ARE you looking for a home? Have you reached the conclusion that the average person simply cannot afford to buy one?
In the last couple of years hundreds of thousands of families have had their need for housing filled by purchase of a mobile home.
Today, there are about three million mobile homes in the United States. Some seven million Americans live in them, and the number is increasing rapidly.
Mobile homes represent one of the fastest-growing businesses in the United States. In 1969, about 413,000 new ones were produced, compared to 241,000 just two years before, and only 90,200 in 1961! Another 415,000 or so were built in 1970, and a substantial increase is expected this year.
In the last couple of years about half of all single-family homes sold were mobile homes. And in the lower price range they are practically the only homes produced in the United States. Said managing director of the Mobile Homes Manufacturers Association John M. Martin: “Mobile homes made up 96 percent of the new single-family homes sold in the U.S. for under $15,000 last year.”
Commenting on the need filled by the mobiles, Robinson Newcomb, a Washington economic consultant on construction, said: “Mobile homes have saved the day for us. If it weren’t for mobiles, our housing problems would be much worse than they already are.”
In the past, movable homes were crude and cramped; they were commonly used by migrants, or served as emergency quarters. Communities often considered them an eyesore, a liability. Although some communities still do, strides toward removing that image have been made.
The improvements are remarkable. There is little resemblance, for example, between modern mobiles and the thousands of eight-by-twenty-footers produced for emergency use during World War II. Besides improved eye appeal, today’s models commonly have several rooms and over four times as much living space as those earlier ones! Just since the late 1950’s the average mobile home has about doubled in size; in 1957 the most popular length was thirty-five feet, compared with sixty feet today.
Also improving the image of mobile-home living are the modern mobile-home parks; about 1,500 of them are opening in the United States each year. A typical one has from 150 to 300 homesites. Many are well landscaped, have paved streets and sidewalks, off-street parking and recreational facilities. Some have only seven or eight homesites per acre, compared to the fifteen to eighteen common, in older parks.
These improved parks and the larger, better mobiles have caused more and more persons to investigate to see if such a home is for them.
Modern Mobile Homes
Manufacturers emphasize that what they refer to as mobile homes are not merely travel trailers, although there can be some overlapping. Generally speaking, a travel trailer is a temporary dwelling that is limited in width to eight feet and is no longer than about thirty-two feet. It is towed by an automobile and can be operated independently of utility connections.
What is called a mobile home, on the other hand, while constructed to be towed on its own chassis, is not designed to be moved about regularly. It is designed for connecting to utilities, and to be situated in one place for year-round living, yet it can be moved to another location if desired.
However, the most apparent difference is the mobile home’s much larger size. New ones are usually fifty to seventy feet long. And some 90 percent of those built today are twelve feet wide, although fourteen-foot-wide ones are becoming popular as more states permit that wide a load on the roads. Large modern mobiles need to be pulled by a truck and to have special permits to use the highways.
Perhaps the main reason why people consider buying a mobile home is that conventional houses are so expensive. The average one in the United States sells for about $30,000; one source says around $36,000. To buy it takes a down payment of $10,000 or so, and monthly payments of almost $200 for twenty-five years. In addition, there is the cost of furniture, appliances, property taxes, upkeep and so forth—all of which is more than most can afford.
The average mobile home, on the other hand, is about one fifth the cost of a conventional house, or about $6,000 to $7,000. The down payment may be $1,200 and monthly payments about $85. On that basis a $6,000 mobile home would be paid for in seven years.
There is still the question of where to put a mobile home. About half of them are kept in mobile-home parks; there are some 22,000 of these in the United States. The average monthly rent is around $45, although it can run considerably higher.
The above, however, is often about the whole expense of a mobile home, aside from the cost of heating and utilities, which is much less than in a conventional house. Also, maintenance costs are much smaller. And taxes are lower, since mobiles are licensed and taxed as vehicles rather than as real estate.
‘But what about the cost of furniture and appliances?’ you may ask. These are included in the original price tag. Mobile homes are customarily sold completely furnished, including refrigerator, stove, furnace, draperies and furniture. About all that is needed to set up housekeeping are linens, towels and tableware.
So you can see why many persons consider mobile-home living economically attractive.
Of course, a mobile home cannot be expected to last as long as a conventional house. Also, a mobile home depreciates in value, much as does an automobile, losing about 20 percent of its resale value after the first year; whereas a house often increases in value as the years go by.
A feature that many persons find attractive is the smaller amount of upkeep that a mobile home requires. This is generally true both on the inside of the home and the outside.
Mobiles usually have an aluminum exterior. It can be washed down with a hose like the family car. Occasionally some caulking or tightening of screws maybe needed. And the application of a mastic roof coating every two to five years is a good idea to prevent the roof from leaking. But this is about the only upkeep the outside of a mobile home requires.
In a mobile-home park the yard around each individual home is generally small. This, of course, may be viewed as either an advantage or disadvantage, depending on individual preference.
Since a mobile home is smaller and more compact than a conventional house, one is usually able to finish the housework in less time and without getting as tired. However, since the flow of traffic and other activity is restricted to a smaller area, more frequent cleaning is usually necessary. Carpets must be vacuumed and shampooed more often. And the wood-paneled walls, which most mobile homes have, generally require washing more frequently. But perhaps more than anything else, personal habits affect the amount of upkeep required.
Living in a mobile home is not like living in a large house where a playroom or other areas can be closed off from sight or traffic. Each room is generally used, and used often. So these quickly become messed up and disorganized if each member of the family does not put items away where they belong. You can imagine the embarrassment this can cause when company comes unexpectedly, or the stress that living under these conditions can be. So unless each family member is neat, or will learn to be, a mobile home may not be for you.
What About Space?
People frequently ask mobile-home owners: “Is it difficult to get along with the limited amount of space?”
Couples without children may not find it hard. In fact, those who spend most of the day away from home often consider less space a blessing. They are glad that they do not have a large home to care for.
On the other hand, the limited space can be a real disadvantage. Consider, for example, a mother with a couple of active children when the weather is rainy and they cannot play outside. Within the confines of a mobile home, she may soon be at her wit’s end. Even if there is another room in which they can play, the relatively thin walls may not shut out the noise sufficiently for her to be able to relax.
But more living space can be obtained. Many persons build onto their mobile home a cabana, or extra room. One side of this room is the exterior sidewall of the mobile home. Then there are the so-called “expandables.” These mobile homes are built so that they can be widened by pushing a telescoped section out from the main structure. Often it is just one room, such as the living room, that is expanded to nearly double its original size.
A style of mobile home that has become particularly popular is called the “double-wide.” Two twelve-by-sixty-foot sections, for example, are towed separately to a site and then bolted together. This type of mobile home provides more interior space than is found in some conventional houses. About 45 percent of the mobile homes now sold in California are “double-wides,” which may range in price from $10,000 to $17,000 or higher.
Thus, the problem of living space can be resolved—for a price.
Do you like the idea of easily being able to pick up and move? Persons living in mobile homes have this freedom to some extent. Even the large “double-wides” can be unbolted and towed to another location. And another advantage is that when the family moves to a new community, while everything else may be strange and unfamiliar, their home is the same. Of course, you have the expense of hiring a truck to pull a large mobile home to a new location, something that may be no small item if the distance involved is considerable.
During bad windstorms mobile homes may not be as safe as conventional houses. They are not as heavy and well-grounded, so at times they blow over when regular houses remain standing. This may be a factor to consider if you live in an area where severe windstorms are frequent.
Nevertheless, factory-built homes have proved to provide quality housing. Millions live in mobile homes, and surveys indicate that the majority are quite happy with their quarters.
However, in order to determine whether a mobile home is for you, talk with persons who live in one. Ask them what they like about it, and what they do not like. Visit mobile-home parks and examine the facilities. Whether you decide that a mobile home is for you or not, at least you will learn more about an increasingly popular mode of living.