- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2002

Growing up in the South, it was not unusual to pass by many mobile home parks on the way to anywhere. They were and are considered a vital part of many communities across the country and offer a viable alternative to traditional housing for households seeking an affordable home of their own.

I can remember some Southerners laughing and scorning a man whose house payment was more than his car payment, insinuating that he must have gotten ripped off on the purchase of his new house. A manufactured home can fulfill some dreams of homeownership. The industry has gone through many changes in the past 25 years to assure quality and safety in the construction of such houses.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a manufactured home as a dwelling that contains at least 320 square feet with a permanent chassis to assure the initial and continued transportability of the home, thus, the reference to a "mobile" home.

In the past decade, the traditional mental picture of a manufactured home has changed dramatically. Many models carry no resemblance of their predecessors and look as if they were built on the spot.

The Manufactured Housing Institute (www.mfdhousing.com) has put together an informative Web site on manufactured houses, with the assistance of the Federal Trade Commission's Office of Consumers and Business Education.

MHI reports that "Federal standards and written warranties protect buyers of manufactured homes. Every manufactured home now offered for sale has a small red and silver seal that certifies that the home has been inspected during construction and meets federal home construction and safety standards. These standards were developed to assure a suitable level of performance in every manufactured home constructed in the U.S."

Buying a manufactured home has additional steps not found in the sale of an already existing house on a developed lot. In general, the buyer would shop at manufactured home dealers and purchase through the dealer. The first step, however, is to find a place where the manufactured home will be located.

Is it a piece of land you own or rent? Is it a community of manufactured homes or an independent piece of land? Does it have the proper infrastructure, such as sewerage, electrical hookup, foundation and plumbing? What permits are required by your state to transport the home to its final resting place and do you have to take care of this or is it included in the purchase price?

Next, you'll get to select your house almost the way you would purchase a new car. Many dealers and manufacturers have interactive electronic-commerce sites where buyers can take virtual tours of their homes.

Some houses have up to 2,500 square feet under the roof and boast sun rooms and decks.

Dealers will have manufactured homes on a lot that you'll be able to tour. While the house is already constructed, the consumer does have some selections, such as the home size, floor plan, options and features, appliance package and possible energy efficiency packages. In addition, once the house is bought, you will have to have prepared a lot for hosting the home.

During this whole process, you want to make sure you have the proper insurance policy to cover transportation, installation and protection of your new home while you're heading toward the home plot. If you are buying a manufactured home in an already existing community, then the above steps are moot.

Financing manufactured homes is just as easy a process as a traditional property with many financing companies available to offer mortgages on the dwelling.

Keep in mind that, as with any house, the most expensive part of the purchase is usually the land. In housing markets where prices have escalated beyond all reason, it's the lack of land that drives the price up. In Washington, for instance, many of the $500,000 homes would easily sell for $100,000 if placed in another location.

Manufactured homes can be an affordable way to get into housing for first-time or low-to-moderate-income purchasers. Spend some time online and visit some of the links below to start your research.


•International Real Estate Directory (www.ired.com/dir/mobile.htm).

•Department of Housing and Urban Development, list of manufacturers (www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/mhs/mhshome.cfm).

•Manufactured Housing Institute (www.mfdhousing.com).

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 12 years. Contact him by e-mail ([email protected]).

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