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What Are Manufactured Homes, and Why They're Great for Retirement

July 11, 2019

Manufactured homes are a great option for retirement for multiple reasons, but what is a manufactured home and are they the same as mobile homes and trailer homes of the past? We hope that this article by will help show you why your next move should be into a manufactured home in one of our manufactured home communities. 


Manufactured homes, mobile homes, and trailer homes are often confused with each other. In fact, these types of residences are all different. Manufactured homes, though sometimes associated with the poor reputation of mobile homes from the past, are actually just as reliable and sturdy as traditional homes. They’re also a great option for retirement for multiple reasons.

What Are Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes are houses that are built in factories according to federal standards. They are then transported in one or more sections on permanent chassis to their installation sites. Once on site, these homes are anchored to the ground with steel straps attached to steel rods. Manufactured homes are not “mobile homes,” technically or legally, as we’ll explain below.

The history of manufactured homes begins with trailers on wheels that were mass-manufactured in the 1930s and ’40s. In the 1950s, as more of these trailers started to be used as permanent housing, the industry renamed them “mobile homes.” At this time, however, the building requirements for mobile homes were lax.

That changed in the 1970s when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development set national Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards. The HUD Code sets standards for factors including fire safety, building materials, windstorm protection, insulation, heating and cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems. The federal agency also oversees standards for installing manufactured homes. So, technically, “mobile homes” were built before June 15, 1976, when the HUD Code went into effect. Houses built after that date are “manufactured homes.”    

Under the HUD Code, manufactured homes can be indistinguishable from site-built homes.

Why Manufactured Homes Are Great for Retirement

Manufactured Homes Are Less Expensive

For many retirees, housing costs are a concern. You might be on a fixed income or you might be hoping to get some equity out of your house when you downsize.  If you don’t want to rent an apartment, buying a manufactured home could be a good financial compromise. Some retirees even buy manufactured houses as second homes. Though manufactured homes can be rented in some communities, they most often are bought.

Price is the area in which manufactured homes usually win out over site-built houses. A Census Bureau analysis for 2015 reported these comparisons for the average sale price of a new manufactured home vs. a new single-family site-built home:

  • Manufactured home: $68,000 for 1,430 square feet, or about $48 per square foot.
  • Site-built home (minus land): $276,284 for 2,745 square feet, or about $101 per square foot.

One note about costs for manufactured homes: Many are located in land-lease communities designed specifically for manufactured homes. In a land-lease community, you buy the home but you rent the land it sits on. The monthly rent for a lot varies by location...

Many Retirees Live in Manufactured Home Communities

If you want to live among other people your age, in a 55 and better community, manufactured housing communities could be ideal for you, as well. Many manufactured homes are located in 55-plus active adult communities.

These communities are lauded for the way they encourage social engagement and create a close network of neighbors who keep an eye out for each other.

“For the 55-plus communities, people really like that sense of a neighborhood,” Patricia Boerger of the Manufactured Housing Institute told Curbed. “The park owners and people are all aging, but have good neighbors that look after them, so they’re able to age in place, and more often than not, on a single story, which is important for those with mobility issues.”

Many of these 55-plus manufactured housing communities also boast resort-like amenities designed with retirees in mind: swimming pools, tennis and shuffleboard courts, clubhouses, game rooms, RV storage, social events, walking and biking paths, and fitness centers...

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