By Matt Rearden
2020 has been a unique year, bringing with it a pandemic that resulted in a shift in the way people buy and sell manufactured homes.
The year started with a bang as one of the strongest beginnings in the Central Florida manufactured housing resale market. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit toward the end of the first quarter. The state of Florida began a lockdown to try to control the spread of the virus, and several cities and counties in Florida were in a heightened state of awareness.
Yet when Florida moved into Phase II of reopening, what we saw was an immediate backlog in demand. People wanted to buy manufactured homes, and they wanted them quickly.
Manufactured Home Buyers Are Motivated
The major trend we have observed this year is a lot of interest and sales from buyers in northern states. Florida has always attracted retirees and snowbirds from all across the U.S., but this year has shown a specific increase from that geographic region. A lot of our call volume, web traffic, and purchasers are coming from the north, from people who are looking to escape some of the more populous areas and retire early in Florida manufactured homes.
With both a backlog in demand and highly motivated home buyers wanting to move quickly, many are purchasing sight unseen, making their decision based on video consultations and virtual home tours. Being able to meet these buyers where they are, online and by phone, has been crucial to keeping business going.
Our northern clients are looking for wide-open spaces, affordable housing, and sunshine—all of which are readily available in the Central Florida manufactured housing market. Many also seek the lifestyle and amenities afforded by the various mobile home communities, some of which they may not have seen up north.
Central Florida Community Residents Are Staying Put
On the other hand, we have seen a downtrend in inner-city moves within Central Florida this year. More are staying where they are because they love the area, community, neighbors, and amenities, and are financially comfortable with their current monthly payments.
Another trend we have noticed is more mobile home communities being purchased by new owners and an increase in the market rate for lot rent. Lot rent increases can change the resale market. The price of homes tend to shift down to accommodate the higher monthly payments with the intention of keeping manufactured housing affordable and finding qualified buyers. This could be another reason why more buyers are coming from out of state while in-state residents are staying put.
For example, a northern client who has lived in their site-built home for 25 or more years will have earned a good amount of equity when their house is sold. They are often able to purchase a manufactured home without financing and can easily afford lot rent at a higher market rate.
It’s Really About Lifestyle
As previously mentioned, these buyers also seek the lifestyle and amenities available in Florida manufactured home communities, which creates additional value for them. Manufactured homes are more easily cared for and maintained than most standard site-built homes, and many communities include services like lawn care, irrigation, and trash removal.
The communities that seem to be most successful in holding home values while also increasing the monthly lot rent are the ones reinvesting in the communities and homes. While residents are never thrilled with a lot rent increase, we are seeing that when new owners quickly add value or amenities, it becomes a win-win. Some of the unique things we have seen are new community owners remodeling outdated clubhouses, paving roads and sidewalks, purchasing new shutters for every home in the community and even putting in new brick paver driveways. When this is done, we tend to see happy residents (both current and new), an increase in value for all of the homes in the community, and the attraction of new buyers.
Despite shifts in the market rate for lot rent and a global pandemic, the manufactured housing resale market in Central Florida is trending very well. Even with a dip early in the year, sales are on par with last year overall. The fact remains that manufactured housing remains a very affordable alternative to rented properties and site-built homes. Manufactured housing community residents get a sense of community, tons of amenities, and included services.
It is the job of Four Star sales agents to educate buyers on the value of lot rent and detail the benefits that come along with their monthly payment.