The view is all snow-dusted peaks sharp against a cold, blue sky.
Mountain View Estates is developer Russell Dalton’s idea of heaven. “Look at where you can see, way back here, all the way around,” Dalton said, panning across the vista.
The 77-year-old plans to move here next year. But don’t expect a neighborhood of mansions here in Shoshone County. This scenic, landscaped ridge is being filled with mobile - er, manufactured - homes. “I saw it coming years ago,” Dalton said proudly.
He is onto something. In Shoshone County, 110 permits have been issued for new homes during the fiscal year which ended last month. Of those, 99 were for manufactured homes.
“You can just get a dang nice house in a manufactured home,” said Dalton, dressed in a denim jacket and overalls. “That triple-wide over there sold for $135,000.”
Most, though, cost much less. “I try and come in around $50,000, and you can’t do that with a house.”
Dalton has sold six so far and plans a total of 21. Once those lots are full, he’ll have another 150 acres left for expansion. Dalton sells the home, the landscaped site - the whole package.
The upswing has kept building inspector Robert Bird on the road.
“That’s a lot of trips,” the Kellogg inspector said. He works for the city but drives all over the county making inspections.
It’s all thanks to the mobiles, once considered a last resort for home ownership.
But in Shoshone County, they’re fueling a $1 million boom in housing.
“We’ve had $4.7 million plus” in new construction, Bird said.
And unlike conventional construction, which slows in the fall, the mobiles keep rolling in. “We just issued one (permit) for a double-wide this morning,” Bird said.
Why Shoshone mobile mania?
Most say it’s price.
“If contractors don’t wake up, it’ll be like that all over,” Ernie Krause said, showing off his new modular home and unfinished garage. Conventional homes just aren’t a bargain, he said.
And manufactured-home buyers don’t have to spend for extras such as curtains or kitchen ranges. “You monkey around and you drop a lot of money on curtains and things,” Dalton said.
Krause’s place isn’t a tin trailer. He moved here from Oregon two months ago for a home with cathedral ceilings and a skylight. “I wouldn’t move into a single-wide,” Krause advises. “It’s too much of a tunnel.”
Dalton said home buyers won’t get a tunnel from him. “Our rule here is: They’ve got to have a minimum of 12-inch eaves, and they have to look like a house. Otherwise, you’ve got a trailer.”
People save not only on the purchase price but also on permit fees.
Bird said most new houses require fees equaling about 1 percent of their value. Mobile homes require a quarter of that.
But don’t cry for the county. New mobile homes have brought in thousands of dollars. Bird’s office has collected $75,000 in permit fees this year - $16,000 more than last.
“We’re busy. And that’s good,” Bird said.
Dalton is busy, too. He spent Monday with a backhoe sloshing around a muddy lot at Mountain View, preparing a site for his own home. But it won’t be like the others around it.
Move over mobiles - Dalton is getting ready for a new wave in inexpensive building materials.
“Styrofoam,” he said prophetically, “is the next big thing.”
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