Making Mobile Money

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Prefabricated homes and mobile homes represent a great departure from the conventional home in simplicity and economy. This historical piece offers some good insight into the industry, which still applies today.

Developing slowly in its earlier years, the prefab home industry has experienced rapid growth in the last decade. In 1959 the industry accounted for 12 percent of total single- family housing starts. And many believe this will be dwarfed by as much as a 75 percent increase over the next 15-20 years.

Leading the prefab field is National Homes which recently experienced a major reversal, allegedly caused by an oversupply of houses in certain areas. Critical of this allegation is Martin L. Bartling, Jr., president of the National Association of Home Builders. He contends, "Some say we have overbuilt. I say this is nonsense. Many of you have only to look at your own cities to see the need for urban renewal, for upgrading of older houses, and for decent housing for thousands of families who still don't have it."

Many experts agree that the recent decline in house starts represented only a temporary interrupting of a basically long-term upward trend. If the tremendous population increase should continue—and it probably will— residential building is expected to be one of the outstanding growth areas of our economy.

Particularly promising are the markets for senior citizens and young couples.

According to National Homes' board chairman James R. Price, one of the big housing needs today is properly designed shelter for elderly couples, or retired people, right in their home communities. Another is the need of younger and growing families for "optional use" space in their rooms.

In its 1962 senior citizen line, National Homes have five models, ranging from four rooms to six rooms, two baths and garage, the latter priced at $15,400, without land. Each dwelling is designed for the comfort and convenience of elderly buyers. Features include extra-wide doorways, skid-proof floors, raised electrical outlets, bath handrails and compact kitchen arrangements.

The growing popularity of mobile retirement homes is indicative of a strong trend toward attractive but simplified housing for the average senior citizen.

A leader in this field is Mobilife, the developer of retirement communities in Florida, Arizona and California. In conjunction with Chance Vought, it is selling senior citizens a specially designed mobile home.

The Mobilife home has the appearance of a conventional home and an interior designed for the convenience of retirees. Factory-constructed, it is sold on a lot in a retirement community as a package. It will be available only when purchased with the lot.

Mobilife communities offer the nation's retired citizens the possibility of country club living at Social Security prices. After an average investment of $8,000, a Mobilife resident pays a monthly fee of $10 for utilities, maintenance, paved and lighted streets, garbage collection, and water supply, sewage disposal plant and central television antenna system.

At no extra cost, the residents of Mobilife's Sarasota, Florida, community have access to a 200-foot beach, clubhouse, auditorium, post-office substation, community newspaper and a barbecue area. Once a man has bought his home and lot, he can live on it on husband-and-wife Social Security income. Since lots are purchased instead of rented, they get better care, and thus appreciate in value.

With the continued popularity of manufactured housing throughout the United States, this remains a market that bears watching.

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