At first glance, selling a home looks like a rather simple task. You find a good realtor, assess the market condition, set the price you see appropriate, and let the professionals carry out the rest.
It is only when you undergo this adventure you see that the real estate market is one really complicated mess where some regulations are way too loose for a proper interpretation, and professional ethic swings left and right.
As a matter of fact, you don’t even know what type of professionals you need to sell a certain type of property.
That brings us to a question – what happens when you set your eyes on a manufactured or mobile home. These constructions are definitely suitable for living and aim at the same customers as traditional houses.
But, looking at the matter strictly from the legal perspective – can a realtor sell a mobile home or you need to knock or some other door for help?
Let us try to find out.
What Is A Mobile Home To Begin With?
One of the most important things we need to move off the table to get to the bottom of this dilemma is to answer what the mobile homes actually are.
You see, the classification of commercially available properties is pretty complex and sometimes even borderline illogical. You may be the owner of some stationary home or construction that classifies as mobile. On the other hand, some properties are prefabricated and, in some cases, mobile but still go under the real property moniker.
So, let’s try to break this down as thoroughly as possible.
If we are to look for some textbook definition, we will find an explanation that a mobile home is a form of a prefabricated structure permanently attached to a chassis before being transported to a site where it’s going to be inhabited.
There, the mobile home can be left open permanently or semi-permanently.
Such a definition broadly covers trailers, trailer homes, residential caravans, house trailers, static caravans, etc. Looking at all things considered above, we could get a pretty good idea about what we are dealing with here.
We Need To Talk About Manufactured Housing
- The only problem with narrowing down the mobile homes to trailers and caravans is that, in practice, such a description became obsolete as early as the 50’s.
- You see, during that period, mobile homes started gradually evolving into permanent housing solutions, so the manufactures started making design changes to tap into this new situation. Inexpensive prefabricated houses were built to be left in one place or even mounted on a permanent masonry foundation.
- These days, the prefabricated homes are, in the vast majority of cases, permanently left in one place after assembly. In a functional sense, they are no different from the traditional brick and mortar constructions.
- Because of that, ever since 1976, mobile homes have been legally referred to as manufactured homes and required to pass the FHA (Federal Housing Administration).
- And here lies the main issue we are dealing with here. Although mobile homes and prefabricated houses (hoses built in factories and assembled on-site) are both legally considered as manufactured housing, in reality, they are drastically different and have a different position on the real estate market.
The Difference Between Mobile, Modular, And Manufactured Homes
Now that we’ve pointed out this problem let us try to untangle this mess, see what qualifies as mobile, what as modular, and what legally qualifies as a manufactured home.
- Manufactured homes are the houses that are built in the factory and transported to the site assembled. Due to the necessity to fit housing locations like trailer and caravan parks, they are made in three standard sizes – single wide, double wide, and triple wide.
- Upon arrival, these constructions are usually placed on a permanent foundation or a basement, much like a typical site-built home. If needed, they can also be dismounted and transported to another location.
- A mobile home is a term generally used to describe the housing solutions we have mentioned above – trailers, caravans, static caravans, etc.
- However, ever since 1976 and the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act, mobile homes are required to pass a whole list of safety requirements in the following fields:
- Design and construction
- Body and frame requirements
- Plumbing and electrical
- Fire safety
- Thermal protection
- Energy efficiency
- All these measures brought mobile homes much closer to the quality standards of manufactured homes, so even when they are not permanently mounted on some type of foundation, they are legally treated as such.
- Legally speaking, today, the term “mobile home” in the most narrow sense can be applied only to the homes that were built before 1976 when these standards came into place.
Modular, Prefabricated Homes
- As the name suggests, this type of house is assembled from a number of prefabricated modules, which makes them a lot different from manufactured homes that are fully assembled in the factory and only then rolled out to some living location.
- Modular homes offer great versatility, excellent living standards, a lot of customization options, and are, for all intents and purposes, permanent structures. That situates them firmly into the real property sector and subjects them to all business practices of the real estate market.
Difference Between Real Property And Personal Property
Now that we’ve gone through this short glossary of commercially available housing solutions, we will need to clear a couple more important terms before we are finally able to make sense of this puzzle.
Namely, in the previous section, we have mentioned the term “real property.” The opposite of real property, at least in the real estate market glossary, would be “private property.” Since both of them are closely related to the topic at hand, let us go through them as well before we move to the responsibilities of real estate agents and realtors.
- Essentially, the term real property covers all homes that are permanently situated on the land owned by the homeowner. In terms of mobile and manufactured homes, permanently situated means that the construction has been anchored to the foundation and meets the proscribed HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) standards.
- If both these requirements are met, mobile homes are legally closer to traditional brick and mortar constructions and subjected to longer loan terms, lower interest rates, and various tax deductions.
- This legal classification goes all the way back to the times when mobile homes were still listed under vehicles. The mobile homes that are classified as personal properties are financed with the so-called chattel loans. This is the home-only type of loan (as opposed to home and land packages), it is, generally speaking, much harder to get and carries much higher interest loans. On the other hand, the deposits needed to initiate the loan are much lower than traditional mortgages, so there’s that.
What The Realtors Have To Say About This?
And we have finally come to the last piece of this complicated mess – the realtors.
Now, you have probably heard both terms “real estate agents” and “realtors” used interchangeably and are wondering what the difference between the two is.
No need to worry. Realtors are nothing more than licensed real estate agents that are members of the NAR (National Association of Realtors). And NAR is one of the oldest and largest trade associations in the USA that proscribes a couple of in-house rules and codes of conduct.
But, since neither one of them is NAR-specific in relation to mobile homes, you can ignore this minor difference for the time being.
So, with all of the aforementioned things in mind, let us finally answer the question, can a realtor sell a mobile home?
The short answer would be yes, but only as long as the construction is legally and physically attached to the land parcel, or in other words, classified as real property. Such properties are subjected to all common real estate laws and practices and, legally speaking, are no different from traditional buildings or modular constructions.
We have to point out, though, that due to low prices and the specific nature of these properties, the realtor commissions for mobile homes are far lower than, let’s say, brick and mortar houses. The average price of a manufactured home sits somewhere at $63,000. Realtors, on the other hand, need to invest the same amount of work in facilitating the transactions.
So, very few free agents are motivated to engage in these types of acquisitions and sales. At the same time, some agencies are specialized solely in these specific transactions (for a slightly higher commission), so you will be able to find legal help.
What About The Private Properties?
- Now, if you are stuck with some property that is not permanently attached to a land lot, you don’t need to worry. Although this issue is far out of realtors’ jurisdiction, there is a category of professionals that specialize in this specific type of transaction.
- They are called mobile home sales agents, and their sole job is to facilitate the transactions between mobile home buyers and sellers. Of course, they undergo the same training and real estate agents and have to obtain similar albeit separate licenses from state authorities.’
- For instance, in Texas, that would be the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).
We hope you found this short guide through the complicated world of mobile homes, if only a bit helpful. Unlike some of the situations we have covered in the previous articles, buying and selling these houses features little to no ambiguities when it comes to the realtors’ jurisdictions. But, you do need to know what kind of property you got at hand. So, go once more with everything we wrote about above and happy hunting.