Mobile homes: The original housing bubble

Gigi Douban Jul 26, 2013

Mobile homes: The original housing bubble

Gigi Douban Jul 26, 2013

If anyone can give the mobile home industry a boost, it’s the show “Duck Dynasty”. The backwoods reality show stars recently struck a deal with one of the big manufacturers, Clayton Homes.

But this is a TV show whose characters refer to themselves as “redneck”. And that’s a stereotype the mobile home industry is trying to shake.

“I have family members that think I’m in the trailer business,” says Kirk Walker. He sells mobile homes for The Home Place in Pinson, Alabama.

“And of course they’ve been in and looked and can’t imagine that this is what a mobile home or manufactured home has come to,” he says.

Walker shows me one of the homes they have for sale.  He says these houses are more energy efficient than they used to be. Inside, they look a lot like a regular home.

But the real draw, Walker says, is the price. A new mobile home in 2012 was less than half the cost of a traditional new home.  

Walker says people are realizing that. But it’s been a slow crawl toward where the market once was. 

“For 2012, we probably had, I want to say, a 20 to 25 percent increase over 2010,” says Walker.

There are still challenges.  Sherry Norris is head of the Alabama Manufactured Housing Association. She says her industry is trying to loosen federal restrictions on loans for manufactured houses. 

Norris says, “We haven’t been able to sell the homes we would like because of the strenuous regulations that have been put on financing.”

Another thing dragging out the slump? A lot of people in the last few years thought: ‘Why buy a mobile home when there are cheap foreclosures?’

Walker agrees. “It’s still hurting us a little. There’s still an influx of site-built foreclosures out there that banks are dumping at lower prices.”

Linda and Walter House, a retired couple, made an offer on a foreclosed house in Adamsville, Alabama.

“I wanted a brick house,” remembers Linda House

“And she kept saying she didn’t want no trailer house to live in. I told her just come on and look at them,” says Walter.

Linda took a look, and fell in love with a four-bedroom, three bathroom double wide. The couple withdrew their offer on the foreclosure. They said it would’ve taken thousands of dollars more to repair. They told their friends and family they opted for a mobile home instead.

Linda says, “Some of them thought we’d lost our mind.”

Three years later, the House family has no regrets.  They’ve even added a garage. It holds two cars, three tractors, and as Linda House jokingly puts it, a whole bunch of junk. 

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