If you’re among the growing number of people looking to buy a mobile home in California, there are a few steps to take: Talk to owners of mobile homes, consider your priorities, learn about local laws and regulations, locate dealerships and sellers, explore available manufacturers, and consider local conditions. Then you can finance and insure your home and sign a contract.
Finally, you’ll make sure the site is prepared before your home is delivered and set up.
We’ll help you understand the process of buying in California so you’ll be feeling like Hollywood royalty in your new home before you know it.
Table of Contents:
1. Talk to Owners of Manufactured Homes in California
One of the best ways to learn the pros and cons is to start conversations with current owners. For many California residents, a manufactured home offers the best balance of value, price, and lifestyle.
You won’t have to look far. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over half a million such homes in California.
Manufactured homes—also known as mobile homes, though the term is technically out-of-date—make up about 3.7% of all housing units in the state (compared to about 6.1% nationally).
Although the percentage of manufactured homes in California is currently lower than that in other states, the fact that California is by far the most populous state means many people are buying manufactured homes here each day.
According to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, California ranked 3rd in the total number of manufactured home loans in 2018. Three counties ranked among the top 15, too—with Riverside County taking the #1 position. In fact, there were more manufactured homes financed in Riverside County than in all of Minnesota.
A large proportion of those homes are located in mobile home parks, or manufactured home communities. The state of California is home to about 4,993 mobile home parks (source: mhvillage.com). Some of those parks are all-age communities, while others are targeted at the 55+ age group.
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2. Consider your Priorities
Why choose a manufactured home in California for your next dwelling? There are two major reasons: cost savings and lifestyle.
It’s no secret that one of the major draws of a manufactured home is its price. Because manufactured homes are assembled indoors in a central location, there is no need to stop work due to poor weather.
Materials can be purchased and stocked in bulk, and workers don’t need to travel to a job site every day. Trained workers building the same type of structure each day also contribute to efficiency. Overall, it is far more cost-effective to construct a manufactured home than a site-built one.
That efficiency translates to a lower price. According to the Manufactured Housing Survey, the average manufactured home in the West cost just $103,463 in 2020. Compare that to the median home price in California of $568,500.
In addition, some residents simply prefer the manufactured home lifestyle. Homes are typically smaller and easier to maintain, and residents of a mobile home community can share amenities and services, not to mention social opportunities.
If you like the lifestyle and budget is a significant factor, a manufactured home may be your best bet for owning a home in California.
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3. Get Familiar with California Law
Regulation of the manufactured home industry in California falls under the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The California state legislature passed its main manufactured housing law in 1980. Manufactured home regulations fall roughly into two categories: The first concerns manufacturing, sales, and installation. The second concerns ownership and regulation of mobile home parks.
California largely defers to HUD with regards to the manufacture of homes, though HCD is responsible for regulating any alteration of existing HUD code homes, and the state may conduct inspections to make sure HUD rules are being followed.
As for home installation, the state allows most decisions to be made at the local level, especially given the diverse geography of the state.
California has relatively strong laws protecting owners of manufactured homes, especially with regards to mobile home parks, and the Office of the Mobilehome Ombudsman can help citizens who have issues with their manufacturer, contractor, or dealer.
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4. Locate Nearby Sellers
Once you’re ready to shop for a home, you’ll need to locate a few dealerships near you—or, if you’re looking for an existing home, a few interesting listings to visit.
A manufactured home dealership, or retailer, is much like a car dealership. They will have a variety of models to choose from, and you can tour several onsite.
When you’re ready to buy, they’ll be able to walk you through any customizations and place an order with the manufacturer if the exact home you want is not on the lot.
There are independent dealers who may sell more than one brand of home, or factory dealers who sell from only one company.
One more place to look is at the community where you want to lease a lot. Sometimes park owners will have models available for you to buy.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development operates the occupational licensing program for dealers and salespeople in the state, ensuring that they pass appropriate checks and have the necessary education.
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5. Evaluate Manufacturers and their Products
Once you’ve seen a few homes, you’ll want to do some more research into the manufacturing companies and their lines. While all builders have to follow the HUD code, there are plenty of differences in terms of quality versus price, layouts, looks, service, and warranties.
In California, you have plenty of options. Here are some manufacturers who serve the state:
- a) Cavco Homes
- b) Clayton Homes
- c) Fleetwood Homes (Cavco)
- d) Franklin Homes (C3 Design, Inc.)
- e) Golden West Homes (Clayton)
- f) Hallmark Southwest Corp.
- g) Karsten Company, Inc.
- h) Kit Homebuilders West LLC
- i) Marlette Homes, Inc. (Clayton)
- j) Palm Harbor Homes (Cavco)
- k) Redman Homes (Champion)
- l) Schult Homes
- m) Silvercrest Homes
- n) Skyline Corporation
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6. Consider Local Conditions
As you shop for your new home, it’s important to consider the conditions it will be subjected to and make sure it is built to withstand them.
California’s weather can hold a lot of surprises. Fires and mudslides can be a risk to any home, site-built or manufactured. Your retailer should be able to tell you what features of the home will help it stand up to anything from strong winds to flooding.
You may also want to look for an energy-efficient home; many brands offer Energy Star option packages. The length of a manufactured home and lack of a second floor make for a high proportion of exterior walls, which can make it expensive to cool your home during hot summers if it isn’t well-sealed and insulated.
Proper installation makes all the difference in your home’s ability to withstand California’s natural events, such as earthquakes, so make sure your installation team is licensed and has a good reputation. Ask plenty of questions if you have concerns about particular weather conditions in your area.
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7. Finance, Insure, and Sign on the Dotted Line
Once you’ve found the home for you, you’ll need to decide how to pay for it. Cash is always an option. Many buyers, though, will need a loan. Loans for manufactured homes generally come in two flavors: chattel loans (for personal property) and mortgages (for real estate).
According to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from 2018, just over 60% of loans for manufactured homes that year in California were Land/Home loans, while just under 40% were chattel loans.
While the state of California does not require you to have mobile home insurance, your lender may require it; in any case, insurance is an important way to protect yourself financially if something should happen to your home.
Once your financing is arranged and you have your insurance, you’ll be ready to sign the contract for your new home.
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8. Delivery and Setup
Once you’ve ordered your home and purchased or leased some land, it’s time to make sure your site is prepared. Then, roughly two to three months after you’ve begun the process, your home will be delivered and installed. After the final walk-through, you’ll get the keys and move into your new California home!
Overall, buying a manufactured home in California is just like buying a manufactured home in the rest of the United States. For more detailed information about the process, check out 10 Key Things to Know Before Buying a Manufactured Home and 8 Key Steps to Buy a Manufactured Home.
Soon you may find yourself ready to join the many satisfied owners of manufactured homes in the Golden State.
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