HUD Changes Rules on Mobile Homes

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You may or may not know it, but most mobile homes — or “manufactured” homes as the federal government call them — are built in factories, and not on the homeowner’s lot. But that’s going to change with a new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rule that should simplify the process of getting a mobile home built to spec — right on your own property.

To set the stage, let’s review a few facts about mobile homes.

  • According to SBI Energy, the mobile home market peaked at $10.6 billion in 1998. Since then, though, times have gotten tough for the industry, as its total revenues fell to $5.6 billion by 2006.
  • The South is home to 56% of the mobile housing units in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey.
  • FEMA shelled out $2.7 billion to purchase 145,000 mobile homes and trailers after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in August and September 2005, paying about $19,000 for the each unit. In 2007, the federal agency began selling many of those homes in mobile home auctions — some for as low as $12,600. FEMA had 60,000 trailers in storage nationwide as of 2007.
  • The average price for a mobile home in the U.S. is about $62,000, according to the Census Bureau.

The new HUD rules come out at a time when many Americans are choosing lower-cost homes and properties as a result of the Great Recession. HUD is hoping to make the process of both building and buying that home a bit easier by allowing mobile home-building firms to actually build on the owner’s lot, without the approval of HUD.

According to an agency statement, the proposed regulations “would not apply when a major section of a manufactured home is to be constructed on-site.” Public comment to the new rule is due by Aug. 23, HUD adds. The federal agency doesn’t specify what a “major section” might be, although it does allude to plumbing and heating systems as potentially major additions to a mobile home.

HUD oversees the construction of manufactured homes as a result of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, which, according to an agency statement, “authorizes HUD to establish and amend home construction and safety standards for the industry. It also authorizes HUD to conduct inspections and investigations necessary to enforce these standards.”

But at least mobile homeowners who want a home built right in front of their eyes can now do so — and mobile homebuilders have a new path to profits by taking manufactured homes literally “on the road.”

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