With regional real estate pricing still out of reach for a significant number of would-be homebuyers, manufactured dwellings have become an increasingly appealing option for young families, retirees and everyone in between.
Available in a host of building styles, sizes and floor plans, some statistics show more than 20 million Americans investing in manufactured homes.
Newer model manufactured dwellings are made of high quality materials and offer special features like open-floor-plan great rooms, extensive decking and roof lines more typical of site-built dwellings.
What used to be a stereotype for lower income living, high quality manufactured homes are being custom-ordered with everything from spa-style bathrooms to oversize garages, says ABC Homes owner Bill Fitzpatrick.
When shopping for a manufactured home, consider the same things you'd look at when buying a site-built home. First, determine if you'll want a home on private land or in a park or subdivision setting. Homes are often available used (on site) or new, but with land packages already in place.
Formerly dubbed "mobile" homes — they were once sold for their mobility —today's models are less mover-friendly with expansive decks, near-permanent skirting and special shingled roofing. Most are built on a non-removable steel chassis and transported to the building site on their own wheels.
"When you look at a mobile there's nothing mobile about it except maybe when it's first set up," Fitzpatrick says. "Once it's set up, to take it down would mean tearing it apart."
In terms of price, location sets the standard. Shopping for a new home will mean depreciation, much like a car. Gently used homes already in place have depreciated, offering a lower price tag.
"You'd be looking at between $30,000 and $40,000 in a park for a used home versus buying a new home for around $100,000," Fitzpatrick says.
Newer models, constructed after the late-1970s when the Department of Housing and Urban Development established improved standards for manufactured homes, might be a wise choice when going used.
"If you're looking at doing a project with private land, naturally, property being what it is these days, you're still pushing $200,000 and sometimes more, but that's still better than site-built."
As for site-related issues, consider those involved in buying any home. Insist on a regular real estate inspection, costing around $300, to include a structural check-up as well as electrical and plumbing and a look for pest and water damage. If you are moving a home to a vacant lot, make sure there's water and electric service, says Crown Homes senior salesman Walt Perry.
While most municipalities allow manufactured homes in several building zones, research local zoning ordinances, deed restrictions, restrictive covenants, and other similar documents before buying.
For land-home package options, manufactured home sales centers offer an all-in-one service, working with real estate professionals, city planning officials and park or homesite contractors.
Price wise, manufactured homes range from under $30,000 for a "single-wide" home with 1,100-plus square feet to over $140,000 for a four bedroom, two-story with decking.
Compared to site-built construction, that's half as much per square foot, notes Perry. "Local contractors start at 90 something dollars a square foot," he notes.
Homebuyers who opt to be in a designated park may incur additional expenses such as $200 to $300 for monthly space rent. Take time to compare benefits like on-site security and clubhouse use against park regulations and restrictions for eventual sale or lease of the home.
All told, however, the biggest advantage to today's manufactured homes is high quality housing for a lower price tag than traditionally constructed homes.
"And I think the biggest advantage is time frame," says Perry." A lot of site-built homes take six months to a year to build, depending on the permit process and stages you go through. With a manufactured home you can pick the features you want, decide where to put it and be in the home within 60 to 90 days." He adds, "And these are some really nice homes."