There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about mobile home parks from folks who live in the city. The stereotype is often seen in the movies of the “poor white trash” that live in run-down “trailer parks.” Or the gypsy-like nomads that live in a trailer and pack up and get out of town at the first sign of trouble.
Years ago, I purchased a mobile home in a park about 30 miles outside of St. Louis. I was young and liked living out in the country and the thought of having “my own place” for about $10,000 appealed to me. Of course by the time I paid the pad rent at the park and the payment on the trailer, I probably could have rented a small house at the time for about the same amount of money.
But even so, I had my own place with a small patch of yard, a driveway to park the car in, and for the first time in my life, my own washer and dryer and a spare bedroom, even though it was about the size of a large closet.
There were a few drawbacks to living in the mobile home though. The model I had was an older model and it was kind of long and narrow: 12’x72′. At times it was hard to fit through the hallway if you were carrying a basket of clothes, for example. And the thing was cold and drafty in the wintertime. The walls consisted of a covering of tin, about an inch of some kind of paper material, and the interior paneling. That was it. It cost a fortune to heat.
And sometimes the skirting would blow off and the water pipes would freeze over. The electricity was supplied by a large plug that snake out from underneath the trailer and plugged into a pole in the back. Sometimes the kids who lived in the park would sneak by and unplug the wire and you’d end up in the dark.
The floors were made out of particle board and sagged in some places and the gas water heater was in a compartment outside and the pilot light would blow out whenever there was a storm. And during a storm, that trailer was the last place that you’d want to be.
Even though it was tied down, it rocked and swayed enough to keep you awake at night when there was a really fierce wind. And a fireman friend of mine told me that it had aluminum wiring that was a fire hazard and if the thing caught fire it could go up in about 3 minutes. But despite all of the hazards and the cost, I ended up staying there for almost five years.
But mobile home parks and trailers have come a long way since the time that I owned one. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, (www.stltoday.com), high-end mobile home parks have become a lifeline for people who still want their own place, but can’t afford to live in a regular home.
Mobile homes sales tanked when it was easier to get a brick and mortar home, but the sinking economy and frozen credit of today has sparked a new interest in the homes. In 2008, the number of FHA insured mobile homes jumped 14 percent.
Mobile homes are now being called “manufactured housing” and the new double-wides are sometimes difficult to distinguish from a small house. I have a friend who recently bought one that has a hot tub, fireplace, deck, and a built-in stereo system throughout the house.
On the outskirts of the city there’s a tiny little mobile home park with all kinds of new luxury housing built around it. There’s been talk of removing it for years, but the way things are going, the mobile homes there might just become prime real estate.