Buying a mobile home can be a cross between shopping for an automobile and hunting for a conventional home.
Although buying a manufactured home from a dealer or in a planned development is a relatively simple process, space in rental parks is at a premium in North County, with no new parks under construction. A few existing parks, including Rancho Carlsbad in Carlsbad and Tiki Village in Vista, have expansion plans.
Since 1980, it has been legal throughout the state to put mobile homes on individual lots rather than just in parks. However, there are conditions on placement; specific requirements are available from each city's planning department or from the county.
There are about a dozen mobile home dealers in North County who function in much the same manner as real estate agents, according to Vicki Armstrong of Expert Mobile Home Brokers.
"The market pretty well follows the real estate market," said Armstrong, who has been in the business 13 years. "A person wanting to buy a mobile home should look in the newspaper, drive into the mobile home parks and call the mobile home dealers."
In parks where the lot is rented, buyers should investigate rents, what is included and potential increases. New mobile homes must be purchased from a dealer.
There are only two display lots in North County: Mesa Mobile Home Sales and Amigos Mobile Home Sales, both on West Vista Way in Vista.
"New mobile homes run about $30 a square foot, delivered and set up," Mesa salesman Tim Tunney said.
Of the seven models on site at Amigos, prices ranged from $38,500 for 1,325 feet to $96,700 for 2,015 square-feet.
"The materials used are the same as a conventional house," Amigos owner Johns Vincent said. The homes typically are sold with a one-year-plus-10-days warranty from both the dealer and the manufacturer.
The moving price, of approximately $1 to $1.25 per mile, usually is included in the purchase price, and the dealer will handle the move, said Tony Hadley of the California Manufactured Housing Institute.
Cost of setup in a rental park can be between $8,000 and $10,000, while the cost in a planned development can run between $30,000 and $35,000, according to Vincent. Setup can include placing the home on piers or a foundation, adding skirting around the bottom of the home, and installing porches, carports or garages.
In planned lot subdivisions, such as the Foothills in San Marcos and Shadow Ridge Oaks in Vista, model units are displayed much like model homes are in conventional developments. The buyer can choose from the models or purchase a home from an off-site dealer, as long as the home meets the requirements of the subdivision.
Manufactured homes qualify for loans backed by FHA, VA, FMHA, Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Hadley.
Although most financing is arranged through a retailer, a buyer can arrange a direct loan from a bank, savings and loan association, credit union or commercial finance company. The down payment is typically 10% to 20%, Hadley said.
Mobile homes, like other housing, are subject to taxes.
Owners used to be required to pay an annual renewal fee though the state Department of Motor Vehicles and were actually issued license plates.
That changed with the passage of the Mobile Home/Manufactured Home Housing Act in 1981. All manufactured homes built since then are subject to property taxes.
Older mobile homes sold after the act became a law come under the property tax laws of the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Only those mobile homes built before 1980, and not resold since, still pay yearly licensing fees, Vincent said.