Older-Model Manufactured Home Leads to Mortgage-Free Living

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The author, Roberta Lacefield, and her husband downsized their possessions in order to live comfortably in their small space.
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The Lacefields also added a porch to the front of the house and a mudroom to the back.
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The total cost of the Lacefields’ house came to $10,000 — a bargain that Roberta says they can “celebrate all the way to the bank.”

We started with an older-model manufactured home. It gave us a place to live as we decided what else we needed. We liked the idea that we were “recycling.”

We purchased this used manufactured home and then remodeled and added on as we had time. Though it has worked well for us, it has been a hard home to live in because the perception in this country is that anyone who lives in a manufactured home is actually “trailer trash.” We prefer to think that we live in a recycled home that allows us to keep a very small footprint on the Earth. However, sometimes I do wish we had a fancy home with many rooms (that we would have to use energy to heat/cool and only use occasionally) because our homes are so much a part of the way we judge each other in our country. It truly is tough to rise above all that.

Our one-bed, one-bath manufactured home cost $7,500, including delivery and the heat/AC pump. Setup cost us about $500. We changed out the windows (to double-hung, double-pane), added a porch on the front made of wood that we milled on our Wood-Mizer sawmill, and put a mudroom on the back made primarily from salvaged materials. Our total cost was under $10,000.

Our home is 750 square feet. It is a single-wide that is only 52 feet long. It is small but my husband reminds me to envision living on a boat. If you make every space count and get rid of your “junk,” 750 square feet is actually a lot of room for two people — especially in a warm climate where so much of our time is spent outside.

We had a professional team level the home on the site and skirt it. A professional connected the heat/AC. We did all the other work. Today, I added an electrical outlet to the peninsula countertop. It is amazing how a little thing like that can make a small space so much more convenient.

We actually had no obstacles with the mobile home, especially compared with a site-built cabin we have on the river in the same county, which was a huge pain with many obstacles. This surprised me because the mobile home was used. I expected to have to bring some things up to code (especially because of our experience with the other property), but the inspector really didn’t seem to care. Just plug it in and go!

I’m not sure we would do it again. Even though we live in a community that values conservation, there is such a strong stigma against “trailers” that I feel I have to justify and apologize for our choice. Also, there is something that simply does not feel quite “grounded” about a manufactured home — I miss that solid foundation that comes with site-built. Finally, because of our space limitations, I had to make some tough decisions on some furniture to which I had an emotional attachment. On the other hand, our land taxes this year are $30. That is mighty hard to beat! We do get to celebrate all the way to the bank.

Decide how important other people’s opinions are to you. If you can handle the stigma, there are some strong upsides to a manufactured home.

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