Demand remains strong for mobile homes, though you can wait up to a year for delivery

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Country Lane Estates on Sabattus Street in Lewiston is one of three parks owned by Country Lane Homes, a dealer of manufactured and modular homes, also on Sabattus Street. The other parks are Stetson Brook Estates on Heather Drive in Lewiston and Maple Hill Estates on Elm Street in Mechanic Falls. Owner Sandra Hinkley said the three parks have more than 450 sites. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON – Homes, RVs, cars, trucks and mobile homes are all in high demand, with low inventory. The result is surprisingly similar from one category to another; if you want one, you’ll have to wait.

It’s the new normal for the two major purchases in most people’s lives – cars and homes – so be prepared to compromise on what you want and be prepared to wait for it to become available. In the case of mobile homes in the area, this means you will have to wait up to a year for a new one.

“Our demand is up and we can’t get product,” said Sandra Hinkley, owner of Country Lane Homes on Sabattus Street. “So kind of like the real estate market – there’s very little inventory – but people are looking to buy things and they just can’t find them. So it’s kind of the same thing.”

Zachariah Brassard, managing director of Coastline Homes in Oxford, is already taking orders for 2023 because the five mobile and modular homes on his land are not for sale, they are models for customers to see what they will buy.

Mobile homes have long been considered an affordable alternative to traditional housing, but gained a less than desirable reputation as “cheap” in the 1960s and 1970s, before regulation of the industry by the federal Department of Housing and Development. Urban development.

“There’s nothing cheap about our product,” Hinkley said quickly. “It’s a house, it’s quality construction, it has the same construction features that you would find in site construction, like two-by-six walls, insulation values, energy efficiency — windows and insulation. It’s affordable, but it’s definitely not cheap terminology.

The National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 directed HUD to establish federal standards for the design and construction of manufactured homes to ensure quality, durability, safety and affordability. Since then, the industry has undergone a transformation.

Manufactured or mobile homes are permanently attached to a frame. Modular homes are set on a concrete slab or foundation with a basement like a traditional home, and assembled on site.

WHAT’S INSIDE MAY SURPRISE YOU

Look inside today’s mobile home and you’ll likely find an open floor plan, kitchens with full-size stainless steel appliances, plenty of cabinetry, central heat, washer hookups and dryer and at least two bedrooms and a bathroom – all in less than 1,000 square feet.

A kitchen in a new mobile home has an island, double sink and stainless steel appliances. country lane houses

According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, there are 129 manufacturing plants in the country that produced more than 94,000 homes in 2019. That year, the average selling price was $78,500, without land – $52,400 for a singlewide, $99,500 for a doublewide.

Today, that single-width mobile home will cost 50-100% more.

Hinkley said a mobile home is always an affordable option. “Generally you can get into something for $80,000 for a brand new 2023 model year, two bedroom, two bath 14ft by 66ft all installed in one of our communities for $80,000+ , depending on what else you might want to have at home. »

Industry research shows that approximately 40% of mobile homes end up in mobile home parks, ideal for people looking for less maintenance and a more community feel. The rest is placed on private property.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, most manufacturing plants shut down production. They still haven’t recovered, which has resulted in a backlog of orders. For many dealers, an allocation system has been put in place to meet the ever-increasing demand.

The living room of a new mobile home has an entertainment wall with cupboards and shelves. country lane houses

“Demand has shifted to focus on single-detached homes with no land,” said Brassard, who added that he had already sold his lot for 2022. Before the pandemic, he would typically have about 12 homes on his lot of sale – a mix of mobile and modular homes.

Eligible first-time home buyers can apply for a home loan in the state of Maine, which only requires a 5% down payment and a credit score above 640. There is also a grant program where individuals or couples take the First-Time Home Buyers Course and get cash for all of their closing costs.

BUY LAND OR LEASE A COMMUNITY SITE

Brassard said land packages are simply not available in the Oxford area, the result of a combination of increased demand for land and soaring prices, due in large part, he says, to the out-of-state investors gobbling up available properties. Modular home sales have slowed this year for him, with the cost of a new three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,400-square-foot home averaging $260,000. Add in the cost of buying a few acres, building a foundation, adding utilities, installing a well and septic tank and you can count on adding another $100,000 to $110,000 to the final cost.

Coastline Homes of Oxford can put you in a landless singlewide for around $92,000. Delivery will be in 2023, but you’ll need to have somewhere to put it.

Mobile home dealers like Hinkley have a distinct advantage in that she has access to three family-owned mobile home parks, with over 450 locations. These are Country Lane Estates on Sabattus Street and Stetson Brook Estates on Heather Drive, both in Lewiston, and Maple Hill Estates on Elm Street in Mechanic Falls.

Renting a site in one of its communities costs $330 for a standard site, $345 for a preferred site, and slightly less at Mechanic Falls Park. But, she warns, the availability of sites is decreasing. “We’re almost full, which is amazing because I think the last time we were full was in the late 1980s, early 1990s. We had a waiting list. »

In some parts of the country, rental rates at mobile home parks have increased dramatically. The Washington Post this month cited an example from Forks, Washington, where park rent is going from $350 a month to $1,000 a month.

Hinkley, who also sits on the board of the Manufactured Housing Association of Maine, said she was unaware of any extreme rent increases here.

“Our rental prices have remained very reasonable, we haven’t increased much in years,” she explained. “I think we did one two years ago, but we’re not going to do one this year…because we know people are still struggling.”

Not all mobile home park owners are so understanding and community-minded. Private equity firms and investors are buying mobile home communities. Some upgrade parks and add amenities, then raise the rent accordingly.

Hinkley said she was constantly approached by investors wanting to buy their parks. His answer ? “It’s not for sale.”

NEED FOR MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING

US Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge attends the Innovative Housing Showcase on the National Mall on June 10. Picture HUD

The Biden administration has pushed manufactured homes as an affordable alternative and announced a number of measures in May aimed at making manufactured homes more affordable. One of the main goals of the housing supply action plan is to remove the long-standing requirement that mobile homes be attached to a frame, which adds several thousand dollars to the cost.

Another is to open lower cost financing through Freddie Mac and Freddie Mae. Mobile homes are not financed like traditional mortgages, which use land and the value of the home as collateral. Chattel or chattel loans, as they are called, are secured by the value of the mobile home and tend to carry higher interest rates for shorter terms.

Earlier this month, HUD partnered with builders for the Innovative Housing Showcase on the National Mall – a three-day event designed to draw attention to new building technologies and housing solutions to meet affordability and availability of homes.

“To expand access to affordable housing and home ownership, we need to reduce the time and cost to build new homes,” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. “Innovation in housing design and construction technology is a critical part of this effort and one that HUD has advanced since its inception.”

RESOURCES:

For emergency rental assistance: Community Concepts, 800-866-5588 or https://www.ccimaine.org/

For first-time home buyers: Maine State Housing, 207-626-4600 or https://www.mainehousing.org/


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