What are Mobile Homes?

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“Tiny House Nation” was a hit reality show that sparked a movement because it encouraged people to live minimally and simply, save money on rent, and allowed them to move from place to place if they wanted or needed to. These tiny houses are examples of mobile homes.  

What exactly is a mobile home? 

Oxford defines a mobile home as “a large trailer or transportable prefabricated structure that is situated in one particular place and used as a permanent living accommodation.” 

Nolo.com gives a broader definition: “Mobile homes, also known as ‘manufactured homes,’ are built in a factory and placed on a trailer chassis to allow them to be moved. Mobile homes are sometimes placed in a mobile home park or on leased land.”  

Some say, though, that a mobile home and a manufactured home are not the same.  

A bit of mobile home history 

The concept of the mobile home began in the early 1900s when people realized that they needed to be able to move their families wherever they landed a job. At the time, the mobile home looked very much like the camper van we know today.  

In World War II, mobile homes were manufactured for people who had to travel far and give aid to those at the forefront. After the war, when veterans returned home and needed housing, mobile homes were issued to them as a cost-effective solution. 

In the 1960s, people demanded for bigger mobile homes. They wanted more space while staying mobile and being able to afford a home of their own. This brought about the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act of 1974. 

Then in 1976, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stepped in and set parameters to the process of building these mobile homes. These parameters are also known as the “HUD Code” or “HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards.” 

The HUD Code covered: 

  1. Body and frame requirements
  2. Design and construction
  3. Energy efficiency
  4. Fire safety
  5. Plumbing and electrical
  6. Thermal protection
  7. And other aspects 

The HUD Code of 1976 was followed by the Housing Act of 1980. It mandated that: “‘Manufactured’ be used in place of ‘mobile’ in all federal laws and literature that referenced homes built after 1976.”   

Using the word “manufactured” meant that homes were made following safety standards.   

So, is a mobile home a manufactured home? Yes, if the mobile home is built following the safety standards set by the HUD.   

Mobile home pros and cons 

How does one buy a mobile home? You can either look up companies who manufacture mobile homes or you can go to a mobile home park and look at mobile homes on sale. For the first option, you should already have land to house or park your mobile home in.  

The upsides of choosing to live in a mobile home are: 

  1. They are more affordable than brick-and-mortar homes making ownership easier
  2. They give more space for your money since they cost less per square foot.
  3. They offer flexibility since they are semi-permanent. You can also re-sell them.
  4. They are sturdy since they are built indoors and adhering to high standards
  5. They are built faster since they are not exposed to weather and other elements onsite

The downsides of choosing to live in a mobile home are: 

  1. Your financing options may be limited since banks consider them personal property, not real estate. Hence, you will only be able to apply for a personal loan.
  2. If you don’t own the land where your mobile home will be mounted, rent in a mobile park could go up to USD $300 monthly. There will also be mobile park rules you will have to follow.
  3. Mobile homes depreciate over time. It is the land it is mounted on that appreciates over time. This is why brick-and-mortar homes appreciate — they are attached to the land they are built on.
  4. Mobile homes may not be able to withstand the effects of natural disasters since they are built on a temporary and not a permanent foundation

How are mobile homes built? 

Mobile homes are built in a manufacturing site which is a controlled environment. There is usually an assembly line so the process is organized, fast, and assured of quality control.  

Some manufacturers divide their work area into different stations that focus on different parts of the mobile home. Then they come together and put the mobile home together, like a puzzle awaiting completion. 

Here are the steps of mobile home construction: 

  1. The builder orders the materials
  2. The steel frame is constructed
  3. The flooring is built in: joists are installed, sheets of plywood screwed in then glued 
  4. The walls are installed or attached 
  5. The team installs wiring, plumbing, and ducting
  6. The roof is attached: framework, sheathing, tar paper, roof shingles
  7. The drywall is installed
  8. The cabinets and fixtures are installed
  9. The windows and siding are installed
  10. The mobile home is presented to the owners for a walk-through

Some owners have specifications on features they want built into their homes, like folding tables, stools, or beds; or revolving television sets and sliding doors more commonly seen in tiny homes. 

Do mobile homes have titles?  

Yes. All states in the US use titles for signify ownership, except Texas, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  

A mobile home title should contain: 

  1. Owner’s name and address
  2. Age
  3. Width
  4. Length
  5. Vehicle registration numbers
  6. Serial numbers
  7. Location
  8. Recorded lien information including names and address
  9. Other relevant information

According to John Fedro of mobilehomeinvesting.net: “There is a separate title document for each section of your mobile/manufactured home. One title for a single-wide mobile/manufactured home and two titles for a double-wide mobile/manufactured home.”  

How long do mobile homes last? 

Mhvillage.com says that — in the 1990s — the life expectancy of a mobile home was almost 56 years. They contest, though, that given the proper care and maintenance, a mobile home can last forever.   

They also cite a 2018 report by the Federal House Finance Agency that shows “manufactured homes retain value much like site-built homes.” 

So, is a mobile home for you? There are people who do not believe in it, and people who do. It really is case-to-case: it depends on your needs, your budget, your priorities, your goals in life, and — ultimately — what gives you peace.

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