Did you know that 22 million Americans live in mobile homes?
There are several reasons why so many people choose to live in manufactured home communities; with affordability, community, lower maintenance costs, lower taxes and utility costs being the main reasons.
If the cost of living has become too expensive in your area, you may be wondering whether a manufactured home would be more cost effective and affordable for your financial situation.
This guide explores whether living in a mobile home will actually save you money compared to renting or buying a home.
What is a manufactured home?
A manufactured home or mobile home can be described as a site built house that is placed on a piece of land. Apart from being used as a permanent place of residence, mobile homes are also often used as a vacation home or temporary accommodation.
Mobile homes have an average life expectancy of 30-55 years, depending on the design and upkeep of the unit. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development makes sure that all mobile homes are manufactured correctly and are of the highest quality. Manufactured homes are often situated in parks where there are lots of other mobile homes that are either temporarily or permanently placed.
There are different types of mobile homes available, including:
Single wide mobile homes – the smallest type of manufactured home with an average length of 90 feet and width of 18 feet.
Double wide mobile homes – whilst similar in length at 90 feet or less, the double wide mobile home has a width of 20 feet or more.
Who buys mobile homes?
Anybody looking to become a home owner could buy a mobile home. They are particularly popular with first time buyers because they cost significantly less than an apartment to buy. For people on low incomes, a manufactured home makes the American dream of home ownership possible. Mobile homes are also popular for retired people who want to downsize their house and live in an area where there is a community of people of a similar age.
Financial benefits of buying and living in a manufactured home
The need for affordable housing is at an all-time high. Manufactured houses can provide quality housing at prices that are up to 50% less per square foot than conventional homes. Can buying and living in a mobile home bring you closer to the American dream? Let’s find out.
Lower initial price
The U.S. Census Bureau reports the average sale price of a new manufactured home was $88,200 in August 2020, compared to the average traditional home price in the United States of $408, 800. The exact cost of a manufactured home will depend on whether you buy a basic model or a more luxury version. Used and new mobile homes also vary in price.
Whilst houses and mobile homes both require a down payment, you may be able to secure a manufactured home for as little as 3% of the purchase price, which is considerably less than a 10% down payment for a $200,000 home.
Modern mobile homes are designed to be energy-conscious, meaning you can save a considerable amount of money on heating bills compared to a house.
Energy efficient windows and doors, roof, wall and skirting insulation are used during the build of modern manufactured homes to reduce heat loss. Investing in insulated curtains is another great way for saving money on your heating bills.
Lower maintenance costs
There are running costs involved with any type of property, whether it’s a manufactured home, an apartment or a commercial building. Whilst the fees associated with mobile homes are considerably cheaper than a house, it’s important to understand the costs involved. Generally, manufactured homes are made with less expensive materials than brick houses, which means parts are easier and cheaper to fix or replace.
Lot rent and ownership is the amount you pay for a plot of land where your mobile home will go. Typically lot rent will also include water and sewage, garbage collection, the upkeep of the grounds. In some parks, lot rent also includes internet, cable TV and some utilities such as electricity or a phone line.
Depending on the park, lot rent will typically cost around $300 per month. Even with a mortgage to pay for your mobile home on top of this, your overall rent and mortgage cost will be under $1,000, which is much cheaper than an apartment. Lot rent will vary depending on the state, size of the lots and trailer park facilities. Be mindful that the park where your manufactured home is situated could be sold or repurposed, meaning mobile home owners could be evicted. Always check your contract before signing.
Some parks have private associations called Home Owners Association who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the housing community. You may be required to sign up in order to live on a particular park and determine whether you can rent out your mobile home (if not living there full time). The good news is that HOA fees are generally quite low, around $200-$300 a month.
When you buy a mobile home you are likely to either pay lot rent or HOA, not usually both.
Mobile homes are not considered as real estate property, which means you won’t have to pay property taxes. The average annual property tax in the US is over $3,000, which means you will save a lot in this area from living in a manufactured home.
Most mobile home parks host fun events for residents, which means you won’t need to spend money on getting cabs to expensive restaurants. The community feel at trailer parks is one of the biggest benefits to residents.
Frugal living in a mobile home
Manufactured homes allow you to live more simply, so if you’re looking to embrace a more frugal lifestyle, living in a mobile home may be the perfect solution.
The following tips will teach you how to save more money from mobile home living.
Invest in a crockpot – A simple way to stretch your food budget is by investing in and regularly using a crockpot. There are hundreds of crockpot recipes online that include all types of meat or vegetarian alternatives. Crockpot meals produce a good amount of food, which makes them great for leftovers the next day or to add to your freezer.
The great thing about crock pots is that the meat is slow cooked all day, meaning you don’t have to fork out on expensive cuts of meat. Crockpots also use less energy than your stove or oven, helping you live more frugally.
Bulk up on carbs – Bread, pasta, rice and potatoes are much cheaper than meat or fish. Keep meal costs down by adding filling alternatives such as mash potato with stews or bread and butter with a main meal. Alternative ways to bulk out meals include adding porridge oats to mince dishes or red lentils to curries and casseroles. Nobody will notice that you’ve added these ingredients, but they will be fuller from eating less.
Grow your own vegetables and herbs – growing your own vegetables and herbs is rewarding, healthy and fun, and will cost you only a couple of dollars. Home-grown food is better for you and better for the environment. A sheltered, sunny spot is ideal for growing vegetables, while herbs prefer partial shade. Don’t forget to check the rules on where you can grow veg on the park before planting anything. You don’t need to be a pro at gardening to grow your own produce. Crops such as courgettes, beans, beetroot, rocket, radish and potatoes are great for beginnings as they require little maintenance.
Shower less often – showers use water and electricity which both cost money, so taking fewer showers is an instant way to cut your bills and save cash. If you still want your daily shower, try timed showers instead. Children will enjoy making it into a game by finishing before the timer goes off.
Collect rainwater – if you need to save money on your water bill, collecting rainwater is an effective way to do it.
Rainwater can be used for lots of things around the home and garden including drinking and
Make your own laundry detergent – laundry is a daily chore, but you don’t have to spend a small fortune on laundry detergent. To make your own, all you need is washing soda and OxiClean. If you like your laundry to have a scent, add some lavender or tea tree essential oil.
Are there any cons to living in a mobile home?
For many people, the financial benefits of living in a manufactured home outweigh some of the negative parts. Consider the following downsides before deciding whether living in a mobile home is right for you.
Insurance costs: typically, mobile home insurance policies cost more than a standard homeowners insurance because manufactured homes are considered at higher risk of pipe damage, fire and wind damage and theft. You can improve the safety of your mobile home by adding alarms to lower your insurance premium.
Age restrictions: some communities are age-restricted so people under the age of 55 are unable to buy from that particular site. The main reason that there is a minimum age is that the majority of mobile home communities are senior citizens.
Small back yards: whilst some people appreciate the fact that manufactured home yards are low maintenance, they may not be suitable for families or couples that have small children or pets.
Getting a mortgage can be difficult: traditional mortgages are not applicable for mobile homeowners, so finding suitable manufactured housing purchase loans may be hard. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac specialize in loans for financing manufactured homes that may be able to help you purchase your own mobile home.
You may find it hard to resell: living on a mobile home park has had negative connotations in the past, despite them being a safe and clean environment to live in. Whilst a potential buyer may love the mobile home itself, they might not want to stay in the same area. Mobile homes are not easy to move and it can cost thousands to move them to a new location.
Your mobile home may depreciate over time: if your manufactured home is placed on a mobile home park, you may find that it decreases in value over time. However, if your static home is placed on privately owned land, the land will typically appreciate over time.
The lifespan: a manufactured home is not built to last as long as an apartment, which ties in with the above two points about depreciation and difficulty reselling.
Benefit from making your mobile home more energy efficient
Don’t pay more on your energy bills than you need to. Apart from lowering energy and homeownership costs, mobile home owners will also experience improved comfort from making their home more energy efficient. No more drafts, more comfortable temperatures and less chance of moisture problems. You will also be improving the resale value of your manufactured home if you come to sell it in the future.
We’ve put together a list of simple, yet effective ways to save energy, and therefore money, in your manufactured home.
Appliances – old kettles and microwaves use much more energy than newer models. Sell them and put the money towards your new appliances and start benefiting from less energy usage.
Install smart features – consider getting a smart meter fitted to help you keep track of your energy usage and avoid wasting energy and money. By seeing areas in your mobile home that uses the most energy, you can focus on reducing it rather than guessing what is costing you the most energy to run. Smart features can also help improve the security of your home, adding value.
Mobile home roof – adding a cool roof coating can keep the temperature of the inside of your home cool in the summer, meaning you can save on the cost of running your electric fan or AC. During the winter months you can add insulation to your roof to keep the heat in.
In the kitchen – did you know that using lids on saucepans can increase cooking time and save energy? Other tips include only using your oven for large meals, defrosting food in the fridge overnight rather than the microwave and choosing an efficient refrigerator.
Light bulbs – replacing all of the lightbulbs in your mobile home with energy efficient lighting can dramatically lower energy bills.
Windows – you can buy plastic window coverings that cut out drafts, reducing energy costs. Making sure the window frame is tightly sealed and using additional insulation are other great ways to keep out the cold.
Floors – it’s worth finding out if you can add extra layers of insulation to your mobile home’s floors to make them more efficient at holding heat.
Pay attention to your crawlspace – the space underneath your mobile home is often neglected. Did you know that by adding skirting you could prevent heat from escaping?
Regularly check for damage – the lifespan of your mobile home can be significantly shortened if there is any water damage that has been caused by rainwater. Ensure water drainage is kept away from the skirting and crawl space of your manufactured home.
Keep maintenance paperwork handy – an organized portfolio of paperwork can make it much easier to sell your home. People will want to see these documents so avoid wasting time by keeping them all in one place.
How to add value to your mobile home
If you’re thinking of selling your manufactured home, there are ways that you can add value to make money.
Paint – you can’t go wrong with a fresh coat of paint. Keep it neutral to appeal to a wider audience who will want to be able to picture their belongings in each room.
Enhance the curb appeal – a simple, nicely manicured landscape can work wonders for adding value to any home. Repair any cracks and add some flower beds to make your mobile home more appealing and inviting to potential buyers.
Regular maintenance – consistently maintaining any area of your home that needs small repairs is the best way to add value to a manufactured home.
Move the home – whilst physically moving your manufactured home can be costly, it may be worthwhile if you can get a good price on a piece of land in a park where mobile homes are in demand. This will then make it easier to sell your manufactured home.
Living in a mobile home to save money
You can enjoy financial freedom by buying and choosing to live in a new mobile home rather than a traditional house, but it’s important to consider the disadvantages and check that it’s right for your financial and personal goals before buying a manufactured home.
Buying a new home, whether it’s a mobile home, an apartment or house can be a daunting time. But it doesn’t have to be. Visit the home ownership section of our blog for the latest advice on managing your finances.