Even if you and your partner each work two jobs, the reality is you still might not be able to afford a house on Long Island.

Mortgage rates at a 20-year high and the high cost of buying a traditional home have put ownership out of reach for many buyers — particularly young people and those working in the service professions.

There is an alternative: manufactured homes — the current term for what colloquially have been called trailers or mobile homes. Once the myths and stereotypes get stripped away, manufactured homes, which have never been particularly mobile, could be a way for potential homeowners to become upwardly mobile.

“I’d looked into purchasing a house, but they were all out of my price range with the down payment,” said Darrin Miller, 42, a custodian at two schools in Suffolk County, who also prepares taxes for H & R Block during tax season.

Then three years ago, he and his wife, Katora, 38, who works as a licensed massage therapist and as a member-services representative for Suffolk Credit Union, were able to finance a new $120,000 three-bedroom, two-bath manufactured home.

Living at Youngs Mobile Home Park in Riverhead with their three children — third-grade twins and a high school sophomore — they pay about $1,300 monthly for the leased lot on which their home sits. They expect to pay off their $1,200 monthly home loan in five years.

“It’s an affordable way for people to stay on Long Island,” said Lynn Lombardo, manager of the manufactured-home park Calverton Meadows, owned by the conglomerate Hometown America.

How much do mobile homes cost on Long Island?

Darrin Miller, standing, with his son, Damien, daughter Tatumn, wife, Katora, and daughter Autumn at home at Youngs Mobile Home Park in Riverhead. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

[Manufactured homes are] a very viable option for people my age who can’t buy a $600,000, $700,000 house.

— Darrin Miller, of Riverhead

The median price of a traditional single-family home in Suffolk County, even outside the pricey Hamptons and North Fork, was $600,000 in November, according to OneKey MLS. Meanwhile, a large manufactured home at one of the more than dozen parks in Suffolk County — Nassau has none — can sell for almost $300,000.

Of nearly 30 mobile homes listed for sale in Suffolk County on OneKey MLS, asking prices range from $55,000 for a one-bed, one-bath single-wide in Riverhead to $675,000 for a three-bedroom, 950-square-foot home in East Hampton.

And while still generally, if erroneously, referred to as mobile homes, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1976 upgraded building standards and established the new term to differentiate such factory-built homes meant to be placed on a permanent foundation.

“A young family or a young couple can basically get a starter home,” said Douglas Elliman real estate agent Dolores Peterson, who often handles manufactured-home sales in Suffolk County. “They're able to save up money living in an inexpensive home with inexpensive taxes” and possibly move on to a brick-and-mortar home in the future.

“I’ve got 1,190 square feet,” Miller estimated of what used to be called a double-wide, but which the industry now calls double-section.

“It’s still hard to make ends meet, but it’s easier than owning a [traditional brick-and-mortar] home,” he said, calling manufactured homes “a very viable option for people my age who can’t buy a $600,000, $700,000 house.”

And with homes in his park spread 10 to 15 feet apart, with private driveways, Miller said, “It’s better than living in a town house where you’re right up against your neighbors.”

Peter Baldwin, 79, and his wife, Gale, 75, moved from their three-bedroom, roughly 1,100-square-foot home in Ridge more than 20 years ago, retiring to a 1,731-square-foot manufactured home in Riverhead’s Riverwoods, one of Long Island’s many parks restricted to seniors 55 and older.

Having bought the home in 2000 for $91,500, “I could probably sell it for between $150,000 and 200,000,” Peter Baldwin said. It’s a small sum for a home that size in the desirable East End. And unlike in decades past when mobile homes would depreciate, the value of manufactured homes on Long Island and many other areas nationwide now generally go up. According to 2022 findings by LendingTree, manufactured homes in the U.S. appreciated at nearly the same rate as single-family homes between 2016 and 2021. The median value for a manufactured home in that period increased 34.58%, with traditional houses increasing 35.44%.

“It's got a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a breakfast nook,” the retired appliance-company warehouse manager described. “It's got a heated Florida room. Two big bedrooms with walk-in closets. Two full bathrooms,” one of them en suite and featuring a garden tub.

There is no basement or attic, but there is a laundry room with washer and dryer and there are ceiling fans throughout, in addition to central air-conditioning and three skylights. The couple’s monthly site fee of $1,177.17 includes use of a clubhouse equipped with a gym, library, billiard room and other amenities.

What are the laws and drawbacks of mobile home living?

Gale and Peter Baldwin live in the Riverwoods community in Riverhead. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

It's not all a walk in the park: Unless you own a private lot zoned to allow a manufactured home, your only option is a manufactured-home park. This means that while you own the home, you don’t own the land on which it sits. Homeowners in these “land-lease communities” pay a monthly site fee that generally includes upkeep of the park’s roads and trees, plus water and septic, cesspool or sewer service, and possibly trash pickup and amenities like a clubhouse.

But in a national trend, real estate investment firms have bought up what used to be mom-and-pop parks — and, often, raising the monthly fee so high that New York State stepped in and enacted the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. This limited increases to 3% annually, or 6% if justified by capital expenses or increased operating costs.

Often, there are separate charges. The Baldwins, for instance, pay $20.64 a month for garbage pickup. It is unclear if such fees are allowed under the rent-cap law.

"According to the statute," said an aide for Sag Harbor-based Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr., an advocate for manufactured-home owners, " 'rent' is defined as 'all costs, including all rent, fees, charges, assessments, and utilities.' This seems to encompass various costs, including garbage-pickup fees, landscaping fees and road-maintenance fees." However, the aide noted, this has not been tested in court.

In an additional protection, the state in 2008 gave manufactured-home owners a right-of-first-refusal if a park comes up for sale — allowing them to band together and make an offer. Otherwise, they could be evicted if new owners want to construct condos or a shopping center there — and moving a manufactured home from its foundation costs thousands of dollars and risks serious damage.

“There was a small mobile-home park behind the current Walgreens on Route 58 in Riverhead,” remembered Gale Baldwin. “Those people were evicted to make room for the chain drugstore because there was no law on the books” at the time.

“Where the homeowner owns their house but not the land, and there are a limited number of mobile-home-park slots and moving a home is so difficult, it creates an unequal relationship” between homeowner and landlord, said Thiele, a primary sponsor of a bill signed into law on Oct. 25 that strengthens that right-of-first-refusal.

He acknowledged that manufactured-home parks sell for millions of dollars, but, “What makes this law realistic is that the State’s [office of] Housing and Community Renewal has funding programs and technical help to assist in buying the park,” he said. “Otherwise, having right-of-first-refusal would be an empty gesture.”

Grace Swift outside her home at Calverton Meadows. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Yet another issue, said Grace Swift, 90, a homeowner at the seniors-only Calverton Meadows and a longtime activist with the Mobile/Manufactured Homeowners Association of Suffolk, is that “any park out here that allows rentals has problems because people who rent have no stake in” making improvements to a home — and what she characterizes as “slum landlords” let homes get run down.

Calverton Meadows, which like most others here is owner-occupied only, is very well run, she says. “If it snows, our guys are out there instantly plowing.” A clubhouse featuring a gym, a bingo room, a community kitchen and other amenities is well maintained, and she calls park manager Lombardo “extremely attuned to seniors and goes out of her way. She has instituted a lot of pluses, like putting in a food pantry” for residents needing help.

Finding the mobile home community for you

Lynn Lombardo is the Community Manager at Calverton Meadows.

Lynn Lombardo is the Community Manager at Calverton Meadows. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

There are peccadillos, as anywhere. At Riverwoods, said Peter Baldwin, management will remove dead trees, but not trim them otherwise, even when they pose a hazard to roofs.

“They leave that up to you, if you want to pay somebody to come and do it,” he said.

Darren Bolling, manager of the park, owned by Utah-based Vintage MHC Holdings, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment, but afterward, Gale Baldwin later said, “The park brought someone in and they have been taking down all the bad trees, including one that we had, so that problem has been fixed.”

“Do your homework before you pick the park you want to live in,” advises Peterson. In addition to things like pet policies and whether a park falls under a homeowners association, the real estate agent notes that “certain towns have higher property taxes than others — Riverhead’s is higher than the Town of Southampton’s, for instance.” She also suggested: “Ride through the community certain times of the day and in the evening — check it out like you would if you were buying a traditional house. You want to make sure it's the right neighborhood for you.”

It is for Miller and his family. “Pretty much my community is good,” he said. “We all help each other with things like unfreezing pipes” in winter. While his park, Youngs, has no clubhouse or playground, the latter of which Miller has been trying to persuade the owners to install, he finds no stigma attached to manufactured-home life.

But, Lombardo noted, “People do have terms like ‘trailer trash,’ and we have to explain that’s not what it is.”

Indeed, said Miller: “A lot of mobile homes used to be drug dens and [used for] prostitution. That’s why my wife didn't want to live here at first — she thought it was a bad area.” But that stereotype proved outdated, he said, noting that his park is home to mostly families, and his neighborhood has 10 to 15 kids. "We couldn’t be happier.”


When buying a manufactured home, keep in mind that financing is generally more expensive than with conventional mortgages. While manufactured homes generally are considered real property in New York, according to the state Bar Association — and their homeowners taxed accordingly — they still require a Department of Motor Vehicles title if built in 1995 or later.

Because of this bureaucratic anomaly, banks generally will not offer a traditional mortgage. Financing your purchase requires, in most cases, what’s called a chattel loan, which runs 0.5 to 5 percentage points higher on average than traditional mortgage rates.

Purchasers do have options in some cases. HUD offers generally lower-cost loans through its Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs offers VA loans to buy a manufactured home. Some lenders offer manufactured-home loans through the government-chartered corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

And recently passed legislation now allows the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) to offer low-interest mortgage loans and programs to help qualified buyers purchase a manufactured home.


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