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Manufactured Home Estates – an alternative to retirement villages?

Still relatively unknown as an alternative to retirement villages but growing in popularity are Manufactured Home Estates (MHEs), also known as land lease living or resort communities.

Last updated: January 27th 2023
Manufactured Home Estates are becoming more popular among lower income retirees. [Source: Shutterstock]

Manufactured Home Estates are becoming more popular among lower income retirees. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Manufactured Home Estates (MHEs) are rising in a popularity as a cheaper alternative to a retirement village
  • In this accommodation option you buy the home and rent/lease the land it stands on
  • Some MHEs have onsite community facilities, like libraries, community centres, garden walks, swimming pools, lawn bowl greens, and so much more

Manufactured homes are moveable or relocatable homes that are installed in an estate owned and run by a site operator.

MHE’s have been expanding their current offering to provide a wider array of amenities and facilities for their residents. As a resident of an MHE, you may have access to an onsite swimming pool, community centre, lawn bowl greens, or tennis courts available for communal use.

Where did MHEs come from?

The manufactured housing market previously mainly focused on holiday accommodation in caravan park settings, but is increasingly offering affordable housing for retirees. In Australia, there are currently 200 dedicated home estates.

A manufactured home means the house you buy is built “off-site” and not on the land it will be installed onto. It will be packaged up and moved to its new location and connected to amenities such as plumbing and electricity, but can easily be relocated to a different location.

Over the last few years, relocatable homes have become more attractive to retirees and older Australians, as this option has transformed from a caravan park-like setting to more luxury estates with resort facilities, whilst still remaining more affordable for lower-income older people.

How to access an MHE

You can find MHEs across Australia offering a range of lifestyles. Most MHEs have land available for manufactured homes, as well as a select number of spots for caravans or camping. You will need to contact the MHE if you would like to lease land for your home.

You can bring your own dwelling or the estate may be able to assist with the purchase of a home through a manufactured home builder. Some MHEs may have land with pre-existing structures available for manufactured homes, like decking or carports.

Manufactured home builders can replicate popular design trends in the building sector while keeping the cost relatively low. This means you can find a home design you like that fits your needs and wants.

You will own your home but need to pay ongoing rental for the land, fees for the management of the MHE, and may need to pay for certain amenities on each lot, like water, sewerage, and electricity connection, or community facilities. Some MHEs may require an exit fee when you leave the estate, but it depends on what State/Territory you live in.

MHE’s can vary in costs, so make sure to shop around for a lifestyle that suits your needs but fits your budget. If the MHE is gated, you may need to pay a refundable deposit for an access pass or device to get onto the site.

Legislation and laws

Legislation around MHEs differ from State to Territory, but they generally do not fall under the same legislation as retirement villages.

What applies at a MHE will depend on where you live and you should be across what legislation you may need to adhere to.

New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia are the only States with specific MHE Acts and regulations in place. The ACT, Northern Territory, Tasmania, and Victoria do not have any specific legislation and are generally held to a mix of residential tenancy legislation and caravan park legislation.

Your MHE is allowed to make rules for you to follow in the park, however, they are only for certain things.

For instance, rules around using common areas, noise limits, speed limits around the park, the keeping of pets, landscaping and maintenance of dwellings, age limits on who can live at the park, guests and visitors of residents, and a few other areas. However, these rules are really dependent on what your State or Territory legislation stipulates.

They can not stop you from making any changes to your relocatable home because it is owned by you.

Buying a manufactured home

Some MHEs provide a package deal to buy a house and rent a site that can take a lot of the worry out of finding a manufactured home yourself.

Usually, these packages have some home customisation options available that could include design specifications, number of rooms, floor plan layout, and interior design, like wall colours, floors, and bathroom options.

An MHE might already have new manufactured houses ready to buy on-site, so all you need to do is purchase it and move in.

You can also purchase pre-owned homes that tend to be cheaper than new built manufactured homes. These homes are also popular because they already have well-established facilities or gardens.

Otherwise, you can approach a supplier of MHE homes who can deliver your home for installation on an MHE lot. Sometimes an MHE operator may have preferred suppliers for you to pick from.

What next?

Before starting the process of looking for an MHE, you should have a clear idea of what your budget is, what you are looking for in your retirement lifestyle, and if there is a specific area you want to retire or live in.

Similar to moving into a retirement village, it can be a good idea to do your research, visit the MHE, and talk to residents before you start moving in.

You want to make sure all the facilities and amenities fit your needs. For instance, if you don’t like to swim, then you probably don’t want to pay fees for the ongoing maintenance of a swimming pool.

Additionally, you want to make sure that the vibe of the community at the MHE fits your personal lifestyle needs.

Lastly, how close is it to your public needs? Land lease communities can be located in a variety of places, both close to all public areas or cities or removed from city and town areas. You want to make sure you are in close proximity to facilities you need, like hospitals, doctors, or grocery stores.

To learn more, read our article ‘Finding the right retirement village for you‘ on the Aged Care Guide, which can give relevant information on what you should consider before making the leap.

Why are you considered a Manufactured Home Estate/ land lease community, over a traditional retirement village? Tell us in the comments below.

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Finding the right retirement village for you
Transitioning into your retirement life
An introduction to retirement villages


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