Longtime Steamboat fishing guide Keith Hale is the proud new owner of a mobile home in Fish Creek Mobile Home Park. Encouraged by the September purchase of the park by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, Hale purchased his first home after two decades of living here.

Photo by Tom Ross

Longtime Steamboat fishing guide Keith Hale is the proud new owner of a mobile home in Fish Creek Mobile Home Park. Encouraged by the September purchase of the park by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, Hale purchased his first home after two decades of living here.

Mobile homes enjoy new stature


— Residents of two Steamboat Springs neighborhoods are translating mobile homes into newfound security and upward mobility.

Permanent structures are beginning to replace trailer homes at Hilltop Homes in Old Town Steamboat. And a couple of miles away at the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park, residents are investing in substantial remodels of longstanding mobile homes. At Fish Creek, the catalyst for such investment was the recent purchase of the park by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

For 20-year Steamboat resident and professional fishing guide Keith Hale, the change in ownership means an opportunity to own his first home.

"It's not a great mobile home, but it's that or keep on renting," Hale said. "And it's on a great lot. It's exactly 68 steps to the river."

Mobile-home parks are achieving new stature in mountain towns, where the price of entry-level housing is skyrocketing. At Smuggler Park, in the heart of Aspen, aluminum mobile homes from the 1980s are being sold for as much as $600,000. And ambitious homeowners who build small footprint frame homes on Smuggler Park lots can see their property values crest $1 million.

Residents of Fish Creek Mobile Home Park are beginning to feel secure enough to sink five figures into improving their homes. The change has come about since early September, when the Yampa Valley Housing Authority closed on the purchase of the mobile-home park from Bob and Audrey Enever for $3.2 million. That milestone ensures the park won't be sold to a developer who could evict the trailer owners in favor of building luxury housing.

"That's the only reason I decided to buy there," Hale said.

Hale is one of the fortunate ones - two other mobile-home parks, Westland and Trailer Haven, have disappeared in the past five years in favor of redevelopment.

Hale said he wasn't seriously looking to purchase a home until his friend Gary Osteen almost insisted he seize the opportunity. He was skeptical at first, but then he saw two Fish Creek mobile homes advertised and sell almost overnight. Next, Fish Creek resident Chris Ward, who has developed a specialty in remodeling and re-selling mobile homes, advertised two of his neighbors' homes for $100,000.

"They had new everything," Ward said. "I re-did the electrical and drywall; they had slate floors and granite countertops."

Hale balked at the price, but they too disappeared quickly. When he had an opportunity to purchase a mobile home Ward was already preparing to remodel, Hale grabbed it for $56,000.

Ward backed into his business plan for remodeling and flipping mobile homes in December 2006 when a neighbor's pipes burst. It was before the announced sale of the park by owners Bob and Audrey Enever. Ward was studying real estate at Colorado Mountain College at the time.

Ward helped his friend stabilize his plumbing, and when another neighbor said she had to get out of her trailer, things began to click for him. He helped the owner fix it up and sell it, collecting a contracting fee in the process.

Ward lived in Fish Creek for 15 years and raised a family there. He began acquiring neighbors' homes and undertaking extensive remodels with the intent of selling them for a profit. But he also took satisfaction from seeing families acquire homes.

"I wanted to see the transformation of these mobile homes into real houses," he said.

He bought a mobile home in the park for $14,000 cash and borrowed another $10,000 from a bank to finance a remodel. Later, he sold it for a tidy profit. Then he repeated the process, remodeling homes to include stucco and stained wood exteriors with landscaping.

Although Ward was studying real estate at the time, he wasn't selling real estate when he flipped his first trailer. Mobile homes (where the owners do not own the lots) are sold like motor vehicles, he explained.

The Hilltop Homes owners are five years ahead of the process under way at Fish Creek. The 17 owners collectively purchased land in their neighborhood from their landlords with the help of the old Regional Affordable Living Foundation in June 2000. They won city approval to subdivide the land in June 2002. That was the key step that led to individual ownership of the building lots.

Today, a few residents are either constructing stick-built homes or have brought in modular structures to replace old mobile homes.

Realtor Jayne Hamm of Century 21 Ski Town Associates purchased the mobile home of Ernie Harms, son of original trailer park owners Leland and Ilagrace Harms. She had it hauled away and hired contractor Dave Combs to install a handsome new home that accommodated her No. 1 priority - a parlor with room for a full-sized billiards table.

"I'd been bugging Ernie Harms to sell me the space for five years," she said. "He finally let me have it for $130,000."

Hamm originally moved to Hilltop in 1989 when she paid $350 a month to live in trailer No. 2. She moved away and lived in both a condominium and a single-family home in Steamboat before her return a year ago.

"It's a great little community," Hamm said. "It works."

At Fish Creek, the Housing Authority has formed a committee to oversee the park's operations and explore the possibility of converting the park to ownership units for homeowners who desire that option.

"I'm hoping to subdivide," Hale said, "but either way, it's a win-win for me."

Ward continues to pursue his real estate license and says he's done flipping trailers.


WZ 9 years, 5 months ago

What about financing of this new "stature" mobile homes have in ski towns.

Financing is the ultimate barometer.

Go into your bank, ask them for a $100,000+, even a $50,000 loan for a mobile home built in the 1970's/80's and see what kind of "stature" mobile homes have.

They'll laugh you right back out the front door.

Not much "enjoyment" in that!

Unless any of the big corporate banks here in Steamboat change their local ways, the affordable housing contingency needs to start offering lending to individuals to purchase.

Even at the lowest point in Steamboat's housing pool, you have to have a dump truck load of money and/or private access to funds to own a mobile home.

I'd be reeeeeal curious to see who's financing these recent purchases....


boatski 9 years, 5 months ago

"At Smuggler Park, in the heart of Aspen, aluminum mobile homes from the 1980s are being sold for as much as $600,000. And ambitious homeowners who build small footprint frame homes on Smuggler Park lots can see their property values crest $1 million."

Guess what, this same thing will happen in Steamboat. These will not stay affordable, these folks that own these mobile homes will fix them up and put them up for sale for $400,000 to $500,000 before long. Wait and see.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

WZ- They might just get a better financing opportunit since the 2 parks mentioned are now owning the land beneath them.


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago

It's not the home, but the land, that is making the prices go up. New mobile homes can be had for a fraction of the price if you've got a spot to park it.

A word of caution on the remodels: Are you guys getting building permits to do this work?

Mobile homes are built light to be transportable. Start adding a lot of weight, and you could run into problems with walls, floors, etc. A "modular" home brought in on a flat bed and assembled on the site on top of a real foundation is a different animal; these are actually stronger than some stick built homes. Be sure that the frame and floor of the mobiles are strong enough to take the weight of granite counter tops, etc., or you might find yourself knee deep in trouble.


spukomy 9 years, 5 months ago

Why would you need a building permit to work on a vehicle?


WZ 9 years, 5 months ago

kielbasa - The $100,000 cost is for the title of the mobile home, no land. That's the only piece of paper you sign, and the only thing the bank gets if a loan is defaulted.

When the land does become available to the home owners (in a few months, years???) home owners will have to shell out approximately$50,000 more if they want to own the land.

And donuts to dollars when the Housing Authority offers the land to the owners it's going to be heavily deed restricted.

What will be appraising here is the "vapor", if you will, of the security of the land.

I don't think corporate banks are in the business of loaning money out for "vapor".

It's pretty twisted if you ask me.

As good as their intentions are, the Housing Authority just put thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in the hands of each and every one of the mobile home owners in the Fish Creek Trailer Park.

Or at the least, immediately into the Chris Ward's hands.

Who knows how this will unfold in the long term, but my hunch is the privileged home owners in the Fish Creek Trailer Park just hit the lottery with a ticket bought by the tax payers.

Too, bad the Housing Authority can't deed restrict the cost of the mobile homes as well, but that's private property/a "vehicle".

Or maybe they can.

Perhaps if the mobile home owner wants to own the land under their home, they'll have to some how succumb to the Housing Authority deed restricting their mobile home as well.

No matter how you slice it, it's still all pretty twisted.


ThreeJobs 9 years, 5 months ago

Ah, socialism. How the many get to benefit the few!


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago


There is a building code for mobile homes, too. Mobile home fires used to kill a lot of people before there was an enforceable code requiring egress windows and doors, etc.

Check with the RCBD on the mobile home issue. In 1976, the term "manufactured home" was applied to what used to be called "mobile homes" and they are covered by a federal building code administered by HUD.

Improvements to manufactured homes can change the tax valuation, etc., and many juridictions do require permits. Can't tell you if Routt County does that or not, but it would be worth your while to find out. The problem would come when you try to sell or move the home, especially one built before 1976.


spukomy 9 years, 5 months ago

Thanks id, I had no idea. Do you know if all mobile homes are now defined as manufactured homes? Or is it only for post-1976.


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