So, if you’re reading this, you are probably considering a switch from a traditional stick-built home to a mobile home. Since the vast majority are located in mobile home parks, you’ll need to decide if mobile home community living is for you. Unless of course, you’re planning to own a home on a private piece of land.
When it comes to mobile home park living, there are a few differences from stick-built homes and normal residential parks you need to be aware of. Knowing what to expect with community living is absolutely crucial to make the right decision for you, and your family’s, future.
First of all, is mobile home living for you?
Living in a mobile home is not exactly the same as living in a stick-built home. As the place where you will spend most of your time, you should take a moment to consider whether a mobile home is for you before you even consider a mobile home park.
Most of you have probably already done this, so we just want to give you a quick recap on how to decide if a mobile home is right for you.
Mobile homes come in an increasingly wide range of designs and sizes and are no longer as generic as they used to be. The uptick in available options is a natural part of mobile home’s evolution. Manufacturers are having to cater to the increasing demand for mobile homes that can offer a viable alternative to the traditional family home.
Even so, mobile homes are generally much smaller than stick-built homes. This is partly due to the fact that they must at least remain mobile in theory. Additionally, they cater to a market looking for more affordable homes. The lighter, less expensive materials used are more suited to smaller homes.
There are three size categories of mobile homes:
- Single-wides: The smallest type of home. Models are less than 18 ft. in width and less 90 ft. in length. They are usually between 600 to 1300 sq. ft.
- Double-wides: The most common type of home and often used as a family home. Models are 20 ft. or more in width and 90 ft. or less in length. This translates to an average size of 2000-2500 sq ft.
- Triple or multi-wides: Very large mobile homes, but are pretty rare. Up to 50 ft. in width and variable length. The largest ones are 4500 sq. ft. in size.
The typical stick-built family home in the U.S. falls just under 4000 sq. ft. So, you can see that mobile homes are definitely a more compact option.
Mobile homes are still classified as “affordable housing.” Although they are also going up in value as the homes get more features, are more stylishly designed, and have more custom floor plans, they are still less than half the average cost of a stick-built home.
In fact, the entire mobile home plus all the initial transportation and setting up fees will still cost just above half of what the average stick-built home does. The average double-wide costs around $70,000-$80,000 while luxury double-wide mobile homes sell for around $90,000 to $100,000.
We will talk about rent later, but it follows a similar trend. If you plan to purchase a home within a park, it’s most likely used. A used double-wide in good condition should only cost around $40,000-$50,000. However, it largely depends on the age and the model.
Unfortunately, resale value is the one area where mobile homes fall short of real estate. For a variety of reasons, mobile homes generally depreciate in value which means that you will almost never sell a home for more than you bought it. If you own the home and the land (which will most likely not be the case in a park), the two together might still appreciate.
The fact that they are seen as chattel or personal property means that they’ll decrease in value as soon as they are secondhand, much like a car. The average depreciation is around 3% per year.
Maintenance and upkeep
One stereotype often associated with mobile homes is that they are constantly in need of maintenance. This might be true for much older models and for mobile homes which have been badly looked after.
Newer and well-cared for mobile homes do require regular maintenance and checking, but you should find that actual maintenance costs are lower than that for stick-built homes. This is due to the fact that the materials themselves and the cost of altering the home are much less.
Your home should be fine with a bi-annual check on its condition as well as thorough maintenance once a year.
Quality and safety
Mobile homes historically have a bad rep when it comes to safety. People still often view them as a fire hazard or of questionable structural integrity. We won’t even get into the more ridiculous stereotypes right now.
However, since the adoption of the HUD Code of safety standards in 1976 and the various amendments that officially rebranded mobile homes as “manufactured housing,” their safety and quality have increased dramatically. This piece of federal legislation holds manufacturers to very strict quality and safety standards.
Fire safety is paid particular attention to in this code. The biggest concern, however, is that tampering by a previous owner might have compromised the home’s adherence.
Mobile homes aren’t actually that mobile any longer. Most mobile homes won’t be moved from their original resting spot in their lifetime. Another reason why they are now officially known as manufactured housing.
Even if you would want to move the home, the high cost of doing so, risk to the home, and the consequences (like losing financing privileges) might be enough to deter you. If you were thinking of taking your home with you wherever you go, mobile homes are not for you.
Costs of living in a mobile home park
Your expenses will always be one of (if not the) most important factors when making an important decision. Like where you live, for instance. So, let’s look at the cost breakdown of living in a mobile home park and see how it measures up to traditional housing.
There is one cost that is specific to mobile home parks which is lot rent. Simply said, lot rent is the monthly amount you pay for your mobile home to sit on a space inside the mobile home park. Lot rent is mobile home park specific because it’s the only type of housing where the home is not necessarily permanently attached to the land.
Lot rent for mobile home parks is usually surprisingly low. In lower-cost states such as South Carolina and Oklahoma, it could be between $200 and $300. In higher-cost states such as California and Washington, it can be up to $600. The average rate is around $300-$400.
Of course, this is only the lot rent. You will still need to rent or buy a home if you don’t have your own. Some mobile home parks sell and rent homes as well as rent out empty lots. The cost to rent a mobile home and the lot varies widely from state to state and from park to park, however, you can expect the total to be around $1,000 on average. Be suspicious of any offers below $600.
Usually, garbage collection and upkeep of the grounds are included in your rent. A lot of mobile home parks also have amenities so keep a lookout for anything from a pool, bbq area or fitness center. Just be aware that the owners might charge extra levies for maintenance if that’s the case.
Some parks also offer internet or cable TV. Sometimes they are mandatory, but in most cases they are optional. This is a good thing, as a lot of the time the packages aren’t for everyone.
Common mobile home park rules and regulations
Because of the unique nature of mobile homes, especially the fact that new tenants can bring new homes with them, there are a few rules and regulations that are quite common in mobile home parks but not in other communities.
There aren’t too many special rules and regulations that are only found in mobile home parks. As with any residential community, you should carefully check your lease agreement and ask for a document that lists all the park rules.
An increasing number of mobile home parks are enforcing age limits on the mobile homes allowed within the park. This is mostly due to two reasons:
- Newer mobile homes are usually more attractive and lift the visual appeal of the park.
- Newer mobile homes adhere to better safety standards and build quality.
Options for living in a mobile home park
You might be surprised to learn that when it comes to the options available in a mobile home park, they are usually just as varied as real estate communities.
Own the home and rent the lot
Some parks will have empty lots on which new tenants can place their mobile homes and then pay the park lot rent. Other parks will have mobile homes for sale which you can buy and then continue to pay lot rent for the duration of your tenancy.
We wouldn’t recommend the second option. Sure, it will be your home and you will pay much lower rent (once your home is paid off), but it will be hard to take the home with you if you go. An approach that could make sense is to buy the home and then rent it out, however, the park might not allow third-party leasing.
Rent the home and the lot
This is probably the most common option. In this case, the mobile home park owns the homes within their park. Your rental will then be a combination of lot rent and rent. The great thing about mobile home rental is that for less than the average apartment rent, you get an entire house, complete with your own yard and a community feel.
Most mobile home parks also differ over various lease agreements. There are month-to-month lease agreements, 1-year lease agreements, and long-term lease agreements. Longer lease agreements are great because they can offer a level of protection against drastic increases in rent.
It’s also harder for the mobile home park to sell the park off if they have many long-term leases in effect. In fact, long-term leases are needed for most kinds of mobile home financing.
Advantages and disadvantages of mobile home community living
Let’s sum all of this up and look at the individual advantages and disadvantages of living in a mobile home park.
Better deal than most apartments or condos
For the same amount of rent, it’s nearly impossible to find a nice apartment in a good neighborhood. Leasing inside a mobile home park gives you a shot at the American dream for a significantly marked down price.
As we mentioned, you get a lot more space in a mobile home. A lucky coincidence that guarantees this is that mobile homes need to be placed a certain distance apart for fire safety. No shared walls and no tap dancing upstairs neighbors!
As the demand for mobile home housing is increasing, parks are becoming more popular which are spurring on the amenities they offer. It’s not strange anymore to find a mobile home park with some decent recreation.
Most mobile home parks are situated on open spaces of land. This gives you that feeling of being free of the city and closer to the great outdoors.
The park may be sold from under you
Many parks are built on property that is labeled as commercially zoned. This means that they can sometimes be sold for huge profits, without giving the residents too much say in the matter.
Unfortunately, there are still many stereotypes attached to living in mobile home parks. This is partly due to the fact that people’s perception of mobile homes hasn’t evolved as fast as the homes themselves. The truth is that many people live happily in mobile home parks where there can be an excellent sense of community and high living standards.
Ready to find the right mobile home park for you?
Now that you have the basic information to decide whether mobile home community living is right for you, it may be time to start looking at specific parks. Keep in mind there is a wide range of options from family-friendly to luxury lots to retirement communities. A mobile home park can be an incredible upgrade in your living style at the fraction of the cost of real estate.