Whether you’re a park owner, future park buyer, or just wanting to invest at a lower entry point, mobile homes are an essential part of the affordable housing industry. Yet too many people don’t know the fundamentals or – equally important – the fine details to how to select, do diligence on, negotiate, repair, sell or rent and operate them. In our “Encyclopedia of Mobile Homes” Lecture Series Event, we go over a whole bunch of unknown facts about mobile homes and then follow-up with another hour of question and answer. It’s really the first time that so much information and focus has been presented about the mobile home themselves.
If you want to know even more about mobile homes as an investment tool, we suggest you examine purchasing our new course "The Ultimate Mobile Home Investing & Repair Course" that we just brought out after two years of writing and videotaping. It’s the veritable bible of all things mobile home, featuring not only everything you need to know about buying and selling them, but also a complete video guide to all the basic repairs and how to do them. It’s the only course of its kind and will definitely open your eyes to the correct way to maximize profits from mobile homes. It’s written by Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds who are not only the 5th largest owners of mobile home parks in the U.S. but who also own roughly 3,000 mobile homes inside those parks.
The Encyclopedia of Mobile Homes Transcript
Welcome to our lecture series event, the Encyclopedia of Mobile Homes. This is Frank Rolfe with AnIssue.com We're going to go over tonight, everything you ever wanted to know about mobile homes and more. And we're tying this in with the release of our new course on mobile homes and mobile home investing, mobile home repair. Again, effectively the Bible of the industry, on how mobile homes correctly operate, how to fix them, how to rent them, how to do everything with them. And let me say on the front end that you know, parks are still your best investments. So we would never encourage anyone to invest in homes over parks. But for many people, the homes are an entry point, either because of capital constraints or simply because they want to test out the industry first before jumping into a park. And there are many, many park owners who began in the home investment space.
So we're going to start off with about 40 or 50 interesting trivia facts on the industry. Then we're going to go into a Q&A and we're just going to answer questions until I think we've exhausted them all.
So the first trivia item I thought would be interesting for people to know is old homes weigh more than new homes. It's the fact they simply do. If you look at the titles of the old homes and the titles of the new homes, you will note over and over again the homes weighed more back in the old days. Two homes of the exact same size from 1916 and modern homes, the old home always weighs more. Now, that'll be a recurring theme in these different trivia points at the industry started with hobbyists and perhaps those hobbyists just build them a little better because they were really into what they were doing. But for whatever reason, the old homes weigh more.
Another bit of trivia. On many of those 1950s in 1916 homes do you see in mobile home parks, there's old, old homes people don't realize is hidden underneath that paint is the original shiny aluminum. In fact, many of these homes, if you pull away the paint, if you took it off, what you have underneath resembles an airstream trailer. So many times when people rehab the homes one of the first things they might want to consider rather than repainting the home is simply to chip the paint off. Because as we all know, there's a lot of desirability right now in the marketplace for people who are really in to that old streamlined look of those old Airstream trailers in many of these '50s and '60s home, the aluminum underneath is just beautifully gorgeous mirror finish just like it was straight out of the factory.
Another bit of trivia is you can still buy the parts for most of these old homes. They still manufacture them today. There's a company called Blevins, formally Lane MacDuff that still sells all those parts to all those homes, all those crazy old windows, those aluminum windows with the crank candles and all the crazy awnings and all the crazy doors. All that stuff is still out there. So it's not as if you can't find replacement parts on the older homes. If you want to go in and rehab them to just like new, just like George Jetson would've had in 1962, it's still available because you can still get the parts.
This fourth one's an interesting bit of trivia, but the richest man in the world, which was J. Paul Getty back in the day, back in the '50s was the number one builder of mobile homes in the US, back in the 1950s. He had the Spartan Aircraft Company, which after World War II he converted from building aircraft to RVs/mobile homes.
And he did that because there was really no market for plays at that point. After World War II, the world was awash in old used warplanes. So he was looking for a new product to use the aluminum on and someone said, hey, I think the thing of the future are these RV/mobile homes that people really are kind of liking these things. So it took the factory and he took a gamble and he retrofitted it back to making the thing called the Spartan Trailer. And Spartan was the number one builder of mobile homes back in the '50s and it's interesting because the world has gone full circle and now the number one builder mobile homes today is of course Warren Buffett's Clayton Homes, owned by Berkshire Hathaway. So you had the number one richest guy in America building mobile homes in the '50s and now you have not quite the number one richest guy. I think he's ranked number two. But I think you'll say still an odd coincidence that we have the exact same thing happening about half a century later.
Another bit of trivia is there were hundreds of manufacturers prior to HUD taking over the industry in 1976. Now, when HUD took it over in '76 and made every mobile home have a HUD seal and every factory and every home be approved by HUD, it obviously narrowed the playing field because all those hobbyists, building mobile homes out in the garage and the Quonset hut and the rented little commercial building down the street, they couldn't keep up. They were unable to become HUD certified, so they had to stop. They had to give up their manufacturing. But if you ever look at old catalogs or old magazines or even the little name plates on old homes in old mobile home parks, you'll see all these names.
You don't say, what the heck is that? Who is this? How come I never heard of them before? That's because no one even knows who they are. Sadly, even if you try and Google up some of those early homes, you won't find a darn thing because they've all vanished into the eternity of the unknown, all replaced with the modern HUD builders.
Another thing about mobile homes, interesting bit of trivia. You can always tell how many bedrooms there are by the length of the home. The industry doesn't have a lot of creativity in that matter. So, a 36 foot home is a one bedroom, a 46 foot long is a two bedroom. Now, the 56 footer could be a two bedroom, two bath or it could be a three bedroom, one bath, and once you get into 66 and above, you're pretty much always three bedrooms. So that's how you can always just, by outside pacing off the home, without even looking at inside, have a pretty good idea how many bedrooms are going to have.
Now this next bit of trivia is pretty interesting I think because we all were there in the Miss America pageant was it 2000 something? The contestant got in terrible, terrible trouble from South Carolina because she said something along the lines of, I'm from South Carolina and mobile homes are how we roll. A fifth of everyone lives in a mobile home and all the people of South Carolina, they all lit flaming torches and marched upon Miss America virtually saying that, no, no, no, this is wrong. You've embarrassed all of us. And of course she was only off by a little bit because South Carolina, 18% of the population lives in mobile homes. And I'm going to give you the top 10 states as far as the highest percentage of people living in mobile homes.
South Carolina comes in number one, at 18%. New Mexico comes in number two at 17%. West Virginia comes in third at 15%. Mississippi came in fourth at 15%. Alabama came in fifth at 14%. North Carolina, sixth at 14%. Louisiana, seventh at 14%. Arkansas, 13%. Wyoming, 13%. And Kentucky 13% and what does it mean? Well, it just simply means that people in those states apparently have a lot of greater demand than in other states to buy a mobile home. And if you also overlay that list upon net incomes, you'll find without a little bit of exception, those also are the states that had the lowest per capita net incomes. So you know, the industry has adopted this slogan now. It's called attainable housing, not affordable housing. And that's why you see those stats like that, is this housing is attainable. People's incomes in those states apparently don't always get them the home, but they still want to have a home with a yard and the mobile home fits the bill and that's why you have so many people in those states who are living in mobile homes.
Next bit of trivia is the first 10 foot mobile home came out in 1956. Prior to that, everything was eight feet wide. In fact, if you read the story of how that 10 foot wide mobile home came to be, it's interesting. It was brought up by a company called Selby and Selby had a customer who requested a bigger home. They were going to not drive it down the road. Bear in mind, prior to 1956 all the mobile homes could be pulled virtually with a car, so everything was eight feet wide, and it was just like the RVs of today.
And Selby had a customer who said, hey Selby, I'll pay you extra if you'll build me a big bigger home. So Selby called the state and said, hey, and I think it was the state of Indiana and said, hey, I got a customer who wants a 10 foot wide home. Is that even possible?
And they said, I don't know, we'll get back to you. When they got back to Selby, the highway department said, you know what? We discussed it and you can build bigger than eight feet. But to do it, you'll have to have a special onetime moving permit. You'll have to have something that goes behind your truck saying wide load. But yeah, if you want to go 10 feet, we can do it. Well, that ushered in the whole idea of the mobile home industry. Because if you're gonna live in the mobile home full time, you don't want an eight footer. Those are very claustrophobic. 10 is better. And of course the 10 grew into a 12 to a 14 or 16 and even 18 footer. But it all began with that one little random guy who had this random idea in 1956: can I go bigger?
Had Selby not done that, for all I know there would be nothing but eight foot wide homes. Maybe no one would ever push the envelope or if the state had said, no, you can't do it, absolutely not. Eight foot is the limit. Perhaps the mobile home industry would not be here today as it seems to be.
Next bit of trivia. The first commercially built trailer, and I'm talking commercially built, not built by craftsmen, but built en masse in a factory in the 1920s is called the Covered Wagon. In fact, it looks exactly like a covered wagon, so if you go to the MH RV Hall of Fame and Museum and you walk through the exhibits, from the beginning of time up to the 1950s the very first thing you'll see there, or almost the first is in fact the Covered Wagon. It was a basically a wooden chassis that had then wooden stakes with one of those hoops over the top with canvas drawn over the whole thing, so it was basically a camper on wheels.
In fact, it doesn't look dissimilar to a lot of the popup campers in today's RV industry, but that was it. It's called the Covered Wagon. Now on the other end of the spectrum, the first true mobile home was built by Spartan Industries. So that's again J. Paul Getty's company Spartan. They're credited with building the very first actual mobile home. So that was never designed to be pulled behind a car, never really designed to be pulled to multiple locations but large and hefty enough that you could actually live in it.
The next item up. There are not less than five billionaires that own mobile homes, but they're all on a place called Montauk. It's up in the northeast and basically they use these things as changing rooms for surfing. So on Montauk Beach, which is apparently a very, very ritzy area of the Hamptons. When you go out and you serve, the only thing anywhere near the beach is an old mobile home park.
And it's only there because it predates all the laws of construction, and you can't build anything there today. So if you tore the mobile home park down, it would just be a raw piece of land. So apparently somebody got the bright idea that you could buy these homes in the mobile home park for not a lot of money, and you didn't have to live in them. You could make them into little beach retreats. You could go in there and change your clothes. Heck, you could even host beach parties, and they'd give you a place to park your car when you wanted to go surfing. So you can park your Ferrari or Lamborghini in front of the mobile home, go in, change your clothes, grab the surfboard, walk out onto the beach, surf all day, and then repeat the movie. And oh, by the way, let's hold a little party at the end of it. So there really are five billionaires who are mobile home owners. But let's be honest, they're not really living in those mobile homes.
Next bit of trivia, the most popular skirt color is white. Is that a good idea? I don't think so. We did our boot camp in California recently, and in most of the better parks, you found that nobody had white skirting. What they had instead was skirting that matched the home. In fact, I've always thought that the right thing to do is in fact to make the skirting and exactly resemble the outside walls and therefore it doesn't look like skirting at all and it doesn't look as though the home is actually even a mobile home. It all kind of vanishes into what looks like it is stick built, so not really sure it's a good thing that we actually have white skirting is the industry norm, but it is what it is.
Next, all electrics homes use 200 amps to electricity and gas and electric homes require 100 amps. And why that's important is, in a lot of older mobile home parks, all you guys as the power service is often 30 or 50 amps, woefully too low. So that's why you have to go in and retrofit those all the time. That's why a new home will not really work if you just simply bring it into an old, never used in a half a decade mobile home lot because the wiring isn't going to work. You're going to have to get that fixed.
Next bit of trivia. Since 1976, the peak number of mobile homes shipped was 372,843 and that was shipped in 1998, so that's the highest production the industry has ever seen, a little bit shy of 400,000 units. And I was there. I had my first park in 1996. I was on a roll buying parks. Right up into that year of 1998 it was the craziest thing you've ever seen. I had single dealers, I had a Palm Harbor dealer for example, that was filling one of my parks at the rate of five homes per month. Can you picture that? A single dealer bringing in five homes just into my park. That's how many they were selling. It was enormous amount of homes.
Now the low point in the industry, 49,789 mobile homes produced and that was in 2009. So you might say, how the heck did that happen? How did you go from 372,843 in 1998 and then plummet down to 49,789 in 2009? Well, that's called the Great Channel Collapse. We can have an entire show just on that one item. What happened was you had a lot of mobile home dealers who cut onto a program offered by a company called Gree Tree. It was the zero down, no income dock mortgage for mobile homes.
You can kind of guess where that went because you probably saw the repeat of the movie, the colorized version, called the 2007 Mortgage Collapse. Yes. It's already been done in stick-built too, but mobile homes led the way. We were the first ones to do it and that's how you went down from 372,000 units in '98 all the way down to 49,000 to 2009.
Next up to bat the first feature length movie, the first time the average American ever saw a mobile home in Hollywood was the movie The Long, Long Trailer. It starred Ricky Ricardo and Lucille Ball. It was made in 1954 and in the movie you have a Manhattan architect living in a penthouse who decides he's bored with his life and instead wants to move into these new, cool, exciting things called a mobile home. So, they sold the Manhattan penthouse, and in fact moved into their long, long trailer and the movie is about the moving the long, long trailer across America to different stops as he was the architect on different projects.
It's amazing how upscale things were back in the day. If you watch the movie, you'll think it must be a fantasy, but it is a reality. If you look at a lot of the advertising from the same period, it looks just the same. People literally wearing dinner jackets in the living room. Women wearing cocktail dresses and having martinis on the sofa. It's very much different than our mental picture today of mobile homes. Of course, Hollywood didn't help out because they ultimately changed the stereotype in American's minds from Lucille in Ricky to the people on the show Cops.
Another trivia item. Elvis lived in a mobile home in two different movies. It Happened at the World's Fair in 1963 and again in Speedway in 1968. If you haven't seen the little vignettes of Elvis in his mobile home park, I suggest you do it. It Happened at the World's Fair, in that movie with Elvis, Elvis is in the mobile home park all you see in every parking pad of every mobile home going down the street are sports cars, mostly British, a lot of Austin Healey's, a lot of Triumphs, but there's also many other cars in there. There's Corvettes and AC Cobras and just all kinds of cars that today would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Common feature apparently in mobile home parks back in 1963 and in this movie it doesn't in any way make Elvis look negative or downscale living there, because everyone who lives in the mobile home park is a professional or somebody who's on the go. So, it's a different world than what we see today.
In 1968 the movie Speedway, once again, it's Elvis in his prime. He's still doing great. This is prior to Elvis when he moves to Vegas to do the Vegas shows and wears a lot of the sequin jumpsuits and starts getting a lot of weight. This is early Elvis. This is prestigious Elvis living in mobile home parks. So who would have imagined that?
However, a lot of people may not know that Elvis also lived in a mobile home in real life. He had a ranch, 10 miles from Graceland, over in Tennessee and in that ranch he had a 1967 Delta that he lived in himself. And in that mobile home, he had a gold-painted bathtub. It was not gold-plated nor was it solid gold, but he had painted it gold. That was a unique feature and that home went to auction in 2018. Now, people estimated it would go for a lot of money. There were estimates as high as half a million dollars for Elvis's mobile home. But we should all know by now that Americans just aren't really into mobile homes. It's not something they think or find a lot of glamour to. So it sold only for $67,650 and to be honest with you, I'm shocked that a manufacturer, someone did not buy that just for fun. I would think for $67,000, you could basically hook it up to an old 1960s car and drive it across America and pay people $5 a pop to walk through it. I'm shocked it didn't end up as a roadside attraction or possibly in a circus or fair midway. But nevertheless, that's the story.
Another bit of trivia is that Priscilla liked living in that mobile home more than Graceland. She wrote in her book that her happiest times with Elvis were not in Graceland. When he was in Graceland, apparently he was always acting a little odd, but he was just the original down home Elvis back in the 1967 Delta mobile home. So maybe Priscilla bought it at auction. I'm not sure who actually did.
Next next bit of Trivia. The average price for a mobile home has increased from $34 per square foot in 2007 to $44 in 2017. Well, you're right, that's still not much. That's pretty good in a decade if you've only gotten up from 34 per square foot to 44. Of course at the same time, single family homes have gone up a ton. They're now well, well over a hundred dollars a square foot, so it makes the mobile home seem a lot more affordable. And also it also shows the mobile home manufacturers have done a very good job of cost control, because despite the fact of massive rising costs in lumber and other parts, they've held that price down pretty darn satisfactorily.
Now, this next one is kind of crazy. The very first double wide ever built: 1942. Schulte Homes built a double wide.
Now if you think about it, that was pretty darn smart on the part of Schulte, because what happens there is again, up until the '50s, homes were limited to the eight feet in width. So what you have here with this double wide was someone who wanted to be able to have a bigger home so by going with a double wide in '42 they took two eight foot sections, making a 16 foot wide structure.
Now, of course they'd be shocked today, because today you can buy single wides that wide or even two feet wider, but it was pretty smart of Schulte back in '42 to make that offering and that also shows back in the '40s, people were starting to really seriously consider living in mobile homes full time because you would never as a vacation home haul around two eight foot sections. You'd have to have two cars, two drivers, and maybe too much time on your hands.
Next bit of trivia. Kid Rock lives in a mobile home. In fact, he lives in a double wide over in Michigan. I didn't believe it myself until I researched it, but yes, indeed he does. In fact, it's not very much of an upper end double-wide. All he did was he took a double wide and on the exterior, he put over the normal exterior instead raw or like old barn timber wood. Still a straight up, double wide. Not even an over the top exotic one. So definitely you would spot it in a minute as a double wide. It has skirting and the whole deal, but that's what happened to him. Now in the article, he describes the fact that apparently he was living in the mansion and he got divorced and somehow or other has some economic problems, I guess he hasn't had a hit record in a while.
He hasn't been in a movie and now he's living in a double wide out there in Michigan. Now, of course at the same time, so did Pam Anderson. Pam Anderson lived for years in Malibu, in a double wide. It's still there. It's sold not too long ago for I think $480,000. Now, of course she lives in Europe, so she no longer lives in the US but her mobile home was right there in Malibu. Was it destroyed in the fire? I don't know. I know a lot of mobile homes burned down in Malibu in that very mobile home park. I don't know if hers survived or not. I don't know if it has any autographed Baywatch material inside, like perhaps with old surfboard or you know, safety vest. But nevertheless, Pam Anderson was a mobile home resident there in Malibu, California.
Another bit of Trivia. In 2017, there were more new mobile home shipped to Texas than any other state. So if you said where are all of those mobile homes go in and you see going down the highway, they're blocking me from driving 70 miles an hour and I'm forced to go 55 until I find the passing lane. Well, more than any other state, those things were all traveling down to Texas. Texas is in fact the largest state in the US for mobile home parks. It's also the number one state as far as mobile homes being shipped.
Next bit of trivia. There are three mobile homes in Hawaii. Not one, not two but three but no one knows why they're there. We've never known. This stat has been going on for about a decade now. It costs more to ship a mobile home to Hawaii than to build a mobile home. So, we're not really sure why. I'm not sure if anyone will ever know why or even where the three were sent to.
I cannot begin to explain to you why anyone would have done that. It seems absolutely insane, but nevertheless, that's what happened. Now, Hawaii does now have a mobile home park. It used to have no mobile home parks, three mobile homes and no parks. But the state recently built a park as a test to try and bring out affordable housing. They built a 16 unit mobile home park. But I think it was kind of a failure, because by the end of the moving, they spent $350,000 per lot between the construction of the lot and the mobile home on it. So I don't think that really is going to qualify as affordable housing, at least not as how we know it over here in the mainland.
Next bit of trivia, the term mobile home was officially changed to manufactured home by an act of Congress in 1980. But apparently nobody noticed, because of course we all say mobile home. In fact, 95% of all online searches utilize the word mobile home. So why did they do it? Why did Congress even kind of embarrassingly so, you know, kneel down to people wanting to have the name officially changed?
Because people in the industry complained that when HUD took it over in '76 that they should have changed the name to something classier. Well, two observations. First, the word manufactured home is not very classy, in our opinion, you'd be better off just calling them homes or houses. Nobody likes the word manufactured. It cheapens the name of the product. I don't think the customers like it, certainly.
And the other problem is you can't just force feed what people call different things. I know that many people still call a copy machine a Xerox machine. That's because Xerox invented it and therefore everyone adopted the name as Xerox when they meant copy.
The same is true with mobile home. Apparently, the mobile home name sticks. People understand it. They know what it means. Manufactured home, no one has a clue what that means. I often wish people would give up the attempt to try and sway the public that manufactured home is a good name, because we know that it's not. Are there better names out there? Yes. I think just the word home. I think that would be the winner.
Now, this next one is really interesting. The 1956 Pacemaker is considered the first two story mobile home. Yes, that's right. A two story mobile home built in 1956 called the Pacemaker. I know you've seen them. If you drive through mobile home parks, those are the homes that have this bump up on one end, so the roof on it is straight and then has a giant leap up about four or five feet in the air and then straight off again to the end, and the way it worked is that little bump up there, that's your bedrooms. The master bedroom was on top.
Underneath the master bedroom were the kids' bedrooms or the other bedroom and it did not have stand up tall ceilings. So it was kind of like a loft, only it was a loft on the bottom instead of being on the top. You can still see these models very frequently in older parks. We have many of them in many of our parks.
But as far as the design went, although the public actually liked them, they all got scrapped when HUD took over engineering in 1976. Apparently, they did not meet HUD's guidelines. So those are now out there as a rarity that you still see in the parks. People still apparently like living in them, but you can't buy them anymore.
Now this the next one is very, very interesting. One of these four you'll know, but I bet you can't guess the other three. And the question is, who grew up living in a mobile home? What celebrity grew up in a mobile home? Well, of course, you know the first one. We all do. That's Eminem. So you see that very clearly in Eminem's epic movie 8 Mile. You see the mobile home park he lived in, although of course that's a fraud. The actual park he lived in was basically a senior community. I've got photos of it. I searched it out when I was in Detroit, but who were the other three stars who grew up?
Well, I don't think you'll guess these. One you might kind of guess. One is Ryan Gosling. Now, no one would ever figure that Ryan Gosling grew up in a mobile home. He doesn't look like someone who we would have epitomized living in a mobile home today. He's a giant star, but Ryan Gosling.
This next one again, I would not figure Hilary Swank. Hilary Swank lived basically her entire childhood in a mobile home and then the last one, which you could kinda guess. It kind of sounds possible. Demi Moore. Demi Moore grew up in a mobile home, I think in New Mexico. And of course that would make sense because again, almost a fifth of everyone in New Mexico lives in a mobile home.
Next up, mobile homes are all actually four feet shorter than the title says, and that's because the titles are allowed to show the hitch. So, the way a title works is they know you're from the back of the mobile home to the front of the hitch and with the hitch being four feet, they make all the measurements off. So, when the customer thinks they bought a 14 foot wide by 80 foot mobile home, they didn't, they bought a 14 by 76 foot home. Why did HUD allow people to do that, as far as the way they do the titles? I don't know. You'll have to ask them, but that's just simply the way it is.
So whenever you're looking at a mobile home to purchase, trying to put it in a mobile home lot, you better make sure you understand whether the hitch is included or not. Because otherwise, when the home shows up, it may stick four feet out into the street.
Next up to bat: metal on metal homes are the original version and they're still highly desirable because they're hard to damage and easy to maintain. Metal by metal means you have a metal roof on the home, and you have metal walls and that combination makes the thing virtually bulletproof. Of course, it's not really bulletproof, but you know what I mean. It's able to survive Mother Nature extremely effectively. So we really like those metal on metal homes.
Of course, you've also got vinyl wood shingle today. Don't like them quite so much. Here's why. When you have to fix the roof on a metal on metal home, you roll a rubber compound on it and you're in the end zone, but on a vinyl shingle you're talking a full on roofing job just like on your house. And also when the hail stones fall out of the sky and they hit the metal homes, they bounce off. They may make a few dents, but when they hit the vinyl siding of the new homes, they can actually knock giant holes. There's many mobile homes out there that have had to be resided thanks to hailstorms.
Next up to bat, the US government only started tracking mobile home data in 1974. Nobody has a clue prior to that what happened. So if you ask people in the industry what happened during that period, no one knows what you're talking about, as long as his prior to 1974. Now, why did they only start tracking in 1974? I honestly have no idea. That's just the way that it worked out. But it's actually kind of sad because a lot of people would like to see the data from the '50s and the '60s and we'll never know what it is, because nobody ever captured it or saved it.
Next up to bat, Jim Clayton opened his first Clayton home dealership and manufacturing plant in 1966. So that's where Clayton begin. Jim Clayton's an interesting guy. He's very accessible. If you go to a lot of the industry meetings in Las Vegas and different areas, in Chicago, you'll often find Jim Clayton there. And so you can just walk up and say, "Hey Jim, tell me about the industry back in the '60s." He'll tell you anything you want to know. He's a very, very nice guy, very approachable and interesting to talk to. He knows so much about the industry. He should be on here because he probably embodies the true encyclopedia and mobile homes, because he actually lived it.
I wasn't in the industry then. I got into the industry 30 years later than Jim Clayton. But Jim really knows the industry well and again, '66 is where it all began for him.
Next up to bat, Clayton produces about 48,000 homes today out of 40 different locations. So, it produces about 1200 homes a year per factory and if you've never been to a Clayton Home plant, I suggest you do it. It's an amazing tour. You will not believe the level of professionalism and dedication they put into the product. They were able to produce these homes with so little waste, the waste from each home only fills basically one barrel, and they produce those floors so well yet so quickly is mind boggling. We liked to go out and tour the ones in Wakarusa near Elkhart, Indiana. If you ever want to tour a plant, just give them a call, they'll probably be happy to let you see it.
You have to put it on a hard hat and glasses. It's fascinating to see the way they were built, and I'm sure Jim Clayton would find it equally as fascinating because I'm sure 1966 the no way resembled today's plant with the robotics and other things going on.
Next up to bat: the 1946 Spartan Manor was the most expensive mobile home possibly ever built. Definitely from the 1940s and here's why. The Spartan Manor of '46 cost an unbelievable $4,000, which was only 50% off the cost of the stick bolts of the era, which was $8,000.
So 1946 for 8,000 bucks, you could buy a really nice house. I'm talking like a two story colonial with an attached garage. A really nice home. And here was the Spartan Manor at about 50% of that cost, so that's pretty impressive. So if anyone ever says to you, hey, what's the most expensive mobile home out there? It probably was in 1946, Spartan Manor in today's dollars.
Next up to bat, Clayton produces 47.7% of every mobile home built in the US, which is by far the largest builder. So, basically half of everything built in the mobile home world in America comes from Clayton. That's probably why when you go to the shows and you walk around and you look at all the different exhibits, you'll notice their level of professionalism in the booth is far, far ahead of everybody else. You can actually put on goggles, and you can virtually walk almost every mobile home they manufacture. They have a two-story pavilion at the show when everyone else has just a card table with a little tent on it. So how do they do it? Well, it's because again, they're about half of the entire industry production, so that's great.
I'm very glad that Clayton is the largest builder because it's a very stable, deep pocket company. I love the affiliation they have with Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway. It gives the industry a lot of stability, so I'm totally fine with that.
Next up to bat, all gas mobile homes are built to use either natural gas or protein by a simple change of the fitting on every gas appliance in the home. The way they built these homes originally and still build them today, you can operate them in either natural gas or propane and all you change is the nozzle.
Now, if you've ever seen them adapt the home, you'll see that the nozzle for propane is incredibly small compared to natural gas. That's because natural gas burns so hot, you don't have to take but a little smidgen of propane to equal a normal amount of natural gas, but all mobile homes can be piped either way. It's very, very simplistic to do.
Next, mobile home water heaters are not the same as regular house water heaters. A standard rookie error when you're trying to repair a mobile home is there go down to Home Depot and Lowe's or even Walmart and you'll try and buy parts to fix the home. Hot water heater out, no problem. I'll go down to Lowe's and buy one. Well, wrong, you can't do that. Mobile homes require a special mobile home heater, water heater and there's other parts in the mobile home that are also equally unique to the mobile home.
The front doors don't fit. Many of the things you buy at Lowe's and Home Depot will not fit, so you have to buy this from a specialty carrier. You cannot use that.
Next up to bat, all you have to do to fix a mobile home roof is paint it. Paint it with a rubber coating. That CO coating, which is a combination of paint and rubber, that will do all of the repair. Now if you have an actual hole through the roof, you've gotta do a little bit more. Take a piece of metal sheeting and glue that on to the metal you have already have and then roll that with the rubber compound. It is the easiest thing in the world. Well, my very first mobile home park, my very first mobile home, since I had rentals in the park, I was assumed that to fix the mobile home roof was going to cost thousands of dollars. Man, was I pleasantly surprised when my first roof redo was a bill of only $200. So, definitely that's what we did and one of the reasons we really like metal on metal construction.
Next up to bat, mobile homes can be either personal or real property. And that's based on what you do with the title more than anything else. So, we all know that real property has to be permanently affixed to the ground. Mobile homes, however, are really personal property. They sit on the ground, but they're not permanently affixed, so you can move them anytime you want and therefore they don't qualify as real property.
But what if you want it to be real property? What if you say, "Hey, I want my mobile home to be here forever, and most importantly I want it to qualify as real property for taxation but also a real property mortgage?" You can do it. What you have to do is you just surrender your title. And in so doing, it becomes real property. Now, is it truly real property? Well, really, probably not, because you could still cut it loose, jack it in the air and pull out with it, but it wouldn't have a title. But that's what you convert it from personal to real property.
Next up to bat, Mae West lived in a mobile home. We talked about the other stars. Well, the number one star of the 1920s, Mae West, lived in a mobile home. But not really entirely true. She only lived in that mobile home when she was having to be shuttled between New York and California. And that was because Mae West had an inherent fear of trains. Now, I don't know why. Maybe she was in a train accident at some point. We all know there are people who are afraid to fly, but afraid of riding on a train? Well, that was her problem. So what happened was she was the number one star of vaudeville and lived in New York, but they wanted her in Hollywood to make movies. So they approached her in New York and said, "Hey, we will pay you big bucks to come to make movies in Hollywood." She said, "Can't do it, because you see, I'm in New York and I won't ride a train to California."
So the studios bounced around, what do we do? How do we get Mae West to come to Hollywood? And they had an idea: let's build her a home on wheels. So they took a 1920s Model T. They build a special chassis and a special mobile home that sat on the back of it, and basically it was kind of like the very first motor home, although the driver compartment was fully separated from the house itself. And they even put a little porch on the back, so she could stand on the back and wave to people while she was going down the highway or sit out there and read. And then when they stopped for the day, she could again sit out there and just ponder nature and reflect on life. And that's how, in fact, Mae West got out to Hollywood. Had they not had the mobile home on wheels then Mae West would probably never been a Hollywood star, and maybe her career would have never been the same. In fact, if you want to see that very item, it's over there again at the MH RV Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, along with a lot of other famous mobile homes from the era.
Now, those 50 or so trivia points were just there to grease the wheels to get your mind rolling to ask lots of questions on mobile homes, so now I'm going to be joined by Todd Burget. Todd is, on our company, probably the most knowledgeable person on mobile homes. He's personally restored hundreds of them. He knows everything about fixing them. So it's going to be Todd and I answering your many questions, so I'm going to change the phones now to Q&A format. Hold on.