Contra Costa Times
June 6, 2010
There was a time when mobile homes were viewed as little more than cramped, rectangular boxes with narrow hallways and flimsy construction. Trailers, they were called.
But many of today's units -- now commonly referred to as manufactured homes -- are a far cry from that stereotype.
These days, companies like Riverside-based Fleetwood Homes are creating manufactured homes that are spacious and equipped with most of the same amenities you'd find in traditional homes, from laminate flooring to granite countertops.
For baby boomers looking to downsize and rein in their expenses, this would seem to be the perfect option because they're considerably less expensive than traditional homes.
Does it really pay to make the switch?
Gary Allera thinks so. Allera, president of Mobile Home Mansions, a Santa Ana-based mobile home dealership with an office in Upland, said seniors who make the move can save a lot of money.
"Manufactured homes average about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, and they typically run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000," he said. "You'll get a nice two-bedroom, two-bath unit and the space rent is about $600 to $800 a month. So all you're paying for is the space rent, and that's about half of what you'd pay for an apartment."
According to its website, Fleetwood offers manufactured homes as large as 2,300 square feet.
There are other incentives.
"Mobile home parks are safe and secure," Allera said. "Many of them have weight rooms, beauty shops ... you name it."
Ginny Ball, who co-owns the Whittier Downs Mobile Home Park in Whittier for seniors 55 and up, said her space rents are higher because that property is considered to be more upscale.
"Our space rents are $959 and $999," she said. "The rent you pay really depends on the quality of the park."
Ball said mobile home parks appeal to a variety of demographics.
"Some people are retired but still very active," she said. "They might not be able to do a home any more but they don't want to go into a retirement home. Others are 55 and still working but they want to downsize. They've sold their home but don't like apartment life -- they want something that's more like a regular home."
Nancy Daiken, 75, who lives in the Whittier Downs park, said she likes her lifestyle.
"You get close to the people next to you and get to know them real well," she said. "I like the security of neighbors being close and having a security gate. We go out to dinner and play bingo together."
This is the second time Daiken has lived in a mobile home park.
"In the other park you owned everything including the land," she said. "Here you have to pay the monthly space rent, so you do have that extra payment. But if your mobile home is paid off, you still save money. I'm actually paying about half of what I'd pay to rent an apartment. And the property taxes are a lot less."
Lois Parris, president of the Manufactured Home Owners Association of America Inc., said mobile home residents like the sense of community they have with their neighbors.
"All of us at a certain age think about downsizing," she said. "And it's nice to know that you have neighbors right around you who you can always call in an emergency."
Allera said mobile home sales, like many products, have taken a significant hit during the current economic downturn.
"Sales are off dramatically," he said. "They're still there but we don't have the volume. A lot of it is really the financing. Most of the units are being sold to cash buyers. It's very tough to find lenders who will make the loans."
Still, Allera figures things will pick up.
"Our industry has always been good throughout the years," he said. "We've had our ups and downs. I think we're going to have another year or two before we get a recovery."