Why a Mobile Home May Be Your Best Option for Affordable Housing

Homeownership has long been part of the American dream. But if you want to become a homeowner, the average house in the U.S. these days costs about $191,200. If you have a lower salary or have student loan debt, finding a home you can afford, and convincing a lender to give you a mortgage, can be challenging. For many, homeownership is just not feasible — at least, homeownership as we traditionally think about it.

But if you're willing to consider nontraditional approaches to housing, you can become a homeowner at a fraction of the cost.

Manufactured homes, often derisively described as trailer homes, have come a long way from even 10 years ago. Today, modern manufactured homes are luxurious, well-made, and spacious. And, you can become a homeowner for less than you'd spend on a down payment on a traditional home.

Modern Manufactured Homes

Unlike traditional houses, manufactured homes are usually built off-site, then pieced together on their new owner's lot. They can be built into the foundation, but most are able to be moved, if the owner decides to relocate.

Today's models are sturdy and are meant to be full-time residences. While you can find tiny one-bedrooms, they also come in three and four-bedroom deluxe versions that can accommodate larger families.

If you're looking for upgrades, modern manufactured homes have them. New models typically have large, open floor plans, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, and giant soaking tubs. You can even get hardwood floors and screened-in porches. (See also: These Are the 7 Features Home Buyers Want Most)

The Cost of a Manufactured Home

Manufactured homes can vary widely in cost, but they are much cheaper than traditional houses. As of 2013, the average cost of a new manufactured home, not including land, was $63,000. But if you're willing to buy used, you can get a home for as little as $10,000.

Today's manufactured homes are extremely energy-efficient. They often use less energy and water than other homes. In fact, the combined cost of electricity, gas, and water can be less than $1,000 a year — a significant savings over traditional homes.

However, one thing to keep in mind when buying a manufactured home is that the cost of the unit is only part of the overall price, since you also have to pay to keep it somewhere. Some people opt to buy land for their manufactured home; others pay rent in a community.

Communities often offer amenities like pools, fitness centers, group activities, and more. But they can range in price and quality. Rent is often between $200 and $300, but even combined with your payments for your purchase price, that's likely less than you'd spend on a mortgage for a regular home or rent on an apartment.

Downsides to Consider

Manufactured homes are dependent on their communities; where your house is can change your experience. Before deciding on a home, do your research on the park. Drive around on the weekends, on weeknights, and walk around in the evening to get a feel for the neighborhood. Try to attend community events, if possible, and talk to your neighbors about their experiences.

And unlike regular houses, which can build equity, manufactured homes are more like cars: They're depreciating assets. If you buy new and decide to sell in a few years, you are unlikely to get what you paid for it. But that's why you can get such a great deal on a gently used unit if you are willing to buy from a previous owner.

Give Manufactured Homes Another Look

If you want to stop the rent cycle and become a homeowner, but cannot come up with the funds to buy a $200,000 home, give manufactured homes a serious look. They may be able to give you everything you're looking for — number of bedrooms, open floor plan, modern kitchen — at a much smaller price. By opening your mind to alternative housing ideas, you can get what your family wants while saving money.

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Guest's picture

I live in a mobile home with my husband and teenage son. We have a 3 bedroom, 2 bath 1990 single wide that I paid less than $30k for about 14 yrs ago (now its paid off and we just pay lot fee per month). The park has a clubhouse and a nice pool, and our neighbors are decent hard working people with families and retired seniors. We live in a town about ten miles from the city (Portland, ME) where we used to live, but couldn't afford the rent back then and now its outrageous so I'm glad we don't live there anymore! I would love to own a small house, but our home has allowed us to afford to cut back (my husband finished college and was able to be a SAHD to our autistic son for a few years) in a way that a traditional home with a big mortgage would not have allowed us to. This year, after saving our tax returns, we were able to replace some windows and put a new exterior door in. In 2017, my goal is to replace more windows and fix up the place a little more. No, these places don't hold value like a traditional home but then again they are affordable to live in. I have seen new homes in our park go for about $100k, which I think is expensive for a double wide on park land! We are planning on staying in our home until at least my son graduates from high school in four years. My parents live in a senior park in a single wide home and were able to retire without worrying about a mortgage.