Man­u­fac­tured homes evolve be­yond bad rep

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - MONEY - Cather­ine Reagor

Mo­bile homes and the parks where they re­side of­ten get a bad rap for be­ing old and ram­shackle.

But man­u­fac­tured hous­ing has come a long way.

You might drive by a new man­u­fac­tured home with a garage, porch and pitched roof and not re­al­ize it’s a de­scen­dant of the trailer.

And don’t for­get, trendy tiny homes fit into this cat­e­gory as well. Most tiny homes are built on an assem­bly line.

Getting ex­cited about trail­ers

“Man­u­fac­tured homes have evolved so far and can be an im­por­tant part of the an­swer to our af­ford­able hous­ing dilemma,” said real-es­tate an­a­lyst Mark Stapp, di­rec­tor of the master of real es­tate de­vel­op­ment pro­gram at Ari­zona State Univer­sity.

“But there’s still a silly no­tion about the qual­ity of the homes. How we can get past that is what we need to work on.”

A new man­u­fac­tured home, in­clud­ing the lot, can cost about $100,000 less than a house built on the lot, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try es­ti­mates.

“The most ef­fi­cient way to build a home is in a fac­tory,” said Kevin Clay­ton, CEO of the na­tion’s big­gest man­u­fac­tured house builder, Clay­ton Homes. “We don’t build cars out­side.”

Clay­ton, whose com­pany is owned by War­ren Buf­fett’s Berk­shire Hath­away, said only about two 30-gal­lon con­tain­ers of waste are hauled away af­ter man­u­fac­tur­ing a home.

Mov­ing past the trailer rap

The man­u­fac­tured hous­ing in­dus­try is look­ing for a bet­ter way for peo­ple to dif­fer­en­ti­ate new mod­ern fac­tory-built homes from the trail­ers of the 1950s and ’60s.

New man­u­fac­tured homes don’t look like the rec­tan­gu­lar tin trail­ers from half a cen­tury ago, but the houses still get op­po­si­tion from neigh­bors.

“There’s some pub­lic per­cep­tion car­ry­over to new man­u­fac­tured hous­ing,” said Alan Stephen­son, plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor in Phoenix, which eased its guide­lines on man­u­fac­tured homes in 2010. “Some love it, and some not so much.”

Fi­nanc­ing fac­tory-built homes

Fi­nanc­ing has also been a prob­lem. But mort­gage gi­ants Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac said they will start backing loans for the homes if they have char­ac­ter­is­tics such as reg­u­lar houses built on site. Clay­ton said that to meet those guide­lines, homes should have garages, cov­ered porches, dry­wall, wood cab­i­nets, pitched roofs and high en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. Those fea­tures and new loans could make the houses eas­ier to buy and re­sell.


An aerial view of Long­haven Es­tates, a man­u­fac­tured home park in Phoenix.

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