Factory-Built Housing Booms On Low Costs

AS Americans get more mobile, so do their homes. More homes are rolling off assembly lines - and then down highways to their final destination.

Factory-built houses, costing on average half as much as site-built homes, are gaining market share rapidly.

"In an era when there is little appreciation in [the price of] residential real estate above the rate of inflation, keeping the cost of the structure down is increasingly important," explain analysts Lawrence Horan and Mars Bishop at Prudential Securities Inc.

After declining through most of the 1980s, manufactured housing's share of the single-family home market has risen from about 16 percent in 1990 to more than 25 percent presently.

In addition to low cost, the shift is driven by the improved quality, diversity, and amenity packages of the homes (though they still fall short on interior quality), Prudential says. In addition, zoning laws have grown more accommodating.

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