Answer: Not everybody can afford to buy a traditional "stick built" house. Manufactured housing is an affordable alternative, but you need to know exactly what you are buying.
First, you need to understand the lingo. "Manufactured housing" covers a wide range of housing styles: everything from mobile homes to sophisticated factory-built wood frame homes.
It sounds like you're talking about an old-fashioned, metal-sided "park model" home. That type of mobile home is not real estate, it is personal property, like a car. And like cars, mobile homes generally depreciate in value.
Most mobile home parks don't sell their pads outright, so you'd be paying rent each month for the privilege of "parking" your home. And there's no guarantee that you'll be able to stay there as long as you'd like.
Mobile home parks sometimes get redeveloped out of existence because the land they sit may be more valuable as commercial space.
If you purchase your own lot, state law allows manufactured homes (including mobile homes) to become "real property" when they are permanently affixed to the land.
The law requires the owner to apply for "elimination of title." Once the manufactured home title has been eliminated, notice of the elimination is recorded in the county records department, and the home is treated as real property, just as if it were a site-built structure.
This makes it easier and less expensive for the owner to obtain financing and title insurance on the property. Applications for elimination of title can be obtained from your local vehicle registration agency.
Frankly, I would recommend against purchasing a "park model" mobile home. Focus instead on buying a wood-framed manufactured home that you can place on a lot you own.
Modern well-built factory homes are practically indistinguishable from site-built homes.
Personally, I recommend staying away from domes and other highly unusual home designs. There's nothing inherently wrong with them, but you're limiting your potential resale market because most buyers want a "normal" home.
Log homes are popular in some areas, but make sure they fit in with the character of your neighborhood. For example, a log home would look out of place in downtown Everett, and it would be a very tough sell.
Finally consider the difficulty of obtaining financing. A critical factor is whether the home ever had wheels. If you have a factory-built wooden home that is delivered by truck and assembled on site, that is different than a traditional "mobile home," which has wheels until they are removed and the home is placed on a permanent foundation.
Lenders tend to discriminate against "mobile homes" and charge higher interest rates with stricter underwriting guidelines if the home was originally on wheels.
If you have a "manufactured home" there is still some discrimination on the part of mortgage lenders, but not quite as much.
Either way, you can expect to have a much harder time getting financing than you would if you purchased a "stick built" house. Most banks and mortgage companies have stopped making manufactured home loans of any kind, only a small handful of lenders are still in the game. So your mortgage options will be extremely limited.
Because of the financing problems with manufactured homes, I think you would be much better off trying to find a traditional home you can afford. But if that is totally out of the question, keep in mind the suggestions I made above.
Steve Tytler is a licensed real estate broker and owner of Best Mortgage. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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