Mobile homes, manufactured homes, modular homes, and mobile home parks in Florida

I do realize, not everyone can afford, or even necessarily wants, a full sized 3 bedroom 3 bath Ranch home in The Villages.  One popular option is a mobile home.


There are some technical differences between a Mobile Home and a Manufactured Home (technically, any ‘mobile home’ built after 1976 is considered to be a “manufactured home” and is built to somewhat higher standards,  and modular homes are built to somewhat higher standards and may be more customized than a mobile/manufactured home); nonetheless all  of them are built in a factory and transported to the building site and assembled there and essentially bolted in to either a cement block foundation or a slab on grade.


Nonetheless, my point of this post is to discuss how you hold the land the mobile/manufactured home is on.


First, many parts of Florida allow mobile/manufactured homes on ‘standard’ homesites; you simply buy some land, either in a subdivision or in a town or in the county and place a mobile home on it. Some counties allow mobile homes in nearly all residential areas; some counties place limitations on where you can place mobile homes, usually restricting them to agricultural areas and ‘farm’ sized lots, i.e., minimum 5 acres lot sizes.  And certainly, you have to check your zoning if you are contemplating buying a mobile/manufactured home.  And, if you are in a subdivision, you also need to check whether mobile/manufactured homes are allowed; nonetheless, there are large parts of Marion County, Florida, for example,  that allow mobile homes and where residential lots can be bought at very reasonable prices.   Lake County, Florida, has somewhat more restrictive rules on mobile homes but even there, there are a number of places where you can place a mobile home.


Second, there are many subdivisions that consist exclusively of mobile/manufactured homes;  in some cases they were developed years, decades ago, typically by a mobile home dealer who would subdivide a parcel, lay out streets and roads and sell individual lots along with a mobile/manufactured home. Some of these subdivisions can be very nice; typically occupied by retirees and working class families as ‘starter’ homes; the mobile homes can see significant improvements and add ons and while they may not be as good an investment as conventional housing, they do tend to hold their value reasonably well and are usually quite affordable for someone of limited means or someone who simply does not want to spend a bunch of money for a vacation home in Florida; they are very attractive to ‘snowbirds’ who simply want to spend 4 to 6 months every year in Florida, away from the cold.  The original The Villages, Florida subdivision, Orange Blossom Gardens (what they refer to as the “Historic Side” of The Villages) in Lady Lake was set up like this; it was a subdivision of Mobile/Manufactured homes.  Those homes are still reasonably priced, for The Villages, though the developer is buying them up as they come on the market, doing ‘tear downs’ on individual lots and constructing conventional housing on those lots.

However, in both of these cases I discuss above, they key is, you own both the mobile home AND the land that it sits on; if it is in subdivision, you may be subject to HOA restrictions and maybe HOA dues; nonetheless, the key is, you own the land.  You may have to pay a mortgage if you finance the land, and/or the mobile home, but you own the land, you get a deed, and it is your own real property.

The other  type of ownership of the land under a mobile/manufactured home is where you do not in fact, own the land, but you pay “Lot Rent”.  These are typically described as “trailer parks” “mobile home parks”, sometimes as “adult (or “senior”) communities”, sometimes described as “Resident owned” but the key is, while you own the mobile home, you rent the land on which it sits.  Every month, you will have to pay rent; each and every month.  If you fail to pay rent, they can, and will, evict you; even though you own the mobile home that is sitting on the land, and you will either have to move the mobile home, which is difficult and expensive and can easily cost eight to ten thousand dollars or more; plus, you need a ‘new’ place to put the mobile home, or the owner of the park will simply wind up owning the mobile home if you can’t move it. It takes some legal work but it is done all the time; someone places a mobile home on a lot, they own the mobile home, but fail to pay rent, and eventually the owner of the park winds up evicting them and the owner of the park winds up owning the mobile home, as well.


And while there are some legal protections in place, there is no guarantee that rent is going to remain stable; it can be raised; and there is also no guarantee that it will remain a mobile home park forever; typically developers place these parks on what was, at the time very inexpensive land; however with continued growth in Florida, what was, at one time, inexpensive agricultural land that was rezoned into a mobile home park winds up being more valuable for either commercial or standard residential development; and the mobile home park winds up being sold out from under you and you, and your mobile home, have to move, largely at your own expense,  or see it condemned.


My point is, I understand some people can’t afford to buy land or even a lot; but ‘renting’ a mobile home lot is expensive, uncertain and with little protection for the person doing the renting.  If you are considering this, I would suggest you think long and hard about this; you may be better off looking to buy a vacant lot and putting a manufactured home on it, or buying something in an existing, if older, subdivision where you would own both the home and the land underneath it, even if you wind up paying HOA fees.  Or, simply, rent a mobile home;  particularly if you are a snowbird; you won’t be building equity, nonetheless, you don’t go to the expense of having to purchase a mobile home and run the risk of losing it if you can’t pay rent.  And, because I am a probate lawyer, I will point out, frequently what happens is, dad buys a home in one of these communities, pays lot rent for years, dies, and then the children come in and realize they have to pay lot rent, for months, on an unoccupied mobile home on a rented lot; they can’t sell it or move it very easily, and the park owner frequently tries to swoop in and buy it at a minimal price; the children don’t want it, they can’t move it, and they wind up selling it, cheap, out of the estate.




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