Buying a mobile home was the best financial decision his family made – just don’t call it a trailer

Purchasing a mobile home has made Stefan Gardner’s life tangibly better, especially financially.

Gardner lives with his wife and son at Greenwood Village, a mobile home garden, in Calgary, Alta.

“I don’t feel settled here,” he told CBC cost of living. “We just walked in and we were like, ‘This place is great. “”

The family was renting a house in the city, fearing that they would be evicted after selling it to a new owner. They were paying $2,100 monthly rent, plus utilities. This high cost was preventing Gardner from investing his money in his personal debts.

“I know what it’s like when you just have, like, cans of tuna to feed your kid, you know, and you [don’t] They only ate two or three days to save money.”

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The skyrocketing cost of housing

While searching for their home, Gardner and his wife were not impressed with the homes and apartments available to them. Some, he said, looked like “money pits”. But they didn’t want to keep renting because it wasn’t a good financial decision.

Gardner didn’t know any mobile home communities existed in Calgary, until he stumbled upon an MLS listing and was impressed by what he saw.

The lower price of the mobile home, says Gardner, meant lower mortgage payments, which allowed him to pay off some of the debt. (Daniel Nierman/CBC)

They purchased a mobile home for $158,000. Now, “Every month I put roughly $1,000 to $1,200 on my debt, which is unbelievable,” he said.

In addition to their $376 bi-weekly mortgage payments, they also pay $840 a month for a pillow in the lawn their home sits on, which includes water, sewage, waste, recycling, and green box collection, as well as snow removal.

Gardner is among a number of new homeowners in Canada who are embracing manufactured homes with higher housing costs, and a way to own a home with outdoor space.

He said people should forget about the stigma attached to mobile home parks and take a second look at them.

“You will never be as happy as you are in a motorhome,” Gardner said. “Because it’s affordable and you have options and you’ll be able to save all that money.”

Others he’s met since buying his mobile home have been able to use the extra money to buy electric cars, invest or travel.

They aren’t trailer parks, and they aren’t trailers anymore.– Al Kemp, Executive Director of the Manufactured Home Park Owners Alliance of BC

Kemp is the executive director of the British Columbia Manufacturers Home Park Owners Alliance, which includes about 350 community owners. He says it’s important to be clear that homes are not “trailers,” and he strongly prefers the term “factory home” over “mobile home.”

“They are not trailer yards and they are not trailers anymore. The home manufactured today is built to a national building code standard called Z-240,” he said. He specifies that this means homes are built with solid metal frames, two-by-four or two-by-six shingles, drywall rather than paneled walls, and roofs guaranteed to last 25 years.

“They are designed to last a long time, with major renovations done every 25 years or so, just like the design of your home and mine. So CMHC [Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation] It fully supports them from a mortgage insurance point of view.”

Kemp criticizes popular culture, such as the TV show Park Boys Trailerdepicts people living in mobile homes in a stereotypical and negative way.

He says these preconceived notions make it more difficult to work with local and regional politicians to build mobile home communities.

Stigma and zoning issues persist

Anna Lund, associate professor of law at the University of Alberta, wrote a research paper on mass mobile home evictions published in April 2021. The paper confirmed Kemp’s concerns and noted that government reports have found that stigma surrounding caravanserais has caused local politicians to avoid creating new parks in their communities or trying to close existing parks.

These existing parks may be located in less than ideal locations, “noisy and unsafe areas, close to non-compliant commercial and industrial uses and far from residential amenities,” according to Lund.

The study also noted that these reports recommend making zoning more comprehensive. That is, allowing mobile homes to mix with, rather than differentiate, traditional housing, and to use the term “manufactured homes” to avoid perpetuating the idea that residents are transient.

About half of mobile homes in Canada are located in British Columbia and Alberta, according to the study.

A recently sold mobile home has been sold in Greenwood Village. According to a recent research paper, government reports recommended making zoning more inclusive by allowing mobile homes to blend in with traditional housing rather than differentiate them. (Daniel Nierman/CBC News)

Kemp said many people are already seeing the allure of mobile homes.

“It is not only an attractive and affordable alternative, but it is also a good investment on the way to a house built on a site, a larger house or whatever the plans of a young family,” he said.

“I’ve seen well-maintained manufactured homes that are 10, 15, 20 years old, now selling in British Columbia for between $500 and $600,000.”

Darcy Moore, a real estate agent with Re/Max in Spruce Grove, Alta, has been selling homes for 20 years. She estimates that mobile homes make up 80 to 90 percent of the homes she sells.

Prices, high sales

Moore said mobile home prices are increasing, but not for the heights of homes built on the site.

“a [mobile] The house that may be 20 years old would have sold five years ago for $60,000. It is now being sold for $80,000.”

“Say five years ago, I would list a house and sometimes stay for a year, sometimes longer,” she said.

Now, the homes may be sold within two months. In a famous nearby park, Moore noted that the house might be on the market for no more than a week.

It’s hard to track national or even regional numbers on mobile home sales, because the statistics may not be collected by every local real estate board.

Some data provided by the Canadian Real Estate Association shows that prices are increasing, along with sales, in parts of British Columbia and Ontario.

A view of the Greenwood Village Mobile Home Community. Real estate data shows that mobile home sales have increased over the past five years in parts of British Columbia and Ontario, and prices are rising, too. (Daniel Nierman/CBC News)

The median sale price for a mobile home in Vancouver was $169,950 in 2017, and has since jumped to $327,000 in 2021. By comparison, in Ottawa, the median sale price for a mobile home in 2017 was 75,000 US dollars, and in 2021 it increased to 160 thousand US dollars. .

For example, the number of mobile homes sold in the northern region BC jumped from 499 in 2017 to 651 in 2021.

Popular with retirees and young families

Moore notes that she has seen people buy homes near her in Spruce Grove, and move them north in Alberta or into British Columbia, because home buying can be cheaper than new buildings.

You see retirees and young adults in the mobile home market. She also says she sees a few cases each year of young families who first bought larger homes, then downgraded them to more affordable mobile homes.

Kemp says he hears about young adults and families who want to move into mobile home communities, but in parts of British Columbia, all of the communities are filled. Therefore, he is pressing the county to make some crown land available to build more.

Gardner said he was inspired to see others who made the decision not to “live in a poor house” by living in mobile homes or tiny homes, and who invested that extra money in savings or investments.

“It ended up being the best and best choice I’ve ever made in terms of my financial life,” he said.


Stefan Gardner and Al Kemp Interviews Produced by Daniel Norman.

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