October 1, 2014 — Report

For 17 million Americans, the pathway to the American Dream of homeownership is through manufactured housing. Today’s manufactured housing can equate to a high-quality and affordable home and an entry into asset and wealth building for many families. Assets are the foundation for promoting long-term economic opportunity for most Americans. They provide security during unexpected financial troubles. They foster long-term planning and the drive to set and reach dreams, such as going to college and starting a business. For the last few generations of Americans, homeownership has been the bedrock of household financial assets. Even during times of economic insecurity in the housing market, homeownership remains the primary source of wealth for many Americans and continues to be the
American Dream.

One hurdle that keeps many owners of manufactured homes from enjoying the same benefits as owners of site-built homes is classification of the home as personal property. Whether a home is classified as real or personal property can significantly affect the home’s asset-building potential, mostly due to financing and tax implications, as well how the home and the homeowner will be treated in various situations. In lending as well as in public policy, manufactured homes are often treated as if they are cars rather than a home. They’re often issued titles as motor vehicles, rather than real estate. They are commonly assessed with “blue book” values and are often taxed as personal property. This can make manufactured homes more expensive to finance and lead to lower resale values, reducing homeowners’ opportunities to enjoy property appreciation and build equity.

This guide provides advocates and practitioners with the information they need to assess the benefits of converting manufactured homes from personal to real property and to develop strong policies that allow for the easy and voluntary conversion of homes to real property. It is intended to provide a detailed overview of the laws and regulations involved at the state and federal levels. This guide:

  • Outlines the importance of real property designation in seven key areas;
  • Analyzes current state statutes; and
  • Provides recommendations for strong policies that allow for the classification of manufactured homes as real property.