Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tiny House Living: Buying a Park Model

I recently received a letter from a follower about the best way to choose a park models. The writer had bought a lot in California and was thinking about putting a small house on it. Her inquiry went like this:
I am new to park models but recently obtained a lot in Southern California and have tried researching what the best manufacturer is but there seems to be limited information and most of the reviews are negative as to quality. Do you happen to have better info on which manufacturers are best and do most require you buy thru a middleman. Thank you.
It is a very good question don't you think. How do you make sure that the park model you buy is the best, the sturdiest and will fit your needs?

I have lived in the same park model for over 9 years now. It was built in 1987. In the world of park models, that is very old. But, fortunately, ours as a Cadillac in it's day. Even so, we do have to upgrade and repair a little all of the time. Here is how it works,

While the frame of a park model is very similar to a stick built house, the finishes are very light simply because it needs to be moved down the highway to be placed in it's location. When it is parked, the wheels remain underneath so that in the eventuality that it is sold to be moved, they can be remounted and used again. There are several reasons to leave the wheel underneath. In Arizona this affects the way your home is taxed. This type of home is not intended to be "permanent" in its location.

However, all the plumbing, electrical etc. is usually satisfactory and will last a very long time.

I do know that factories offer tours to prospective buyers.  I do think that seeing the structure in the stages of being built is a good idea if you are buying new. You might take a look at Park Models direct online. RVIA has a guide that could be valuable. I also looked at the webpage with the links for more information here or here.

But here is the deal...I think that buying a park model is very like buying a new car. The quality is dependent on the amount you are willing to pay and on what you can afford. AND once it is driven off the lot it begins to depreciate in value. The tweaks made to the model (added on porches, paint or decorations on the interior) can slow that depreciation process.

Buying a used model and having it moved may be a good choice. You can buy one for very little here in Arizona so I assume California is the same. Then you can use the amount you save to made the home just what you want. But you have to have the resources or ability to do that.

I am also a fan of the Tiny House movement. There are several builders including one in Portland that builds beautiful little houses. The TV show Luxury Tiny Houses is featured on DIY (I think).

As always, it is all about the research. Being well informed is a good thing. I have recommended that people simply rent a unit for a small length of time to get a feel for what they are in for. I love living in my tiny house and could do it year around.
Front porch was added after we purchased. It is decorated for Christmas.

We opened the wall between the bedroom and Arizona room
to make a large open private space.

We have removed the awning and repainted
the exterior, replaced the window and trimmed them out.
It has changed the character of the park model. 

Front porch at night.

Updated kitchen.

Every surface has been painted. We have since
put a dishwasher in where the small white cabinet
sits under the kitchen counter.
This can be a very inexpensive choice for living especially if you own your own lot. But anyone choosing to do this needs to see for themselves what it is all about.

The simple fact are:

  • Yes you can skip the middleman and find a manufacturer that will sell to you direct.
  • Finishes are not "cheaper" as such but they are designed for a movable unit. They require upkeep.
  • Be careful about reviews. Unreasonable expectation are often the problem. Get some kind of guarantee from the manufacturer and be sure to choose one that has been around for a while. Here in Arizona Cavco is a well respected manufacturer...not perfect but someone like this business is probably a good place to start.
That is what I know. Good luck to all of you. 


Links to other posts about Park Model Living.


  1. This is the very first I have ever heard of a "park model". I've seen a couple of TV shows that talked about tiny houses and I had already decided they wren' for me or my husband (we both have joint issues and it seemed many of these had lofts -impossible for our 64 year old knees). This, on the other hand, seems to be more of a possibility. I'm already visiting the Park Models website for more information.

    1. Good for you Alana. We are 75 and 79. Yes the knees can be touchy but we only have two steps and a ramp is possible. Keep me posted.

    2. We are spending our fifth winter in our park model. I love the simplicity of it. Our big house in Washington State looks like more than I want at this point.

    3. I am getting there. But I still enjoy the company of little grandchildren and love the space to do that very thing.

  2. What is the cost to maintain a park model in an area like Tucson? My wife loves the idea of being a snowbird, but having two homes to maintain seems pretty expensive. Of course, the cost of renting one for the winter months is expensive, too.

    1. We pay $5145 for our lot rent here at Rincon Country East in Tucson. That includes sewer and water. We pay for electricity when we are here and simply shut it off during the summer. Park models can be bought for less than $10,000 dollar...a lot less if you are willing to fix one up with some elbow grease.

      We turn everything off at home and even take our extra car off insurance. For some reason it seems to work out. We live in a gated community here so everything is pretty safe.

      We own our furniture and we keep our place nice but it is not fancy. You saw the pictures.

      I guess it all depends on what "pretty expensive" is in your world. Life is short so we do what we do even if it means sacrifices in other areas.

      We have very good friends, golf, read and even travel some. Life is good.



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