Fischer: Trailer homeownership comes with more than a few pitfalls
When it rains, it pours … on Gloria’s head, literally. Water leaks down on her bed — more uncomfortable during the nighttime hours, when she’s trying to sleep, but not pleasant during the day either. Frankly, it is not just when it rains either. The soggy bedroom saga is a regular occurrence with any type of moisture that falls from the sky onto her inherently incapable roof. Gloria (her name has been changed) has had several professional repairs done to her roof, but to no avail. Unfortunately, the roof is not the only problem. Her home is not insulated, requires multiple plumbing and electrical repairs, has inadequate heating and cooling, and has rapidly depreciated in value over the past few years. One may question, with good reason, how this is possible given the heated seller’s market, where nearly everything has doubled or tripled in value over the last decade. It is the omission of a single factor: Gloria lives in a mobile home.
While all these discommodities are more than inconvenient for Gloria, the more looming problem lies in recent news that the entire trailer park in which she resides is going to be closing for redevelopment. She, as well as all the other residents of the park, have mere months to transplant their homes to a different location. Easier said than done. While the expense of moving her home to a different park is prohibitive, her home cannot be moved even if she could find the financial means to move it. Gloria’s home was built before 1976. According to regulations put into place by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, mobile homes built before 1976 do not meet HUD standards and cannot be accepted as compliant to state housing codes; therefore, they cannot be placed on a lot.
Between a rock and a hard place is the best way to describe Gloria’s situation. Although the lot rent in her soon-to-be-defunct trailer park has increased from $220 per month to $710 per month during the last few years, it is still less expensive than renting an apartment or home right now. She had hoped to someday sell her trailer and use the proceeds to purchase a home.
Like Gloria, many people who embark on the path of homeownership through the much smaller initial “investment” of a trailer should know that a trailer is often not an investment at all but, rather, a liability.
While there may be initial advantages to trailer homeownership, these advantages are similar to the conveniences of purchasing a new car: low maintenance, availability, mobility and environmental friendliness. The other common aspect is this — both transfer title with the Division of Motor Vehicles. Essentially, it’s a large car parked in an expensive garage. Not to mention, both lose value the second you drive them off the lot.
While I understand this may be one of few housing options available to some people, it should not be presented as an investment. Historically, trailer homes depreciate at about the same rate as a vehicle. Resale is difficult at best. Financing for these homes is next to impossible to obtain unless they are brand new, and even then, these homes are handled like high-risk loans and the money comes at a very high price. Not to mention, the park policy zealots seem to be on overtime duty in most parks.
Fortunately, not every mobile home park will result in redevelopment, but I have seen this happen in recent years more often than I could have surmised; and we will, most likely, see even more of it as the need for high-density housing increases and parks are sold for redevelopment of such. The facts of such possibilities upfront could prevent sleepless nights of saturated snoozing.
Jen Fischer is a Realtor and associate broker. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or email@example.com.