According to the US Census, 7.3 million people in the United States lived in mobile home parks in 1990, and the number grew to 20 million in 2013, after the Great Recession of 2008. With the economic downturn of 2020, more people than ever are considering moving to a trailer park. Many of you are wondering- What is living in a trailer park really like? Are the rumors true, and is it really as bad as what you see on TV? This article aims to get to the truth.
I’ve done some research into the subject, listening to stories and trying to get as much data as possible. In the end, the short answer is that it depends. Just like any neighborhood, you’re going to have good and bad neighbors. Two people could be living in the same trailer park and have an entirely different experience. Keep in mind that some of these points may not apply to every trailer park out there, but they’re still important things to keep in mind when looking for a home.
10. There is a Difference Between a Modular Home Community and a Trailer Park
When most people use the term “trailer park”, they might actually be thinking of a “manufactured home community”. Here’s the difference: A trailer is like an RV. This can move from place to place. Some people do live long-term in a campground setting if they like to travel. Many prefabricated homes are also on wheels, but they are surrounded by a skirting to hide that. There is an option to own the home, so you can technically move the house to a new location, if you ever buy a piece of land. If you have a few thousand dollars in the bank, you could potentially buy a trailer outright, and live mortgage-free while only paying rent on the land. Some people even take over the old mortgage of a previous owner, similar to a tenant moving out of an apartment.
In both scenarios, you pay rent to the park for use of the land and utility hookups, in addition to your mortgage. Depending on the location, people seem to pay between $500 to $1,000 a month for a 2-bedroom trailer. This is significantly cheaper than an apartment, and gives you more space to live. There are some communities that will take a double-wide trailer and put it on a foundation. They call this a “modular home”. Obviously, once this modular home is on a foundation, you can’t easily move the house from place to place like a trailer home. Most of those communities are typically safer, and have owners who treat their double-wide like they would any other house.
9. In the Past, There Was No Shame in Owning a Modular Home
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, there was a huge baby boom, and suddenly, every family in American wanted to own their own house. People were no longer living in multi-generational households, and it was part of the American Dream to become a homeowner. So modular houses were popular as “starter homes” for young newlyweds, before they could afford to move to something bigger. The idea was that a young family could buy a mobile home, and if the father ever got a job somewhere else, they could hitch the trailer and move their house to a new city.
However, since these houses were not made with as high quality materials as a site-built home, they quickly deteriorated after a few decades. And if that young couple’s starter home ended up being a forever home, there was a stigma placed on that. It was as if they failed to rise above those circumstances. Now, society is changing once again.
8. Shop Around Before Settling on a Community
Before you jump into living in a trailer park, always visit the area beforehand. Look for some of the red flags you need to look out for before buying a home. In the case of a trailer park, watch out for signs of vandalism, poorly maintained trailers, and trash on the ground. Also be sure to check the local crime and sex offender statistics on Neighborhood Scout. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell how dangerous or safe a community is just by seeing it once. Ask around your local area to see if you know anyone who lives there. Check Facebook to see if they have a community page for the park, and find out as much information as possible.
7. Many People Prefer it Over Apartment Living
When you live in an apartment complex, you’re always conscious of playing your music too loud, slamming doors, or stomping your feet. And it can be annoying to hear your neighbors next door. People who live in a trailer park say that they love not sharing walls with strangers. They may not have a lot of land in-between the homes, but at least it gives them enough space to feel like they’re not walking on eggshells. They also get the benefit of having their own back and front yard for gardening and barbecues.
6. Many Retired People Choose to Live in a Modular Home or Trailer Park
Trailer parks are popular for retired people, because there are many who can’t afford to live elsewhere. In the United States, the average Social Security payment is $1,514 per month. However, there are people who make far less dispensing on the age that they retire, as well as other factors. So if they haven’t saved anything for retirement, they’re completely dependent on their government checks, and must live within that fixed budget. At the end of the day, a trailer gives you more space for less money. Even in trailer parks, people on social security barely have enough money to pay for their living expenses and food. They could be the sweetest neighbors in the world, and you could feel completely safe in a community filled with retirees. However, some of these retirement communities have a strict rule that no one under 55 can move there.
5. It’s Better to Live Somewhere With an HOA, or a Lot of Community Rules
Normally, I would say that excessive HOA (Homeowners Association) rules are a downside to moving into a house. I personally wouldn’t want a committee of busy-bodies telling me what color I can paint my house, or how often I need to mow my lawn. However, in the case of a trailer park, it’s actually better to have a lot of rules in place instead of moving somewhere with absolutely no rules whatsoever. I’ve read some horror stories online about people letting their dogs walk freely throughout the park to defecate on the neighbor’s lawns, loud music, parties, crime, and general chaos. On the flip side, the stories where communities had strict HOA policies seemed to be filled with law-abiding citizens who are just living on a tight budget.
4. Most (But Not All) of the Stereotypes You Hear are True
After taking a consensus online from multiple sources and personal anecdotes, it seems like the majority of the stereotypes that you would see on a TV show like “Trailer Park Boys” are pretty accurate. Some of the people I talked with admitted that they tried to live in a trailer park for a while in order to save money, and ended up leaving for the safety of their family. Obviously, this is not true for every trailer park out there. But the vast majority of stories you hear online confirm this stereotype.
In one story, they said that the trailer park was so dangerous, not even the local police were willing to show up, for fear of getting shot. So the place was totally lawless. Another person said that they tried to go to the park manager to report illegal activity. Instead of taking care of it, the entire community turned against him for being a “snitch”. His car ended up vandalized on multiple occasions, and he eventually needed to move.
3. Most Likely, The Mobile Home Park Will Be Situated on a Bad Piece of Land
A common thread I noticed in online testimonies was that their mobile home park was situated on pieces of land that are considered to be bad locations for a housing development or store. This decreased the value of the land, and building a trailer park on that land was really the only option for the owners. In the midwest, this land is typically in the middle of nowhere far away from grocery stores or entertainment.
Here in New Jersey, it’s true that trailer parks are built on land that is not valuable, but for a different reason. We are one of the most densely populated states, so there is far less land to go around, and few places you’d ever consider “the middle of nowhere”. So our trailer parks always seem to be on a busy street. One in particular has two incredibly busy highways on both sides of the park, as well as three major intersections. The noise from the traffic alone would make the experience of living there uncomfortable, to say the least.
2. During a Natural Disaster, Trailers and Mobile Homes Are First to Go
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, and I experienced firsthand what it’s like to see people in trailer parks and modular home communities lose their homes. Some of them were actually floating down the street. If you plan to purchase a prefabricated home or trailer, always check to see if it’s in a flood zone. With so much going on right now in global warming, tides are said to only get higher. So don’t take a chance with living on the water when you are low to the ground. Also make sure you purchase home owner’s or renter’s insurance, in case something like this ever happens.
On my grandmother’s street, the laws changed after Hurricane Sandy so that the new homeowners must build a house that was built on stilts at least 6 feet off the ground. This forced out many of the low-income homeowners. The land was bought up by investors, and now the street has million-dollar houses instead of modular homes.
1. The Struggle Forges a Strong Sense of Community
Some mobile home parks are filled with people who have nowhere else to go. They might have a criminal record, or a history with drugs. However, with the economic downturn of 2020 and 2021, there are plenty of people out there who are in a situation where moving to a trailer park is their only option.
One of the positive things about mobile home park communities is that there is an opportunity for a lot of love, compassion, and friendship. Most people living in that park are going to have some kind of financial trouble. There is a sense that you’re all in this together. Many people report becoming close friends with those in their community. They share food when it gets scarce, babysit each other’s children, and show sympathy for anyone struggling with addiction. While I haven’t lived in a trailer park, I’ve been a part of low-income communities. These are often incredibly loyal people who understand true unconditional love and friendship.