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What Is a Mobile Home?

Mobile homes are a form of manufactured housing that became popular during the 1950s.
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  • Written By: G. Melanson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Also referred to as a “trailer,” a “mini home,” or a “caravan” in Europe, a mobile home is a manufactured home which may be transported via tractor-trailer. Mobile homes are most commonly found in campsites or mobile home parks. The same companies which sell mobile homes will often own nearby campsites or mobile home parks, and may only permit buyers or renters of their homes to lease their lot space. Mobile home residents can also place their home on their own private land.

The mobile home design derived from the travel trailer, which is a small trailer hitched to the rear of a vehicle and most often used for camping. To that effect, the first mobile homes were promoted as the perfect housing solution for those who loved to travel. During the 1950s, however, mobile homes became most commonly used as inexpensive housing units, as they could be made permanently stationary with the installation of a masonry foundation. In the mid-1950s, the 10-foot-wide (3.05 m), also known as the “ten-wide” model hit the market, making the mobile home even more viable as a permanent residence. At this time, the mobile home was also given a make over: pre-aluminum panels were introduced to replicate the exterior of a standard home, and models with bare aluminum skins became less common.

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As mobile homes continued to undergo various cosmetic changes and upgrades, the “modular home” was introduced. Also a pre-fabricated residence, a modular home is typically hauled in two separate pieces on flatbed trucks. Once the pieces arrive at their destination, they are assembled into a modular home on a concrete foundation using a crane. Unlike the traditional mobile home, a modular home may have two or three stories.

Older versions of mobile homes are more likely to be susceptible to damage caused by strong winds. Certain brands of mobile homes come with hurricane straps, which fasten the mobile home to anchors embedded in the ground. The modern mobile home is most likely to be built from the same quality of materials used in regular homes constructed onsite. Newer mobile homes are also more likely to meet standard building codes and have a lower value depreciation than older mobile homes.

Over the last few decades, many mobile home manufacturers and mobile park owners have attempted to overcome negative stereotypes associated with the term trailer park by using the more politically-correct terms mobile home park or mobile home community in their marketing material. In popular culture, the trailer park stigma is parodied in such TV shows as Trailer Park Boys and My Name is Earl, which both portray trailer parks in a humorously negative light. In addition to mobile home communities for families, some mobile home parks cater to retirees, and are exclusive to residents over 55.

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