Real Estate: Mobile home trends mirror rest of East End market

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jean and Joe Napolitano have lived in their Calverton home for nine years.

Even with community pools and clubhouses and deluxe options like stainless-steel appliances and stone countertops, mobile and manufactured homes are selling slowly — and often at a deep discount — according to local real estate brokers.

Mobile home prices mirror the rest of the East End real estate market, said John Bagshaw, owner of Bagshaw Real Estate in Riverhead. The low prices may not be great for sellers, but they’re great for potential buyers. Many of those buyers are people over 55 or young families just starting out and looking for a stepping stone to a conventional house.

“Now is a very good time to buy, because the prices are so low,” said Maryann Iacono, a broker at Little Bay Realty in Wading River. “And this is really the end of the selling time, so people are at the point where they’re disgusted, and they’re more apt to listen to a reduced price.”

Ms. Iacono recently sold a mobile home listed for $15,000 for $6,500, though she said it required a total gut renovation. The most expensive mobile home she has sold recently went for $52,000.

“It’s not a hot item,” she said. “I’ve sold three in the past two-and-a-half months, and I’ve sold them well below market value.”

Mobile home prices in Riverhead have fallen by almost 38 percent since 2008, though more are being purchased, according to data from the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island. From September 2010 through October 2011, the median price of the 84 mobile homes sold was $22,500. But from January to December 2008, the median price of the 23 mobile homes sold was $36,000.

In the down market, the 500-home Glenwood Village is still expanding and working on a high-end manufactured home subdivision called Glenwood Oaks, where units start at $199,000 and top off at $259,000, said Noreen Grossklaus, the sales/property manager for the community. The company reduced the starting price to $199,000 from $225,000 to better suit the economy, she said. The homes feature special frames and roof shingles, among other features, that make them manufactured homes, said Brian Stark, vice president of Stark Properties, which owns Glenwood Village.

Ms. Grossklaus said many of the people moving into Glenwood Oaks and the older Glenwood Village section sell their conventional homes and use the equity to move into the park, sparing themselves the expense of a mortgage. But conventional homes are also selling slowly, dragging out the time it can take to make the move into a mobile home, said Ted Hoye, the president of First Credit Corp., a company outside of Albany that helps buyers secure mobile home loans.

Mr. Hoye said standard rates for late-model mobile home mortgages start at 6.99 percent with 20 percent down. Most parks require criminal background and credit checks before allowing a new owner in.

Tomasz Gibas used owner financing to purchase his mobile home in Park View Community because he had difficulty securing a mortgage. The home was $75,000, he put down $25,000 and the prior owner financed the balance, said Mr. Gibas, a landscaper with a young family. He added that the property is no longer worth what he paid, but he hopes to eventually sell it and move.

Once a manufactured home at Glenwood is assembled and a sale can happen, closing goes very quickly, within a week, Mr. Stark said. Because community residents don’t own the land their homes sit on, there’s no deed transfer — only a title transfer, he explained. There are usually no lawyers involved, saving residents some pricey closing costs.

Homeowners also pay monthly association fees, which usually cover the lease on the land, garbage pickup and snow removal. Fees are $520 per month at Oakland Ridge in Calverton and $450 per month in Park View Community in Riverside, which are both family parks.

The homes in Glenwood Oaks feature four-foot crawlspaces, paver stone driveways and energy-efficient windows and construction.

Ornate chandeliers, interior Roman-style columns and Jacuzzi baths make the units seem more like small luxury houses than factory-ordered homes.

Those features draw potential buyers into the units, but Ms. Grossklaus also sells them based on the Glenwood community itself.

She said some conventional houses in Riverhead could be bought for prices less than or comparable to those of upgraded models at Glenwood. But Glenwood also offers residents a pool, clubhouse and activities with their peers, she said.

A sense of community drew Jean Napolitano and her husband, Joe, from their home in Central Islip to the 55-and-over Calverton Meadows community just over eight years ago.

“It’s the camaraderie. Here, everyone’s nice,” she said, adding that she and her husband organize the community’s Italian festival every year. “If we weren’t here, I would’ve retired, and then what?”

Ms. Napolitano was hesitant about leaving a conventional home for a mobile one, and checked out Leisure Village in Ridge before committing to Calverton Meadows.

“My mother said ‘So, you’re living in a trailer,’ ” and I said, ‘Ma, you have got to see, it looks like a regular house,’ ” she recalled.

The board at Park View — a cooperative in which all residents own the land together — has plans to create a sense of community by building an office, playground and clubhouse on a parcel of land they own fronting Flanders Road. Cynthia McLaughlin, the new president of the community’s cooperative board, said she plans to re-finance the mortgage on the park’s land to pay for the upgrades.

“We need to open our minds to mobile homes,” Ms. McLaughlin said. “It’s not undesirable people — it’s definitely a new trend.”