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I remember the first party my husband and I threw after moving into our new-to-us mobile home as barely legal adults with one year of marriage under our belts.
Our family, friends, and friends of friends all came, spreading out through our home and picturesque acreage of blackjack oaks and rolling fields, taking in the views and commenting on the bedroom sizes and laminate flooring.
“I didn’t realize you all had bought a trailer-home,” an acquaintance said, startling me into a wordless, open-mouthed stare.
I wasn’t sure if the statement was rhetorical or if I somehow owed an explanation for our choice of investment. I don’t remember what I said in response, just that I felt a little less proud of this major accomplishment than I had moments before.
Now, 6 years later, after having sold that trailer home on its acre and a half of land and using the substantial proceeds of the sale toward our much larger dream of owning more acreage and running a hobby farm, I’ve had a lot of time to think about just how damaging the stigma of mobile home ownership can be for a first-time home buyer in our country.
We can blame words, as some in the industry have attempted to do, working overtime to erase any mention of trailer home or mobile home, emphasizing manufactured homes instead.
Well, as my husband tells me, it’s not really what people call the homes, but the sneer that comes with it.
The fact is, there is a general notion that if someone buys a mobile or manufactured home, then they haven’t really achieved “true” home ownership. Instead of admiring the careful planning and calculating of these home buyers to keep their mortgage payments low (while still investing in the ever upward trending real estate market) family, friends and other onlookers will, whether openly or not, consider the achievement a “nice try” but not one equal to someone who buys a site-built, or, real home.
This creates quite a problem for new home buyers in today’s market where there is such a large gap between real homes and the humble trailer home.
With the pervasive stigma against manufactured housing, ranging from city restrictions to mean-spirited jokes in the news media, many home buyers never even view owning a mobile home as an option and instead end up spending tens upon tens of thousand of dollars in rent while they save for a “real” home—money that could’ve been building as equity in their own home on their own property during that time.
Right now, in Texas alone, the median home price is hovering around $250,000. If you calculate the mortgage payment on a home at that cost, after a $50,000 down payment, the monthly mortgage payment rings in around $1,500 a month with property taxes, insurance, and interest.
Are there homes for sale at a less expensive price? Sure. Many of which are fixer uppers, requiring either major DIY skills or another loan for renovation.
But these are considered in the mainstream to be more acceptable paths to home ownership. Acceptable or not, many families simply cannot afford them.
The joked and whispered about trailer home, however, is exactly what they can afford. And we, as a society, need to understand that the housing market has changed, financing options have changed, and mobile homes themselves have changed. Mobile homes have brought incredible opportunity for those left far behind in the housing market and they shouldn’t have to feel ashamed, shouldn’t have to feel anything less than proud, of achieving a central part of the American dream—home ownership.
So, what’s in a name? Some may say trailer home, others mobile home, and still some will abide by the new term “manufactured home”, but really, we’re all saying the same thing. We just need to make sure we’re saying it the right way.
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