Tag Archives: Real estate

Manufactured (Mobile) Home Parks in Orange County, CA

A manufactured home in Southern California, with more trees about it than usual.
A manufactured home in Southern California, with more trees about it than usual.

Update:  A little while ago I noted that a rent control law was going to be on the next ballot in Huntington Beach, and that I’d write about it soon.  I went to do this today, only to find that the city council actually voted to take the measure off their ballot.  This is what I wanted to say in the comments section, but their comments are via Facebook only, so I didn’t submit them there.  But, for your consideration, I post them here:

People need to stop moving into MH parks – this is such garbage. I’ve been looking into MH parks for about 18 months now, and the way they are being run is bizarre–they are just a money-sucking form of profit.  If you buy a condo (or house, of course), you own the property and your monthly payments are always the same.  In MH parks, you have to buy the home but pay yearly increases on the rent of the land.  If you are like most lower income people (or are on a fixed income), your pay doesn’t go up yearly anywhere near the amount that the vast majority of MH park owners raise the rent.  I only know of one park that raises their rent based on the Consumer Price Index (actual inflation).  After a number of years of steady 5% (or higher) increases, I don’t see how anyone would be able to maintain living in a park.  On top of that, mobile homes go down in value, especially so in parks with high and increasing rents.  MH parks are draconian in their present form (at least here) – people need to be able to own the lots their homes are on.

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I don’t know about where you live, but in my urban region there is not a comprehensive list of manufactured (mobile) home (MH) parks that I’ve been able to find.  If you know of one, please inform me!  My intention here is to compile information on any and all MH parks in Orange County, California, for the benefit of anyone trying to make a good decision in buying a MH.  If you have anything you want to share about a specific MH park, please comment below.

I have spent a great deal of time trying to find MH parks in my area and researching the ones I know about.  It is quite the frustrating time-consumer, and the results dismal.  I have talked with four real estate agents and have had two be my agent in the last several months, and no one can provide a list so you can check out the parks.  In fact, people seem kind-of tight-lipped about the whole thing.

Why is knowing of all of the parks important?  If location is important to you, and certainly it will be at some level (length of drive to work, value of property in the area, etc.), then it’s not very helpful to just wait until a unit becomes listed in an MLS.  For one, not all MH’s are listed in the MLS, but on sites like Mobile Home Village; in fact, the only way you’ll find out that certain homes are for sale is by driving by and seeing a sign.  Two, the best thing to do would be to check out the MH parks in your area of interest first, since you need to apply to be accepted to lease a lot in the park.  You need to know if you’d even qualify, and perhaps more important, you need to know if the terms of the lease are acceptable to you.  You could get your list down to only the parks you could afford and be willing to live in, then only look at homes for sale in those parks.  I think this makes sense, right?  This would save both you and your agent time.

That is, if a seller will even accept you–the buyer–having an agent.  The commission on the sale of a lower priced home is obviously not the nice chunk of change that agents are looking for.  I have had more than one seller’s agent not want to do business because I had my own agent.  However, with the high rate of foreclosures in the manufactured home realm, it is important to get good advice and assistance of some form when buying a mobile home and leasing in a park.

A word of warning about Orange County.  More and more, there are nightmare cases where a park is sold to a corporate owner who raise the rents and add fees to a ridiculous level.  This also sometimes happens when the children of the original owners take over.  The state does not see fit to enact any kind of rent control, even though you own a large and normally expensive piece of property on someone else’s land.  The situation is not anywhere near the same as renting an apartment, where you can leave without any other financial consequence.  But in parks, if rents are increased significantly and you feel you need to sell, your chances of selling are lower and you will invariably get less–maybe far less–for your home.  All due to no fault of your own.  It’s a risky business owning a MH on someone else’s land.

The El Monte article referenced below provides an example of immoral and seemingly illegal rent increases.  Large rent increases happened in Fountain Valley not too long ago, too, when a corporation took over a MH park there; the home owners claim that they were denied lease renewals–which is illegal–and that they would be forced to sign new leases with large rent and fee increases, or leave (a link to an article on this is given below).  There is no relief for home owners when these laws are broken, unless they take the time and expense to take the park owner to court.  Even then, without rent control, the owners can raise rents basically with impunity.  (Since this article was originally written, a park in Huntington Beach suffered the same fate.  It was sold to a corporate owner and lots that were $1000 a month were raised to $1700.)

So why am I, and my family, interested in a mobile home?  Well, prior to starting this post, I was told by agents that there is some kind of rent control, around 10% maximum per year.  This is not the case at the state level, and I have not found any rent control measures in the cities we are interested in living.  This makes me even more leery than before.  We would need to thoroughly check out the lease agreement and the park ownership/management before leasing with them.  Obviously this takes a lot more work and consideration than buying a condo or house.  And besides that, any built-in rate increases that are more than inflation need to be carefully looked at (who can afford 10% increase every year when their pay only increases by 0%-2.5%?).

Ok, so the reasons for wanting a MH instead of a condo (we can’t afford a house here whatsoever) are:  we would be on one level and not be upstairs; hopefully the park would be quiet; we might have a little yard for a little dog (we are trying for this, yes); we would have a washer and dryer – believe it or not, no low-end condos here have those (many or most are converted apartments – woohoo!!); and, we would probably have more in the way of household amenities than a condo, depending on the unit.  So it’s a a matter of quality of life vs. return on investment.  A condo that we could afford here would be in an outright slummish place, or a not much nicer white-washed slummish place.

Thanks for reading.  Please write comments or questions below.  I will be compiling park lists with information about the parks.  This will be an “ongoing” project, as I think this information is urgently needed.  Many people have lost, and many continue to lose, their homes and all the money they invested in them, while the park owners sit secure and do virtually nothing for the money they receive.  The only real solution, it seems to me, is to make any form of leased land homes illegal.  Perhaps after reading this and any of my other real estate related posts (particularly, America the Greedy I: Homes on Land-lease Land) you will feel motivated to ask your representatives for this change in law.

Below are charts I’ve worked on enough to post; Santa Ana is coming soon.  I’ll update them as necessary.   The charts are by zip code and include family parks only, not parks for seniors.

CM & NB MH parks 6-20-13

HB & FB MH Parks 6-20-13Last updated and edited on 10/05/13.

Resources:

El Monte Mobile Home Park Residents Outraged by Sharp Rent Hikes (2013)

Fair Housing Council

F.V. mobile-home residents seek rent relief (2012)

Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League

Mobilehome Residency Law (California)  There is NO limit to rent increases per state law

Rent Control in Orange County (index page of articles in the Los Angeles Times)

Great and informative comments after the article:  Why Mobile Home Park Rents Can Be Pushed Higher Than Others

Concerning the weirdness of mortgages “after the ‘recession'” Can the Real Estate World get any Weirder?

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Can the Real Estate World get any Weirder?

Traditional Iclandic home. Photo by criscris1 (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1400630).

Recently I wrote a bit on homes on Land-lease land  to warn anyone who is looking to buy and is wondering about this kind of place.  In our pursuit of owning instead of renting, and being lower-income, I have learned some more about real estate and mortgages, and I must say, the real estate world doesn’t make much sense right now.  And, the only group of people who are benefiting – in the low-end market, anyway – are the investors.

So we had this whole mortgage debacle and the recession (depression), and rules were changed as a result.  When new rules and regulations are made, it’s because someone out there was greedy or mean or evil, and “safeguards” are put into place.  These “safeguards” normally end up being a real pain in the posterior and make good people work harder, work more, pay more, etc.

Our personal background is important here, since getting a mortgage is tied to one’s last two years of work.  I couldn’t get a job during the recession/depression because no one would hire someone who hadn’t worked in a while (I stayed home for quite a few years to help my son with his learning issues); in fact, many employers wouldn’t hire someone who wasn’t working already!   In addition, I was either over qualified or under qualified, depending on where I was applying.  But I was finally able to land a job – a very part-time one.  I have had this job for about 15 months now and my boss is happy with me.

But, for Fannie Mae to consider my income at all, I have to have worked for my boss for at least 24 months.  Wow . . . that really helps people who are trying to get back on their feet . . .  So, we’re lower income and trying our darnedest to buy a home, since our monthly costs will be LESS, but we can’t because Fannie Mae says we’re just not responsible enough . . . !  Isn’t pleasing a boss and sticking with it for 15 months responsible, as well as trying to live more within our means??

Coupled with the amount that we can borrow relative to our income that actually is  “acceptable,” well, it’s just crazy.  See, they will give us a loan that shows that we can pay 50% or more of our monthly income on our housing costs.  As a lower income person, how can I do that???  If I pay for health insurance, car insurance, and my other needs, I couldn’t afford to pay out 50% for housing costs.  So it’s as if they want people to fail.

So, my good part-time income can’t be included when trying to get an ARM loan, BUT, they are willing to loan us a bunch of money under a higher-interest conventional loan under the condition that we pay about 50% of our pay toward housing costs.

As an example, the mortgage on a conventional loan of $200K for us would be almost the same as an ARM mortgage of $250K.  See what a difference a little interest makes?  We have the same credit rating, but getting different rates; I have excellent credit, but they won’t use it.

Meanwhile, my agent tells me, investors are having a feast here in Southern California.  They gobble up, with cash, all the lower end places and then rent them out; these new land owners are from places like China, too.  For people like us who can only afford a lower end place, either we simply can’t compete, or we have to end up moving into a complex that isn’t kept up, is over-crowded, won’t resell well, etc.   I don’t get how we can continue to allow foreign investors to buy our homes, places our own citizens ought to be able to buy and live in.

The rich are favored in this country in the name of freedom.  You are free to make a better life for yourself here if you’re wealthy or if you cheat (if you haven’t heard of the level of cheating that goes on in universities and on resumes, then you should check it out).  A “free” country can’t work when people are only into it for themselves, otherwise those who are power hungry and greedy will naturally percolate up and come to control whatever they want.  While our country’s history has not been perfect by any means, it was founded on Christian ideals.  Freedom can only work in this type of “love your neighbor as yourself” context.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  Matthew 7:12

In Christianity, you are supposed to give to the poor, not take from them or oppress them.  God commands in the Old Testament to not collect usurious interest.

In you men accept bribes to shed blood; you take usury and excessive interest and make unjust gain from your neighbors by extortion.  And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign LORD.  Ezekiel 22:12

And, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, just as Matthew 7:12 already pointed out.  And who are our neighbors?  Everyone, really, as the story told by Jesus of the good Samaritan alluded.  Certainly, we are not to be naive concerning cheaters and frauds, but our country favors the wealthy and aggressive and keeps down those who don’t want to climb the ladder to riches.  How else do you think we keep having these financial debacles that make everyone suffer and damage the whole economy?

America the Greedy: Homes on Land-lease land

In Anaheim one day.

Hello everyone – how are you all doing?  It’s been an unusually long time since I made a blog post, but looking for mortgages (loan shopping), looking for properties, taking cars into shops and looking for a new car, etc., surely takes one time up!  Since I’ve been in this mode and have learned some new things, I thought I’d pass a little of my new-found knowledge along.

So we are low-income (and recently lost some monthly income) and our rent went up.   But we have some funds to use for a down-payment, so it’s time to buy a condo if we can find one.  Why?  Where we live, it costs less per month to pay a low-end mortgage and homeowner’s association fees (HOA), than it is to rent.  Seems silly, huh?

Leaving the vagaries of renting vs paying a mortgage aside, there’s this thing that exists in our country called a land-lease (not all states allow this for condos/houses, apparently, and for good reason).  I have read a number of realtor’s comments and articles on this and this is what I have to say:  don’t buy into the idea that there are good reasons to buy a condo or house on leased land.  Buying a manufactured home in a mobile home park MAY be worth it, but I’m not talking about mobile homes.

Ok, so this came as a shock to me that you could BUY a condo on land you don’t own.   The lease tends to be a lot, and they also have high HOAs.  So how, possibly, could this help anyone but the leaseholder?  But wait, you might say.  What if you buy the home and the lease is finally paid up – don’t you own it all then?  That would make sense, right?  And it would make up, maybe, for paying the lease for all that time (up to 99 years, I’ve seen).  But NO, you BUY a condo, but when the lease is up it’s NOT YOURS.  This is what I’ve read; this is my understanding.  If you buy a condo or home on leased land and you want to sell and get your money back from the investment you made in the property, you might be dreaming.  If the lease is almost up, no one in his/her right mind is going to spend their good money on a home that will be “theirs” for only few years!

I saw a condo here recently that was very attractive, very cute, in a nice area (it only had one parking spot, however).  They were asking a fairly low price for the condo itself ($139K), but the lease was around $3,300 annually right now (this is actually a low lease), with scheduled increases to $6,814 annually by 2031.  The HOA was a very high $584 per month.  Another listing didn’t provide either the lease cost or the HOA.  Ok, another is one of those deals where the listing agent sucks in unwary people:  a nice condo listed for a ridiculously low price (about 25% of comparable ones in the area), with a bit higher than average HOA, and NO mention of it being a land-lease.

Finally, one in the city where I live.  An OK looking condo for not all that cheap of a price (in a perhaps an OK area, but not a great area), with $412 HOA and no lease price provided.  Let’s say you were able to put down 20% on a mortgage for this place (but good luck with even finding a bank to give you a mortgage for this type of property).  The monthly payments would be about $780 per month.  Property tax would be minimal.  There’s the $412 HOA, and the lease is . . . what?  Just for the heck of it, let’s provide a lease that is kind-of average for a mobile home lease in the region: $1,000 per month.  That would leave you paying $2192 per month for you basic housing needs.

We’re looking to buy a small regular condo and our monthly costs will be between about $1,025 and $1,420, and that includes property tax.  So how does the land-lease option help lower income people, or help to save on monthly costs?  It doesn’t; it only helps the landowner.  And you will not gain equity in that home.  You will be lucky if you get the same amount back for it as you paid.  This is what I’ve read from real estate agents and others.  One good side to owning, some people try to suggest, is that the place will be better maintained and generally nicer than a cheaper condo or apartment, so it’s better for families.  Well.  I say don’t throw away your hard-earned cash and be patient, do some more searching, etc.  (Build good credit; it’s kind-of astonishing how much of a difference one-half of one percent makes on your monthly payment.)  Save that money for your kids’ college education and don’t just throw it at some land-owner who’s sitting back making all kinds of cash off you for simply roosting on his land.