Dennis Vernia says he and his wife Candy and their two children are living in one of the 500 mobile homes in the Friendly Village of Dulles because they couldn't compete in the "other housing market."
A Navy chief petty officer who married during an eight-year tour of duty in Japan, Vernia said that he began to study the U.S. housing market when it appeared he would be returning to the states last year. He said he was how housing prices had skyrocketed and decided to look into what the Manufactured Housing Institute (which represents mobile home builders) likes to call the "attractive alternative."
The Vernias, who have two children, said they are generally satisfied with their 24-by-52-foot, three bedroom, one-bath home, which is now six years lod. They paid $13,700 for the used home, slightly less than the asking price, and qualified for 15-year VA financing.
Vernia and other residents of the 80-acre mobile home village south of Dulles International Airport said they would like to win the ground under their homes rather than pay monthly ground rent, which begins at $111. The figure increases slightly in relations to the number of occupants.
All residents have recreation privileges, including a community clubhouse for entertaining, a pool, a basketball court, a tennis court, shuffleboard and a softball field. There's also a lot on which to park campers and boats.
Owned by the Carlyle Partnership '72 (for the year it was purchased from American Mobile Home Corp., which developed and opened the park in 1971), the village is operated by a subsidiary, JMB Property Management Co. Both are based in Chicago. The Carlyle group also owns other properties in this area.
Dick and Mary Leisenring, who own a mobile home and live in the village, are the managers on the scene, assisted by Bill and Betty Bender. Leisenrign said that 1,225 adults and 285 children live in the park. He said it is "not in the present thinking of the owners to sell the relatively small lots, most of which are around 50 by 80 feet, to the residents. He said that few of the homes are ever moved and that one was nearly destroyed by fire of undetermined origin a few years ago.
"The owners bought a new home and now are living in it on the same lot," Leisenring added. In regard to the reported fire hazards of mobile homes, Leisenring said the only fires at his park have been minor grease-in-the-kitchen blazes common to many households.
People who live in what is regarded as the area's premier mobile home park resent any looking-down at their choice of one-story, flat-roofed houses built in factories. Charlie and Kay Cirlin, who have been in their own nicely furnished "double-wide" mobile home for five years, said that they sold a much larger conventioanl house in Falls Church to avoid a lot of maintenance. Thet have a carport at their new residence that takes care of three cars.
A semi-retired bartender who goes into downtown Washington to work for a few short-time jobs a week at hotel banquets, Jim Gibbons took his wife Kay out of a high-rise apartment on Columbia Pike in Arlington to move into a 24-by-48, two-bedroom, two-bath mobile home in 1972.
"I could stay here for 30 years," said Gibbons. "The air is great and the people are nice. Our gas heat bill was only $37 last january and our summer electric bill during air conditioning season is usually about $35. You can't beat the economy."
Residents of the village also pay their own water and sewer bills to Fairfax County. Three-fourths of the lots have installation for gas heat. Newer sites have service for electric or oil heat.
The buying and selling of mobile homes is a business for Willie and paul Boisseau Jr., who have lived in the village for seven years. Paula Boisseau said that new 12-or-14-foot wide "single-wide" homes range from $12,000 for new units and that "new "double-sides" (24 feet wide and up to 60 feet in length) range from $20,000 to $32,000. Resale dwellings range from a low of $5,000 for the smallest to $25,000 for the largest.
Mobile home professionals insist that their products now showing some appreciation in value, although not as much as is generally the case for conventional, ownership-lot houses. One young Friendly Village couple recently sold a singe-wide and moved next door into a double -wide. "We don't plan on moving again," said Sherry Eberhardt, who added that she and her husband dislike some of the village rules but go along.
Manager Dick Leisenring commented that the residents mostly live by the rules and that "problem residents" are rare. "We try to handle the problems diplomatically." Another resident commented that more organized activities might be set up for young residents.
Some residents complained about not being able to buy lots and jsome said they would like to have larger lots and more storage space. Almost all Friendly Village lots have storage sheds because mobile homes are tight and lack large storage spaces.
New residents Roy and Beverly Kennedy have a fireplace in the den of their new mobile home that is 64-by-24-feet. The den has a cathedral ceiling.
Because of the name of the park and adjacency to the airport, all streets have appropriate names, ranging from Airlline Parkway (the main drag) to Icelandic Circle and Transworld Avenue.
Although planes rove overhead, most of the park's residents pay little attention to the noise and regard the location as generally quiet. Not even Dennis Vernia or Charlie Cirlin would describe Friendly Village lfe as perfect. But they said that it certainly fills an alternative housing need.
Sam Gibbons put it this way: "We couldn't afford to live this nicely anywhere else in the area."