What Are Manufactured Homes — and Are They Worth Buying?

published Mar 26, 2022
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A manufactured home, also referred to as a mobile home or trailer home, is a factory built home that adheres to the building code laid out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, manufactured homes are an important source of affordable housing for 22 million households across the country. The factory-built housing industry also contributes roughly $2.6 billion to the United States economy and produces about 90,000 homes a year.

Manufactured homes, like any home, come with a variety of pros and cons. Here’s a closer look at what they are and if one is the right housing choice for you.

Is there a difference between a mobile home and a manufactured home?

A mobile home and a manufactured home are one and the same. Starting on June 15, 1976, the construction of mobile homes started being regulated by HUD, and they were dubbed “manufactured homes.” This made the construction of manufactured homes standard regardless of the state or city, whereas site-built homes must adhere to state and local building codes.

Are manufactured homes worth buying?

In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the average cost of single-wide and double-wide manufactured homes was $57,300 and $108,500, respectively. The average price of a single-family home was $374,500, making manufactured homes a more affordable option.

Because manufactured homes come in a wide variety of sizes and layouts, they can meet your needs at a smaller price tag than a traditional home, making them a worthwhile purchase.

Though it’s commonly thought that manufactured homes depreciate over time, this isn’t always the case. Depending on the real estate market and the home itself, a manufactured home has the potential to appreciate, especially if you own the land that it’s on, as land tends to appreciate over time.

Credit: Getty Images/ Marje

What are the disadvantages of a manufactured home?

Because a manufactured home is technically movable, it is considered personal property as opposed to property which includes land and anything that is permanently attached to it — like a site-built home, garage, shed, vegetation, etc. This means that insurance and taxes may differ from those related to a site-built home. While this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, it may require some extra research on your part to make sure everything is in order.

Depending on the home, where it will be located, and your own financial history, financing a manufactured home is a little different than getting a traditional mortgage and may require a mobile home loan, though they are eligible for government-insured loans like an FHA or VA loan. 

When you’re financing the purchase of a manufactured home, it’s important to note that some mobile home loan lenders won’t approve a loan for a manufactured home that will sit on rented land or in a mobile home park. 

Even though many of today’s manufactured homes are high quality homes, there can still be a stigma attached to them. Part of this may be attributed to the mobile homes that were built prior to the 1976 shift to HUD overseeing their quality.

How do you buy a manufactured home?

When you buy a manufactured home, you can purchase just the home itself and then rent the land under it. This kind of setup is typical in a manufactured home community or trailer park. Alternatively, you can buy the home’s plot of land outright. Here’s what else to know about buying a manufactured home:

Mobile home dealers or retailers can help you find the model that is best for you and will likely have display models that you can walk through. To find a manufactured home dealer or manufacturer in your area, you can do an online search for individual businesses. Sites like Manufacturedhomes.com allow you to search dealers and manufacturers in your area to see what’s available. Sometimes, these dealers will also sell homes in their manufactured home communities that will come with a site you can rent.

If you’d rather buy from a private seller, you can search on real estate sites for manufactured homes and buy one much like you would a site-built home along with the land and accompanying buildings. You can also have the house moved to your land and installed on site. The cost of moving it depends on a number of factors and ranges from $700 for a transport-only move to $14,000 for a full-service move.