Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Despite the stereotypes, mobile homes are a huge portion of our housing market - and a cash cow for investors

We all know the stereotypes about mobile homes, which are usually far from complimentary. Putting the demeaning jokes aside, we find that mobile homes – officially called manufactured homes – play a significant and vital role in the U.S. housing sector. Not only do mobile homes provide stable residences for millions of families and people living below the poverty line, but now also for a growing number of retirees, those looking to take the first step into homeownership, those who want to live in the country, and even those who want to be location independent. Investors, too, consider mobile home parks a cash cow, an industry secret among some of the wealthiest business people in the country.

These 20 facts about mobile homes in the U.S. will make you rethink some of what you’ve heard, leaving little doubt that mobile homes are a huge and formidable market that can’t be cast aside:

1. According to the latest US Census figures, an estimated 20 million Americans live in mobile homes.

2. These days, there are about 8.5 million mobile homes in the United States, which accounts for approximately 6.4% of the total U.S. housing sector. That means about 1 in every 15 people in the United States lives in a mobile home!

3. In the last few years, 70% of all new single-family homes that sold for under $125,000 were manufactured (or mobile homes).

4. Manufactured homes originated during the 1930s in the Great Depression, when destitute people started living in small recreational trailers intended for travel. In the 1940s and 50s, mobile homes got an upgrade to “double wides” that came in two separate units and were assembled together. The 1960s and 70s saw unprecedented growth in traditional home ownership, but the economic downturn in the 1980s and 90s gave rise to huge numbers of permanent low-income residents in mobile home communities.

5. The U.S. suffers from a profound shortage of affordable, low income, and entry-level housing, a void that is served by mobile homes. In fact, through the 1990s, 66% of the affordable housing produced was manufactured homes. Manufactured homes are still the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in America.

6. There are several options for placement, but mobile homes are often “parked” or placed in communities that rent the land and provide basic utilities. Occupancy at these mobile home communities remains stable and high, usually hovering around the 90% mark or higher.

7. Since 1989, 21% of all new single-family homes sold were manufactured (or mobile) homes.
Each year, manufactured homes represent about 40% or more of all new homes sold for under $150,000, and 23% of all new homes sold under $200,000. However, these numbers have actually been on the decline after 2008 because of the abundance of low-priced foreclosed homes for sale.

8. Manufactured homes were extremely popular in the 1990s, when about 400,000 were produced and sold every year. Since then, about 55,000 new mobile homes are produced annually.

9. Who lives in mobile homes? 57% of the people who are the head of the household in mobile homes are employed full time. But it isn’t a myth that a large proportion of manufactured home residents are low-income. In fact, the median household income for mobile homes is about $30,000, far less than the national median of about $50,000.

10. Additionally, 73% of mobile home households bring in less than $50,000 a year. Personal income for mobile home household heads is estimated to be about half that of the national average.

11. With a rapidly aging nation that has high health care and other costs, retirees and seniors with humble means increasingly see mobile homes as a solution to their housing needs. In fact, 23% of manufactured home household heads are retired, a number we expect to see grow.

12. Since manufactured homes are produced in sections and assembled on-site, they take about 20% of the time and 50% of the cost or less to build than traditional homes of comparable size.

13. They also are more environmentally friendly, using fewer materials and generating 40% less waste than on-site construction projects. Mobile home users enjoy increased energy efficiency, reducing their heating and cooling costs by 24-29% on average.

14. There are two options for mobile home owners: they can buy a plot of land and place their home on it, or rent the land, such as in a mobile home community, paying for electric, water, and waste disposal services.

15. Of all manufactured homes, about 43% of them, or 2.9 million, are located in land-lease communities (often called mobile home parks or even trailer parks.)

16. The U.S. states with the highest percentage of manufactured homes of their total housing are: South Carolina (18%), New Mexico (17%), West Virginia (15%), Mississippi (15%), Alabama (14%), North Carolina (14%), Louisiana (13%), Arkansas (12%), Wyoming (12%), and Kentucky (12%).

17. Manufactured homes ownership can be held in title just like traditional real estate. However, about two-thirds of manufactured homes are instead titled as personal property just like cars and other vehicles.

18. Owning mobile home or land-lease communities is big business, one of the preferred investments for some of the wealthiest Americans. Sam Zell’s Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS) is the biggest land-lease community owner in the country with interest in 140,000 properties, bringing in over three-quarters of a billion dollars in profit every year. Warren Buffet owns the biggest mobile home manufacturer in the U.S., Clayton Homes, as well as the two biggest mobile home financing lenders, 21st Mortgage Corporation and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Company.

19. Not all manufactured home owners or communities serve low-income owners. In fact, an increasing number of people who are looking to escape the cities for country, mountain, or rural living buy a plot of land and live in a mobile home temporarily as they get the plans or the funds to build a permanent home.

20. These days, there are even high-end communities with swimming pools, sport facilities, health retreats, gardens, nature trails, and picnic areas. The rich and famous even frequent manufactured communities like Paradise Cove in Malibu that has luxury mobile homes belonging to Pamela Anderson, Minnie Driver and Matthew McConaughey priced at around $2.5 million each! 


  1. If you're able to ignore the homes can be a great investment. The argument against mobile homes as an investment is usually centered around the idea of appreciation. Mobile homes don't appreciate, while construction homes do. That's generally true, but in this age of 15-year - hell even 30-year mortgages appreciation doesn't always keep pace with the compound interest. And with construction homes the principal starts at a level so much higher than mobile homes to begin with. Pre-fabricated homes are just that - homes mass-produced in the most efficient way to maximize value in dimensions easily transportable. It's even hard to qualify spaciousness as an argument against mobile homes as the average double-wide weighs in at a roomy square footage of 1500 - definitely holding it's own against most starter homes. And while they don't appreciate like stick homes, they are built to have the same life expectancy as site-built homes. So they're a great alternative for home buyers that prefer to get their square footage for half price (or even less if considering used) in exchange for the presumed appreciation windfall that may or may not come with the eventual sale of a construction home.

  2. When my family learned that my fiance and I are thinking of getting a mobile home after we got married, they thought we were plain idiots. I guess the stereotyping is quite bad and I'm saddened that most people don't know that mobile or manufactured homes is one of the best investment you can have. If you want to know more and see for yourself, check out this resource site I found, definitely a must-see:

  3. I liked the concept of your blog. Very short and precise. It is easy to understand. Keep sharing.
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