Last year, Betty and Dave Pfeiffer decided it was time to downsize.
Their 10-room home and in-ground pool in Hampton Bays had served them well while their two sons were growing up, but the boys were now adults living in Riverhead.
“It was time to move along,” said Mr. Pfeiffer, a retired Suffolk County police officer.
Encouraged by the recommendation of their friends and eager to live closer to their children, the pair checked out the model manufactured homes at Glenwood Village, a 120-acre 55-and-older community located on Mill Road, just off Route 58, in Riverhead.
“And we didn’t look any further,” Mr. Pfeiffer recalled last week from the steps of his new three-bedroom, two-bath house in Glenwood Oaks, Glenwood Village’s enclave of recently constructed properties. “We bought the model.”
The Pfeiffers are far from an anomaly in the real estate market. In fact, manufactured homes like those at Glenwood Village and surrounding communities are increasingly desirable among retirees looking to simplify in an affordable way while maintaining their standard of living.
Gone are the negative connotations long associated with trailer parks, said Brian Stark, vice president of Stark Homes, the parent company of Glenwood Village. Today’s mobile homes — now often called manufactured homes — are customizable and loaded with high-end finishes like granite countertops, crown molding and hardwood floors. And they’re easier on the wallet, too: the median home price at Glenwood Village is around $275,000 and, according to real estate tracking firm Suffolk Research Service, last year’s median mobile home sales price was $120,000.
“The price of buying these houses is a big thing,” said Joe Kummer, a former president of the Mobile Manufactured Homeowners Association of Suffolk. A Wantagh native, Mr. Kummer has lived in a two-bedroom, two-bath home at Calverton Meadows, a retirement community in Calverton, for the past 22 years. He and his wife moved to Florida briefly but returned to the East End for its cooler climate.
If he were to sell his manufactured home today, Mr. Kummer estimated, it would probably go for around $55,000. If his house weren’t located in Calverton Meadows, he guessed, it would likely go for $150,000 or more.
And Mr. Kummer is quick to correct people who refer to houses like his as “trailers.”
“I say, ‘Okay, if you back your car up and you can pull it away, it’s yours,’ ” he said. “They’re not trailers. There are no wheels on them. They’re anchored to the ground and we’ve got a concrete foundation.”
That is exactly the point people like Mr. Stark are trying to make.
“Mobile homes have evolved from a home-on-wheels, low-cost alternative for housing into a more detailed, customized product,” Mr. Stark said from his office at Glenwood Village last week. A South Jamesport resident, he’s been in the business for 21 years. His father and uncle founded Glenwood Village in 1959 and the community now has 535 units. Mr. Stark is in the process of building 25 more.
“Look at the American household back in the 1960s,” he said. “You had one TV, one car, maybe a one-car garage. Now homes have five TVs and two cars. Everybody takes a vacation. The standard of living has increased, and I think you can really see that in our product.”
The mobile homes themselves aren’t the only thing that has changed over the years, Mr. Stark said. The buyers have, too.
Historically, he said, most customers came from western Suffolk, Nassau County or Queens.
“Now, we see people from the South Fork,” Mr. Stark said.
That’s because Riverhead is a desirable option for retirees like the Pfeiffers, who want to remain on the East End but can’t afford to pay a premium to do so, he said. In the past, they might have moved to Florida. But now, he said, the public’s opinion of Riverhead has changed and continues to evolve.
“I always tell people that when my father and uncle had the park, very few people who had a home east of the [Shinnecock Canal] probably would come to Riverhead. But when they come in here and they see they can customize a home and they see they can be in an area where there’s shopping and a good hospital, you open up a new audience.”
Shopping admittedly doesn’t do much for Mr. Pfeiffer.
“You know what does?” he said. “Sound Avenue. The beaches. The farm stands.
“We [used to live] very close to the Shinnecock Canal and the ocean,” he said. “Now, instead of going there, I run up to Reeves Beach or Iron Pier. And you’ve got the Sound. And absolutely beautiful beaches.”
His quality of life has remained the same since he moved to Glenwood Village, he said. But there’s one key difference.
“It’s gotten easier,” he said. “I have a lot less maintenance.”