Daniel Bealey's grandparents and later his parents retired to the Calverton Meadows mobile home park. So when Bealey and his wife, Linda, decided not to retire to Florida, he thought he knew exactly what to expect as the third generation to buy a home in Calverton Meadows.
He figured he'd have to accept cramped rooms. At 6-foot-3, Bealey knew he might feel claustrophobic. He also thought the rooms might be on the dark side, because of the smaller windows in some mobile homes.
Boy, was he ever wrong.
The new home the Bealeys walked into felt like a full-size house, with a sunny, open floor plan, three bedrooms, two full baths, a kitchen, dining room, living room, Florida room and deck. Listing price: $109,900. "The housing that's currently being put in there is far superior," Bealey says. "The day we went to see it we went to the manager's office and put a binder down on it." The Bealeys, both 59, are closing next week. "I'm going to have more kitchen cabinets than I have in my current home," says Linda Bealey.
Mobile home parks have evolved, with newer units frequently being manufactured homes like the one the Bealeys purchased. While a single-wide mobile home is one solid unit, a manufactured home is built elsewhere in two pieces, transported to the site and put together on a slab. It's twice the size of a mobile home. A mobile home averages 720 square feet and a manufactured home 1,500, says Misty Rangel, Calverton Meadows community manager.
"A lot of people feel confined in a single because it's like a railroad apartment," says Joan Traynor, who works for Century 21 Castle Realty in Rocky Point and has lived at Calverton Meadows for 14 years. "The manufactured double is like a ranch home. You walk into a new double, you say, 'Oh my gosh, it's a house.' They've allowed for living conditions to be completely different."
The new units include options such as granite countertops, cathedral-style ceilings, Jacuzzi tubs, kitchen islands opening to great rooms, built-in shelving, wood floors, wall-to-wall carpet, fireplaces, walk-in closets, crown molding, central air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, stainless-steel appliances and front porches.
"When people think about mobile home parks, they're thinking about the old mobile homes. They say, 'I don't want to live in a trailer.' That's what they tell you," says Dolores Peterson of Colony Realty in Jamesport. "So many people have no idea of what these brand-new ones look like. They're making them better and better every year."
Rangel echoes Peterson. "I think it's a great option for retirement," she says.
Calverton Meadows is an over-55 community. About 10,000 senior citizens live in mobile or manufactured homes on Long Island, all in Suffolk County, says Joseph Kummer, president of the Mobile Manufactured Home Owner's Association of Suffolk County. Kummer estimates up to 20 of the 25 to 30 parks are seniors only. The new homes are built to withstand the region's weather, he says.
Rangel likes to tell people "It's Long Island living at no-so-Long-Island prices."
Affordability is perhaps the best part, mobile home park residents say. Homeowners don't own the land; they lease it from the park with no penalty for breaking a lease. The Bealeys will pay a monthly maintenance fee that includes renting the land and some utilities, which comes to about $600 a month. The manufactured home price allowed the Bealeys to price their four-bedroom Wading River home to sell in this real estate market -- and it sold in two weeks for $315,000, Daniel Bealey says. Taxes in the new home are about $2,400, versus $10,000 for their former home.
In addition to the newer units, there are still traditional units for sale in the parks for an even lower price. Yolanda Santisteban, 74, is selling her home in Calverton Meadows, which has 328 homes, for $73,000. "We used it as a summer home," she says. "We used to go back and forth to Boynton Beach," in Florida.
Mark Haff, 56, moved with his wife, Mary, to a mobile home in Calverton Meadows and then sold it to buy an older double-wide manufactured home from 1968. He sold his single for $11,000 and paid $16,000 for the bigger home, which he plans to renovate. "We're not ever leaving. We love it here," Haff says. "I want to be outside, so apartments don't work for me."
Doris Peters, 76, and Frank Ferrara, 82, moved into their new manufactured home in Calverton Meadows in August. They also came from right down the street in the park, where they'd lived for eight years in a smaller, older home. "When they started bringing this one, we went to the office and found out how much," Peters says. "It's like living in a house, a regular house. Absolutely fabulous. To me it's breathtaking. It's got a middle island where we sit and eat, a washer-dryer in the mudroom and two beautiful bathrooms." They sold their former home for $50,000 and paid $100,000 for the new one.
"You want to eat when you retire," Daniel Bealey says. Linda Bealey is a social worker; Daniel works at an oil and gas storage facility. Neither one has a big pension, and they plan to work until retirement age while living at the park.
Meanwhile, they can enjoy the amenities. The retirement parks have clubhouses and offer daily activities such as bingo, cards, billiards, libraries and dances. Because he won't be maintaining a yard, Daniel Bealey says he'll have more time for golf and fishing. Staying on Long Island will enable to Bealeys to see their children and grandchildren, scattered from Brooklyn to Riverhead. Says Daniel: "We'll be able to live the kind of life we've dreamed about living here."
Wading River $48,900
Location: #C3, Ramblewood
Monthly fees: About $600; includes taxes
Amenities: Cathedral-style ceiling, central air-conditioning, wall-to-wall carpet and skylights
Listing agent: Joy Bryant at Little Bay Realty, 631-929-8400 or 631-748-8400
This unit in Calverton Meadows sold this week for its asking price. The monthly fees are about $570, which doesn't include taxes. Taxes not available because the house hasn't yet been appraised. Amenities include a walk-in closet, a sunny, open floor plan with many windows, and a front porch.
Location: #182, Calverton Meadows
Monthly fees: About $600; includes taxes
Amenities: This mobile home has a kitchen with a granite center island, cherry cabinets and stainless-steel appliances
Listing agent: Maryann Iacono at Little Bay Realty, 631-929-8400 or 631-748-8400
8 things to consider about mobile homes
Eight things to consider when purchasing in a mobile home retirement community:
1. How much space do you need? If you're two people, you might need more space than what's called a single-wide mobile home. You might prefer a manufactured home, which is double the size.
2. Are you ready to part with your stuff? "When you are coming from a big house, you've got so many closets. You do have to size down," says Joan Traynor, who works for the Century 21 Castle Realty office in Rocky Point and has also lived at Calverton Meadows for 14 years.
3. What's the condition of the unit? If it's not new, how much money has been put into it? Has it been redone? Updated?
4. What are the terms of the lease? Are you entitled to a lifetime lease? Seven years? 45 years? Longer is better, says Calverton Meadows community manager Misty Rangel.
5. Is there a cap on annual increases? "If there's no cap, run far and fast," Rangel says.
6. Are pets allowed? At Calverton Meadows, for instance, pets weren't allowed until December 2011.
7. What is the size of the lot?
How close are you to your neighbors?
8. What are the recreation options? What is the clubhouse like? Are there daily events such as bingo or card clubs? Is there a swimming pool? Community-sponsored outings?