For some people traveling as far as Corona to the north and Imperial Valley to the east to find affordable housing, manufactured homes in San Diego's East County begins to look very attractive.
Campo, Jamul and Alpine may be on their way to becoming the next commuter strongholds of San Diego as first-time homebuyers seek affordable manufactured homes, wildfire victims seek quick alternatives, and condominium owners want more bang for their buck.
"Young couples who want to start building equity are buying 1,700-square-foot manufactured homes with three bedrooms and two baths for $300,000 in Campo compared to $390,000 for the same home in El Cajon," said Steve Wilson, manager of the Coldwell Banker office for El Cajon and East County. "They appreciate as fast as condominiums -- about 7 percent a year -- so they are attracting buyers who consider real estate a better investment than the stock market or a savings account."
Joyce Amick, assistant manager of Century 21 Award in La Mesa, said manufactured homes on steel foundations, unlike mobile homes, can appreciate in a hurry.
Amick said a manufactured home in Alpine she formerly owned had a three-car garage, three bedrooms, two baths and a large main room in about 1,400 square feet of living area.
Amick said she paid $32,000 for the unit 10 years ago. She paid $4,000 to have it moved to its current location, and even with significant upgrades such as building permit fees and school fees, she was still able to get into a very comfortable place for less than $100,000. She sold the unit for $215,000 in 1998.
Michael Kolbeck, a sales consultant with California Suncoast Homes in El Cajon, said he sold about 100 manufactured homes last year, and expects to sell about 150 in 2005. The units range in price from $50,000 to $200,000 and have as much as 2,000 square feet of living area plus a garage.
"I lived in a 950-square-foot condo in El Cajon that I sold for $265,000 in April of last year. I bought a 1,650-square-foot manufactured home for $152,000 and put it in a senior park in El Cajon. I have a floor to ceiling fireplace and cathedral ceilings," Kolbeck said, adding that his space rent is only about $500 a month.
The units' affordability is getting noticed, especially from those who might shy away from housing built onsite from the ground up, so-called stick-built housing.
"The activity has definitely picked up, especially since the fires (of October 2003). Many of these homes have been replaced with manufactured homes," said Sharon Jarboe, a Realtor with Century 21 All Service in El Cajon.
"The prices have been going up because of the popularity, but it is still less than stick-built, and it is much easier dealing with permits and everything else," Jarboe said.
The biggest problem, according to the Realtors, is finding a place to put the units.
"That's the hardest part ... Depending on where they are, you will need a septic system and probably a well," Amick continued.
She added that if land can be found, it is quite easy to obtain a Housing & Urban Development loan for units that may be hundreds of thousands of dollars less than stick-built homes of a comparable size.
If for-sale land can't be found, Amick said there are many areas in the unincorporated regions of the county where a manufactured unit may be placed on leased land.
"The problem is that lease might be $800 or $900 a month, and that could be a lot for young people, on top of their purchase," Amick said.
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