When Will They Start Calling Mobilehomes Manufactured Home?

24 Replies

I have to giggle up my sleeve every time I see the Manufactured Housing Industry continue to shoot itself in the foot. In the last 150 years we've managed to come from a Horse and Plow to a John Deer, from a Horseless Carriage to an Automobile, from a Bi Plane to a Super Sonic Jet to a rocket to the Moon and back, from the Mayflower to the Queen Mary II. from Black & White TV to Big Screen 3DHDTV, from Super Mario Brothers to an MP3, from a "Big Momma" IBM that took up a square block on Wall & Broad to a tiny IWatch. 

So what's up? Why do we continue to call today's State of The Art "HUD Manufactured Homes" everything but what they are? Trailers??? Coaches????? Friggin MOBILEHOMES!!! Come on folks the sooner you get off of it, get over it and get on with it the sooner you'll begin to raise the image and integrity of your own industry once and forever!! And guess what? The sooner you'll be able to start making some REAL $$$$$!!! A G A I N!

You're keeping your own lid on this industry by continuing to refer to it as the "MOBILEHOME INDUSTRY" It starts with each and every one of us. We are the Masters of our fate andCaptains of our soul. 

Until and unless we raise the bar of our own industry we can't expect anyone else to. If you're sick and tired of your local TV newsies calling your MHC's "TRAILER PARKS" every time there's a tornado, hurricane or earthquake in your neighborhood, well...................................the ball's in your court. And that's my 3 cents worth (adjusted for inflation).

No one will pay more for a mobile home if all you do is rename it as manufactured home.

There is a solid and prevailing association of mobile/manufactured with "cheap". This is deserved. That doesn't mean low quality (many manufactured homes are quality builds), but it is a niche market aimed at those wishing to own a home at a fraction of the price of a house.

This overall problem has been solved with modular housing long ago.

Oh come on @Jim Y. , I've been a Manufactured & Modular Home Contractor, dealer and developer for 3 decades. I'm not buying into that thesis for a moment. Black is black and white is white. If you want to paint an entire industry with such a broad brush then I guess we'll end this conversation as friends and move on to something more productive for both of us.

Trailers are trailers, moiblehomes are mobilehomes and HUD Manufactured Homes are a whole new ball game. Problem is most folks don't call a spade a spade. Now granted, you can put a new HUD MH in the middle of a trailer park and most folks will call it a trailer because they don't know any better. But that stated I don't know too many folks that would even want to put a new HUD MH in a trailer park unless it was steps from their favorite surf break, golf course or trout stream.

But if you have an entire HUD MHC, in the path of progress, in a gentrifying community then it's a Manufactured Home not a trailer or a mobile home. But folks still call them trailers, coaches or mobile homes and in so doing they seal their own fate. As long as they allow that to happen and don't put up a reasonable resistance (aka education) they will continue to be called what we allow them to call them.

Back to my original thesis. It's up to we industry stakeholders to change that picture.

My ads always refer to my homes as either mobile homes or manufactured homes. Depending on the area and the knowledge of potential buyers they are still often referred to as trailers in my locale. its annoying and I cringe a bit inside each time a new manufactured home is referred to as a trailer. IMO, a trailer is one of the 60s models that just doesn't live up to standards anymore and still has its hitch attached with some ugly skirting to hide the triangular protrusion. 

As much as I try to give them a good name many just don't see it as 'manufactured.' That term is reserved for the off the line factory built homes that no longer look as much like a typical mobile home you'd find in a park. 

And then there are park models. I've found one park in my area that is exclusively a seasonal park model park and since I've not invested there I'm not sure what people refer to them as. My guess is its no longer a 'trailer' because its in a more upscale seasonal park and which is often a second getaway home on a golf course, lake, or other desirable location.

Actually @Steven J. a "Park Model" is more of a trailer than a "Mobilehome". In fact, truth be known, it's not even a "Trailer". By definition it's a "Recreational Vehicle" A Park Model must be under 400sf and cannot be set up on a foundation or used as an Accessible Dwelling Unit (ADU) aka "Granny Flat", etc. At least not in California.

Trailers were typically just that trailers intended to be towed behind another vehicle, hence the word trailer. They were built as far back as the early 1900's. In fact if you really want to get technical they actually pulled trailers behind horse and buggy rigs and covered wagons. 

Then in the 60's along came "Mobilehomes" which were built officially until June 15, 1976 and officially renamed "Manufactured Homes" in 1981 and have never been considered trailers, coaches or Mobilehomes since.

But in answer to your other comment, "As much as I try to give them a good name many just don't see it as 'manufactured.' That term is reserved for the off the line factory built homes that no longer look as much like a typical mobile home you'd find in a park."

At least you're trying to educate your buyers. That we must keep on doing if we ever want to elevate our industry out of the dregs they've been for far too long. Only we stakeholders will ever add value to our industry.

I don't care how they're built. As long as they have wheels on them, a trailer hitch and get dragged down the freeway, they'll always be called mobile homes.

@John Arendsen @Jim Y. @Aaron Mazzrillo @Steven J. (Hi Steven)

Howdy. I was chuckling as I read this thread.

I'm no expert but...

Correct that they are "Manufactured Homes". That law was passed in 1980 by Congress, no less. So as far I know, technically, they are only mobile homes if they are pre-1976.

I use 'mobile homes' for ease of conversation.

HOWEVER!!!... Since I BUY and SELL... I call them different names, depending on what I'm doing with them.

I call them "Trailers" when I'm buying. Psychology, NLP, etc. Denotes less value so I can buy for less money.

I call them "Manufactured Homes" or "HOME" when I'm selling. No place like home. Home is where the heart is. Etc. Psychology allows for a higher selling price. 

Call me nuts but it been working for us pretty

But in general conversation, I say 'mobile home' just for ease of flow. Mobile is easier to say than Man-U-Fac-Tured. Too much work. 

John - My wife and I have a "park model" in Mesa, AZ where we go during the winter. Snow birds.

Jim - I disagree. People pay a lot for a cheap mobile home. We just sold one for $90k and another for $60k. Working on 2 more right now. Both 1974 models. ROI is incredible. I was a disbeliever too for 13 years when I did stick builts only. "If it came in on wheels it's a trailer!" I've since learned better.

NationalREIA just had an article from Bloomberg News that Manufactured Homes are a possible answer to the critical housing and rental shortage. Land office business.

Anyway, great thread. Good stuff.

Have fun!

Agreed. I use the same nlp approach with sellers and buyers

@Bill Neves I'll recognize your comment with respect and appreciation. You make several good points. I too must admit that I've downplayed them when purchasing them and played them to the hilt on the backend when I went to market the.

June 15th to be exact

Sorry bout that @Bill Neves . Got distracted with World Series stuff. I was born in Chi Town in '45 so I was getting some calls. I'd say Go Cubs.................but they already did!!

@Bill Neves
How much land were the mobile homes you sold for $90k sitting on? I'm willing to bet it was good acreage.

There is no reason or logic behind paying $90k for a mobile in a park. I would dismiss such an event from being statistical.

@Jim Y.

Yes - The $90k ($89,900) mobile home was in a park. 6 others in the same park sold for $95k... the same month. 

Now... I'm in the Pacific Northwest. We have seen them for $150k-$225k. Especially in your area.

There are lots of reasons that mobile home prices are in a surge mode.

The market, economy, loan availability, rental availability, affordable housing, etc.

Those of us in this real estate niche are enjoying things. Everything is cyclical but my hero, Lonnie Scruggs, said over time mobile homes always seem to do well. Most real estate people (including me for several years) won't touch them. So little competition.

Other areas of the country are different. You may not see or sell a mobile home for $90k in Arkansas or even Florida where they have many parks. 

But there are areas, California for example, where they sell for lots of money. We've seen them for $2 MILLION or more. Those seem to be on the coast with ocean view but they're there.

I totally understand the thought that they aren't worth that. Some agree. But from the market and sales, lots of folks disagree.

You're spot on about Coastal Cali. @Bill Neves . At least on the North San Diego, Orange County, Malibu, Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara County Coastline. As a lifetime RE investor of both site (stick) built and MH's I can tell you first hand that I've never lost $$$ on MH's in these areas and I own and will continue to buy and sell them until I graduate to that big MHC in the sky (God willing).

Buying on the cheap may sound good to a lot of folks but in the big picture it doesn't always turn out so good. Everything is relative and real estate as the ole saying goes is "LOCAL". So what is cheap to one investor may sound ridiculously expensive to another not acclimated to relative costs and values in a given geographical and socio-economic demographic.

I'll buy beaters 3 blocks away from the waters edge for 100k all day long. I'll then either remodel them or pull them out and put a new one in; A two story if permitted. Or I will design and build a hybrid, part Manufactured and part site built, depending on the size of the lot, set backs, local building jurisdictions, etc.

If I can work with the MHC owner/managers I will then rent/lease them out or sell them for 195-500+-k depending on the park, site or proximity to the coast or other attractive amenities. 

@John Arendsen  Any advice on valuing a manufactured multi-family property? There is one in my area for sale I'm negotiating but really no good idea how to evaluate such a structure. I can only get a business loan on it for some reason even though it's not over 4 units.  

What are the best types of manufactured homes? hud? Modular? Steel frames?

@Rami W. First and foremost I'm not the one to ask about the valuation on MHC's. I would suggest you reach out to http://www.rishel.net on that. In answer to your question "What are the best types of manufactured homes? hud? Modular? Steel frames?" It depends on the situation. I'm not that familiar with Steel Frames. But if you're going to be investing or developing on private (resident owned) lots/parcels then I would recommend MOD's over HUD MH's in almost every instant. 

Why? You will find financing MOD's much more friendly over HUD homes due to appraisals and comps unless you're in a predominantly HUD MH environment i.e. an area where HUD MH's exist equal to or more than traditional site (stick) built homes.

That stated, however, there's very little if any difference in the way they are built. In fact many if not most manufacturers use the same assembly lines for either or so you'll generally find little difference between the two other than one is built on a steel "Mainframe Chasis" and delivered to the site behind a "Totter"  while the other is built without the steel mainframe and delivered to the site on a low boy then craned or rolled onto a poured in place stem wall foundation and footing.

Alot of the classification depends on if its going on a foundation.

Also this day and age alot of your nicer "manufactured" homes are built better then the stick built homes. I'm obviously talking about manufactured homes that come in on trucks and have a crane place them on a foundation (with or without) a basement. These are built using jigs where the walls and rooms are actually square. Try finding a true square room ina stick built home.

***I'm not advocating for either, just making a point.

As a general and manufactured home contractor having done my share of both stick, HUD and MOD I have to agree whole heartedly with @Mike Hanneman . Not only are they jigged and rigged they also use kiln dried wood so every stick of lumber is true and straight for the most part. They are also built in an controlled environment.

But the one thing that I've found as a developer for the past few decades is the minimal amount of theft and vandalism realized with HUD or MOD installation and the very short amount of time you spend on a job site overall compared to a slow and tedious sight/stick built process.

Cities and neighbors love you when there's not a bunch of trucks filled with dozens of people showing up everyday for months on end with their loud, gruff and profanity laced conversations, jokes and laughter along with loud hip hop and or rap music blaring away all day for months on end.

About the only noise involved in the entire process is the heavy equipment used to excavate and prep the site. There are crews that do the hands on infrastructure, foundation, driveway, garage and landscaping but that's minimal by comparison to having carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters and on and on for months.

The beauty of MOD and HUD is the quickness of the delivery, set, installation, close up and detail work which all takes place in a few days if the crew is experienced and efficient which most are nowadays.

Mobile, in my mind, only refers to the deliver method as opposed to the construction method. There are many different types of homes built in factories from the least expensive to million dollar homes. They are all delivered to their final site location and could in theory all be referred to as mobile homes. All homes built in a factory are mobile therefor all mobile homes are manufactured homes. The biggest difference is in regards to whether they remain mobile. In many parts of the U.S. I understand they are often relocated and will there for remain as mobile homes. In my location it is extremely rare for a home to be moved from it's original setting.

Individual owners play a big part in defining the home. My residents refer to them as their home not a mobile or manufactured home. They are in what I refer to as a Manufactured Home Community. Everyone arrived on wheels and with a tong both of which are immediately removed. The most resent one I brought in 2 years ago and sold for $120,000. There are numerous other communities in my area that are and will always be "trailer parks". The homes in those communities are trailers and referred to as trailers by their owners.

It all comes down to perception but it is the community owner that creates the perception for the general public. Some choose to own trailer parks some do not.

Bottom line the name does not change the image, it is the image that changes the name.

"Bottom line the name does not change the image, it is the image that changes the name." Bravo my friend. I couldn't have said it any better @Thomas S.


Park Model

Still a Park Model with a Cabana and 2nd story deck


A Pre HUD Singlewide Mobilehome

a HUD Singlewide Manufactured Home.

HUD Doublewide Manufactured Home (2008)

HUD Singlewide MFH


Modular with stucco siding and tile roof. Yes, they really make them and deliver, installed finish them out.

That lot rent must be high, reminds me of college kids renting out rooms because the rent is so high.

Well, I still call them "cans".

Prefabs aren't trailers, but a trailer is a trailer if it has or had wheels.

That's not to say they may not be good affordable housing, but the claims of being as good as or better than a stick built home is pure hype. 

And just like a vehicle, they depreciate when you roll them off the lot. (now, location and the park or grounds influence that, but there is a blue book).

There's a reason for the socio-economic stigma of MHs in some areas, you know, you can take a girl out of the MH park but you can't take the MH park out of that queen.

Well that's enough slams, they make sense in a lot of areas and they can make money for a good operator.   

Oh, PS, I just read the first post, just passing thoughts here. :)  

Doncha just love America @Bill Gulley where we can think and believe what we want? It's great to have the freedom to think and say whatever we want to believe and I certainly have no problem with that in any way.

I'm not sure how many MH factories you've ever toured but I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt the the basic kiln dried and straight sticks they use are far better than the wet, heavy and wrapped load they drop off on your job site. I've done a lot of both and I can tell you for a fact that the quality of materials used in a factory has site built beat hands down.

As for the general construction and assembly please show me the jigs and rigs on a job site. In all the decades I've been building site built and installing MH's I don't even think a carpenter even knows how to spell the word jig.

Now I will give you this. There are still factories that use the cheap 3/16 inch photo finished veneer paneling instead of dry wall and there are factories that will use traditional 2x4 exterior wall studs and farming components. But those factories won't get any of my  biz. That I can tell you.

Additionally, several factories continue to use cheap plastic hoses for plumbing lines instead of copper and the cheapest turn stops, fixtures, fittings, commodes, sinks, appliances, formica countertops, plastic wrap around shower enclosures, and on and on. But you get what you pay for.

I see affordable housing site built that take the same short cuts. In fact if you could put wheels and axles on them and tow em down the road then by your definition they'd be "TRAILERS" as well. Right?

If the factory isn't using, 5/16 or 3/4 inch plywood or at least CDX, 2x6 exterior wall construction, double pained tinted and rated windows, porcelain fixtures, granite or marble countertops, stainless steel fixtures, copper plumbing and upscale accessories they don't and will never git my biz. 

But bottom line they can and do build any home as good or much better than any old "WOBBLY BOX" going down the road. I've been in too may factories to count. In fact I even worked in one of Golden West's very first factories when they were built like trailers and looked like old mobile homes or coaches.

But do yourself a favor and take the time to tour a factory or two and see first had the amount of detail the assemblers put into the new state of the art HUD and MOD Factory Built Homes.

BTW, they haven't used a blue book in Cali for the past 25 years unless they're Pre HUD and have never been transferred to from the DMV to the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) who now regulate and registers the manufactured homes instead of the DMV. Banks and lenders also use experienced Home appraisers and Blue Books to thoroughly appraise them at fair market value.

If they're placed on a foundation on a resident owned lot or parcel and certified by an engineer and they're permanently installed on the situs they are no longer considered "CHATTEL" and therefor run with the land in a sales transaction. Therefore they don't depreciate unless they're in a blighted or undesirable area or no longer in the path of progress. But then I see a lot of stick built properties that are suffering the same fate.

So once again my friend I would suggest that you not paint an entire industry with such a broad brush and do take the time to educate yourself. You'll be doing yourself a tremendous favor not to mention the folks you are dealing with. 

I can't tell you how many folks have literally dropped their RE professional because they simply didn't know what they were talking about and literally insulted and offended their client until they simply walked away and sought someone like me out for the opportunity to really educate them.

Depends on how high you want to go @Ronald Bourgeois . Don't know bout you but living high comes with its costs. LOL!

@John Arendsen , you mean you didn't catch the dry humor? I'm aware that today's trailers are far superior to those 2 decades ago. 

No question about some of the materials, in some of the newer models but not all, those plastic bath tubs, RV fixtures and cabinets are still found today, at least in my area, don't forget, I'm in the Ozarks, LOL.

I've seen how the carpet was rolled over the floor in a manufactured home and then walls set on top of the carpet, it's more efficient, but not stronger or better.

I'm sure some MHs are built better than some stick built, but that isn't the rule as you can't build something on a frame designed to be shipped as well (strong) as you can with an anchored foundation to begin with, not if it's built right. Look at the bolts in the bottom double plate anchored in concrete of a frame built, or the rebar and straps required by code. It's a different thing, apples and oranges. 

Then we have tornado alley here along with high straight winds, first to be damaged are the MHs that's why the weather service tells the public to get out of them during a storm, now that advice isn't based on a MH being constructed better than a frame house, surely. And we know about anchors, the frame stays and the rest is gone. They also don't float very well if you've ever seen a flood area but they do end up someplace else.  

Perhaps the comment about the queen won't fly well all over, it is a local joke here and those that say it are in the park. I visited some folks near Phoenix that moved from here, they bought a very nice double wide and the park was a bit of a country club, golf, tennis, indoor pool, pretty nice, except they had no grass. There were some nice cars parked out there too, not like our rusted pickups and cars on blocks as you can find in our rural parks. But you certainly have that with stick built neighborhoods as well, but, no, I'm really not a snob.

While I was in the Army, I had to live in a MH, granted not a new one with 2x6 walls, it was a can and we burned up in the summer and froze in the winter, but it did give us privacy and kept us dry and the government considered it housing. 

The best thing is that I don't have to live in a manufactured home that is generally built for affordable housing, the floors wouldn't support my rock fireplace, real rock not that fake stuff, it goes all the way down into a foundation. I don't really care about wind damage and in a tornado we might go in the safe room. I like to live on higher ground too. 

Land can appreciate, improvement can too, MHs attached don't appreciate as fast as standard construction, detached as chattel they depreciate, just doesn't make for a good long term investment, at least for me. If they aren't considered real estate, you'll have financing issues with a trailer.   

Educate myself? Hey, it is always an ongoing task in this business and I do. I can't tell you how many real estate "educators" should be out of real estate either, many are the reason people drop out of the real estate industry after taking in a line of hype. :) 


You make a lot of very astute and valid points @Bill Gulley . There's an age ole adage in the MH Biz. "God always seems to put MHP's in the direct path of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes". I'd say fires but then they don't care what path their in they manage to get there way with almost everything.

Additionally, it can be confusing for many whence distinguishing between a HUD Manufactured Home and a Modular as many go down the same assembly lines. However, you can crane lift or roll a well built MOD onto a poured in place stem wall and footing and anchor it with stitch welded steel plates that hold as well or better than traditional anchor bolts.

To take it a step further as a Silvercrest Dealer for over 20 years we did many two story HUD MH's that had to be installed the same way. You would never have known the difference when they were all finished.

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