The short answer to the question ‘should you buy an older mobile home and remodel it?’ is yes.
You absolutely should buy an older mobile home and remodel it if you can find a home with a sound structure and you can do some of the updates yourself. If you like the idea of living debt-free eventually you should absolutely consider buying an older mobile home and remodeling it as your budget allows.
Buying and Remodeling an Older Mobile Home Completely Changed Our Lives
Buying our 1978 single wide for $5,000 gave us a chance to catch our breath and reduce our expenses all while getting to decorate and create the home exactly how we wanted. Simply put, it completely changed our lives. We update as we can afford it and live in a cute home while still building a savings account for the first time. We even went on our first true family vacation a couple of years after buying it.
Our lil’ 1978 mobile home:
It’s tough out there in the real world. Jobs don’t pay much (assuming you can find one), rent and utilities are sky high, and we are expected to work till we’re 70 before retiring. There has to be a better way and living in an older mobile home was the way for us. It could be a way for you to exit the rat race and catch your breath a bit, too!
With that said, here is our best advice for finding an older mobile home and remodeling it:
It’s a tough question to answer because every situation is different. The condition of the home will be the main factor in the decision. What is known as return on investment is the second and the third determining factor is the homeowner’s budget. You want to increase the mobile home’s value but you don’t want to spend more than the house is worth. It’s all about balance.
We asked Steve Lancaster, our favorite mobile home expert and founder of the popular Facebook groups Manufactured Housing and Mobile Homes if you should buy an older mobile home and remodel it. He has shared some of his best tips and advice for buying older mobile homes remodeling them. There’s a lot of factors to consider.
The Condition of the Home
Finding a mobile home in good condition will be your first priority. To put it simply, it’s all about the structure. You want a mobile home that has not been damaged by water in any way.
No Water Damage!
You want a home that has no signs of water damage. No ceiling stains, no soft flooring, or water stains around windows or doors. Lift the floor covering in the bathrooms and kitchens to make sure there are no soft spots.
The mobile home should have strong, damage-free floors, ceiling, and walls. Doors and cabinets should open and close properly (if they don’t it’s a sign that the home is not level and that puts stress on the joints).
Crawl under the home and make sure the belly wrap has been properly maintained (no rips or signs of leaks).
Maintenance: Wiring, Roofing, and Windows
Maintenance makes all the difference in a mobile home. You want to find a home that the previous owners updated and maintained.
You want a mobile home without aluminum wiring. It was used until 1971-73. The problem with aluminum wiring is the coating and connection points. Lots of homes use aluminum wiring safely but the home should have been rewired years ago. New breaker boxes are important, too. Read about a mobile homeowner’s experience with a Federal Pacific Electric Panel here.
Windows and doors should be in good condition. Flat mobile home roofs should have been recoated every couple of years. Finding a mobile home with updated windows is beneficial but check for old water damage.
Hiring a third-party inspector with experience in mobile and manufactured homes is vital.
Do not buy an older mobile home without having it inspected by a licensed inspector. It’s absolutely worth a couple hundred dollars!
Factoring in all the Expenses
For many of us, the idea of buying an older mobile home and remodeling it revolves around the desire to live debt-free.
If you do want to buy an older mobile home and remodel it you will need to consider all expenses. The cost of the home is just the beginning. Transportation, installation, utility connections, and inspections are expensive.
The ideal scenario would be paying cash for the home and living in it while you remodel and as your budget allows. Of course, financing can speed up the process if you can get it.
Transportation, Setup, and Utility Hookups
When buying a used mobile home you will likely have to move it to your desired location.
Steve tells us that transporting and installing the home will often run $5,000 for a single section home and even more for a double wide. The most basic installation and utility hookups can run around $1300-$2000. You have to do plumbing and electrical
The most basic installation and utility hookups can run around $1300-$2000. You have to do plumbing and electrical hookups, new steps to meet code, reconnect and service the existing heat pump or air conditioning unit. Paying for permits and inspections also add to the cost.
Then there is skirting, which if installed by a professional can run $1000 or more. Only after the home is installed and has passed inspection can you start remodeling.
Planning the Remodel
The size of the remodeling project is an important factor when deciding if you should buy an older mobile home and remodel it. Take your time. Don’t start another project until you’ve completed the first (trust me on this).
First Priority is to Make the Home Water Tight and Energy Efficient
Your first priority will be making the home airtight and energy efficient.
Steve gave us his top advice for buying an older mobile home and remodeling it. He said, “My first step would be to make sure the home is watertight, that the roof is in good shape. If a metal roof is on the home you can simply clean it and seal it with Kool Seal. If it is shingle, you can remove the old shingles, caulk around pipes and vents… replace those that are cracked or damaged, then you put new shingles on, or you can go with one of those new fancy colored metal panel roofs. Those roofs can also be used on metal roofs.”
New windows, doors, and insulation are large upfront expenses but it will be worth every penny with improved comfort and lower energy costs.
Focus on the Major Surfaces
You can do simple updates that focus on the major surfaces of the home such as floor coverings, painting the walls and cabinetry, and replacing or updating the countertops and backsplashes.
Installing new doors, new kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and even new windows would be a more complex and expensive way to remodel an older mobile home but the results are great.
Paint is and will always be our favorite home improvement and remodeling project. It has a low cost but a huge impact.
Should you Gut theHome to the Studs?
Buying an older mobile home and gutting it completely is a HUGE undertaking. Oftentimes, homeowners end up getting in over their heads with these projects. Ideally, you will find a mobile home that doesn’t need to be gutted.
Gutting a mobile home does have its benefits – you would be starting fresh with new plumbing, wiring, floor decking, floor coverings, sheetrock, crown moldings, and new kitchen and bath(s). A great advantage of gutting a mobile home is having the opportunity to install new insulation in the walls.
With a total remodel you can buy what you want: your choice of cabinets, vanities, commodes, and tubs. Steve explains that you can use site-built housing fixtures for faucets and such. If the home has old water lines, and you are doing a total remodel, that would be the first thing you would want to do after the roof.
Read how this 1968 Landola single wide above was bought for $500 and updated with an affordable mobile home remodel here.
Considering your Return on Investment
If you buy an older mobile home and remodel it you will need to consider the return on investment. Some projects will increase the value of your home, some will not.
The mobile home improvement projects with the highest return on investment are windows, roofing, siding, kitchen and bathroom remodels, decking, skirting, and flooring.
Related: Read about the top 10 mobile home remodeling projects with the best return on investments here.
The materials and products you use are also a factor for the ROI. You probably don’t want to install granite countertops if you plan on selling the home in the future because it will be hard to recoup that expense. However, if you love granite and it makes you happy, the poor return on investment may not matter.
A balance will be key, splurge where it matters most to you but don’t forget about the ROI.
Remodeling Magazine’s data shows that insulation, entry door upgrades, adding stone veneer to the exterior of a home, minor kitchen remodels, and window and siding replacements have the highest return on investment. Additions have the lowest return on investment across the board.
So, Should you Buy an Older Mobile Home and Remodel it or Not?
YES. If the idea of living in a more affordable home without the burden of a huge mortgage payment appeals to you buying an older mobile home and remodeling it could be a great move for you. It definitely was for us!
The condition of the home will be the most important aspect when deciding to buy an older mobile home and remodeling it. You need a good canvas to create a masterpiece!
Your budget will be the second factor. You want to be careful how you spend the money. Creating a safe, watertight, and energy efficient home should be the top priority. Aesthetics are important but there’s no sense in spending money on beautiful flooring if the roof is going to leak and damage it. Stay in the low to mid range of materials and products. Don’t overspend. Return on investment isn’t as important for families that plan to stay in their mobile home but it is important if you plan on selling the home.
Say you can buy an older mobile home for less than $10,000 and spend another $10,000 in remodeling and updates. You would have a gorgeous home for $20,000! Image what you could do with all the money you save by not having a huge mortgage!
A huge thank you to Steve Lancaster for helping us create this article and thank you for reading Mobile Home Living!