You have heard this story before—a tale of dreams crushed by the 2008 financial crash. I am one of the significant number of people who experienced nightmares in the Great Recession. My tale includes the loss of two homes, a major job transition, a shattered retirement plan, and the demise of a 37-year marriage.
For all of us hit hard by the crisis, the way we live, work, and spend have changed forever. I may have to work long past 65 to make up for the losses. Yet I still have dreams of working as a consultant and digital nomad, traveling to faraway places while owning a permanent home in the Seattle area. I am determined to do this debt-free.
First, I had to confront my own prejudice. The phrase “trailer trash” crossed my mind as I confronted my vanity and faced the reality of my personal finances. Was I really willing to continue paying $1,800 a month for a one-bedroom apartment or purchase a home with a high mortgage payment? Was I willing to surrender my entrepreneurial freedom and my dreams to work with a corporation again? At 57, in good health and with an adventurous spirit, I wasn’t ready to give up!
I had a small nest egg to invest and didn’t want the burden of a loan, so I began with the idea of pursuing the purchase of a tiny home. Because of my love for visitors and grandbabies, I opened my options to include manufactured home communities for people 55 and older. I’ll admit I saw a few dumps, like the trashed singlewide with sticky floors and an inch of nicotine on the walls. But there were a few that helped me see greater possibilities. I finally found (or maybe it found me) a delightful, well-maintained, bright blue, cozy two-bedroom home in a quiet neighborhood near Silver Lake in Everett.
Manufactured homes are becoming more popular with the middle-income aging population. From small retirement communities to sprawling acres with hundreds of homes and a clubhouse, you are able to live a comfortable lifestyle without the burden of debt. Here are other paybacks that attract mobile home buyers.
Find big savings. Mobile home park space rent costs a fraction of what you’ll pay in apartment rent or condo fees. You can buy a manufactured home, then put in upgrades and sell it for a profit.
Stretch your income. By downsizing, you’ll stretch your fixed income during retirement. With the savings, you can travel, golf, go to the beach, or do whatever else you love.
Enjoy the amenities. Manufactured home communities are often located in prime locations—near lakes, rivers, golf courses, and easy access to conveniences. Most enjoy a close-knit community with neighbors that look after one another, giving you a sense of someone always being there, decreasing the risk of loneliness. At the same time, the communities are big enough that everybody doesn’t know your business, protecting privacy.
Feel secure. Many mobile home parks are gated, giving residents security. All residents go through background checks, adding to the sense of safety.
Think flexibility. Manufactured homes are not as “mobile” as one might think, but demand for this type of housing is growing in high-priced Seattle, enabling you to resell quickly and easily. If you are a “snowbird”—someone who moves from colder climates to warmer ones in the winter—a mobile home community can be a perfect option for either your first or second home.
As I make my move into the trailer scene, I look forward to a future filled with making dreams come true. I may not live all of my twilight years in a manufactured home, but surrounded by a strong social network, safety, and a tight-knit community, maybe I will. The most important thing is that I have a choice. I’ll be living the dream with “trailer cash.”
Kellie Moeller has worked in the senior housing industry in the Northwest for more than a decade. With an insider’s view and a passion for serving seniors, she gives a fresh perspective on aging.