Robert Calhoun remembers the days when Sunrise Mobile Home Park was in the country, so much so that a line was strung to Rivers Avenue just for phone service.
He bought the park at 1004 Red Bank Road in Goose Creek in the early 1970s. Over that time, civilization grew up around the park, which itself expanded from 102 lots to 325 manufactured houses today.
Calhoun, 72, says he's proud of the park's legacy: He preserved all but three of the property's 115 live oaks, opened a community swimming pool and added a gated section.
In recent years, Sunrise Mobile Home Park has benefited from an upswing in the local housing market - although most of its business derives from existing tenants.
"We survive probably a lot better than a lot of businesses," Calhoun says. "The folks that are here, they can't afford to move on and up," he says.
Calhoun says he doesn't expect mobile home parks to completely fade away, although escalating land costs have enticed some owners to sell.
"I've been doing this for almost 40 years," he says. "I've found out it doesn't matter how tough the economy, you've got to have a place to sleep."
Greater Charleston's improving financial picture has ratcheted up business for folks in the manufactured housing industry and has reestablished factory-built construction as a popular housing source for lower income residents as well as a reliable starting point for frothier custom-built residences.
Across the pricing spectrum, shoppers are willing to pay extra. That includes installing fancy kitchens, fireplaces and sunrooms in manufactured homes.
"Most of the people are looking for the nicer (manufactured) homes that have the same features new homes have in them," says Les Dyches, owner of Sangaree Homes on North Main Street outside Summerville and a 30-year industry pro.
Those options include all-wood cabinets, smooth top ranges, deluxe windows and heavy crown molding, he says. Yet buyers can secure the spiffed-up manufactured houses for "about half" the price of a traditional house built on site, Dyches says.
A sizable segment of residents desire perks such as clubhouses, pools and parks, which draws them to manufactured housing neighborhoods.
"We are really picking up in sales," says Shirley Shamblin, manager of close-to-150 home Southern Palms off Jamison Road in Ladson. "This time of year, we have northern people come down, tired of the (cold) weather," she says. Local people also discover the gated, 55-and-above manufactured housing village, which she calls "our little secret."
Southern Palms advertises manufactured homes for sale on its website. They start at $88,000 and with add-ons such as screen-in porches and sunrooms can cost $120,000-$130,000, she says.
Jensen Communities, founded in the 1920s, owns Southern Palms along with a host of manufactured housing properties on the East Coast. Attractions consist of a large clubhouse with fitness room, an outdoor pool, lake and a putting green. Residents bike and walk, too.
"It's been a nice addition, the outdoor pool," Shamblin says. "People like that; they congregate (there) all the time."
In a similar vein, modular construction has started to regain popularity after the late 2000s housing slump. Custom home builders seek to lock in material and labor costs on higher-end structures that can reach the middle six figures by relying on climate-controlled plants to build basic frames and roof skeletons and install many interior fixtures.
Alicia Kinard, owner of Artistic Design and Construction in Charleston, says her company used to provide the final touches on a host of upper end modular homes. Then the housing market cycled to where building from scratch proved most cost-effective. Now, the pendulum is switching back, she says.
"We have recently signed on with modular (manufacturers)," she says. The companies include Liverpool, Pa.-based Excel Homes and Ritz-Craft Custom Homes, which has its Southeastern regional center in Hamlet, N.C.
"They are building in areas that don't pay the same labor costs as in Charleston," Kinard says. The costs of everything from plywood to petroleum-based products are going up. By working with modular contractors, the materials costs can be fixed at the start of construction. Factory-built homes tend to be constructed quicker than site-framed homes, which are subject to weather delays.
The custom builder acknowledges that modular home construction doesn't work for everybody, and there are limitations in size, length and design - modular residences are box-shaped with few angles.
But the structurally sound houses can be time- and money-savers for some people.
"One thing that's happening, because I'm affiliated with the factories, they are sending customers to us," she says.
Industry professionals agree that factory-built housing will remain popular with at least a portion of the home-shopping public.
Calhoun, meanwhile, says affordable housing ventures such as Sunrise Mobile Home Park can still provide a service in today's world. The community's pool, for instance, "is a big blast for the kids." Families that are well off can take vacations out of state or in exotic places. "These folks here, they don't get to go anywhere," Calhoun says. "The kids grow up; they remember hanging around the (Sunrise) swimming pool."
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Southern Palms manufactured housing community in Ladson has a putting green as one of its amenities (Provided).×
A playground proves popular with the numerous families in Sunrise Mobile Home Park, which has more than 300 residences off Red Bank Road in Goose Creek (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
The Sangaree Homes display touts an upscale kitchen (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Interior walls are roughed out at this modular housing plant. Upscale custom builders such as Artistic Design and Construction in Charleston are teaming up with factory homebuilders for key production needs to control material and labor costs (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
This sunroom can be an addition on a modular home (Provided).×
A vaulted ceiling marks this manufactured house at Sunrise Mobile Home Park in Goose Creek (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Ritz-Craft designed this cottage-style manufactured home at Southern Palms (Provided).×
Sangaree Homes is one of a host of manufactured housing dealers in the Charleston area (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
This metal-roofed cottage can be factory built, according to Artistic Design and Construction (Provided).×
Sunrise Mobile Home Park traces its roots back more than 40 years (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
This manufactured home at Sangaree Homes in Berkeley County has carpeted floors and a large living room (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
This property at Sunrise Mobile Home Park sports a large front lawn, porch and landscaped walkway (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Southern Palms residents gather around the swimming pool (Provided).×
A picturesque porch highlights one of the manufactured houses at Sangaree Homes east of Summerville. Sales are starting to pick up, the company owner says (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Lawn chairs, table and a flower bowl provide color to the backyard of this residence at Sunrise Mobile Home Park (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
The large, columned clubhouse is on the entry road to gated Southern Palms manufactured housing neighborhood off Jamison Road (Provided).×
The roof line and attic are being constructed on this large modular home (Provided).×
Carolina Building Solutions designed this manufactured house at Southern Palms between North Charleston and Summerville (Provided).×
Columns flank the kitchen counter in this manufactured house at Sangaree Homes (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Many of the modular houses that Artistic Design and Construction helps complete are elevated (Provided).×
Ample cabinets and drawers highlight this kitchen in a manufactured home at Sangaree Homes outside Summerville (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Buyers are looking to add perks to their manufactured homes. This model sports a fireplace, carpeting and upscale kitchen appliances (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×