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Mobile homes or static caravans are prefabricated homes built in factories, rather than on site, and then taken to the place where they will be occupied. They are usually transported by tractor-trailers over public roads to sites which are often in rural areas or high-density developments. In some countries they are used for temporary accommodation on campsites. While these houses are usually placed in one location and left there permanently, they do retain the ability to be moved as this is a requirement in many areas. Behind the cosmetic work fitted at installation to hide the base, there are strong trailer frames, axles, wheels and tow-hitches. The two major sizes are single-wides and double-wides. Single-wides are eighteen feet or less in width and 90 feet (27 m) or less in length and can be towed to their site as a single unit. Double-wides are twenty feet or more wide and are 90 feet (27 m) in length or less and are towed to their site in two separate units, which are then joined together. Triple-wides and even homes with four, five, or more units are also built, although not as commonly. They also differ from site built homes in that it is not uncommon for owners to "Trade up", as one might with a car. While site-built homes are rarely moved, mobile home owners often "trade", or sell their home to a dealer in the form of the reduction of the purchase of a new home. These "used" homes are either re-sold to new owners, or to park owners who use them as inexpensive rental units. Single wides are more likely to be traded than double wides since removing them from the site is easier.

Contents

 History

This form of housing goes back to the early years of cars and motorized highway travel. It was derived from the travel trailer, a small unit with wheels attached permanently, often used for camping. Larger units intended to be used as dwellings for several months or more in one location came to be known as house trailers.

The original rationale for this type of housing was its mobility. Units were initially marketed primarily to people whose lifestyle required mobility. However, beginning in the 1950s, the homes began to be marketed primarily as an inexpensive form of housing designed to be set up and left in a location for long periods of time, or even permanently installed with a masonry foundation. Previously, units had been eight feet or less in width, but in 1956, the 10-foot (3 m) wide home ("ten-wide") was introduced, along with the new term "mobile home." The homes were given a rectangular shape, made from pre-painted aluminum panels, rather than the streamlined shape of travel trailers, which were usually painted after assembly. All of this helped increase the difference between these homes and house/travel trailers. The smaller, "eight-wide" units could be moved simply with a car, but the larger, wider units ("ten-wide", and, later, twelve-wide") usually required the services of a professional trucking company, and, often, a special moving permit from a state highway department. During the 1960s and '70s, the homes were made even longer and wider, making the mobility of the units more difficult. Nowadays, when a factory-built home is moved to a location, it is usually kept there permanently and the mobility of the units has considerably decreased. In some states, mobile homes have been taxed as personal property if the wheels remain attached, but as real estate if the wheels are removed.

Many people who could not afford a traditional site-built home or did not desire to commit to spending a large sum of money on housing began to see factory-built homes as a viable alternative for long-term housing needs. The units were often marketed as an alternative to apartment rental. However, the tendency of the units of this era to depreciate rapidly in resale value made using them as collateral for loans much riskier than traditional home loans. Terms were usually limited to less than the thirty year term typical of the general home-loan market, and interest rates were considerably higher. In other words, home loans resembled motor vehicle loans more than traditional home mortgages.

 Regulation

In the United States, these homes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), via the Federal National Mfd. Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974. It is this national regulation that has allowed many manufacturers to distribute nationwide, since they are immune to the jurisdiction of local building authorities. By contrast, producers of modular homes must abide by state and local building codes. There are, however, windzones adopted by HUD that home builders must follow. For example, state-wide, Florida is at least windzone 2. South Florida is windzone 3, the strongest windzone. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, new standards were adopted for home construction. The codes for building within these windzones were significantly amended, which has greatly increased their durability. During the 2004 hurricanes in Florida, these standards were put to the test, with great success. Yet, older models continue to face the exposed risk to high winds due to the attachments applied such as carports, porch and screen room additions. These areas are exposed to "wind capture" which apply extreme force to the underside of the integrated roof panel systems, ripping the fasteners through the roof pan causing a series of events which destroys the main roof system and the home.

 Modern Construction Methods

Today's efficient construction methods provide consistant quality by using specialized labor to complete various components before assembled into a completed unit...[1]

 Legal complications

 
A modern "triple wide" home, designed to look like an adobe house.

The popularity of the factory built homes caused complications the legal system was not prepared to handle. Originally, factory built homes tended to be taxed as vehicles rather than real estate, which resulted in very low property tax rates for their inhabitants. This caused local governments to reclassify them for taxation purposes.

However, even with this change, rapid depreciation often resulted in the home occupants paying far less in property taxes than had been anticipated and budgeted. The ability to move many factory built homes rapidly into a relatively small area resulted in strains to the infrastructure and governmental services of the affected areas, such as inadequate water pressure and sewage disposal, and highway congestion. This led jurisdictions to begin placing limitations on the size and density of developments.

As noted above, early homes, even those that were well-maintained, tended to depreciate in value over time, much like motor vehicles, rather than appreciate in value, as with site-built homes. The arrival of these homes in an area tended to be regarded with alarm, in part because of devaluation of the housing potentially spreading to preexisting structures.

This combination of factors has caused most jurisdictions to place zoning regulations on the areas in which factory built homes are placed, and limitations on the number and density of homes permitted on any given site. Other restrictions, such as minimum size requirements, limitations on exterior colors and finishes, and foundation mandates have also been enacted. There are many jurisdictions that will not allow the placement of any additional factory built homes. Others have strongly limited or forbidden all single-wide models, which tend to depreciate in value more rapidly than modern double-wide models.

Apart from all the practical issues described above, there is also the constant discussion about legal fixture and chattels - meaning that the legal status of a trailer is, or could be, affected by its incorporation to the land or not. This sometimes involves such factors as whether or not the wheels have been removed.

Financing

Financing for manufactured homes can be very difficult to arrange. Most banks won’t finance manufactured homes when there is no land included in the loan. There are some companies that specialize in mobile home loans and mobile home financing. They can finance and refinance mobile homes in parks. The United States Department of Agriculture has rural development guaranteed loan and direct loan programs for low-income individuals living in small towns and rural areas who currently have inadequate housing. The restrictions on loans involving manufactured homes require that the unit be brand-new, located on a relatively small lot and sold to the new occupant as a package deal. The biggest problem with this program is that once the unit has been occupied, new buyers will not be able to qualify for the same type of loan, as the home is no longer new, making it difficult for the current occupant to "trade up" to a larger or better property.

 Mobile Home Parks

Mobile homes are often sited in land lease communities known as mobile home parks. Also referred to as trailer parks, mobile home communities, manufactured home communities, and factory built home communities, these communities allow home owners to rent space on which to place a home. In addition to providing space, the community can provide basic utilities such as water, sewer, electricity, or natural gas and other amenities such as community rooms, pools, and playgrounds.

There are over 35,000 mobile home parks in the United States ranging in size from 5 to over 1,000 home sites. Although most parks appeal to meeting basic housing needs, some communities specialize towards certain segments of the market. One subset of mobile home parks, Retirement Communities, restrict residents to those age 55 and older. Another subset of mobile home parks, Seasonal Communities, are located in popular vacation destinations or are used as a location for summer homes.

Newer homes, particularly double-wides, tend to be built to much higher standards than their predecessors and meet the building codes applicable to most areas. This has led to a reduction in the rate of value depreciation of most used units.

Additionally, modern homes tend to be built from materials similar to those used in site-built homes rather than inferior, lighter-weight materials. They are also more likely to physically resemble site-built homes. Often, the primary differentiation in appearance is that factory built homes tend to have less of a roof slope so that they can be readily transported underneath bridges and overpasses. The number of double-wide units sold exceeds the number of single-wides, which is due in part to the aforementioned zoning restrictions. Another reason for higher sales is the spaciousness of double-wide units, which are now comparable to site-built homes. Single-wide units are still popular primarily in rural areas, where there are fewer restrictions. They are frequently used as temporary housing in areas affected by natural disasters, when restrictions are temporarily waived.

Another recent trend has been parks in which the owner of the mobile home owns the lot on which his unit is parked. Some of these communities simply provide land in a homogeneous neighborhood, but others are operated more like condominiums with clubhouses complete with swimming pools and meeting rooms which are shared by all of the residents, who are required to pay membership fees and dues.

] Modulars

A mobile home is prepared for transport.

Modular built homes are transported on flatbed trucks rather than being towed, and lack axles and an automotive-type frame. However, some of these houses are towed behind a semi-truck on a frame similar to that of a trailer. The house is usually in two pieces and is hauled by two separate trucks. Each frame has five or more axles, depending on the size of the house. Once the house has reached its location, the axles and the tongue of the frame are then removed, and the house is set on a concrete foundation by a large crane.

Both styles are commonly referred to as factory built housing, although its technical use is restricted to a class of homes regulated by the Federal National Mfd. Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974.

Most zoning restrictions on the homes have been found to be inapplicable or only applicable to modular homes. This occurs often after considerable litigation on the topic by affected jurisdictions and by plaintiffs failing to ascertain the difference. Most modern modulars, once fully assembled, are indistinguishable from site-built homes. Their roofs are usually transported as separate units. Newer modulars also come with roofs than can be raised during the setting process with cranes. There are also modulars with 2 or 3 stories. As the legal differentiation between the two becomes more codified, the market for modular homes is likely to grow.

The traditional home industry would seem to have a bright future as well. As the demand for housing continues to grow, the price of housing continues to increase rapidly. The quality and features of these homes has led to greater acceptance by a growing segment of the marketplace. Additionally, insurers and lenders are now more likely to treat the higher-end factory built home as they would a traditional hom

 

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