Definition of "Mobile home"

Barbara Altieri real estate agent

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Barbara Altierielite badge icon

Coldwerll Banker

When someone throws around the term “mobile home”, it almost requires further explanation to fully understand what that person is talking about.

Why is that? Well, one mobile home definition would be a house that is actively mobile – such as trailers and RVs and other dwellings with a permanently attached chassis, wheels and motor engine – but also a static prefabricated home that is staked to the ground but can be transported somewhere else, if needed. In  The Non-Traditional Homes Battle, Mobile Home definitely gets the “most versatile” prize.

Is a mobile home considered a vehicle?

If the home sits on wheels, then it is considered personal property and is treated like a car. If it’s attached to the ground, on a parcel which is your own property, then it’s considered real estate and you owe real estate taxes. So, the good news is that mobile homes can be turned into real estate once the wheels are removed and the house is tied into electric utilities. Even though the mobile home definition has long referred to these buildings as vehicles similar to RVs, the HUD can make the conversion on most mobile homes built after June 15, 1976 and accept them as real properties.

The mobile home definition is tied to the two most common sizes, as well. The first one, commonly called “Single-wides” can be towed as a single unit, while the second one, “Double-Wides” need to be towed in two separate units because the size is too big to fit safely atop a wheeled vehicle. There are triple-wides and beyond, but they are very rare. In fact, because of this hassle, very few double-wides and beyond are removed from their site, once they get established. Single wide owners are more likely to get a deal to trade or sell their mobile homes as a way to reduce the purchase of a new home. Used mobile homes are usually re-sold to be used as inexpensive rental units by mobile home park owners.

Mobile home parks (also referred to as trailer parks) were created as a way to host the several families that either prefer living in motorhomes or have no way of affording something else. It’s basically a land where the owner acts as Landlord allowing motorhomes to occupy a space temporarily. There are over 38,000 of them throughout the United States, and many offer amenities like pools, kid’s playgrounds and more, just like regular condominiums do. There is a small difference between mobile home parks and trailer parks, though. The former puts more responsibilities on the shoulders of mobile home owners, while the latter - designed for short stays - puts the management at work. They are responsible for cleaning and making sure that the new visitors will enjoy a pleasant stay. 

One of the main issues with mobile homes is their sturdiness, so if you’re living in one of the worst cities for natural disasters, it might not be a good idea to live in this kind of dwelling. Avoid at all costs older constructions, as they were not built to endure hurricanes and they tend to suffer depreciation over time because, in a way, they are still motor vehicles.

But the mobility of mobile homes on wheels is definitely one big pro. For instance, say you want to spend a family vacation: no need to spend money on flight tickets and accommodations. All you need to do is pick the best vacation destination for you – that is; that has roads leading to it and accepts parking cars – and drive there. Countless families do the cross country coast-to-coast route, stopping by some of America’s landmarks - like Mount Rushmore, The White House, and the Grand Canyon - and have nothing but great memories of this rite of passage that is a family trip on a mobile home. Some people also use them as office space of sorts. Check these 6 unusual commercial ideas for mobile real estate.

Is a mobile home a good investment?

It really depends on what exactly you own. If you lease the land, it is very likely to face eviction sooner or later and you might not be able to move the house, either because it is too old or too large. From an investor’s standpoint, mobile homes can generate a steady stream of income from renting. However, it is safer to buy a motor home attached to the ground, one that has already been converted to real property. If you purchase a motor home in a mobile home park, the owner of the park can close the park any time to use the land for a different purpose or to develop a gated community with higher standards of living. You may see this happening already in the city of Scottsdale, St. Anthony, Austin, and Seattle. So, yes, mobile homes are a good investment as long as you own the land underneath, as well. 

However, financing this kind of home may be difficult, unless it’s deemed real property. Mobile or manufactured homes that haven’t yet undergone the conversion process may only be purchased through chattel mortgages, just like any other consumer goods. 

Do you have to pay property taxes on a mobile home?

Now that you know the mobile home definition, you already know that you only owe property taxes on mobile homes converted through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Otherwise, you have to pay only personal property tax as if you owned a car. The same conditions apply to manufactured homes since these are also regarded as part of the big family of trailers. 

Real Estate Agent tip:

Don’t walk(drive?) this path uninsured! Learn more about mobile home insurance and get yours!


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