Taking Away the Trailer Park Stigma

Frank OBrien
April 24, 2014

It is only the stigma associated with trailer parks and the class society created by Vancouver real estate prices that keep more people from buying $70,000 to $90,000 modular houses, according to Real Estate Agents, lenders and a developer backed by BC's largest public pension fund.

"I hate the Trailer Park Boys," said Sharon Lenning, a Real Estate Agent with Macdonald Realty in Surrey, referring to the popular TV and movie series comedy depicting white-trash lifestyles in a fictional community.

Lenning, who lived in a Langley modular home park for nine years, argues the parks combine safe and community-minded living with the most affordable housing in the Lower Mainland.

"The new modular homes are like the best new condos, with two to three bedrooms, two bathrooms, stainless steel appliances and even vaulted ceilings," said Lenning, who now specializes in sales of modular homes in Fraser Valley parks.

Kitchen in modular home by Winfield Home Systems

Kitchen in modular home by Winfield Home Systems[/caption]

Mortgage manager Abdul Safi of TD Canada Trust in Vancouver notes that modular homes offer an "extremely affordable" alternative for homebuyers in Metro Vancouver, where a recent Royal LePage survey found the average bungalow now sells for more than $1 million. Most of TD's modular home loans are for less than $80,000, he said.

Safi added that because of the much lower loan values, modular home buyers can qualify for a chattel mortgage used to buy modular homesmore easily than a conventional mortgage. The chattel mortgages offer the same financing options as conventional home loans and include mortgage insurance, most often from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Using a recent example, Safi explained a buyer purchased a $75,000 modular home in Surrey with a 5% down payment, a variable mortgage of 4% and a mortgage amortization of 25 years.

"Their downpayment was $3,250 and their monthly mortgage payments are $386.95 per month," he explained, "and they don't have any strata fees."

Owners in modular home parks, however, pay a monthly lease for the land the home is sitting on, averaging $820 per month in the Fraser Valley. Still, the total monthly payment works out to less than the cost of buying a Lower Mainland condominium, which now has an average price of $341,200, according to the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.

Safi said modular homes account for less than 10% of his office's mortgage loans, despite the affordability factor. He doesn't see that changing.

"Vancouver has developed a class society based on housing prices," Safi said. "People don't want to say they live in a trailer park."

Bedroom in modular home by Moduline Homes.

Bedroom in modular home by Moduline Homes.[/caption]

British Columbia's biggest pension fund, the BC Investment Management Corporation (BCIMC), hopes to change that perception.

In 2010, BCIMC bought Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities Inc.for $790 million. This month Parkbridge, Canada's largest modular park developer, launched an "enhancement program" in three older parks it bought two years ago in Surrey and White Rock in a bid to erase the Trailer Park Boys image and persuade more families and retirees to consider modular housing.

One of the moves involves installing dozens of the latest modular homes, factory built by Moduline Industries or Winfield Home Systems, both based in the Okanagan.

"These homes are built to the same code and the interiors are equal to newly built houses in any subdivision," said Lachlan MacLean, director of BC operations for Parkbridge. The difference, he noted, is that the three-bedroom, two-bath houses sell for about one-tenth the price of a conventional three-bedroom rancher.

Parkbridge is also renovating many of its older modular homes with contemporary upgrades. All three parks are also being improved with landscaping and upgraded community facilities, such as recreation centres new swimming pools, basketball courts and children play areas.

Recreation centre at mobile home park Crestway Bays in Surrey BC

Recreation centre at Crestway Bays, one of the Parkridge properties.[/caption]

Lenning, who plans to downsize back into a modular home, said Parkbridge is on the right track. "It is all about how good the [modular home] park is," she said, "and Parkbridge has really raised the standard."

May 6, 6 9 PM: Crestway Bays 8220 King George Blvd May 7, 6 9 PM: Crispen Bays 7790 King George Blvd May 8, 6 9 PM: Breakaway Bays 1840 160th Street

See also: Beyond the Double-Wide: Today's New Manufactured Homes

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