There are many different types of manufactured home community: some operate under a land-lease system while others are resident-owned; some serve families and others house seniors; some are priced low while others are in the luxury range.
Manufactured homes—also known as mobile homes, though the term is technically outdated—are a popular type of housing for those who want to own their home for less or who simply enjoy the lifestyle. It is estimated that about 5.6 percent of Americans—about 17.7 million people—live in manufactured homes.
Roughly two thirds of manufactured homes in America are placed on private land, but the rest are situated in manufactured home communities, often called “mobile home parks.”
These communities come in many varieties, targeted at different portions of the population. There are some that cater exclusively to seniors, providing services and companionship for those of retirement age. Others emphasize luxury, with many amenities and an emphasis on appearances.
Manufactured home communities also vary in terms of their ownership. Many are land-lease communities where homeowners lease lots. Others are owned by the residents. Increasingly, the owners may be for-profit investors.
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For many people who buy a manufactured home, leasing a lot in a manufactured home community is purely a matter of budget. For those who have options, though, there are many pros and cons to consider: the sense of community versus the inevitable rent hikes; the privacy that comes from not sharing walls versus the rules and restrictions; the lower initial cost versus the vulnerability to unethical landlords.
Those who can afford to choose, and who decide that life in a manufactured home community is right for them, are faced with a wide selection of different neighborhoods to join. With lots from budget to luxury, and with a wide array of amenities and social groups, there is sure to be a community out there for everyone.
We’ll explore the various types of manufactured home community and their Pros and Cons. If you are in search of a place to put your manufactured home, you’ll find many ideas here.
Table of Contents:
1. Land-Lease Communities
Most manufactured home communities are set up as land-lease communities. That means that the land is owned by an individual or business entity which leases individual lots to residents. In other words, while residents own their own houses, they lease the land on which their homes are placed.
There are many benefits to this arrangement. For one, the lots are created for manufactured homes, so they are already prepared, usually including a level concrete pad and hook-ups for electricity and water.
Financially, a land-lease arrangement can benefit a homeowner by requiring less money upfront in exchange for monthly rent payments. It can also be convenient; many owners include utility payments and other services in the same bill.
While the benefits of leasing the land and owning the home are many, there are also some major downsides. For example, residents have to abide by any rules set by the landlord. They do not build equity in the land since they don’t own it, and rent can be raised greatly and unexpectedly. Residents may also encounter changes in ownership.
If the community becomes a problem, it is not easy to leave and find a new site. Many homes cannot be moved at all, and even if the home can be moved, the process can be difficult and expensive. Residents may have no choice but to stay.
How much does it cost to lease a lot? It depends on the location, quality, and management, but in most parts of the country $400-600 is a good estimate.
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2. Resident-Owned Communities
One alternative to a land-lease community is a resident-owned community, or ROC. ROCs are far less common than land-lease communities, but their numbers are increasing.
In ROCs, homeowners join together to form a business entity called a cooperative. The cooperative owns the land and manages the community, and each homeowner owns a share in the land.
This arrangement gives residents control of monthly rent, maintenance, amenities, and improvements. It also provides security against unfair evictions. Decisions are made by a board of directors within the community.
The downsides to this arrangement are that homeowners have increased responsibility for how their community functions, and that ROCs can be difficult to find.
Nonprofits such as ROC USA exist to help residents come together to buy their manufactured home communities.
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3. Mobile Home Park Chains
While many manufactured home communities are independently owned, an increasing number belong to chains. Like stores and restaurants, these chains are centrally controlled and have similarities.
The parks themselves can be run on many levels by a central administration, or they can follow a predesigned plan and operate as franchises.
Whether or not your community is part of a chain generally won’t matter day-to-day, but there are still a few pros and cons for residents.
Centralized control may mean that there is better oversight of park management, offering some protection against a bad landlord.
On the other hand, it may mean residents have less say in decisions that affect the community as policies are handed down from higher levels of the organization.
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4. Investors as Owners
America is facing a severe shortage of affordable housing, and the manufactured housing industry is booming. Owning manufactured home communities can lead to consistently good rates of return, and that has brought investors into the picture.
These investors include everything from big-name real estate investment trusts and private equity funds to regional investors.
Is that good news or bad news for residents? It depends. Sometimes new ownership can bring nice updates to a community, but perhaps more often it brings spiking rent prices.
Investors who are looking at increasing their profit margins may put fewer resources into the communities they own while asking higher rent, knowing that residents cannot easily pick up and move.
5. Budget Communities
Price is one of the biggest benefits of living in a manufactured home. The average household income among residents of manufactured homes is about $28,000, an amount that can make a site-built home prohibitive.
Many parks and communities provide affordability to their residents. The least expensive of these provide just the bare bones—a place to set up your home, hook-ups for utilities, and not much else.
Because these communities do not need to emphasize customer service, it is a good idea to shop around and talk to your potential neighbors to find out if the management is fair and on top of things. It is also important to pay attention to your security.
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6. Family-Focused Communities
The largest age group of mobile home residents consists of those from 18 to 29 years; this demographic makes up about 23 percent of the manufactured home population.
Many parks are great for family life. All ages are welcomed, and there are perks for family-focused residents.
In family-oriented parks, the benefits of manufactured homes over apartments can be seen. Families may have their own yard space where kids can play, and the lack of shared walls can be fully appreciated when babies cry at night.
Some communities offer amenities that appeal specifically to families. They may have swimming pools or playgrounds as well as organized community activities.
Those who worry whether their neighbors are safe to be around their children may find some reassurance in communities where the administration runs background checks on all new residents.
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7. Retirement/55+ Communities
One of the largest (and fastest-growing) types of specialty community is the senior or retirement community. This type of community is popping up all over the country in greater numbers, especially in areas where retirees tend to gather, such as Arizona and Florida.
Retirement communities run the gamut from budget to luxury, but they all have age restrictions for residents (generally 55 and above), with the intent of building a community of people with the same lifestyle in mind.
Senior communities tend to have more amenities and services than, for example, budget parks. They can be small or very large. The biggest ones might have community centers, hair salons, swimming pools, tennis courts, shuffleboard, bingo nights, dances, and more.
Before moving to a senior community, buyers should thoroughly consider how that decision will fit into their lifestyle and their financial picture.
For example, in most cases the individual will own the manufactured home (which may require a loan) but will rent the lot. That is an ongoing expense that can increase over time and by unexpected amounts.
Property taxes won’t be an issue—the landlord will charge enough rent to cover that expense—but there could be community or association fees in addition to the monthly rent.
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As far as the lifestyle, many seniors find a manufactured home community to be ideal. Owning a standalone home allows them to maintain their independence, while the proximity of neighbors and sense of community provide security and help when needed.
Many find a smaller home easier to maintain, and especially desirable when there are common spaces available for use. The community can provide many opportunities for friendships and even romances.
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- b) Pine Ridge at Crestwood in Manchester, New Jersey: A bonus service at this park is the daily shuttle that can take residents downtown for shopping and dining.
- c) Albuquerque Meadows in Albuquerque, New Mexico: With the Sandia Mountains in view and a park-like setting, this is a beautiful location with amenities akin to a country club.
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8. Luxury Communities
Manufactured homes have come a long way, but many people still aren’t aware of just how luxurious a manufactured home community can be. In highly desirable areas with extremely expensive real estate, a mobile home can be a way to own a piece of paradise.
Here are a few examples:
- a) Malibu, California: Paradise Cove: If you have a mere $3.35 million to spend in Malibu, you can buy yourself a home in Paradise Cove, situated in the bluffs overlooking the ocean and Catalina Island. A home here may have three bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms done in tile and marble, and a deck where residents can soak in the sunshine and the sea breeze. And there’s a private beach, too!
- b)Aspen, Colorado: Smuggler Park: Aspen draws crowds every year for its stunning mountain views and world-class ski slopes. Smuggler Park owns its nicknathe “Million-Dollar Trailer Park,” with many distinctive and luxurious mobile homes.
- c) Montauk, New York: Montauk Shores: This contemporary community is set in a classy seaside area, where cute shops and breezy beaches are close by. The hohere, sold as condos, are contemporary and retro-modern.
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9. Specialty Communities
While many mobile home parks offer the same basic amenities and differ mainly in size and management, there are some communities—especially retirement communities, which tend to attract individuals with a wide range of budgets—that offer more for people with certain interests.
These are communities where residents can expect to find many people who share their interests or who are like them in particular ways. We’ll explore a few of them here.
- a) Pet-Friendly: Not all mobile home parks allow residents to have pets, but some make furry friends feel extra welcome. These pet-friendly places are likely to attract a higher proportion of pet owners, giving residents common ground and a great way to meet new people.Example: Sedona Shadows in Sedona, Arizona allows up to three pets, as long as they are not of a breed perceived to be aggressive. It has wide paved streets for walking dogs and access to abundant natural areas nearby.
- b) Golf-Centric: Golf is a great retirement activity, and manufactured home communities have sprung up in areas that appeal to golf enthusiasts. These parks may have their own golf courses, pro shops, and more.Example: Schalamar Creek in Lakeland, Florida. This community is built around an 18-hole golf course. Residents compete in tournaments to win trophies and prizes. The course, which is located along a 750-acre bird sanctuary, was designed by a well-known course architect. There is a PGA teaching pro on staff, and a full-service golf shop provides for all its members’ golfing needs.
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- c) Work-Related: In certain areas of the country, many workers are needed on site—and these areas may not have large existing population centers. A prime example is the oil fields in places like North Dakota. Since manufactured homes can be built quickly and brought onsite, they are often some of the first housing to appear in an area experiencing a boom.Example: Tioga RV & Trailer Park in Tioga, North Dakota. This park advertises itself as being at the heart of the Bakken oil field boom. Given that employers in the oil fields want workers to have an address nearby—fearing that the workers will leave if they can’t find housing—this park provides a service to the community by making room for people who come to work.
- d) LGBTQ-Focused: Some communities are built specifically with LGBTQ residents in mind. These communities can provide a sense of security and acceptance, or even a chance to meet someone special.Example: The Resort on Carefree Boulevard in Fort Myers, Florida. This 50-acre community is for women only and includes homes and RV lots. Over 500 women, primarily lesbians, make their home at Carefree, which has plenty of community events for making friends.
- e) Waterfront Living: For a summer vacation vibe every day, a waterfront community is idea. Florida is the top location for waterfront manufactured home communities, most of them for the 55+ crowd. These communities may include beaches, piers, and places to relax overlooking the water.Example: Hacienda Del Rio in Edgewater, Florida. This resort-like community is located along the Intracoastal Waterway. Its amenities include a large swimming pool, spa, sauna, and whirlpool, as well as boat storage. The clubhouse overlooks a lagoon.
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- f) For Skiing Enthusiasts: While many mobile home communities exist in warm areas with pools and beaches, some people yearn for the snow. For those who can’t resist the urge to hit the slopes at every opportunity, a community located near a great ski area is a must.Example: Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Residents here need to drive less than ten minutes to arrive at Steamboat Resort, which has 165 trails.
By now it should be clear that manufactured home communities are not one-size-fits-all—in fact, they’re more like “something for everyone.” Whether a buyer wants to spend their retirement on the water or is looking for a cost-effective place to raise a young family, there is a mobile home park out there to cater to their needs.
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