Mobile homes are gaining in popularity and are considered a strong favorable alternative to traditional home buying. In fact, more than 22 million people live in mobile homes in the U.S, and mobile homes now account for 10% of new single-family home beginner purchases.
These homes are commonly mass-produced in a factory and placed on a chassis that allows them to be placed on any piece of land where they will be set up and lived in. As a result, this has its benefits of producing more affordable homes. However, there are disadvantages to buying a mobile home as well, and it comes down to one's personal financial, housing, and lifestyle goals.
Read on below to gain a better understanding of the pros and cons associated with buying a mobile home and whether it’s the right choice for you.
Advantages of Buying a Mobile Home
One of the biggest advantages of mobile home ownership is affordability. Mobile homes are in general less expensive than traditional permanent homes built from the ground up due to their lower price per square foot. Mobile homes might even be a solution to the Housing Affordability Crisis.
In fact, in September 2018, the median price for a traditional home in the U.S was ~$226,000 (though this varies depending on where you choose to live). Alternatively, the average price for a mobile home was only $90,000.
This can also mean a much more luxurious mobile home can be afforded for the same price as an average traditional home, delivering more value to the homeowner.
Low Maintenance Costs
Generally, mobile homes will require less maintenance than traditional homes. Maintenance such as plumbing/sewer fixes, gas line repairs, or landscaping is close to non-existent. These are recurring savings in costs that can add up over the course of multiple years. The only maintenance will be the fixes required in a mobile home from time to time.
An ever-increasing number of mobile homes are now being constructed with environmentally friendly materials. They are being designed and built with a low carbon footprint, and many predominantly run on solar power. Most are now Energy Star certified and come installed with energy-saving appliances, lighting, and plumbing fixtures. As a result, it’s a far eco-friendlier option vs. traditional homes.
Besides the Energy Star certification, most mobile homes are naturally better at retaining heat and keeping cool. Why? Just another benefit of the assembly-line process. When a manufacturer builds hundreds of the same exact floorplan, they benefit from the experience they gain in the process and are able to have a tighter, more controlled execution on building each one. This means mobile homes are inherently better for the environment.
It’s right in the name, one of the best features of a mobile home is that it’s MOBILE! If at any point you’d like to move to a new location, you can simply organize for a contractor to take the home off of its temporary foundation, and move it down the highway to your homes new home. This gives you the flexibility to live in a specific area during a certain phase of life and then move to a new one as needs change, all without having to sell off the home and purchase a new one.
With mobility comes the added flexibility of having a mobile home. Mobile homes can be upgraded and customized as needs change compared to traditional homes. It can be moved around on a piece of land if space needs to be used differently. It’s also a flexible lifestyle option where one can choose to have a cheaper but livable home while they wait to afford a more traditional home, or need temporary housing while their house is being built from the ground up.
Quick Construction and Assembly
Mobile homes are also typically manufactured in 60 days and the installation of a mobile home once on-site is fairly quick. Both of this means from the date of purchase, the window is quite short to the move-in date allowing one to enjoy their home far sooner versus a traditional home buying purchase timeline.
As most mobile homes are now built as modules that are then assembled together, this leads to less noise transference from one module to another. The insulation between the modules and individual rooms also limits sound transference compared to a traditional home where rooms are generally interconnected and separated with drywall. You can even take it a step further and completely soundproof your mobile home.
Access to High-End Locations
Another advantage of mobile homes is a lower barrier to entry when it comes to living in higher-end locations. Areas with high land prices can mean an offset of this high land price by having a cheaper mobile home vs. a traditional home being bought/built there.
Another advantage of mobile homes is lower taxes if it was placed on land that you already own. As a mobile home isn’t considered ‘real property’ your property tax will be lower compared to if you had a traditional home built on that land. Moreover, if you’ve taken out a personal loan to afford a mobile home, the payments can be used as deductibles against your income.
Related: Build Your Credit for a Mobile Home
As mobile homes are built in controlled environments and undergo much more rigorous quality control, you can expect it to have fewer issues when you move in vs. a traditional home. Mobile homes follow the HUD code which ensures certified quality controls have been met. A traditional home may have issues due to poor construction, weather damage, etc. that were a result of it being built over an extended period of time outside. These are issues that won’t exist when buying a mobile home.
Disadvantages of Buying a Mobile Home
The biggest disadvantage of a mobile home is unlike traditional homes which will appreciate in value due to the appreciation of the land underneath it, a mobile home will depreciate in value.
In instances where the land is also purchased, the combined value can be seen to increase due to the appreciation in land value, but the mobile home itself will depreciate in value significantly just like a car that’s left the dealership.
The exception to this are modular homes. Because a modular home is built to your local building code, it is indistinguishable in the eyes of an appraiser and the law. Your modular home will appraise just like any similar homes in the neighborhood, but will cost 30% less.
Harder to Resell
Reselling can also be hard for mobile homes if they are set up in mobile parks or the buyer will need to move the mobile home from where it’s currently located. Both incur extra costs in the thousands and can deter people from purchasing a used mobile home vs. buying a new one.
Myth Busting time!
With research, mobile homes have been shown time and time again to be MORE resistant to natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes. We know, this one isn’t really a con, but we figured you’d expect it to be in this section. The truth is, the anchoring requirements for mobile homes (you know, where we physically strap the home down using steel bands) actually does wonders for the stability of the home. Do you know of anyone who owns a stick-built home that is tied down using steel straps? We didn’t think so. So it should come as no surprise that they fare better in stormy weather.
(Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped tornado chasers from focusing on mobile home parks where the destruction looks more dramatic)
Related: Mobile Homes vs Tornadoes
Mobile homes are considered personal property as opposed to ‘real property’ - one that’s tied to an asset such as land. As a result, financing for mobile homes can be a lot more difficult compared to traditional homes.
One can expect far higher interest rates and shorter terms. In 2018, the average interest rate for a home loan was 3.2% with a 30-year term. Personal loans on the other hand, which are needed for mobile homes, had an interest rate of 3.99% with a seven-year term.
Do note though that some lenders are now beginning to offer prefabricated mobile home loans with 30-year terms. This has made financing a lot easier recently.
As mobile homes are mass-produced there are limited choices in design and layouts. Compared to a traditional home that may have various ways of adding your personal touch through remodeling or painting, mobile homes will be a lot harder to customize to give it that unique feel as well. But this has significant trade-offs in the cost department.
Though there may be internal variations in the floor plan a buyer can choose from, the exteriors are generally kept rectangular for mobility reasons. One can usually find single-wide mobile homes to be 90 ft. long and 18 ft. wide, while double-wide homes are 90ft. long and 25 ft. wide. These dimensions are fixed making exterior customization difficult.
Many mobile homes are usually situated in mobile home parks. This means there are external procedures and rules that must be followed. Rent also needs to be paid to the landlord to have your mobile home there which can be an added recurring home cost.
This can take away from the freedom a traditional home provides where one owns the land and sets, for the most part, their own rules in how they choose to live there.
The Stigma of Owning a Mobile Home
There is still a stigma of owning mobile homes vs. traditional ones. Certain communities limit the number of mobile home communities that can be present, or have outright banned their use. However, this is changing with many revised zoning laws happening recently as mobile homes are now being viewed as a favorable solution to the growing housing affordability crisis affecting certain regions.
There are many pros and cons to evaluate when it comes to considering a mobile home purchase. Though generally viewed as the more affordable option to homeownership it comes with the downsides such as no appreciation in value.
Be sure to evaluate your own specific housing goals and specific regional circumstances before deciding if it’s the right fit for you.
Related: 5 Reasons to Choose a Modular Home