A double-wide mobile home in Calais decked out for Halloween. Mobile homes have become an affordable option for those edged out of the single-family home and condominium market. Credit: Courtesy of Showcase Homes of Maine

Inflation, rising borrowing costs and inventory shortages are pushing down sales of single-family homes, condominiums and land, but a more affordable part of the real estate market is still growing: mobile homes.

The prefab homes are starting to shake the stigma against manufactured housing, having become affordable for first-time homebuyers, renters escaping steep monthly fee increases, people downsizing and investors that are renting them out.

In Maine, 640 mobile homes were sold from January through July, up 13 percent compared with those months in 2021, according to recent data from the Maine Association of Realtors. The median sold price was up almost 17 percent to $130,500 in that timeframe.

The number of residential sales overall in Maine was down 14 percent during the seven months of comparison. Single-family home sales alone decreased almost 15 percent and condos were down more than 25 percent. However, sales prices continue to rise amid the shortage of homes for sale.

In 2020, 62,000 of Maine’s 747,000 housing units were mobile homes, or around 8 percent, the highest rate in New England.

Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec and Penobscot counties saw some of the largest rises of mobile home sales during the seven-month comparison period. Mobile homes are assembled at a factory and transported to a site. They differ from modular homes, which are partially made at a factory then assembled on site.

“We’ve seen younger people who have seen tremendous rent jumps look at mobile homes,” said Chrissy Montecalvo, sales manager at Country Lane Homes in Lewiston. The company has three trailer parks, two in Lewiston and one in Mechanic Falls, and sells manufactured and other homes.

She expects the company to sell more homes this year. A mobile home owner herself, Montecalvo said the benefits of owning a mobile home are a lower price and less maintenance. Some people don’t like the rules of a mobile home park, but she said they keep it safe and quiet.

“I was downsizing, and it took a lot off my plate,” she said.

One change she has noticed during the hot real estate market is more people paying cash for mobile homes.

Showcase Homes of Maine in Brewer sold out of its 160 mobile homes this spring, David Dauphinee, operations manager, said. It could have sold more, but that is the number it could commit to installing on the home’s site this year.

Sales have been brisk, and the factories that make the homes are booked out.

“In 2016 if someone walked in the door we could have a house for them in 8 to 12 weeks,” he said. “Now factories are booked out until 2023.”

Dauphinee and Montecalvo both pointed to materials and labor shortages as issues slowing down mobile home availability. The shortages, including spray foam and certain types of siding or wallpaper, have been hard to predict, they said.

Mobile homes of today aren’t the stripped down, basic trailers of 40 years ago. They can offer similar features to a single-family home, such as granite countertops, tiled showers, barnwood walls and a fireplace, Dauphinee said.

Instead of paying $300,000 to $400,000 for a four-bedroom, single-family home, a buyer can pay $140,000 to $200,000 for a four-bedroom, double-wide mobile home, he said.

“People searching for an existing home were probably finding it out of their budget range,” Dauphinee said. “A manufactured home offers a lot of amenities for your dollar.”