Rent or Buy the Land

Before you buy, decide whether you will place the home on land you own or on land you rent or lease. The decision is important because if you later regret your choice of a homesite, the only practical solution may be to sell. It also has tax implications.

The majority of buyers put their manufactured homes on land they own. Your best approach is to select a lot before you buy the home. While zoning restrictions that keep manufactured homes out of residential neighborhoods still exist in some areas, many states have passed legislation that prevents such zoning discrimination. Check local zoning ordinances before making plans to situate your new home.

There are numerous well-designed, attractive subdivisions to choose from; you may be able to find land in a ready-made community, complete with swimming pool, recreation center and nearby schools and shopping. A good subdivision developer can help you select a lot suited to the home you have in mind.

If you plan to rent the land on which your home will be situated, you should understand that the management in many manufactured-home communities may have restrictive rules by which you must abide. Also, residents tend to keep an eye on each other—so you must like living in a closely-knit community.

If you move into an established community, you will rent a piece of property and have your home installed at your expense. A lease may or may not be in-

Check local zoning ordinances before making plans to situate your new home.

volved. There are generally rules and regulations, and you should ask for them in writing. In most cases you will rent your space from month to month or year to year, but longer-term leases are now offered in many states.

In a new development, the management may also be the dealer, and you can get into the community only by buying a home from the dealer. This arrangement isn't entirely self-serving. It allows management to enforce strict standards for homes that go into the community. When you select a lot, you also pick a home from among models approved by the management. You will be shown a complete catalog and price information, and in some developments management will encourage you to go to the factory to custom-design your model.

New developments and those still under construction are often promoted on the basis of nonexistent amenities such as swimming pools, shuffleboard courts and recreation halls. Once settled in, you may


Whether you intend to buy or rent a home site, here are some considerations:

■ Visit several developments. Stay a few days if you can, to sample the neighborhood and meet residents.

■ Familiarize yourself with each community's rules and regulations. In condominium developments, for example, residents own part of the common facilities plus their own units and lots.

■ Try to determine how much turnover there is.

■ Find out how most residents view their community. Is your lifestyle compatible with that of potential neighbors?

■ Check on security, fire protection and trash collection.

■ Remember that the character of a rental community can change much more rapidly than that of a community of landowners. As a tenant, there may be little you can do if a community is sold or if the management becomes lax.

■ Study the purchase contract or lease, bylaws, rules and regulations, and all other pertinent documents.

■ Do not commit yourself to a lot or a home until you've consulted with a lawyer.

■ Don't sign anything you don't understand.

discover—to your dismay—that the landlord lets the pool wait while funds and space are devoted to developing homesites. What's more, you may have been required to pay an entrance fee of several hundred dollars—a practice now banned in some states.

Keep in mind that leasing land rather than buying puts you in a vulnerable situation. You will own a valuable piece of property located on someone else's land. In a dispute with the landowner you may have no recourse but to sell or move. Moving even a single-section home is costly. Including necessary dismantling and reassembly, you can pay thousands of dollars to move a luxury multisection home less than 50 miles. Because of the expense and damage that can result from vibration and road shock, you could be forced to sell, possibly at a loss, and be faced with the prospect of buying another home elsewhere.

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