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'Mobile' homes gaining status, expanding sales

A new trend in homes is building. The preference for manufactured homes (once known as mobile, but now also including modular) is accelerating. The change has come along so fast that these units now represent a rising and important segment of affordable housing in the United States.

More favorable zoning ordinances permitting their use as permanent living quarters within communities, plus newly designed tax and insurance laws, helped manufactured housing account for 36.6 percent of all new single-family units sold in 1982 (manufactured as well as site-built), according to the Manufactured Housing Institute.

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The improved locations of areas available have attracted a whole new population group of homeowners. The former stereotyped residents of ''trailer parks'' were seen as mature people, perhaps retired and living on fixed incomes.

A recent survey by the Foremost Insurance Company of Grand Rapids, Mich., found that out of 9,000 residents of manufactured homes nationwide who had purchased units within the past two years, 60 percent were under 40 years old.Thirty-eight percent of these new buyers earned more than the national average salary, and 25 percent had white-collar jobs.

There is a growing tendency, according to analysts of the survey, for more and more buyers to seek out units in community subdivisions or on conventional home sites rather than in the older traditional side-by-side park sites. The survey showed, too, that most manufactured homes sold within the past two years had been ''upgraded'' by buyers who were demanding extra features, and who were regarding their new purchases as long-term investments.

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