At the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) 2024 Congress & Expo, the conference’s “Latest in Lending” panel provided an opportunity for industry leaders to examine the state of the manufactured housing industry and what trends are on the horizon.  Although the discussion was wide-reaching, common themes and sentiments emerged, of which I have distilled into six trends outlined below.

1. Steady supply. Institutional investors are showing signs of bullishness; inventory is growing as a result (albeit at a lower rate than the recent peak in 2022). Across the U.S., new manufactured housing developments are sprouting up and established communities are expanding. Approximately 93,000 manufactured homes were produced nationwide in 2023, with states including Florida, Texas, Utah, Colorado, and Montana especially active.

2. Steady demand. Sales of manufactured homes totaled roughly 91,000 last year; in 2024, a similar level may again be sold. For many buyers, uncertainty about the direction of future interest rates isn’t crimping demand either. At the same time, prices have been rising faster in coastal areas, as demand outstrips supply. (For the U.S., prices for manufactured homes have risen by about 80% since 2014, compared to over 100% for site-built homes.) It’s also true that statewide averages—whether in California or Mississippi—can obscure important regional price differences within states.

3. Creative financing. Recent turbulence in the industry, especially during the pandemic, helped accelerate financial innovation with homes. Today, this acceleration is visible in, among other ways, the development of more lenient appraisal standards (such as allowing site-built homes to be used for comparisons) and the spread of more flexible mortgage products (such as greater use of “streamlined” refinancing and FHA loans). Creative financing over the past several years has thus helped to fuel demand for manufactured housing, despite the headwinds created by higher interest rates.

4. Harnessing tech innovation. The industry is making greater use of tools and strategies like digital marketing, online mortgage processing, and virtual home tours. This, in turn, is making the buying process simpler and more efficient, thereby further increasing the appeal of manufactured homes. Meanwhile, improvements in design and manufacturing are making it easier for the industry to follow broader stylistic home trends—including the taste for larger windows, varied external material, open-floor plans, and elegant finishing—while offering buyers the opportunity for greater customization. At present, some 21 million Americans (about 6% of the population) live in MHCs.

5. Encouraging sustainability. As a growing number of consumers and policymakers prioritize eco-friendly housing, many manufactured home builders MHC developers are adapting their practices. Developers are doing this by focusing on things like greener building materials (such as from recycled sources and low-volatile organic compounds) and more energy-efficient construction designs (including for HVAC systems, windows, and insulation). The industry is cutting down on waste too, whether on the factory floor or in the faucets and showerheads that it installs in its homes.

6. Long-term uncertainty. Economic conditions have upended expectations that the Federal Reserve will soon begin cutting interest rates. But how long will today’s mix of low unemployment, strong economic growth, and above-target inflation last? The answer will have important effects on long-term demand for, and the supply of, manufactured housing.