Wouldn't it be great to think you wanted to live in a trailer? That you chose it above all other housing? Well, the time is drawing near. Today's prefabricated homes are architecturally designed and fitted with all the latest gizmos and gadgets. And there are lots of people out there who know it.

Introduced in the United States around 1870, manufactured homes have been around for a long time, and from all indications, are here to stay. Standards continue to improve and units are now frequently built to suit. It's an industry that is well positioned, providing affordable housing on the cutting edge of an energy-efficient and cost-effective evolution.

Known in yesteryear's vernacular as mobile homes or trailers, today's manufactured homes were originally built for mobile use. Whichever term is currently politically correct, a manufactured home is constructed, assembled, equipped and detailed in a factory, ready to transport in a few short days.

Arriving at its destination with all of its plumbing, wiring and heating in place ready to be connected to local services, and with a kitchen ready to stock once those connections are up and functioning, the occupants' only task may be to locate the television's remote control. Adhering to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) federal building codes and inspections, rather than state or local county codes, the homes are constructed on a nonremovable, permanent metal transport frame, also known as a chassis. If you wonder whether or not you're looking at a manufactured home, check its crawl space; a steel frame signals a manufactured home.

The new home is transported in one or more units on a truck or trucks depending on its finished size to its owner-designated site. We're all familiar with those wide loads on the freeways with their lead and follow-up cars, lights flashing. The manufactured home comes with its own wheels, which are more often than not removed. Delivery is basically touch and go. The delivery team backs the truck in, unloads your home, usually onto some kind of permanent foundation, makes sure things are level and departs.

The manufactured home is totally functional after connection to utilities is complete. New construction of manufactured homes now offers the purchaser environmentally-friendly, cost-efficient, well-built, well-inspected and well-designed housing - no more asbestos, mercury or questionable wastewater treatment.

Clatsop County Building Inspector Jim Byerley, when out on the road, can usually spot a well-placed, well-landscaped manufactured home. "Remember, a manufactured home has to travel on down the highway upright. It has length, height and width restrictions which vary from state to state, but in general it's identifiable."

Scott Olson lives in a local trailer park in a manufactured home he has owned long enough to still refer to his living quarters as a trailer, and his home grounds, leased month-to-month as a trailer park. His park has around 40 spaces, with monthly rents between $300 and $350, which includes water, sewer, garbage and his choice of either gas or electricity. He is taxed on his home under a personal property formula which applies to homes in parks. Manufactured homes located on private property are taxed on a real property tax.

Olson has seen remarkable advancement in new manufactured home construction, and noted that many parks aren't anxious to rent to manufactured homes that are older than roughly 12 to 15 years. As in the rest of the United States, the majority of Clatsop County manufactured homes are located on private property; there are 16 manufactured home parks offering 577 sites.

The demand for used manufactured homes is about three times greater than new sales - purchasing or buying a used home can save startup costs - driveways, foundations, garages and landscaping are all in place. The volume for purchases of used homes is no longer slipping under the radar. The national Manufactured Housing Institute has identified resale guidelines and provides support to buyers, sellers and realtors relating to home values, zoning, tax implications, legal applications and other related businesses.

Dan Rinzema, a guru in the manufactured home community, said in an industry newsletter that "most people in the industry have been doing a lot of talking for years about the sorry state of the manufactured resales ..." Rinzema, all about action, created user-friendly www.MHVillage.com, a Web site he designed to market, educate, inform and sell primarily preowned manufactured homes in parks and in communities.

Jack Reisterer, owner of Seaside's Bigfoot Restaurant, was - long before his restaurant days - involved in the wood products industry with Pacific Rim Homes, a pioneer in building manufactured homes. "It was an ideal way to get rid of short pieces of lumber we couldn't otherwise make use of. I had one model home up at Portland's OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) on display for two weeks. It had a price tag of $12,800 and before I knew it, we were shipping them all over Alaska. A manufactured home means that everyone can have a house." said Reisterer.

According to a Clatsop County Detailed Profile in 2008, the average cost of a new manufactured home was $70,319. Kevin Holman, manager of Warrenton's Alder Creek Village, a 55-and-older adults only park, said that "all of our homes are 1,200 feet or more in size, some with pitched roofs and shingled exteriors with attached garages or carports. Our community is quiet and stable. Most of us have been here for years. We like where we live."

Seaside's Shoreline Terrace Estates, managed by Jim and Darla Reed, has 61 home sites and there are no vacancies. "We have manufactured homes from 1,000 square feet up to 2,300 square feet," said Jim Reed, "most of them with garages or carports. Residents are here an average of 16 years. It's a great place to live." In fact, so great that Jim, who grew up in Gearhart and then went off to see some of the world, is not only back but joined in the community with his wife in close manufactured home proximity to his sister and mother.

Trailers, RVs, mobile homes, manufactured homes, doublewides, prefab homes, while all in the same family, are not, as the saying goes, "created equal." Manufactured homes are available with two stories, basements, bay windows, decks, custom kitchens, air conditioning ... If you've got it to spend, you can pretty much built to order.

Tom Carson, a California architect who remodels, retools and redesigns high-end prefabricated dwellings for movie stars and moguls, when asked to define the differences in the above said, "It's an area that's become blurred." Blur or no blur, manufactured homes are looking better and better.


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