Mobile Home News
News / Consumer

Homemaker Buyers turn to mobile homes
By Renee Thompson, Correspondent
July 25, 2006

While some Californians are fleeing the Golden State in search of more affordable housing, others lured to the beauty and great weather of Ventura County are turning to an alternative.

The Storeys are part of that trend. In May, they sold their Ventura home for $626,900 and paid $150,000 in cash for a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home in the Ojai Oaks Village.

"We are college-educated people. And yet we refinanced our home in Ventura three times," said Kristin Storey, who is married and has a daughter. "We owed more on our house when we sold it than when we originally bought it six years ago."

The typical manufactured-home buyers are not the quintessential retirees of the past; they are younger, more affluent and more likely to have families, according to the California Manufactured Housing Institute. In a 2005 forecast, the institute said new buyers were expected to be near the average household size of 2.7, up from the 1.9 average for those who currently own mobile homes.

Storey said they were paying interest-only on their Ventura home. They knew the day was approaching when they would have to deal with the consequences of not making a dent in the loan principal.

"I feel free ? before I felt like I was in bondage," Storey said. "We are saving a minimum of $1,000 a month by living in a mobile home. We wanted to move to Ojai, but the homes were so expensive. A mobile home is what we could realistically afford."

There are nearly 650,000 mobile homes in California, housing about 1.4 million people, according to the institute. In 2005, 63,000 California families purchased a new or existing mobile home. Mobile homes accounted for more than 9 percent of all homes sold last year statewide.

Tom and Jill Bassett were regular weekend visitors to Channel Islands Harbor. The couple and their teenage daughter dreamed of owning a boat and living at the beach in Oxnard. Last summer, the couple sold their home in Burbank for $450,000, paid off their mortgage and purchased a mobile home at Oxnard Shores Mobile Home Park.

For $299,000, they were able to get a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home, with a gas fireplace and the amenities of a new home.

"My mobile home is bigger than our home in Burbank, which was only 1,150 square feet," Jill Bassett said.

The Bassetts' beach location increased the price, and the couple feels like the price is inflated because they pay space rent on top of their $60,000 mobile home loan. The rent is not tax deductible like a mortgage.

"Still, I love the security, private streets, clubhouse, pool, storage yard for our boat and not having a homeowners association," Bassett said.

The institute said that more buyers are getting the homes to sit on private property, but there are 4,900 communities in California and many of those use a lease-land arrangement. That allows the family to own the home, but the dirt underneath is leased. Space rent typically goes to maintaining community amenities such as a pool, park and security.

Across the state, space fees generally range from $250 to $1,500 per month, according to the institute. The price range of homes sold in December 2005 was $23,014 to $369,000.

Some mobile home parks operate as a cooperative or other arrangement that allows tenants to also own the land.

Pat Mills, a Realtor with Troop Real Estate, reports listing or selling 10 mobile homes at Hollywood Beach Mobile Home Park in Oxnard over the last couple of years. She also lives there.

"Our park is getting very popular since the owners of the park are in the process of subdividing the park so we can purchase our own land," Mills said. "The proposal is before the Oxnard City Council right now." But there are many benefits whether renting or owning the land.

The Storeys have now realized their goal of being debt-free, they also have sufficient money to pay for a college education for their daughter and have hired a certified financial planner. "It's about quality of life for us, not about keeping up with the Joneses," Storey said.

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