Mobile Home Parks – Homeowner Risks and Rewards

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Home / What Exactly is a Mobile Home Park? How to Classify, Myth Busting

What Exactly is a Mobile Home Park? How to Classify, Myth Busting

RVs, campers, motor homes trailers in a park-NotMHP
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Vacation RVs in a park. Campers, 5th wheel trailers, motor homes, conventional trailers

Rvs and mortor homes in a park- NotMHP
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Vacation RVs and motor homes in a park

Travel trailers in a park- NotMHP
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Vacation travel trailers in a “camping” park

Actual trailer park
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A “trailer park” of permanently placed narrow, low-elevation travel trailers with towing hitches. Wheels concealed by skirting

Single-wide manufactured mobile home park
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A park with narrow, single-wide pitched roof homes permanently placed. An intermediate step toward larger manufactured homes

Manufactured Home Park
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Permanent mobile homes in a manufactured home park

A modern double-wide manufactured mobile home in a park
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A modern, permanent, double-wide manufactured mobile home in a park

A green manufactured mobile home
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A modern, permanent, double-wide manufactured mobile home in a park

Aerial image of a trailer park
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Permanent housing in a manufactured mobile home park

Trailer Park, Mobile Home or RV Park – What is the difference?

Whether you are looking at RVs, campers or manufactured mobile homes, they all rely on a place to park and hookup to utilities allowing the occupants comfort and rest. Some shelters are mobile and can move easily from park to park. Others are practically attached to the park and do not move.

In a few parks, you can rent both the mobile home and the land entirely, like renting a cottage or standalone house. But most manufactured mobile home parks rent only the land and hookups and the resident buys and owns the home that is attached to this rented land.

The Basics of Mobile Home Parks – Buildings and Land

All housing is part of the larger system that must work well for successful living. That includes mobile homes. There is plenty to know about the homes and parks as an introduction to the entire system.

Not enough people understand this housing system, including civic leaders and those whose decisions affect many people. Inexperienced people may think they know enough about mobile homes and parks, but too often, more education is needed.

This form of housing is complex because it involves crucial details beyond just the homes. It is important for citizens to understand the land rental business and the risks and rewards of this form of housing.

If you search the internet for the term “mobile home” you will probably get contradicting and confusing results showing all kinds of movable shelter.

Manufactured mobile homes are not well categorized by their names alone – you have to see them to tell them apart. Too often they are regarded separately from the land, the contracts and the systems that actually make them work.

There is much to know before making decisions about this form of housing. In other articles we will cover the park business, legal contracts and city planning. These subjects are important for the long-term success and prosperity of the local community and for an equitable government and affordable housing stock.

Table: Differences Between Trailers and Manufactured Mobile Homes


Trailer or RV

Manufactured Mobile Home

MobilityEasily moved, towed by conventional auto or pickup truck. Can move at freeway speedsBuilt to stay in one location. Requires professional diesel big rig with follow-on “wide load” vehicle. Slow moving towing operation to final site
PurposeVacationing, “vagabond” style travel – staying at temporary stopovers. Temporary livingPermanent affordable housing for year-round living. Becomes mailing address and residents pay taxes and vote locally
SizeNarrow width for highway compatibility and streamlined for freeway speedsSingle-wide or double-wide, often taking entire lane of road, or overhanging lane. Wood framing requires slow, steady transport to permanent site
InteriorRelatively cramped. Narrow width for mobility and lower towing weight. Special built-in furnishingsCan rival the interior of a small home. Uses conventional furniture and appliances. Multiple bedrooms, two baths, laundry, dining, etc.
Cost / FinancingChattel. Owner buys and maintains vehicle. Traditional automobile style financingChattel. Owner gets mortgage loan and maintains home. Interest rate is higher than site-built homes due to not being “real” property for real estate purposes (law changes proposed). Insurance may be required. Monthly lot rental fees add to overall costs
Buying ProcessUsually purchased at a dealership similar to an automobile dealershipPark homes are usually purchased on-site in the mobile home park. Agents can be retained to list and sell the home similar to site-built homes
BuildChassis height is low (1 – 2 ft.) Vehicle may have dual wheels. Streamlined metal exteriorWood-framed house on a chassis. Floor height is at diesel tractor-trailer height (3ft or more). Gap to ground is concealed by skirting panels. Wheels and tow bar are removed at final destination
FoundationNo foundation. Vehicle rests on its tires and tow pivot. Sometimes leveled mechanicallyHouse chassis supported by multiple piers placed on ground along underside. Can have earthquake bracing. May need releveling over time
LocationOwner may store RV or trailer at his property or rented storage facility. When traveling, it can be hooked up to utilities at a vacation RV parkApproximataly 27% of new manufactured mobile homes are permanently located in rented lots at a mobile home park community with utility connections *
DifferenceTrailer or RVManufactured Mobile Home

Click to enlarge

Table - differences between trailers and mobile homes

*According to statistics at MH Village, 27% of new manufactured are permanently placed into mobile home parks. The majority are assumed to be situated on private land owned by the mobile home owner. This web site is focused on homeowners living in a park where they rent land.

What Are the Correct Names for Mobile Homes? The Confusion Persists

Manufactured mobile homes (built after 1976) have been given many common names. Sometimes they are erroneously called “trailers”. But the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prefers to call them “manufactured homes” even though other types of homes are also “manufactured” in a factory. HUD refers to these other types of factory-built homes as “modular” homes or “systems-built homes”. These “modular” or “system-built” home typically rest on cement foundation where true “manufactured” homes rest on a permanent chassis about 3 to 4 feet off the ground. In HUD language, a “mobile home” is factory-built before 1976 when standards were lax and construction varied widely.

While HUD was able to standardize construction, establishing minimums of quality, HUD failed somewhat in getting the public to correctly adopt the new names and conventions. Today, to some people, a manufactured home park, a mobile home park, a trailer park and an RV park are all the same. This widespread public misunderstanding can inhibit manufactured homeowner’s ability to communicate their unique concerns.

Conventional homes are usually called “site-built” homes or “stick-built” homes. Conventional homes are constructed on-site from the raw materials and rest on a permanent foundation.

The misnaming and misunderstanding continues to this day. A key identifier is that manufactured mobile homes are built on an elevated chassis about 3 feet high and they remain elevated on piers or support pillars while in use. They require stairs to access their doorways. The open-air gap from the chassis to the ground is usually concealed by skirting.

To identify a modern manufactured mobile home (built after 1976), look first for the elevated chassis floor, approximately 3 feet high, and three or more stair steps leading to external doors. This is the quickest way to identify a manufactured mobile home.

What is the difference between manufactured and modular homes?
(From HUD website, emphasis added)

Manufactured homes are constructed according to a code administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Code). The HUD Code, unlike conventional building codes, requires manufactured homes to be constructed on a permanent chassis. Modular homes are constructed to the same state, local or regional building codes as site-built homes.

Typical Questions About Manufactured Mobile Homes

  • What exactly is a mobile home park? What are the myths about mobile homes and parks?
  • How can you identify a manufactured house?
  • Which kind of shelter is best to live in?
  • What are the two important components to living in a mobile home park?
  • What is the source of the stigma and common misunderstandings about people living in smaller homes?
  • Why do people keep calling them “trailer parks” when “trailer parks” are practically obsolete and hard to find? Why are they mistaken for RV parks?
  • Are right-sized manufactured homes a solution to overdevelopment?

These are questions needing better answers. Consumers that want to be well-informed can start by learning the facts about the buildings and land in manufactured mobile home parks. Accurate knowledge will help concerned citizens make better civic decisions and free themselves from dependence on salesmen and park employees for advice and information.

Below are more questions and subjects that readers can explore.

Types of Smaller Homes in Mobile Home Parks

  • How do you identify the various kinds of movable shelter?
  • Manufactured mobile home construction – What is different from a site-built home or an RV or trailer?
  • Are newer manufactured homes better?
  • What are manufactured mobile homes constructed of?
  • What manufactured home brand should I buy? What is the best manufactured home?
  • What qualities should I look for?
  • What are the conditions that homebuyers often fail to notice?
  • What are tiny homes and how do they compare to manufactured mobile homes?

Mobile Home Parks and Their Purpose

  • Why do parks exist? Why not some other way?
  • What do buyers often overlook?

Mobile Home Park Types

  • How do you identify the types of parks? Which kind is best to settle in?
  • What are mixed parks?
  • What is an RV Park?
  • What is a “trailer park”?
  • How do you tour a mobile home park? What to look for when visiting

Moving a Manufactured Mobile Home

  • Why you don’t just buy a mobile home by itself?
  • How do the homes get into the parks? Learn about manufactured mobile home transport
  • Why is it so expensive to move a manufactured mobile home?
  • Can I move my mobile home to another park?

Stigma, Notions, Culture Problems About Mobile Home Parks

  • Why is there stigma about smaller housing?
  • Why don’t they clean up?
  • Why are the homes so old?
  • Why are some parks so run-down?

Environmental Benefits of Mobile Home Parks

  • How do mobile home parks solve land wastage and density issues during a housing shortage and crisis?
  • How do mobile home parks solve environmental problems and global warming?
  • What kind of support can I get for buying a smaller, greener home?

Protections, Proposed Changes, Future Predictions About Mobile Home Parks

  • Are mobile homes “affordable housing”? Does your government recognize them as “affordable Housing” stock?
  • What ways are park homeowners protected?
  • What if my park owner goes out of business and closes the park?
  • What is a senior overlay protection?
  • What is rent stabilization protection?
  • What are resident-owned communities?
  • What additional protections may apply?
  • Is my pension fund investing in rent park raises?
  • Are my US government’s agencies helping investors raise my rents?

Additional Benefits of Mobile Home Parks

  • Can a manufactured home actually be superior in some ways?
  • How can I best preserve my manufactured mobile home from deterioration?
  • How can I best maintain the resale value of my manufactured mobile home?
  • What should I know about buying and selling a mobile home?
  • A glossary of mobile home park terminology – learn the right words
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