Manufactured Homes Making Slow Recovery In Sales
The number of people living in mobile homes in Ohio climbed up each decade over a 30 year period until 2000. That’s when things changed as the economy experienced a downturn and more people fell into financial difficulty. But, now there appears to be renewed attraction to what those in the industry more often call manufactured homes.
BelAire Mobile Home Park opened in 1937 on Dyer Road in southern Franklin County. It was the first of its kind in the county.
In the 1940’s, during World War II, soldiers moved into mobile homes scattered around the county as they reported to Lockbourne Air Force Base and Fort Hayes.
By 1970, Ohio had about 86,000 mobile homes, or two and a half percent of all homes.
That number rose through the 80’s and 90’s and by 2000, about 220,000 mobile homes or about four and a half percent of all homes in the state would be labeled mobile.
Marilyn Fox manages Green Tree Mobile Home Park on Columbus’ west side. She’s lived here for 16 years.
“A lot of people, move here, they save their money because of the rent and then maybe 4, 5 or 6 years they sell their mobile home after they purchase their own home," said Fox.
Green Tree opened in 1989. Out of 74 homes, only 1 was recently vacant. Fox says every resident has to buy their trailer from the park, which can cost as little as $4,000 and as much as $19,000. Residents pay a monthly lot rent of almost $300 which includes some utilities.
“Everything has to be cleaned up. No tires, no debris. There’s no add-ons to a mobile home," Fox said.
Janet Williams is Executive Director of the Ohio Manufactured Homes Commission. She says federal housing officials tightened regulations for manufactured homes in 2005. The Department of Housing and Urban Development now requires states to oversee the installation of new homes. Ohio decided to have every mobile home inspected.
“There used to be a dispute resolution program that would take on 500 to 800 cases a year of homes having problems. And with the regulation in place we are seeing approximately 3 cases a year," said Williams.
The appeal of living in a manufactured home started to drop though when the economy suffered. Sales of new manufactured homes in Ohio fell sharply from 1998 when more than 8,000 homes were sold, to 2009 when only 586 were sold in the state.
Janet Williams with Ohio Manufactured Homes Commission.
“Financing a manufactured home has been very difficult for some folks, so I think that could be a decline of the homes sold is getting the homes financed," said Williams.
“In Enchanted Acres all the homes we have something that is common in Florida, we have brick skirting, which we feel gives it a more residential look,” said Ron Younkin.
Off of Parsons Avenue on the far south end of Columbus, Enchanted Acres is a community of residents mainly 55 and older. It opened in 1971 and has grown to include 400 manufactured homes. It’s a pleasant location where every road is paved and homes include awnings and carports. There’s also a huge clubhouse which hosts bingo games and community dinners.
Owner Ron Younkin has 1800 homes in 16 mobile home parks in Columbus and around the state. Younkin says the housing bust in 2008 made it more difficult for people to buy a mobile home.
“We do not have the government programs that we had the luxury of having at one time, which in simple terms is lower down payments and lower interest rates," said Younkin.
Younkin says he’s had trouble selling a new top of the line, 3 bedroom manufactured home with appliances and central air for $99,000.
The number of mobile home parks in Franklin County has dropped from 50, 12 years ago to 41 today. Janet Williams with the Ohio Manufactured Homes Commission says part of that decline is because of the cost of updating the park.
“What they would have to do is they would have to go through engineered plans to redevelop their park and then instead of being under the regulation that they were maybe back in the 60’s, they’d have to bring it back to today’s standards, and they’re choosing not to do that," said Williams.
Fran Michael has lived at Enchanted Acres for 20 years. It doesn’t bother her that some critics of manufactured homes look down on residents.
“It’s smaller to operate and smaller to work with and everything’s there for you. This is one of the most lovely areas in Columbus," said Michael.
And sales of new manufactured homes in Ohio are beginning to tick up to more than 1100 last year….yet still far lower than the 8,000 of 18 years ago.