News – Don’t trash the trailers

CHERYL MARKOSKY, a fan of park homes, finds out why they are now growing in popularity

GAVIN and Stacey’s Nessa lives in a cracking one in Wales. Eminem swears by his in the film 8 Mile and former Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson says hers is small but perfect for her and her sons.

Trailer homes (or park homes, as we call them on this side of the pond) are all the rage.

As a former trailer trash gal myself, I am right there with Pammie. Having moved in with her boyfriend while her Malibu home is being renovated, the buxom blonde says: “It is so close to the beach and it is fun sitting on bean bags and washing clothes at the laundromat.”

I recall our mobile home in Seven Persons, western Canada, with fondness. It was no more than a tin cabin on the outside but the doublewide trailer had enough room for a large three-piece suite and the latest appliances in a sizeable kitchen. We even had a hobby room where my fisherman father tied his own flies and stored his rods and reels.

When I took my young daughter home for a visit she had the time of her life, enjoying the lawns and scoffing fresh fruit from the kitchen garden. There was even room for my dad’s truck and two cars in the drive.

Park homes have moved on from crude Nissen huts to smartly stuccoed and panelled properties that are tricky to distinguish from bungalows. Upper-scale sites with well-tended roads, good street lighting and amenities, such as bowling greens, village halls and restaurants attract a new breed of buyer.

Claire Podbury from Willow View Park, which has 33 homes just outside Exeter, Devon, says middle-class people, a number of whom are downsizing to release capital to buy second homes or to travel, are turning to good-valuefor-money park homes. “Fully furnished two-bedroomed homes range from £190,000 to £230,000, ” she says.

“We are getting a lot of enquiries from expats moving back from Cyprus and Spain and from people in the UK keen to free up their cash.”

David Howells, 68, a retired security firm manager, bought a two-bedroomed park home with his wife Anna four years ago at Willow View Park for £210,000. His home is about 60ft long and has a study, conservatory, garage and good views over Dartmoor. “You would have to go a long way to find all of this for the same price in a normal house, ” he says.

After selling their three-bedroomed family home for £325,000 the Howells used the equity to also buy a three-bedroomed house near Cape Town, South Africa for £66,000 five years ago, which they visit twice a year. At Willow View Park, David pays £135 a month for water, sewerage and general maintenance.

Some of the bigger homes can cost more than £300,000 but you can still find a good one for about £150,000, according to Tom Hartley from Tom Hartley Parks.

Tom runs a number of sites with his golden flagship scheme at Cudworth Park, near Reigate, Surrey. “It is a good lifestyle if you find the right park in the right setting with a good manager, ” he says.

“Buy from a member of the British Holiday Homes and Park Homes Association, the trade organisation for park owners, and look for a site with good security.”

HTEPHEN Whitehead from Deanland Wood Park in East Sussex, which he has homes available from £99,000 to £220,000, advises potential buyers to opt for a residential site rather than one designated for holidays. “You have no security of tenure and will not be allowed to live full-time in a holiday park, while no one can throw you off a residential site even if the owners go under, ” he explains.

Some people have been put off in the past as park homes haven’t appreciated as well as traditional housing. However, this is changing as park homes are rising in value with more people buying them to free up their capital for lifestyle changes.

Although mobile-home villages appeal mainly to those aged 50 and over, Whitehead believes park homes could be a sensible solution for young couples and families struggling to find decent, affordable housing in Britain. So move over Nessa and Pammie, we all want to trailer-blaze now.