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Understanding Financing Options for Manufactured Housing

Restrictive zoning and expensive financing are holding back the production of more manufactured homes. According to a recent study by the Urban Institute, helping people understand their financing options for manufactured housing could increase the demand for these homes as a viable affordable housing option.

In a report that looks at demystifying this segment of the housing market, researchers at the Urban Institute looked at how financing for manufactured housing (MH) differed from that for traditional housing units or properties.

It found four key differences. First, the market was served by a small group of specialized lenders, second, the average loan size for manufactured homes was small; third refinancing was rare and was usually done by general lenders; and fourth cash was the most preferred means of a transaction for manufactured homes, especially for used units.

Giving details about these four aspects of lending for manufactured homes, the report, which used the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data to classify manufactured housing lenders, revealed that for the small group of specialized lenders serving this market, 90 percent of their single-family business came from manufactured housing. This compared with specialty lenders for whom 15 to 90 percent of business was for manufactured housing and general lenders for whom the manufactured housing slice of total lending activities stood at 15 percent.

"Of the five lenders that offer the most loans to purchase manufactured housing, 78 percent of the lending is originated by three MH lenders, two of which dominate the market: 21st Mortgage (20,956 loans) and Vanderbilt Mortgage (11,365 loans)," the report revealed. "The MH lender San Antonio Credit Union was in fifth place, with 2,902 loans."

Loans made by MH lenders were also generally more likely to be chattel or personal property loans compared with mortgage loans, which were preferred by general lenders.

When it came to loan sizes, the report revealed that the median loan size for manufactured homes was $72,000 compared with $199,000 for single-family homes. "This reflects MH's role as a source of affordable housing," the researchers at Urban Institute said. Within the manufactured housing market, the report indicated, the average loan size for borrowers served by general lenders was $90,000 compared with $56,000 for MH lenders and $58,000 for specialty lenders.

While MH lenders and specialty lenders were more popular with originating loans, refinancing was rare in this sector and usually done by general lenders, the report found. In 2016, the refinance share for single-family homes was 45 percent compared with 26 percent for MH loans, in part because of the lack of cash-out refinancing opportunities for MH. The report indicated that 84 percent of refinance mortgages for MH were made by general lenders.

"Although we don’t have nationwide data on cash sales of manufactured housing, data from the Texas Manufactured Housing Association show that in Texas, the most popular state for manufactured housing, 56.9 percent of manufactured homes in 2016 was purchased using cash," the report said.

In fact, cash sales were more prevalent for used properties than new ones, with 32 percent of new homes purchased by using cash and 74 percent used homes purchased by using cash.

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and editor. A former Online Editor and currently a reporter for MReport, she is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.

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