A home, whether it be a traditional stick-built home or mobile home, is a long-term investment for you and your whole family. As arguably the most important asset you will own at any given time, you don’t want to go in blind. When buying a used mobile home, there are many short-and long-term factors you need to be aware of. These factors (and their importance) vary depending on how you intend to use the mobile home.
If you want to use it as a home for personal use for you and your family, you want to know that it’s safe. You’ll also want to know what quality of life you can expect and how much time and money it will cost you for repairs or maintenance.
On the other hand, if you hope to use it as an investment, you’ll want to know how well it holds its value, how the house can help you out financially, and whether there are any other costs to burden you.
First things first, getting a good deal
No matter what your end goal is, buying a dilapidated or overpriced mobile home gets you off on the wrong foot. So, to help you get off on the right foot here’s how to find a good home with an acceptable price tag.
Used mobile home options and prices
When calculating the price of a used mobile home, it’s best to start at the beginning and work your way from there. The first thing you should look for is the age of the home. There are a few important dates to keep in mind when you shop around for a used mobile home.
The most important date is 1976. This is when the new HUD-code came into effect. The code dramatically upped the demands placed on building standards of mobile homes. It was a direct answer to all the health and safety concerns surrounding mobile homes at the time. It’s also since then that mobile homes started to be officially referred to as “manufactured housing”.
If a home is older than 1976, the price should drastically fall. Although you might be able to get these homes for next to nothing, you should be very wary of them too. You will not be eligible for almost any type of financing. That’s just on top of all the issues the mobile home is bound to pick up after 40+ years of use.
The next is 1987. This is a big cut-off date for most mobile home parks. If the home is older than this there is little chance of a park accepting it. Understandably, this should lead to another dip in price.
Depreciation is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of all property owners. Basically, depreciation is the decline in value of a piece of property over time. Mobile homes are a lot like cars in that they generally depreciate in value. The land under them might appreciate and if it’s a good piece of land it might appreciate as a whole.
However, you should expect a home to depreciate at around 3-3.5% per year. This means a home that cost the equivalent of $60,000 20 years ago should now only be worth $30,000. That’s half its initial value.
The average cost of mobile homes are:
- Single-wide: $40,000-$50,000
- Double-wide: $70,000-$80,000
- Multi-wide: $100,000 and up
Based on this information you should be able to get a ball-park figure for a home. Just remember to take the specific areas market conditions into account. An area that is undergoing a property boom might suddenly have inflated prices that are the new going rate. At least for a while.
Inspect a used mobile home
Now, let’s look at the actual condition of the mobile home. This is another very important consideration. Whether you want to live in the home yourself, flip it and sell it, or hold and rent it, no one wants to live in a home that’s falling apart. This could be a whole article but generally what you should look for is:
- Plumbing: The materials used (for example copper vs. galvanized steel vs. plastic) as well as any problems or leaks.
- Electrical: The condition of the wiring and any electrical problems.
- Roof, wall, and floor condition: This includes any water damage, cracks, dents, and materials. Also, check for any signs of sagging.
- Alterations and addition to home: If these are structurally supported by the home they might contravene the HUD code.
- Has the home been moved: Even after moving a home once, the chances of financing it are frail at best. Twice is an absolute no.
Taking all these factors into account is very important. You don’t want to end up with a worthless home that isn’t much more than a piece of scrap waiting to be torn down. Both for personal, and financial reasons. You could either end up with a home in constant need of repairs and maintenance, or one that is near impossible to sell when it’s time for you to move on.
However, it’s worth a mention that because of the stigma attached to the worth of mobile homes, many owners often sell their used homes for next to nothing. When in fact, the could more or less easily be spun into a relatively decent place to live.
For personal use
As a residence
So far, we have mostly talked about buying a mobile home for personal use in the context of a family home. However, there is another demographic for which a used mobile home might be just the ticket: retirees.
Living off a pension means that you have to cut some costs and stay within your means. Mobile homes are still regarded as “affordable housing” compared to traditional real estate. Depending on your age and whether you still plan on living elsewhere, it might be a fantastic option. Mobile homes are generally located outside of the city in the countryside, a favorite location for retirees.
Mobile home parks with an age limit are also very popular where retirees can live with their peers in a quaint community. In this case, you generally don’t have to be too worried about the home’s depreciating value.
The same goes for families. Double-wides are still a very inexpensive “family-home” option and cost less than half the national average house price ($200,000). Newer models have exceptional build quality and great layouts since the manufacturing process is so flexible. Lot rent is also much cheaper than most other types of rent, even with a mortgage payment included.
Another popular reason why people buy used mobile home is as a holiday home. Because of their lower price, it’s much easier to purchase a mobile home as a second home than a stick-built home.
Property tax and running costs are also much less. This allows you to afford a mobile home in a popular holiday state with high living costs, such as California, where you would not be able to afford a normal home. Because these states are popular, a used mobile home should retain its resale value.
You can also rent out the property during the period you don’t stay there to cover your costs and make some money.
With or without the land
We briefly mentioned earlier that mobile homes generally depreciate without exception. Although their standards are much closer to that of stick-built homes than they once were, they are still not seen as real-estate. This relegates them to private property, closer to a car that loses value as soon as it leaves the stand.
One way you can offset this depreciation is by purchasing the land the home stands on. This way, the appreciation of the land might eliminate, or even outdo, the depreciation of a mobile home.
However, this can quickly turn into a liability. If you buy a very old or abused mobile home and it effectively becomes unlivable you just have a huge piece of scrap taking up good land. It can cost upwards of $2,500 to remove a home to a dump. Typically, mobile homes have a lifespan of 30-55 year.
The value of a plot of land depends dramatically upon state and location. In some states, the average cost of a piece of land large enough for a home is still less than $15,000 while in others it’s above $100,000. One thing that has remained pretty constant is that the prices rise almost every year.
So, to sum up you can buy a home and sell it later at the same (or higher price). But the condition of the home should be carefully considered and weighed. The home needs to stay in good, livable condition until the time you think you will want to sell.
Hold and rent
Because of the generally lower rent than apartments and condo’s, there is a respectable market for people looking to rent a mobile home. Most people go with this option with an eye on either paying off the home’s mortgage with the rent and ending up with a “free” home after a few years or just to supplement their income.
Assuming that the home hasn’t been moved, securing financing should be your first step. You also need to make sure that if the home is in a park, they allow the sub-rental of units. Lastly, you will have to make peace with the fact that you might be held accountable for the lessee’s actions and treatment of the home.
When you do the math, remember to add up the monthly mortgage payment (if you took one), the lot rent (if it’s in a park) or property tax (if it’s on private land) and make sure that you come out on top with what rent you charge.
Turn and resell
Ever look at a house and think to yourself: “Boy, with some paint and elbow grease, this could really be something?” We all know about people who turn and sell real-estate, but is it really feasible with a mobile home?
It depends. To be frank, the only real situation where it might be worth the effort is if you really find a diamond in the rough. As we mentioned, some owners are so distraught at the idea of finding a buyer for their used mobile home or taken up by the stigma surrounding mobile home value that they sell it for next to nothing.
If the home is in a prime location or an area that might experience a boom, you could cash in by just buying it, sprucing it up a little, and looking for a new buyer.
Mobile home park vs. private property
Let’s now look at buying a used mobile home to either place on private property or in a mobile home park.
One very important thing to remember is that it is expensive to move a mobile home. You are looking at more than $1,000 for a local move, whilst a cross-state move could cost more than $10,000. Also, moving a home drastically reduces your chance of financing.
For this reason, you should decide beforehand whether you want to live in a park or have the mobile home on private land. If you want to live with the mobile home on private land you should also either look for homes that are sold with the land or have your own piece of land to move the home too.
Remember that in a park you will most likely pay some kind of lot rent although this is usually not too expensive. At anywhere between $100-$800, with an average $350, it’s still well below apartment or condo rental, even with a mortgage. Parks may include or exclude utilities from the lot rent. Other levies such as garbage removal are usually included but are not guaranteed.
The value of your home will also be linked to the park. It will depend on the condition of the park and its homes, the park’s levies and amenities, etc.
In most cases, you also cannot own the land in a mobile home park. Meaning you will need to pay lot rent for the duration of the home’s stay there.
If you’re buying a used mobile home in a park, you are buying into the park life as well. Mobile home parks all have their own regulations, amenities, and conditions. Before you move into a mobile home park, you should make sure that it fits your demographic (family, retirees, etc.) as well as your lifestyle.
The ownership and leadership of the structure of the park should also play a role in your decision making. PUD’s, Co-ops, and HOA’s all have their merits and obstacles.
Buying a used mobile home: Ready, set, go!
Buying a used mobile home can be a great option whether you plan to live in it yourself or use it for investment purposes. Just make sure you do your research so you can make the best decision without any regrets.