Category Archives: Home and Family

Multigenerational Homes Meet Varied Needs

Paul Tsai lives with his wife and in-laws, but the 42-year-old restaurateur doesn’t feel crowded.

That’s because he lives in Riding Oaks Estates in Ann Arbor, Mich., in a multigenerational home specially designed by Horsham, Pa.-based Toll Brothers Inc., to fit the needs of multigenerational families.

When Tsai signed the contract to build the home, he added a master bedroom suite on the ground floor, in addition to the standard master on the second. The suite features a bedroom and bath along with a sitting area and large walk-in closet. The family shares a kitchen.

“This home affords us the best of both worlds,” says Tsai. “We were too cramped in our old home when (the in-laws) were in another bedroom next to our bedroom. But now with them in a separate side of the house, we’re very comfortable.”

Tsai paid an additional $120,000 over the $850,000 base price of his five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath home to add the additional master bedroom.

Multigenerational Homes are a Growing Trend

But he’s not the only one opting to live in a multigenerational home. Whether it’s college graduates returning to the fold because they can’t find a job or elderly parents moving in with their kids to avoid the cost of senior housing, more and more people are living in multigenerational households.

According to a Pew Research Center report released last year, the number of Americans living in multigenerational family households has continued to rise. In 2014, a record 60.6 million people, or 19 percent of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof, up from 51.5 million, or 17 percent of the population in 2009.

“Based on our demographic research, there’s going to be a huge demand for multigenerational homes,” says Lesley Deutch, a consultant with John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Boca Raton, Fla. “Part of the reason why it hasn’t caught on even more is because some municipalities classify them as two separate homes on one lot, so that can be a little tricky for builders.”

One of the ways builders avoid having multigenerational homes classified as two-families is by leaving out a stove when the house includes a separate kitchen. The kitchenette will have a sink, refrigerator and microwave, but not a stove.

Miami-based Lennar Corp. has been building multigenerational homes since 2011. Its product is called NextGen and it’s essentially a home-within-a-home, currently available in more than 300 Lennar communities in 12 states.

How Does a Multigenerational Home Work?

A typical NextGen floor plan by Lennar will include a private living room, bedroom, full bath, kitchenette and single-car garage. With a separate entrance, as well as a door into the main home, residents can spend as much or as little time as they’d like with the primary residents.

“A NextGen home is an economical solution for families and for builders, who gain some economies of scale with our building practices,” says Kim Ashbaugh, Lennar’s director of NextGen brand management. “Families can combine a mortgage, utilities, maintenance, get help with childcare or care for an aging parent — and you can do it all within the comfort of your own home.”

The cost of NextGen features is built into the price of the home, Ashbaugh says, because the builder achieves economies of scale during construction. There’s a single foundation and utility box and one roof truss system. “We were able to save a lot by doing that and pass that to our customers,” she says. “We’ve worked really hard to make this a viable solution and not make people feel we are gouging them for that additional 500 to 800 square feet of home.”

Home the Right Choice for You

So you’ve decided to build a new home. You’ve done some research into the difference between custom and production builders and you’ve started daydreaming about open floor plans. The world is your oyster. You think you’ve carefully weighed all your options — but have you considered manufactured homes?

Before your mind flashes back to trailer parks or being stuck behind a truck with its “WIDE LOAD” sign warning slowing down traffic for miles, hear us out. After all, today’s offerings aren’t your grandmother’s manufactured homes.

Setting the Story Straight

Along with modular homes, manufactured homes fall into the category of prefabricated homes. Here’s a trivia fact for you: the term “mobile home” technically refers to manufactured homes built before the HUD code governing standards for factory-built homes was instituted in 1976. Along with modular homes, manufactured homes fall into the category of prefabricated homes. Those terms are often used interchangeably, but manufactured homes are pre-constructed completely in the factory on a permanent, fixed steel chassis, while modular homes come pre-built in sections at the factory and are finished on location.

Manufactured homes can be located on private property, but many homeowners choose to live in manufactured home parks. Alfie Best, chairman of Wyldecrest Parks, one of the biggest and largest park home operators in the United Kingdom, says, “For my business, the pattern is consistent — people looking to downsize.”

Best also notes that a large percentage of their sales come from retired and semi-retired individuals and couples. In order to attract a wide range of buyers, manufactured home communities may offer amenities such as parks, swimming pools and community centers.

Quality and Customization

Contrary to the stigmas of the past, advances in construction technology have closed the gap between site-built and manufactured homes. Some manufactured homes come with landscaped lawns and garages or boast Energy Star appliances and energy-efficient HVAC systems. Though builders are able to customize manufactured homes to a greater degree than ever before — hardwood floors and granite countertops are just a few options at your disposal.

A modular homeowner herself, Shannon Miranda, principal designer and owner at Woodcliffe Design, suggests visiting the manufactured home company and touring their facility to get an idea of your options, as well as get a feel for their quality of work.

Fast and Efficient

One benefit of manufactured homes is that there is little room for error on the assembly line and weather delays or other factors do not affect production in the same way that it does a site-built home.

“Manufactured homes have an inventory of supplies, so when building is at its peak and supplies are running low, manufactured companies continued to build and meet their delivery dates. Project delays are fewer,” says Miranda.

Efficiency also results in a quick turnaround: manufactured homes can be factory-built in just a few weeks, compared to around seven months for a site-built home. “What we liked about the concept was that the structure was being built in a controlled environment in a fraction of the time it would have taken on site,” says Miranda.

Build My Manufactured Home

When it comes to affordable and flexible build-on-your lot homes, it’s hard to find an option that can beat a manufactured home. 

Also known as a prefabricated home, this type of dwelling is constructed entirely beforehand in a factory and then transported to a lot of your choice. 

While some may choose to have them transported to a park or neighborhood with other manufactured homes, others may choose to build on a lot they have chosen on their own. This begs the question, “Where can I build my manufactured home?”

What if you dream of living in the mountains? What if you want to be near the beach? Clayton Homes, which manufactures homes in 37 facilities across the nation, might have a few answers. We sat down with their vice president of marketing, Mike Duncan, to answer some of the most common questions regarding where you can put your manufactured home. 

NHS: Are there any restrictions to where you can build a manufactured home?

Duncan: Some of our facilities can manufacture custom projects, the only restraint or restriction would be the state and federal codes our homes are required to be built to. This gives a homebuyer the flexibility to be as creative as possible in designing their dream home. 

NHS: Can you describe the building and transportation process?

Duncan: All Clayton-built homes are constructed in our homebuilding facilities and then transported to their homesite. Depending on the size of the home and the location, homes can be delivered and set in various ways.

NHS: What are some special considerations you have for buyers trying to decide where to place their home?

Duncan: Buyers should be aware of all local zoning laws, as this can dictate whether or not a home can be placed in a prospective location. Aside from zoning, homebuyers should also be aware of utility access, easement access and other land issues that would need to be cleared before selecting a site. 

NHS: What are some of the most affordable options of where you can place a manufactured home?

Duncan: Manufactured homes can vary in price dramatically depending upon a number of factors including size of the home and materials and delivery site, all of which need to be considered when pricing a home. Manufactured home parks and communities that are designed and zoned to accommodate manufactured homes are generally the less expensive options. Customers can also place homes on their own private property.

NHS: What are some of the less affordable options?

Duncan: Two-story modular homes are at the higher-end price point for a Clayton-built home. These modular homes are built to applicable state and local codes and closely mimic site-built construction in look and profile. Because Clayton builds manufactured homes in a climate-controlled environment, materials are less likely to suffer from some of the weather-related issues that can plague site-built contractors. 

NHS: The term “trailer park” is a thing of the past. Are there any myths you’d like to debunk in regards to these changes?

Duncan:“Trailer park” is a term that was commonly used when referring to a manufactured home prior to HUD Code requirement changes. The term “trailer” is no longer in use for our industry. Manufactured home parks are now neighborhoods and communities that have been designated for manufactured housing. 

The Most Popular New Home Upgrades

It would be hard to miss the mountain of media pronouncements about the way American consumers were sobered by the recession and now are in more of a no-frills mode. Except, perhaps, when it comes to building their new homes.

The concept of “home” still pulls at the heartstrings and homebuilders say that upgrading certain features and adding special flourishes remains high on buyers’ shopping lists. Consumers may be leaning in a somewhat more practical direction now than they did during the spend-athon of the housing boom, but homebuyers still want what they want. And “bare bones” is not on their wish lists.

“For several years, they (buyers) sat on the sidelines to see what was going to happen (in the economy),” said Jeff Buell, co-owner of Sitterle Homes, which builds in San Antonio, Houston and Austin. “During that time, they thought about what they wanted, they saved some money, and now they’re building what they want.

“They’re not going crazy, but they’re not not doing anything,” he said. “They have more buying power because interest rates are low. They’re saying, ‘We can go ahead and add this (option) now because we can afford to.’ ”

The whole concept of what’s “standard” and what’s “optional” in a new home has itself changed over the years: Many builders took note of the kinds of features their buyers routinely favored and began incorporating them into their regular/standard offerings in order to compete better in the marketplace. Lennar, a national builder, exemplifies this trend with their “Everything’s Included” approach.

Additionally, builders have tried to streamline the sometimes-complex pricing process in choosing options by grouping them as packages — a higher grade of appliances as a group or a suite of finer plumbing products in a master bath, for example.

What home buyers are adding in the true realm of options can vary according to regional tastes, the builders said. But the hankering for hardwood floors, laid throughout an open-concept family room/kitchen, seems to transcend geography. And buyers are interested in an air of luxury in their bathrooms, particularly when it comes to their showers. In the kitchen, big work islands continue to pack an appeal — though the long-running love affair with the granite countertop may be getting a re-think, they said.

Some highlights from around the country on how homebuyers are going a step or two beyond their builders’ basic offerings:

Making a Splash in the Bath

The tub and the shower are increasingly separate, according to Julia Humphrey, a designer who works with buyers on behalf of Savvy Homes, a builder in several North Carolina markets. And that shower option is increasingly likely to be tiled, rather than a standardized stall, she said.

Although Humphrey said buyers are still interested in upgrading from a standard to a jumbo tub, buyers who may have had such an oversized tub previously seem willing to forgo it in their next home because they never seemed to use it much — filling and soaking in it consumes time they never seem to be able to spare, she said.

In some cases, the master bath will have no tub at all, according to Kevin Beauchesne, whose Bryson City Log Homes in North Carolina specializes in building log homes. His options aren’t just any old shower stall — the “grotto showers” that his customers have opted for lately are almost cave-like, and somewhat in keeping with the rusticity his buyers are seeking.

“Think of it as if you had found a natural quarry where the setting had been carved out of stone, that the shower itself looked like it’s been carved out of the earth,” and walled by boulders, he said. “Once I show it to people in one of the models we have, they want it.”

In the Kitchen

It’s increasingly an “island” nation, and the bigger the center island you can offer as an option in kitchens, the better, the builders said.

Builders said buyers are seeking larger islands as the centerpiece of their kitchen. Buyers picture their guests being able to lean against the island or sit at the same level to talk.The same holds true for countertop eating areas found in many homes.

Mary DeWalt, an award-winning model home merchandiser (AKA designer), works with Jimmy Jacobs Custom Homes in Austin, Texas and several other builders.

Multigenerational Living is Back

The concept of multiple generations living in the same house is nothing new.

Multigenerational households declined in popularity after World War II, but they’re on the rise again in a big way.

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 51 million Americans (or 16.7 percent of the population) live in a house with at least two adult generations, or a grandparent and at least one other generation. Pew also reported a 10.5 percent increase in multigenerational households from 2007 to 2009.

One driver of this trend is changing demographics. While one would normally expect baby boomers to be downsizing at this stage of their lives, quite a few are actually trading up. Boomers are sometimes referred to as “the Sandwich Generation” because they have children still living at home as well as elderly parents.

Second, the recession triggered a wave of so-called “boomerang kids” moving back in with their parents because they couldn’t support themselves financially. There’s also the surge in immigration that started around 1970, dominated by Asians and those from Latin America, who are much more inclined than native-born Americans to live in multigenerational households.

For economic as well as psychological reasons, many boomers don’t want to put Grandma and Grandpa in an assisted-living facility or nursing home. Instead, they’re purchasing new homes where everyone can spend quality time together as a family as well as have independence and privacy. 

Multigenerational Housing

In response to the growing number of boomers taking care of elderly relatives in their homes, many builders have made the first-floor bedroom suite a standard feature, says Joan Marcus-Colvin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for The New Home Company (TNHC), Aliso Viejo, Calif.

But homes geared specifically to multigenerational buyers are on the cutting edge of design. They often include self-contained, apartment-like living areas with a bedroom, a full bath, a kitchenette, a separate entrance and sometimes a laundry room and garage. Although the western states, especially California, are ahead of the curve, these multigenerational floorplans are gradually making their way east. 

Based on extensive consumer research, TNHC and Robert Hidey Architects of Irvine, Calif., developed floor plans for Irvine’s Lambert Ranch. The community features large single-family homes with various options for extended families, including 800-sq.-ft., detached guest houses; “living suites” with kitchenettes and separate entrances and compound-like estates with shared courtyards.

“We have this multifaceted approach to multigenerational because we figured not everyone’s going to have the same family these days,” says Marcus-Colvin. “We learned that the most successful solution was the detached guest house. It’s in such close proximity to the main house that [although it offers] privacy, it’s very connected.” 

One couple that purchased at Lambert Ranch had married later in life. Each spouse had three children from a previous marriage. “They took the maximum number of bedrooms in the guest house so the two returning college kids could live there, and the younger kids in the main house,” she says.

“In the majority of our floor plans, there was an option to convert one of the downstairs bedrooms to a lock-off suite,” says Jose Alkon, sales manager for Lambert Ranch. “We would add a door to the exterior from the bedroom to provide a private entrance, and there would also be a door to the main house so they could maintain that connection.” 

In just over a year, all 169 homes at Lambert Ranch were sold, ranging from 2,730 to 4,876 sq. ft. and priced from the $900,000s to $1.5 million. TNHC is now selling multigenerational homes at Villa Metro in Santa Clarita, Calif. — since Villa Metro opened in August 2013, 34 of 60 homes have been sold.

How to Choosing Unusual Options for New Homes

When told they can have anything they want in their home, some buyers will ask for anything from secret rooms to a hydro-therapy pool, prayer rooms and specially outfitted craft rooms.

Hiding Your Vices

When Eric Tovar, owner of Churchill Classics, a custom builder in Rockville, Md., designed an addition to a home in Potomac, Md., a simple plan for storage beneath the addition morphed into a secret hideaway “like something from a James Bond movie,” says Tovar.

“We built a door behind a bookcase so that when you pulled on a particular book it tugged on a wire so the door would open,” says Tovar. “The whole addition cost about $400,000. It had a ventilation system so you could smoke cigars in the room, a humidifier so you could store cigars, three piped-in beer taps and a temperature-controlled wine cellar. Underneath a deck just outside the secret room we added a hot tub with lighting and music.”

Pampering Your Spiritual Side

In the Houston area, prayer rooms are a popular option for people of Hindu and Muslim faiths, says Jim Lemming, president of Partners in Building, a custom builder in Houston and Nashville.

“Our buyers know the best location for the prayer room and which way the windows should face,” says Lemming. “We have to design the home around it to avoid having drain pipes next to or above the room for Hindus because of their religious beliefs. Muslims typically just want a room that can allow one or two people to kneel for prayer.”

Lemming says some buyers have a religious consultant work with their builder, architect and interior designer to make sure the space meets their spiritual requirements.

Second kitchens, while becoming more common for multigenerational residences and for homeowners who like to entertain frequently, are sometimes installed to accommodate Jewish families who maintain a kosher diet that requires complete separation of meat and dairy products.

“We built a complete second kitchen in the basement for a rabbi and his family in addition to the full kitchen on the main level,” says Tovar.

Sumptuous Outdoor Spaces 

In Hawaii, spiritualism can sometimes take the form of hydro-therapy, says Erika Alm, vice president of sales and marketing for Kohanaiki, a luxury resort community on the Big Island.

“Swimming pools and Jacuzzis are pretty common here, but one homeowner built the Jacuzzi in the middle of a pool so you have to swim back and forth through cool water to get to the warm Jacuzzi,” says Alm. “The pool is designed to mimic the color and texture of the ocean with three layers of tile in seven different colors. When the sun hits the water just right, it creates a dapple effect on the ceiling of the whole house.”

Another buyer at the resort opted for a deep-soaking tub outside inside of a shower, set in the shade beside a lava wall covered in bougainvillea and surrounded by lush tropical plants.

“The homeowner loves to read in the tub and decided to indulge that pleasure outdoors,” says Alm.

Outdoor spaces in the Washington area can be elaborate, too, but Tovar says many homeowners want a screened porch so they can use the space during three seasons.

Home Options That Will Maximize Resale Value

From the layout to the lighting options, choices abound. When it comes time to decide on the upgrades and options that will help turn your new house into a home, it’s important to think for the future, steer clear of trends and select only those upgrades that will give you the most bang for your buck.

After talking to several industry experts, we’re here to suggest some popular new home options that will not only beautify your new living space, but will also maximize your home’s resale value should you decide to sell:

Option 1: Windows

A key feature in every room of your home, windows are paramount when it comes to lighting and beautifying a room. According to Matthew Kraus of Skyline Windows, “Many people don’t realize it, but windows are actually a very important investment. Not only can quality windows yield significant savings for homeowners throughout the years, but they can also increase the resale value of your home. Furthermore, windows also enhance the quality of your life by eliminating noise, harmful UV rays and adding to the beauty of your residence.”

Windows tend to be very expensive to change, so Kraus suggests that homeowners invest in high-performing quality windows from the get go. “Although quality windows may cost more upfront than alternatives, they will actually save homeowners more money in the long run, he says. “A properly installed, high-performance window will retain more heat during the winter and cool air during the summer; effectively lowering energy costs. Not to mention that quality windows are less likely to have service issues.”

For more on how windows can save you on energy costs and protect your home, see our article Windows That Cut Energy Costs, Protect and Defend.

Option 2: Kitchens

Often considered a home’s main gathering and entertaining spot, kitchens are ripe with upgrade opportunities and will benefit greatly from the added attention to detail. “Just about any kitchen expansion or added feature will add value to your home,” says Mark A. Mitchell, a real estate broker in Charleston. “Especially those that open the kitchen up to the home’s living or family room.”

A great way to add both value and style to your kitchen is by upgrading the cabinetry and drawer systems. Custom and semi-custom cabinetry will enable you to pick from a wider variety of finishes and higher-quality materials, as well as specialty options such as in-cabinet lighting and soft-close drawer slides. Deepening the cabinetry and expanding them upward to the ceiling will provide valuable space while also adding drama and elegance to the room.

Going green is another popular and money-saving upgrade, says Jenna Pizzigati-Coppla, owner of Pizzigati Designs in New York City. “Buyers are more interested in sustainable and responsible fixture options in their home. Be sure to purchase Energy Star and efficient kitchen appliances; buyers love these options because they are guaranteed to save a significant amount of money in the long run.”

Other popular upgrades that will make your kitchen the star of the show include: large center islands with seating and storage, undercounter lighting and granite countertops (though these have now become standard in many new kitchens). Oft considered a no-brainer upgrade, stainless steel appliances get a mixed review among experts. “They are a fad and are really hard to clean,” says blogger and draftsman Cher-Ann Texter. “Plus, if there are any dents, they stick out like a sore thumb.” Nancy Dalton of Baywolf Dalton, Inc. disagrees and considers stainless steel appliances a sought-after upgrade that will add value to the home.

Option 3: Flooring

Drawn on, spilled on and trampled daily, a home’s flooring really takes a beating. Because you want to keep this workhorse feature looking great, it’s ideal to upgrade your flooring from the start. If budget allows, experts suggest upgrading from laminate to wood or another natural alternative. Carpeting and underlay should be both plush and stain-resistant, especially in the home’s high-traffic areas.

When it comes to flooring options, Pizzigati-Coppola suggests going for the natural, long-lasting alternative. “This is another area in which I highly recommend that my clients go with eco-friendly and sustainable options. I love to use bamboo, which is naturally sustainable, extremely durable and long lasting — another huge upgrade in desirability for your home.”

The Benefits of Buying a Manufactured Home Versus Renting

As rents continue to rise throughout the country, many renters are considering home- ownership.

Some of these potential home- buyers, however, self-disqualify themselves out of the home process because they don’t think they can afford a home or cannot save for a down payment.

There are many options out there for these home shoppers, including buying a manufactured home versus renting a home that they are not building equity in.

The benefits of buying a manufactured home can outweigh those of renting, particularly when it comes to cost. “A few years ago, we bought a manufactured home in a nice park as a second home,” says William L. Seavey, a writer and publisher in Cambria, Calif., who adds that his neighbor is a college student whose father purchased the home as an investment and to save on rent.

Advantages of Buying Manufactured Versus Renting

1. Quality and Safety

Manufactured homes are built in an indoor facility, where changes in the weather do not affect build time or materials. Building homes in a controlled setting means uniformity in the building process, which means standard quality control. In addition, manufactured homes require a third-party inspection before they leave the facility.

“Our manufactured and modular homes are built under cover in our indoor facilities, where weather fluctuations do not influence the build time or damage the home during construction,” according to a representative from Clayton Homes, the largest producer of manufactured housing in the country. “Our builders know that ‘good enough’ doesn’t cut it, so we make sure that quality and accountability are taken into consideration every step of the building process. Each and every home undergoes internal inspections that, together with a third-party inspection program that reviews the building facility at various stages of the construction process, ensures the quality of our homes is upheld.”

A quality-built home means a safe home, too. That’s why manufactured home builders adhere to the latest in building technology and standards. This means that manufactured homes can often withstand high winds due to advanced anchoring systems and perform as well as standard homes in these types of events.

2. Cost and Value

A manufactured home can help homeowners build equity, particularly if they own the land the home is located on. If a manufactured homes is permanently affixed to the land, it is considered real property, just like standard homes, giving them higher value. (If it is not, then the manufactured home is considered personal property.) Getting a home set on the land will greatly help in appreciation.

In addition, by properly maintaining a manufactured home, a homeowner can see the value of their manufactured home rise. Seavey’s first home was not a manufactured home — at the time, he tried to purchase manufactured, but the deal fell through — but he highly recommends manufactured as a suitable first home.

“Many first-time buyers should consider manufactured homes to get equity and to establish a credit history before — if ever — they move to a standard home,” he says. “In my park, homes are even rising in price and we’ve almost broken even, despite the space rents.”

Build My Manufactured Home

When it comes to affordable and flexible build-on-your lot homes, it’s hard to find an option that can beat a manufactured home. 

Also known as a prefabricated home, this type of dwelling is constructed entirely beforehand in a factory and then transported to a lot of your choice. 

While some may choose to have them transported to a park or neighborhood with other manufactured homes, others may choose to build on a lot they have chosen on their own. This begs the question, “Where can I build my manufactured home?”

What if you dream of living in the mountains? What if you want to be near the beach? Clayton Homes, which manufactures homes in 37 facilities across the nation, might have a few answers. We sat down with their vice president of marketing, Mike Duncan, to answer some of the most common questions regarding where you can put your manufactured home. 

NHS: Are there any restrictions to where you can build a manufactured home?

Duncan: Some of our facilities can manufacture custom projects, the only restraint or restriction would be the state and federal codes our homes are required to be built to. This gives a homebuyer the flexibility to be as creative as possible in designing their dream home. 

NHS: Can you describe the building and transportation process?

Duncan: All Clayton-built homes are constructed in our homebuilding facilities and then transported to their homesite. Depending on the size of the home and the location, homes can be delivered and set in various ways.

NHS: What are some special considerations you have for buyers trying to decide where to place their home?

Duncan: Buyers should be aware of all local zoning laws, as this can dictate whether or not a home can be placed in a prospective location. Aside from zoning, homebuyers should also be aware of utility access, easement access and other land issues that would need to be cleared before selecting a site. 

NHS: What are some of the most affordable options of where you can place a manufactured home?

Duncan: Manufactured homes can vary in price dramatically depending upon a number of factors including size of the home and materials and delivery site, all of which need to be considered when pricing a home. Manufactured home parks and communities that are designed and zoned to accommodate manufactured homes are generally the less expensive options. Customers can also place homes on their own private property.

NHS: What are some of the less affordable options?

Duncan: Two-story modular homes are at the higher-end price point for a Clayton-built home. These modular homes are built to applicable state and local codes and closely mimic site-built construction in look and profile. Because Clayton builds manufactured homes in a climate-controlled environment, materials are less likely to suffer from some of the weather-related issues that can plague site-built contractors. 

NHS: The term “trailer park” is a thing of the past. Are there any myths you’d like to debunk in regards to these changes?

Duncan:“Trailer park” is a term that was commonly used when referring to a manufactured home prior to HUD Code requirement changes. The term “trailer” is no longer in use for our industry. Manufactured home parks are now neighborhoods and communities that have been designated for manufactured housing. 

strong preference for newly built homes

Just 10 percent of the some 5.1 million houses that changed hands last year were brand new.

But 19 percent of the veterans who bought homes in 2015 bought new, as did 21 percent of all active-duty buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) first-ever profile of military buyers and sellers.

NAR trotted out the standard reasons for the strong preference for new houses among military buyers: the desire to avoid renovations and upgrades and the ability to customize. But these are the reasons all new-home buyers prefer new over existing houses.

Why military buyers go new

Vets and active-duty personnel have a couple of additional reasons for buying new. One, it’s often easier to work with builders and their sales staffs and, perhaps, their affiliated loan companies or recommended lenders. 

Some real estate professionals are under the misconception that working with military buyers is too cumbersome, especially when they want to make use of their GI housing benefits. Sellers, too, have an antiquated view of dealing with VA loans. But that’s not the case with a builder’s sales rep, most of who are happy to walk the extra miles for our nation’s heroes.

It’s also easier — and less expensive — to build a new house for wounded vets than it is to retrofit an old one. The kitchen and baths can more easily be fitted for wheelchairs, for example, first-floor master bedrooms are the norm and even hallways can be built wider if necessary.

VA home loans

Many military people don’t realize they have a housing benefit or how to it works. According to a 2010 survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 65 percent of the 22 million respondents said they had little or no understanding of the VA home loan program.

In addition, 32 percent said they weren’t even aware it existed and 36 percent said their lender never even discussed the VA loan option, even though a government-guaranteed VA loan is often the best bang for the military borrower’s buck.

Those numbers ring true to Louise Thaxton, a Louisiana loan officer with Fairway Independent Mortgage who is on a personal mission to make sure GIs returning from the Middle East get a fair shot at owning a home. 

Thaxton, who travels the country for Fairway teaching real estate agents how to work with those in the military, finds that military buyers typically are young people who are financially inexperienced.

Tony Nigro, director of operations at the Veterans Association for Home Ownership, agrees. “It’s a travesty that so few of our eligible veterans are financing their homes” with VA loans, he says.