new unit.
  • Freedom – Apartment dwellers looking to transition to a single-family home will revel in the freedom of this lifestyle. Mobile home parks afford residents luxuries like their own parking spots, their own walls, and their own yards.
  • Social living – Life in a mobile home community is good for social types. Residents have a built-in social circle of like-minded friends, typically with access to organized events, outings, clubs, and even vacations.
  • Speed – Let’s face it: Building a typical house is time-consuming and stressful. On the other hand, factory-built homes are built efficiently and affordably, so you can get into your new home fast. They produce less stress because they don’t require you to hire a team of contractors, builders, and other laborers to get the job done.

Read more about the benefits of manufactured housing here.

How Is It Different from a Modular Home?

Though manufactured homes and mobile homes are generally considered synonymous, modular homes are slightly different. Modular homes are built in multiple parts, called modules, which are then transported to their final site and put together using a crane. Though they are factory-built, modular homes must follow the local and state codes where the home will reside. Since multiple modules can be combined to create the home, these types of dwellings tend to vary greatly in terms of size, architectural style, and cost when compared to manufactured homes.

Read more about the differences between modular and manufactured homes 

How Much Do Mobile Homes Cost?

According to MHVillage’s latest data, the average price of a manufactured home is around $75,775 with newer single-wides averaging $57,022 and double-wides averaging $102,551. In May of 2019, the overall average listing price of a home in the United States reached an all-time high of $300,000, so even the most expensive mobile homes are considered a bargain for most owners.

mobile home prices

One of the principal differences between factory- and site-built homes is the way the land is handled. When you buy a site-built house, the price always includes the land. However, when you buy a mobile home, this is not always the case. Residents generally rent the land from the owner of the mobile home park but own the house. With that said, it is possible to purchase a home and land bundle or to place a prefabricated home on land you already own.

Can You Mortgage a Mobile Home?

This issue is complex, but here’s our short answer. You can absolutely finance a mobile home, but there are more limitations in terms of financing options when compared with traditional stick-built homes. Depending on the classification, these homes are either financed as personal property (through loans) or real estate (through a mortgage). 

Mortgaging a mobile home is different from mortgaging a site-built home. The tricky thing here is that not all manufactured homes are classified as real estate, especially if they don’t have an approved foundation and if they aren’t taxed as real estate. If your home does fall into the category of real estate, you can generally secure a mortgage. In fact, mobile home financing is increasingly being backed through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the VA, and the USDA.

mobile home corner lot

If your mobile home is classified not as real estate but as your personal property, financing is achieved through a personal loan. Popular loan options include home-only loans (chattel loans), land-home mortgages, and construction to permanent loans. Depending on your credit and the exact situation, you can acquire financing through a bank, a credit union, or even through the mobile home community where you plan to live.

Read more about securing a loan for a mobile home.

Can You Rent a Mobile Home?

Absolutely! Renting is a smart option for many, especially those who seek affordable, flexible housing and those who want to give the manufactured home lifestyle a try before investing in their own house. Many apartment- and condo-dwellers transition to renting a manufactured home if they like the freedom of renting but want a bit more privacy, outdoor space, parking, and other amenities commonly provided by mobile home communities. You can use our search engine to find a mobile home to rent in your area

How Long Do Mobile Homes Last?

Contrary to popular belief, modern-day mobile home units are not shoddy shelters or temporary housing. In fact, they are built to an extremely high set of quality control standards in a factory, more like your car than your (traditional) home. They meet or exceed the standards for site-built construction and are built to withstand the rigors of being transported to the site as well as being lifted by a crane. Manufactured homes are made with the same tried-and-true building materials as site-built homes—aluminum, steel, wood, etc.—yet have the distinct advantage of being produced by well-oiled machines and experienced teams that oversee every job.

Read more about the life expectancy of mobile homes here.

Can Mobile Homes Withstand Natural Disasters?

Yes. In fact, manufactured homes must be built to HUD’s wind zone classifications, meaning that if they are placed in high wind areas, they must be designed and constructed to handle the wind loads common in those regions. Those homes in high wind areas, particularly along the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in areas prone to tornadoes, must be constructed to withstand higher wind loads.

are mobile homes safe?

What about fires? As part of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act, manufactured homes must be built to very stringent safety standards to prevent fires and other disasters. They must be produced with certain fire-resistant materials and must have smoke alarms installed in all living rooms and bedrooms. With that said, residents of any home should closely follow a fire prevention plan and safeguard each room to avoid any disasters.

Do Mobile Homes Retain Their Value?

In short, yes. There are a number of recent data points that support the longevity of mobile homes, and the FHFA report released in September of 2018 solidifies this. When you consider that today’s manufactured homes are well-built and sturdy, with less complicated and more affordable maintenance, it makes sense that they retain their value over the long-haul. Like any investment, the value depends on the market, the economy, and the available inventory in the area where the home is up for sale.

Putting a mobile home on land

Where Can Mobile Homes Be Placed?

You can live in a mobile or manufactured home virtually anywhere you can live in a stick-built home, so long as the placement abides by the law of the land (zoning) and it makes sense given the climate and landscape of the region. 

The two primary options for placement are a vacant piece of land you own (or have permission to use) and a pre-planned mobile home community where you can either rent or purchase a parcel of land for your unit. If placing your home on a vacant piece of land, you’ll be responsible for all compliance—including all permits and zoning—according to the laws set forth by your state and local governments. 

Because mobile homes are constructed to suit their environment, such as with wind-proof materials in high wind zones, there are very few regions of the United States where they aren’t a smart housing option. Today’s manufactured homes are designed to be immensely efficient, so they’re easy and affordable to keep at whatever temperature is ideal for your climate. 

Can Mobile Homes Be Moved?

One of the most common misconceptions about mobile homes is that they can be transported from point A to point B easily like an RV or a trailer. Mobile homes are classified as mobile (and this is a dated term) only because they are mobile from the factory to the final home site, but they are typically not moved after that. The cost, complications, and liability of moving the home make it prohibitive for many.

With that being said, it is possible to transport your mobile home if you are prepared to spend several thousand dollars per section and obtain permits issued by the state or local government. A professional mobile home transport company should be used to ensure that the home doesn’t get damaged in transport. In other words, it may be possible to move your house, but it can be a big hassle for all parties involved.
Read more about moving a mobile home here.

Are Mobile Homes Hard to Repair?

Are mobile homes hard to repair - mobile home maintenance

No! In fact, making upgrades, enhancements, and repairs to manufactured homes is quite a bit easier and usually cheaper than the same jobs on site-built homes. This is because manufactured homes are more standardized and most components are a breeze to identify, order, and install. 

Looking to start a home improvement project? Browse our selection of manufactured home parts to take care of any necessary repairs or value-added upgrades.

The only thing you may want to consider when weighing maintenance is that manufactured homes tend to have their own lexicon, with unique industry terms that may differ a bit from the terms used with regard to site-built homes. Once you understand them, though, things get a whole lot easier!

Have More Questions? Get in Touch

We understand that transitioning from a stick-built house to a factory-built one comes with a lot of uncertainties and questions, especially for those new to the world of manufactured housing. Therefore, the team at MHVillage makes it our priority to help walk you through the process of mobile home life. With an endless amount of resources for buyers and sellers, plus a team of dedicated MH experts who are happy to share their insight, there’s no better partner for the new or experienced mobile home dweller than us!

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