Trailer-home buyers find they can save money - and face, too

Trailer-home buyers find they can save money - and face, too
  1. Trailer-home buyers find they can save money  -  and face, too
    When Mary Ann Ridenour and Bill Ridenour became empty nesters last year, their 3,200-square-foot home suddenly seemed superfluous. As many couples at this stage of life do, the Ridenours decided to downsize. But unlike many others, they left their big house in a golf course community for…

When Mary Ann Ridenour and Bill Ridenour became empty nesters last year, their 3,200-square-foot home suddenly seemed superfluous.

As many couples at this stage of life do, the Ridenours decided to downsize. But unlike many others, they left their big house in a golf course community for a trailer home.

"When I tell people what we did they think I'm joking," said Mary Ann Ridenour.

Their move, however, is not as uncommon as you might think. As housing costs — both buying and renting — remain high in many parts of the country, some people are finding trailer homes to be an affordable option.

In fact, roughly 20 million people in the United States live in trailer houses, also referred to as mobile homes, according to Census numbers.

For the Ridenours, the impetus for moving into a trailer was cutting costs. Mary Ann Ridenour, a 49-year-old who works full-time as a court reporter, started a side business a year earlier. The couple wanted more cash to support her endeavour, so the $1,800 monthly mortgage payment on their house in Summerville, South Carolina, needed to go.

"We were working our butts off to live in this big house that we didn't need," Ridenour said. "We thought, 'Why are we paying this ridiculous mortgage on this home?' It was strapping us."

They bought a 3-bedroom, 2-bath trailer with a half-acre of land about 10 years ago, for $143,000. The trailer, whose previous owners had used it as a summertime crash pad, was 2 miles from the beach and across the street from native marshlands outside Charleston. The Ridenours moved in last July.

"It's not a sign of a great accomplishment that I've moved from a big beautiful home to a trailer," Ridenour said with a laugh. "Once we swallowed our pride, we now find the awkwardness when people realize our living conditions amusing."

She said she and her husband are much happier overall now that they're not stressed about money.

Trailer-home esthetics have changed. Many today have modern interior designing, stainless-steel appliances and colorful paint.

"I love my trailer," said Kodi Bryant, 40, who purchased the home in Golden, Colorado for $20,000. Her side deck offers a view of the downtown Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains.

"I looked at apartments in the Denver area, but they were so expensive," she said. "I didn't want to work in a cubicle and come home to a cubicle."

Mobile homes have long helped fill gaps in affordable housing. They were introduced after World War II and geared toward the millions of veterans returning home. Since then, trailer homes have grown in popularity. Census data from 2000 showed mobile homes constituted 7.6 per cent of housing, compared to 0.7 per cent in 1950.

Trailers still play an important role in satisfying the country's housing needs, according to Charles Becker, a professor of economics at Duke University, who has studied the topic. Not only is there a steady stock of trailer homes in otherwise tight housing markets, but mobile homes can accommodate lower- or middle-income people "who don…

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