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Mobile, modular homes hot

Affordable option for first-time buyers

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Blair Sonnichsen of Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate in Winnipeg at a show home for the new 50-plus, modular-home condo development in Sanford called Meadowbrook Villas.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Blair Sonnichsen of Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate in Winnipeg at a show home for the new 50-plus, modular-home condo development in Sanford called Meadowbrook Villas. Photo Store

Biubbles and his fellow Trailer Park Boys would approve.

Sales of mobile and modular homes are on the rise in Manitoba, as a growing number of budget-conscious homebuyers -- particularly first-timers and retirees -- seek out more affordable alternatives to the traditional single-family homes.

Modular Housing Association figures show annual sales of new modular homes have nearly doubled in Manitoba over the previous five years, climbing from 260 in 2007 to 496 in 2012.

And Winnipeg Realtors Association (WRA) figures show sales of mobile homes through the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which encompasses Winnipeg and a number of other communities in southern Manitoba and the south Interlake region, are up four per cent in the first half of this year -- 103 units versus 98. That includes a 93 per cent jump in sales in May alone -- 27 units versus 14 in May 2012, said Peter Squire, the WRA's residential market analyst.

"And they (sales) are still looking good for July. The trending is the same."

Squire said while the numbers are modest -- mobile-home sales account for less than two per cent of the WRA's annual MLS sales -- the fact they're climbing is noteworthy.

"As single-family detached homes become less affordable... they (homebuyers) are looking at different property types, including condominiums, single-attached, and even mobile homes," he said.

And real estate industry officials said sales of mobile homes (now more commonly referred to as manufactured homes) and modular homes would be even higher if Winnipeg and other nearby municipalities would allow more mobile- or modular-home parks to be developed.

"The problem isn't finding people to purchase modular homes. The problem is where to put them," said Blair Sonnichsen, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Dynamic Real Estate in Winnipeg and listing agent for a new 50-plus, modular-home condo development in Sanford called Meadowbrook Villas.

Sonnichsen said he inquired earlier this year on behalf of a local developer about having a parcel of available land near Sturgeon Road and Saskatchewan Avenue rezoned for a modular-home development and was told by a city zoning department official it would never be approved. So the developer didn't bother bidding for the property.

He and Don Sawatsky, a local modular- and mobile-home dealer/developer, said allowing more modular-home developments would be a quick and easy way to provide more affordable housing for local homebuyers.

"There's a tremendous need for more low-cost housing... and one of the best ways of getting more low-cost housing is with modular housing," Sawatsky said.

"The City of Winnipeg needs at least two more modular-home developments... " Sonnichsen added. "That would open up 300 homes for affordable housing."

He said modular homes appeal to some budget-conscious buyers because a new 1,200-square-foot home can be purchased for as little as $139,000, and a new 1,600-sq.-ft. model for as little as $220,000.

"That's $100,000 to $150,000 less that what you'd pay for a similar-sized, new entry-level (site-built) home in Winnipeg," he added.

He said municipalities, particularly rural ones, are often reluctant to approve new modular-home communities because they tend to be higher-density developments and they don't have the infrastructure to support a sudden influx of new homes.

"And I know we still have a stigma out there -- trailer-park trash and so on," Sawatsky said. "But those people haven't looked at the modern modular home parks."

Claudette Griffin, broker/owner of L. J. Baron Realty in Stonewall, agreed today's mobile- and modular-home parks "have come a long way from what they were."

Griffin said today's models are built with two-by-six-inch wall studs, rather than two-by-two or two-by-threes, and are much more energy-efficient.

She said they're an increasingly popular option in rural communities, as well. She noted there is a waiting list of prospective buyers in the town-owned Crescent Creek Manufactured Home Park in Teulon. And town officials are thinking of expanding the development.

Stonewall also has a manufactured-homes park, she said, "and sales have been brisk. They've been good because it gives young people a place to start."

Sawatsky said his development company, the Sawatsky Group, would love to develop a modular-home park in Winnipeg. But he doubts it would be approved, so it purchased the unfinished 201-lot Meadowbrook Villas development in Sanford and will be completing that over the next four or five years.

Sonnichsen said 78 homes were built as part of Phase I of the development, and 44 more are planned for Phase II, which is now underway.

There are three mobile/modular home developments in Winnipeg -- Southglen Mobile Home Community in south St. Vital, Downs Village Mobile Home Community in Westwood and Northgate Trailer Park on north Main Street.

A City of Winnipeg spokesperson denied the city has a policy against allowing any more mobile- or modular-home developments.

She said the land Sonnichsen inquired about is within the CentrePort industrial development and within the Airport Vicinity Protection Area.

"So it would be next to impossible to get any new residential development approved... mobile park or otherwise," she added.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 B6

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