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Not Your Grandmother's Mobile Home

Jun 5, 2019 8:55:04 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

There are no comparisons in the safety standards and technology of a 2019 Cadillac versus one from 1979. Today’s modern cars are safer, more fuel efficient and provide great luxury. Only a car buff who longs for the gaudiness of yesteryear would disagree with that statement.

You don’t drive your grandmother’s car today, and the same is true of a manufactured home, or if you prefer — mobile home, and for those who live in the forest — trailer. At the core root of Florida’s tremendous population growth in the last 40 years has been the manufactured home business. Florida realtors and developers marketed to northern middle-class snowbirds and retiring seasonal residents to buy manufactured homes in many of the dream locations in Florida. The homes were very affordable and the land was inexpensive.

This led to many booms and busts in the Florida realty market. However, manufactured housing led to great developments like The Villages. Harold Schwartz, founder of The Villages, started out as a Florida mail order land developer who went in the direction of manufactured housing in the 1970s because of changes in regulations. Orange Blossom Gardens, a manufactured home development, was the origin of America’s largest single-site development.

The appeal of Florida’s manufactured home industry had some challenges in the last couple of decades because of two significant occurrences — the influx of wealthier retirees to Florida and the stubbornness of the manufactured home industry to improve construction standards. The wealthier retirees were lured to single-family homes in amenity-laced developments. In addition, the 24-hour news cycle showed videos of 1960s era mobile homes destroyed in tornadoes and hurricanes.

Jim Ayotte, executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, touts daily how the manufactured home industry has increased manufacturing standards and codes to build homes that are now hurricane rated.

Ayotte notes, “We had manufactured homes in both Mexico Beach during Hurricane Michael and in the Florida Keys during Hurricane Irma that withstood the hurricanes with little or no damage.” He provided videos with customer testimonials to back up his claims.

Amazingly, many of these manufactured homes were elevated to cope with flood zones.

Manufacturers like Palm Harbor Homes have seen remarkable results during these storms and the company is taking the lead in upgrading wind standards and construction. The industry appears to be fully embracing the standards of the single-family home industry regarding hurricane strapping and impact-resistant products.

The other aspects of these new manufactured homes are their style and features — they really look nice.

What motivated our grandmothers to buy a manufactured home in the 1970s may be the same motivation of Millennials — affordability and style.

Local jurisdictions that have been zoning manufactured housing developments out of their communities may need to reconsider this as the push for affordable workforce housing grows. Today’s manufactured homes are not your grandmother’s mobile home.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply. He is also the host of the Around the House TV show on LSTV and LakeSumterTV.com at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and at 7 a.m., Noon and 6 p.m. Saturday.