Comparing Tiny Houses vs Manufactured Homes – Function and Value vs. Fashion

Jim Weiker at the Columbus Dispatch recently told MHLivingNews about their take on the growing popularity of “Tiny Houses,” and compared them to the manufactured home (MH) market.

JIm Weiker, credit, Columbus Dispatch.

Tiny houses are a hit on TV, but their numbers are small in terms of actual homes being built, while the cost per square foot is every bit as high as their designs may be cute.  Fairmont Homes President, Brian Cira noted that a tiny house can cost $400 per square foot, while some manufactured homes may sell for 1/10th of that, with a number of entry-level models available at $40 per square foot, depending on the market.

Many tiny houses aren’t constructed to any particular building code, or might be built to an RV code. As the Daily Business News has previously report, tiny houses are being banned in some jurisdictions.


Jennifer Baxter with her tiny house, photo credit, Charlotte Observer.

But the Tiny House market is reaching an audience – evidenced by the 40,000-visitor turnout at last year’s event in Colorado. This is fueled by media interest, and programs such as the television series entitled Tiny House Nation.  Still, the total numbers of tiny homes being sold is “tiny.” By comparison, recently some 7,000 new manufactured homes are being sold monthly.

So why would a future homeowner choose a home that is typically unregulated and over-priced versus a home with a 40-year history of quality, efficiency and consistent federally-supervised best practices?

The answer lies in the well-known challenges that the MH industry continuously faces: an accurate awareness and shedding an outdated “mobile home” image. Overcoming those obstacles will allow MH companies to acquire ever more of the newer generation that may otherwise lean towards purchasing a tiny house, because they may think it’s their only option to own for a low total cost.

MH companies are well aware of the Tiny House trend, with industry resources expressing to MHLivingNews, “I think we need to capitalize on the small house frenzy.”

Brian Cira, president, Fairmont Homes, Nappanee, IN.

Cira is frustrated that the media gives so much love to Tiny Houses, and tends to overlook the more affordable manufactured homes, which are built to strict federal construction and safety standards.  Anybody with a brain in their head would look at a manufactured home,” he said. “We do it much more efficiently, much more smartly. We’ve been doing this for decades. … We could build these all day long.”

But Weiker notes that value isn’t what attracts people to tiny houses, it’s their cuteness.  That gingerbread comes at a high cost per square foot.  Those who are taking the tiny house plunge often enjoy blogging about their cute, simple lifestyle.

Manufactured homes begin in size at 400 square feet, with “32’x80′” multi-section models equal to about 2,280 finished square feet. “Triple wide” models are offered by some manufactured home builders, so homes can reach over 3,000 square feet.

Happy About the Positive Coverage 

Tim Williams, Ohio Homes Association.

Tim Williams, Executive Director of the Ohio Manufactured Homes Association (OMHA), told MHLivingNews how pleased he was with the Dispatch’s report and said, I am distributing to all state executives, MHI, MHARR and my board … the advantages of MH while debunking the expensive trendiness/myth vs. Tiny Houses.”

Nationwide Homes, which like Fairmont Homes is a Cavco Industries brand, took the plunge into the tiny house sector about 6 years ago, with efforts to woo tiny homebuyers with their Eco-Cottages line.  Those homes range from 250 to 513 square feet, and Weiker reported they top out around $60,000.  But for some of those modular units, like tiny houses, the problem is often placement.

Eco-cottages, Nationwide Homes – a Cavco Industries brand. Credit Columbus Dispatch.

The Dispatch’s Jim Weiker correctly noted that many call manufactured homes, “trailers” or “mobile homes” – though he might have clarified that by adding that there have been no mobile homes built in the U.S. since June 15, 1976.

A Tiny House is often from 125 to under 300 square feet. By comparison, single section manufactured homes may start at 400 square feet, but the model below would be 1140 square feet with 3 full bedrooms, 2 baths a full kitchen and is built to Energy Star standards.

But Weiker‘s story is overall positive and accurate – and poses a well know challenge that manufactured housing professionals must tackle.

Those in the know understand the exceptional value provided by a manufactured home. If the evolution of MH is any indication of future results, with more balanced media engagement like Weiker provided to the Columbus Dispatch, it’s only a matter of time before the appeal, federally regulated quality, value, financing and placement advantages of factory-crafted home-building becomes recognized as the option offering potentially millions of home buyers both function and fashion. ##

Frank Griffin, for Manufactured Home Living News.

Submitted by Frank Griffin for ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.


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