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Priced out of the American dream, aspiring homeowners turning to luxury manufactured homes

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Posted at 10:47 AM, Feb 11, 2022

MALIBU, Calif. — Priced out of the American Dream, more aspiring homeowners are turning to manufactured homes. With luxury options on the market, customers say their homeownership dreams are becoming a reality at a fraction of the price.

“I wanted to be here. My family is all here. I grew up in the ocean," said Travis Collings.

But buying a house in his hometown of Malibu, California, was a pipedream.

“Never in a million years. An actual home? No.”

However, Collings always knew he’d go a different route. He's lived in mobile homes throughout his life, growing up in the Paradise Cove mobile home park community.

"I have no problem saying, yeah, come over to my trailer," said Collings. "When I tell them about my house, that I have a mobile home up in the hills, they’re picturing an airstream. They’re picturing a motor home."

According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, the industry produced almost 95,000 new homes in 2020, approximately 9% of new, single-family homes.

Collings purchased his first one this year, working with a company specializing in contemporary manufactured homes. With customizable floor plans, his three-bedroom home was built in just two weeks.

Co-founder of Orbit Homes, Lauren Tucker, says demand for their luxury manufactured homes went up during the pandemic.

“What we love about manufactured homes is they can be beautiful and contemporary and customizable. But because they’re factory-built, they’re a lot more affordable," said Tucker. "They’re going off of an engineered plan, and it really works like an assembly line."

Regulated under Housing and Urban Development (HUD), manufactured homes are built to federal building code. At around half the price of a stick-built home, Orbit wants to change the stigma around this alternative housing option.

“We’re definitely going to be the highest end of manufactured homes, and you could get something less expensive with less expensive materials, but we're really going for luxury," said Tucker.

While securing financing isn’t as straightforward as traditional homes, some lenders are making the process similar to purchasing real estate. And while they may not appreciate at the same rate as a conventional home, their value can go up over time.

“As far as a first-home experience goes, I can’t imagine a better one," said Collings.

While manufactured homes may not be for everyone, Collings says his mobile palace is a pipedream come true.

“It feels insane. I wake up every morning and look at that view. I have to pinch myself.”