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    Making That Retirement Retreat Come True on a Budget

    by Jeanne Roberts

    You’re close to retirement and it’s time to make that getaway retreat dream come true.

    You have already picked out the plot of land; about nine acres in Colorado. Unfortunately, the purchase price of the land doesn’t leave enough in the budget to build a home.

    You could have bought a smaller parcel of land, perhaps – more like one to four acres – but that’s not really living the dream, is it?

    Take heart. You can buy living quarters for about $62,000. This is the price of a brand new 28 x 56 square-foot manufactured home with all the expected amenities. For slightly more, you can “deluxe” your home to include real wood windows and doors, cherry cabinets, raised porcelain bathroom sinks or deep stainless farmhouse sinks, finished-seam drywall walls, specialty kitchen countertops, and a waterfall showerhead, for example.

    There is one added, and inevitable, expense, and that is delivery and setup on your parcel of land. Manufactured homes typically come on a steel chassis with wheels attached, so getting them from one place to the next isn’t terribly expensive (between $2,000 and $5,000). Most of the cost is in setup, usually on cement blocks over plastic ground sheeting, with a framework of struts or braces covered by mobile-home skirting. If highly irregular, a section of your land may have to be graded.

    The point of the manufactured, or mobile, home is that it gives you some place to live on your land while you are waiting to build your dream home. For some people, this temporary housing solution becomes permanent, as owners fall in love with the low-cost, high-value of their homes-on-wheels.

    There are about 7 million manufactured homes in the United States, so clearly they are an acceptable (and sometimes desirable) substitute for traditional, stick-built (i.e., site-built) homes. The majority are located in the southeast and west, particularly North and South Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon.

    Manufactured home sales were actually a precursor to the housing bubble and recession that started in 2007, and it is only recently that sales have begun to climb again, reaching 81,100 units. This is 4.3 percent more than in 2015, but still down from the 2005 peak of  about 184,000 units, which also means manufacturers are more flexible on pricing and amenities.

    In spite of negative press, the fact remains that manufactured homes must conform to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards. In addition, the market has been so rough that three manufactured home builders now make up the bulk of the sales. These are: Clayton Homes, Inc. (with a market share of 41 percent), Champion Home Builders, Inc. (15 percent) and Cavco Industries (12 percent).

    If you are considering a manufactured home on your retirement acreage, you must check local and regional zoning laws, because many cities, towns and municipalities do not allow manufactured homes in the same areas as site-built homes. This is ostensibly because most people, including assessors, realtors, and property managers, think manufactured homes reduce the value of traditional homes.

    Secondly, you must make sure that all your utilities – water, sewer, electric – are in place on your parcel of land before workmen set your new home down on blocks.

    FYI, most manufactured home roofs do not support the weight of solar panels, but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a standing array on land near your manufactured home. You can also have a residential wind turbine from Bergey, which – given Colorado’s climate – is one of the most effective and affordable renewable energy resources available today.

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