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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Mobile Homes Are So Expensive Now, Hurricane Victims Can't Afford Them (bloomberg.com) 252

An anonymous reader shares a report: Hurricane victims emerging from ravaged trailer parks are discovering that the U.S. mobile-home market has left them behind. In Florida and Texas, dealerships are swarmed by buyers looking to rebuild their lives after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but many leave disappointed. The industry, led by Warren Buffett's Clayton Homes, is peddling such pricey interior-designer touches as breakfast bars and his-and-her bathroom sinks. These extras, plus manufacturers' increased costs for labor and materials, have pushed average prices for new double-wides up more than 20 percent in five years, putting them out of reach for many of the newly homeless.
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Mobile Homes Are So Expensive Now, Hurricane Victims Can't Afford Them

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  • by thegreatbob ( 693104 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:28PM (#55616073) Journal
    As a temporary solution, I wonder if the old FEMA trailers have finished outgassing all their formaldehyde... perhaps someone has a collection of those going.
    • The government won a lawsuit for $14.8M and then auctioned off the rest. From what I could find the few they have are being sold to the people living in them.
    • As a temporary solution, I wonder if the old FEMA trailers have finished outgassing all their formaldehyde... perhaps someone has a collection of those going.

      Do you find it offensive when a private contractor rips off the government?

  • have pushed average prices for new double-wides up more than 20 percent in five years, putting them out of reach for many of the newly homeless.

    Late-stage capitalism is when you can't afford the rope to hang yourself, but your #MAGA hat is subsidized.

    In other news...

    The guy who Trump picked to head Health and Human Services tripled the price of insulin when he was CEO of Eli Lilly. After the drug's patent expired.

    https://www.thenation.com/arti... [thenation.com]

    • by RedK ( 112790 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:40PM (#55616141)

      Late-stage capitalism is when you can't afford the rope to hang yourself, but your #MAGA hat is subsidized.

      That's not Capitalism.

      Capitalism would be someone finding a way to make the ropes cheaper and selling them to you, and including a #MAGA hat for free in order to bolster the sale.

      Just as with this mobile homes situation. Communism just means the state is stuck buying "His and Hers sinks" for everyone and thus overpaying, lining the pockets of some friend of the party. Capitalism means a business opportunity for someone to make a 20% cheaper model to serve the increased demand and thus carve himself a new niche.

      Of course, it helps to put "Trump Derangement Syndrome" aside, since this has nothing to do with Trump.

      • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:50PM (#55616213)

        Anybody who regularly uses the phrase 'late stage capitalism' has drunk the koolaid and isn't open to reason.

        It's a tell. Save the effort. Your time is better spent arguing with brick walls.

      • Now you are redefining capitalism? Lol.....Capitalism is you selling something for the price you can get....if you are the only maker of that thing then they sell it for as much as you want.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        You are mistaken. You seem to assume that capitalism is self-regulating and actually works. That is not the case.

    • Late-stage capitalism is when you can't afford the rope to hang yourself, but your #MAGA hat is subsidized.

      But that's where the maker movement comes in! Turns out those cheap hats can be reduced to cordage and re-purposed into a noose.

    • Don't worry....his pick for the Census Bureau will help us get things on the right track I am sure....(fake population numbers in Red states shouldn't be expected, I am sure)

  • Maybe we can buy some cheap trailers from China. They save money by making them out of really inexpensive stuff.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      So, the same way as most American-made trailers are made then?

    • The materials arenâ(TM)t the real cost, even if they are part of it. It is the labour and expected profit margins that have an impact.

      This why bringing manufacturing back to the US seems like a scam. It is usually automation that replaces jobs that were previously overseas, since the market isnâ(TM)t necessarily going to accept increased product costs.

      • Labor isn't even a large cost either. That has been a lie told since the union busting days began in the 70's. Profit growth and wall street expectations are the root cause.

    • You're probably joking, but lets assume you're not. Ever try to put a trailer in a shipping container? You end up shipping a lot of air across the Pacific. Otherwise I'd bet the Chinese would be doing this! Now, if we could make assemblies, ship them and put them together over here, you might have something: Made in USA (some foreign parts).
      • There's a big market in New Zealand importing "baches" (static caravans or mobile homes of the same type as discussed here) from Europe...

      • Funny thing about the hurricane-hit areas... the have reasonably proximate access to ocean transit. You can buy containerized homes from China-- just check out alibaba. There are people importing converted 20' containers to try to combat homeless encampments.

        Generally the units are fully sealed and trim kits are just added to hide the fact that it is a shipping container.

  • ... it just doesn't cost that much to build a house.  Assuming you're happy with a basic design, and no frills fittings a house can be built for  well under $100,000.

    There's no way a pre-fab should cost more than that
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      ... it just doesn't cost that much to build a house. Assuming you're happy with a basic design, and no frills fittings a house can be built for well under $100,000.

      There's no way a pre-fab should cost more than that

      True. The problem is, a lot of people are going pre-fab, because the modern pre-fab doesn't look like a pre-fab rectangular house of old. They can look like a modern stick-build home. The only way people know it's a pre-fab is well, one day there was an empty lot with a foundation, and the next

    • Prefab has price parity to stick-build, primary benefits are time and quality.

      But, the issue is that in a mobile home park the homes need to be theoretically mobile, which does add costs.

  • Good. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:40PM (#55616145)

    New mobile homes are for idiots. A house should not depreciate like a car. Rent for a 1000 square foot 'lot' should not run to hundreds/month.

    Anybody thinking of going there, should buy bare land and shed to live in until they can afford to build a house. Mobile homes are built like sheds anyhow.

    • > should buy bare land and shed to live in until they can afford to build a house Great idea, until inspection comes by and throws every law in the book at you for not living in a proper house.
      • I know a guy in his 20th year living, full time, in what's legally an outbuilding. The OP is talking about rural land, nobody cares, and that's in California. Land of busy bodies and 20k$+ home building permits.

        The only downside is at sales time. The buyer won't be able to finance non-conforming buildings.

    • Florida imposed a moratorium against new mobile home parks (and probably new placements of mobile homes as well) after the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005. I'm not even sure you can find a place for your mobile home even if you were to buy one.

      But they are built to crumble quickly so you'd be lucky to get 5 good years out of one anyway.

      • The difference between a mobile home and a prefab is 15 minutes with a cutting torch.

        In 'no-mobile homes' areas, they cut the axles and trailer hitches off. Instant legal 'prefab'. But building codes still exist.

        Better prefabs do exist, but at the low end prefab = (mobile home - wheels).

    • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Arzaboa ( 2804779 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @03:48PM (#55616853)

      People live in mobile home parks for a multitude of reasons, but are there primarily because it is affordable. It is the cheapest form of being able to buy something that isn't directly attached to their neighbors. I'm not sure anyone would argue that they aren't built from the best materials.

      Moving into a mobile home may not be the best situation for your area or life, but for many people who move into them, they make a whole lot of sense. I've seen people use them as vacation homes, second homes, the only home they can afford.

      There is a relatively high barrier to owning property in an urban area. These are usually the only options to a large segment of the population. Where else can you purchase a place to live for less than 10k and actually live in it? We legislate our way right out of having housing that folks with hardly anything can afford. Its a pretty steep slope into homelessness at the bottom of the curve.

      --
      If you build it, they will come"

      • A good percentage don't own their homes, of those that do, a good percentage lose them to the park owners as soon as they fall behind on lot rent.

        I've heard of park owners, putting high moveout fees into their contracts. Essentially assuring they will end up owning any mobile home that's put in their parks.

        I've also seen a resident come home to find his mobile home, with wires and plumbing dangling from where it was torn loose, parked on the side of the road beside the park entrance.

        Like most 'super

        • You're right. Its a predatory place, at the bottom of the economic web.

          --
          "I like coffee and I like tea" - John Popper

  • by Macdude ( 23507 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:41PM (#55616153)

    Welcome to capitalism, companies make the products they think they can sell (i.e. expensive trailers) and price them at what they think they can get. The people that want something else are screwed. If enough people are not able to get what they want it creates a market opportunity to start a business to cater to them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:42PM (#55616157)

    I live an hour north of Houston. Daily on the way to and from work, I pass 4 or 5 mobile home dealerships. About 6 months ago, my wife and I went and looked at a couple of dealerships and priced several mobile homes, as we are thinking about downsizing, buying our own land and living in a mobile home to save money.

    What we learned:

    - A non-luxury single wide with 3 bedrooms is about $30,000.
    - A non-luxury double wide with 3 bedrooms is about $45,000.
    - A luxury double wide with 3-4 bedrooms runs from $65-120,000.

    I can understand people wanting to have a nice place to live, but there is no shame in living in a starter mobile home until you can get back on your feet. For far less than a house these days, one can guy 3 acres for $60,000 and the mobile home for $30,000. That's $90,000. Ad $10,000 for connecting to electricity and sewer, and another $10,000 for a septic system. $110,000 gets you land and a place to live for far, far less than a house. If you choose to buy a mobile home without land, here in this area, the land rental with hookups will run you about $300-400 a month. A cheaper mobile home runs about $300 a month mortgage and $300-400 a month for land rental and in your in for $700. Add $300 for all utilities and you're in for $1000 a month.

    I ran all the above numbers with the sales people at the mobile home dealership. I also know someone living in one and I asked them to verify.

    When I get closer to retirement, I'm considering it because why have to always work on a house and a perfect lawn. I'll get a mobile home and just live with less and less maintenance.

    There is a stigma associated with living in a mobile home, but those who would judge you for living in one are not worthy of your friendship.

    • Is the difference between luxury and non-luxury mainly the interior fixtures & fittings? Could you buy the basic model and upgrade as funds/time/skills allow?

      Disclaimer: I've never even seen one up close, let alone been inside one.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        OP here. Yes, you got it in one. Fixtures and fittings. The difference is pretty stark between the two. Were I in the market, I would opt for the $45,000 basic double wide.

    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @02:01PM (#55616291)

      In rural Texas? Old houses won't be much more and will appreciate in value rather than deprecate like a car.

      Mobile homes aren't maintenance free. Rather the opposite. Built like shit from shit materials.

      'No lawn' implies mobile home park. What does 'trailer park supervisor' mean to you? 'Lehey' is a part in a TV show, but it's based on reality. 'Trailer park supervisors' ARE notorious petty tyrants. Trailer park neighbors are also 'colorful' bunch. I've never lived in one, but have known a couple of people that spent a couple years in one. 'Trailer Park Boys' is a documentary.

      Trailer parks are redneck ghettos. Nobody has things worse than white trash kids from the trailer parks. Their culture is as broken as any inner city slum dweller, but no help for their 'privileged' asses.

      • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

        'No lawn' implies mobile home park.

        No, it doesn't. Note the 'buying our own land' part. The plan is to live in the weeds.

        Enjoy the insects.

        • Just get an old house and a lawn goat for minimum maintenance work. Lawn fires suck.

          Have you ever looked closely at a two or three year old mobile home? Eyeball right down the side, where it's supposed to be straight and flat.

          99% of mobile homes, fall apart like Bayliner boats. Built like the interior of a GM economy car.

          'High class mobile home' is like 'high class call girl'. An oxymoron.

      • Wait, so the only place to put a trailer is in a park? Not on some land somewhere? Weird. Is that a law or something?
  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:42PM (#55616159)
    It seems like every few weeks there is another story in the press about how an achitecture student discovered shipping containers are hollow inside. Maybe now is the time to see a lot of hurricane proof housing made of steel hi-cubes.
    • by mikael ( 484 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @02:13PM (#55616357)

      Good few people have made homes out of shipping containers. Of course, they cut holes for windows, add hinges so the steel can be shuttered, and many add wood or brick panels to the outside to give it a more architectural look.

      https://www.containerhomeplans... [containerhomeplans.org]

      There was that guy who built his own nuclear bomb shelter out of old school buses, That's pretty cool idea to build a tornado shelter on the cheap - just excavate a ramp plus hole, lower down a container/old bus, then build on top of it.

      • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
        If you put in windows, especially big ones, it's going to be a lot less hurricane-proof.
      • Good few people have made homes out of shipping containers. Of course, they cut holes for windows, add hinges so the steel can be shuttered, and many add wood or brick panels to the outside to give it a more architectural look.

        The shipping container house thing is a gimmick. The bulk of the cost of building a house is the fittings (Joinery, taps, benchtops, electrical etc) and none of this changes with a shipping container, except you need more expensive bespoke fittings instead of the mass produced stuff because your space is so small. The only thing you save is the framework, which if you want a rust free newish container actually costs more than a timber frame.
        They make for for cool hipster pics on Instagram, but don't fool y

        • >The bulk of the cost of building a house is the fittings (Joinery, taps, benchtops, electrical etc)

          What's really needed there is standards for home components that allow click-together parts. Houses so built would be even more identical than in a single-builder development, but they'd be a lot less expensive.

          Imagine prebuilt wall sections, snap-in windows and doors, factory-drilled wiring channels (with click-connect joins and standard outlet positions), etc. The factory could churn out a lot more home

          • by mikael ( 484 )

            You could try this idea out with Blender. I've done architectural modeling of apartments and homes. The fundamental component that any type of piece would be a cube like Minecraft. The height would be one floor level. The width and depth would be one or two meters. Basic shapes are a crossroads, walls, T-junctions and corners. Some walls are solid, others have windows, patio doors, front doors with letter boxes, bay windows, garage doors, etc... indoor staircases are added later as assembled kits. Victorian

            • >The fundamental component that any type of piece would be a cube like Minecraft.

              1m x 1m x 4m - though most components would be relatively flat, I would consider each as being attached perpendicularly to the edge of one side of a 1x1 square. The 4m height would be 3m for the interior and then 0.5m for a raised floor and drop ceiling for ease of wiring and plumbing.

              That means 12 wall sections could complete a room standard 3m x 3m room, with beams to cross the space and make a 3x3 grid to support 1m x 1m

    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

      Shipping containers make terrible homes. You're going to want windows, so you cut holes. That ruins their structural integrity, so you're doing all sorts of modification to reinforce them. Then there's the issue that they're just corrugated metal, so boiling hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. So you need to insulate them. If you do it inside, the already-questionable dimensions become absolutely unfit for any reasonable human space. Do it on the outside... and you've just built a building.

      Ad

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:51PM (#55616221)
    saying this implies the cost of Mobile homes has gone up. Manufacturing costs are way, way down. The actual problem is that 30 years of wage stagnation has reduced the buying power of working class people. They can't afford basic shelter.

    This is a classic example of an anti-worker wing narrative at work. The breakfast bar adds $200 to the cost of the home. The his and her sinks $500. The cost of the home goes up $10,000. Nobody talks about the $9,200 gap or why people can't afford it. The implication is that poor people are being frivolous with their money, which in turn implies they have low moral character which in turn gives the middle class and rich a reason to abandon them to their poverty because, after all, it's their fault for having low moral character. It's prosperity gospel without the tinge of religion.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 )

      Mod parent up! All the apologists pointing out that the mobile homes haven't become more expensive when adjusted for inflation are right, but they're wrong about the root of the problem.

      Seems like we're ready for the living arrangements from Ready Player One, perhaps earlier than expected...how long until we need Terrafoam?

  • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @01:53PM (#55616233)
    If you live on the gulf coast or tornado alley, maybe a mobile home isn't your best bet. The main reason the price or new units is so high is because the supply of used units suddenly dropped, forcing people who would have bought a used unit to buy a new one.
  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @02:01PM (#55616289)
    Why would anyone with finnancial difficulties be buying new? I was able to have my own car when I was 16 because I bought two identical model year non working beaters ($400 and a $150) and combined them into one 'working' car. In my late 20s I could afford my (then 65 yr old) home because it needed lots of cosmetic work and was in a lower priced neighborhood. Part of the problem that gets people into situations like this is buying items that they can't afford and/or paying for them in nearly predatory installments. It dosent help either when most or all of your expensive purchases only depreciate, trailer homes don't increase in value like real estate.
    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      Because when your trailer flooded out, so did everyone else's. There isn't a used market in that circumstance.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        These things are called mobile homes for a reason. Just because trailers in your county all got destroyed doesn't mean they all got destroyed. It just means you have to cast a wider net and haul your replacement trailer a little farther.

        It's not like housing inventory. You could schlep a trailer from Canada if the cost end of it made sense.

        • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

          This still increases costs considerably above the used mobile home market prices in normal circumstances, so people who could ordinarily afford to replace theirs, now cannot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by barc0001 ( 173002 )

      > I was able to have my own car when I was 16 because I bought two identical model year non working beaters ($400 and a $150) and combined them into one 'working' car.

      Sure, and you were able to do that because you were young, able and - most importantly - almost certainly having your living expenses paid for by your parents while you spent hours and days learning how to combine two machines into one, in garage space or backyard space provided by your parents. Probably with their tools too. I did somet

    • I dunno - maybe its because there's a run on mobile homes and supply doesn't exist? Market may not really exist either - my gran lived a mobile home once they are dropped off and anchored to a concrete foundation and fastened together they really aren't moving anywhere. Yes they would be easier to move than a regular house, but still logistically difficult.

      When she died and we sold the place - the new owners tore the old one out and put in a new one.

      Also if you own the lot itself already - you might conside

    • Why would anyone with finnancial difficulties be buying new?

      And why is this story on Slashdot?
      I'm actually looking at buying a motorhome for an extended holiday and am surprised how cheap they are. RVtrader.com literally has tens of thousand of these things on the market. If you can't afford one of those then start with a car or van and sleep there. I did it for a while, it sucked but it served a purpose and got me out of the situation I was in.

  • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Friday November 24, 2017 @03:06PM (#55616643) Journal

    ...pushed average prices for new double-wides up more than 20 percent in five years, putting them out of reach...

    I'm having trouble with the math here. Over five years, you'd expect about a 10 percent increase due to inflation. So the "average" double-wide is only up about 10% over inflation. And that's looking at the average--are all mobile homes more expensive, or did the distribution of motor home sales just shift? Remember, the average goes up if the share of sales of high-end homes goes up, even if the low-end homes remain the same price. We're not told what the liveable-but-not-fancy homes cost, or how (or if!) that has changed with time.

    Really, though, the more important statistic is buried in the linked article.

    ...pay for the bottom fifth of earners is stagnating. Even after a modest pickup over the past two years, those households have seen their income fall by 9 percent since 2000, to $12,943 in 2016, based on inflation-adjusted Census Bureau data.

    (At least they inflation-adjusted that figure.) The real problem is that the poor - including the working poor and retirees - are getting poorer. Even if housing weren't getting more expensive, they still wouldn't be able to afford to keep up.

    • in a mobile home are way, way down. Often they can't get full time work. We've lost millions of manufacturing jobs since NAFTA. Budget cuts to make way for tax cuts have decimated infrastructure spending and with them lots of blue collar jobs. The folks who lost all those jobs competed for a shrinking pool driving wages down and causing employers to higher lots of people and work them on an 'as needed' basis since they were desperate enough to put up with it. And all this is before we talk about the multi b

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