The Housing Chronicles Blog: The Giant 400: Credit crunch helping manufactured home sales

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Giant 400: Credit crunch helping manufactured home sales

According to Professional Builder magazine's "Giant 400" survey, sales of manufactured homes fell steeply during the recent housing boom and bust cycle, made even worse by the steep discounts 'site-built' builders were offering buyers. But as the credit crunch has eliminated most loans without some type of down payment, the lower cost of manufactured housing has re-made it as an affordable housing of choice in certain areas.
Site-built housing's downturn dragged the manufactured housing sector into the gloom the past two years, but now the sun is beginning to shine again for at least some in that industry. Part of the reason is the credit crackdown that has many site-builders tearing their hair.

"It's tough to sell any kind of housing when so many production site-builders are discounting wildly," explains Tom Beers, vice president of economics for Arlington, Va.-based Manufactured Housing Institute. "Our members complain about the strategies of the public home builders just as so many other builders do."

"But the last couple of months, we've seen single-section HUD Code shipments turn up dramatically. Both consumers and lenders have had a reality check," Beers says, "They can't put people into $500,000 homes anymore if they don't have a big down payment."

Single-section HUD Code homes are the most affordable product in ownership housing, with an average price of $35,000. A $2,000 down payment will work fine for such a home, while it may not work at all in the current tight credit environment for even the most affordable site-built homes.

Multi-section HUD Code homes and modular housing are still in the dumps, because both track closely to site-built. But even there Beers sees reasons for optimism. Multi-section HUD houses are assembled on-site and average $85,000 in price, without the lot and the decks and porches many people attach to them. The federal stimulus package now in Congress contains a provision to update FHA Title 1 mortgages, upping the loan limit from $48,000 to $70,000. If Congress passes that provision, Beers believes the mortgages will be used widely on multi-section as well as single-section HUD homes.

Modular manufacturers have carved a niche recently supplying modules to custom site-builders for assembly into expensive custom homes in rural areas. Those rural markets are not as bad as those in suburbia, and that market segment is not as interested in standing inventory homes. So even modular has hope.

Still, the best chance for manufactured housing is the HUD code single-section segment that's already rocking. Tighter credit is pushing people — who should have been customers all along, Beers says — back into HUD singles.

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