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Should You Buy an Older Mobile Home and Remodel It?

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:

Barn doors plans - our favorite remodeling and decorating ideas for manufactured homesPin
Our 1978 single wide (and where Mobile Home Living began).

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!

3 Factors to Consider Before Buying an Older Mobile Home and Remodeling It

The condition of the home will be the main factor in the decision to buy an older mobile home and remodel it.

Return on investment considerations is the second factor.

The third determining factor is the homeowner. What is the homeowner’s budget and what is the homeowner’s ability to DIY?

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 of 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 adds 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).

1984 conner single wide mobile remodeled - front view of home - should you buy an older mobile home and remodel itPin
1984 Conner single wide with new roof, windows, decking, siding, windows, and doors.

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.

Related: Learn about replacing mobile home windows here. 

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 will always be our favorite home improvement and remodeling project. It has a low cost but a huge impact.

Should you buy an older mobile home and remodel it? - 1992 marlette double wide manufactured home remodel - interior getting complete remodelPin
This 1992 Marlette double wide is being remodeled.

Should you Gut the Home 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.

Affordable mobile home remodel - 1968 landola single wide goes retro (living room after)Pin
1968 Landola single wide gets an interior makeover and it is gorgeous!

Read how this 1968 Landola single wide above was bought for $500 and updated with an affordable mobile home remodel here. 

Consider the 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.

Click here to see Remodeling Magazine’s report for cost vs. value of home improvement projects. 

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.

Should you buy an older mobile home and remodel it? Single wide exterior remodel - deck being built around manufactured homePin
This single wide is getting new decks, siding, and stone.

Read about this beautiful lakeside single wide exterior remodel here. 

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 about 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!

Crystal Adkins

Crystal Adkins

Crystal Adkins created Mobile Home Living in 2011 after buying a 1978 single wide and searching online for mobile home remodeling ideas but finding very little. Today, it's the most popular resource in America for mobile home information and inspiration and has been visited over 40 million times.

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  1. hi In 2018 i purchased a 1978 dbl wide fleetwood . 55,000. metal roof nice large yard in a park. I knew nothing at all about moble homes,never lived in one. i never knew anyone that lived in one. I got one because of the price of living. I saw it to be a good choice. my home I sold because property taxes were so high priced and water is liquid gold. I live in oregon.. at last minute before I signed anything I paid for inspection. the sad thing is i was unable to download it . let me just say the home is worth 13000 and i was given a quote on side walls, and 2 soft floors from home masters. my metal roof they want to put shingles 55000. from another company 18000 new roof gutters. I have always wanted a metal roof and now they tell me its bad. no leaks on ceiling but i can say below me on backside of home is wet including the sidewall. i could go on and on but I wish i found this article before i went looking. i know i searched for a month trying to find out anything on the history of this home. nothing, nothing at all just that a older couple lived here for a year and she passed away. I never met the previous owner. basically, i think I learned my lesson on moble homes and realtors. if they are able to take advantage in any way, they will. I have put all the money i care to put into this place. in november i 2020 I can sale it. now i do have good things to say. i feel safe living in a park. it is quiet and they are strict but thats why its a nice place to live in. it is cheap rent water 32.00 verses 500.00 2 months at home moble park is 32.00 each month. I have a car port for 1 car and a space for 2 and 2 sheds. corner lot with privacy. You see I should of been buying the property its worth 55,000 but its not mine. i just take care of it. I signed the papers I did not have to do it. i guess I am feeling a little sorry for myself but, maybe next time around I wont let this happen. I cant afford to let it happen again. at 1 point last year i was going to walk away. who wants to hear the home they purchased for 55,000needs 55,000 repairs. I will say my home looks nice on inside and out how we found the damage was when i painted last summer. thats when I realized I better take a look at my inspection report. oh yes, it was there. here is advice when you pay for the inspection which is worth every cent . dont skip things . or ignore the important ones and fix the little things and go on as all is fine like I did. understand everything and if not ask someone that does and they can explain it to you. this was my case. at the time I dont think I wanted to understand. I had signed papers already there was nothing i could do at that point. but, I shared the first page with you. thankyou for the article.

  2. After looking around on Zillow and other such real estate sites for affordable housing around the country for a couple of years prior to retirement, I decided to investigate older mobile homes. I was so encouraged about what we could afford. We settled on Borrego Springs, California. We purchased an early ’70’s double wide home with cash for $13,500. Our home was in good shape. The owners kept the place up. We didn’t have to paint and there was wood-look laminate flooring throughout the home. We have a sweet backyard with complete privacy on three sides courtesy of towering Oleander hedges. Here, there are close to 400 manufactured homes surrounding a gorgeous golf course Our space rent is $735. This is an age 55 and older gated community and the weather in winter is 70-80 degrees. Homes in our club, range from $10,000. to $350,000. Palm Springs is an hour and a half away and more expensive; but reasonable enough. Borrego Springs is a small village but has a number of good restaurants and a couple of grocery stores. Groceries are too pricey here so we order through Amazon and can get our order within 2 days. Or, like most people around here, we drive for an hour to Walmart or any other store that we need for frozen foods and less expensive groceries. I don’t know why the guy in the article thought most people buying an older mobile home would have to move it some place else. There are plenty of mobile homes available, especially in retirement communities. If a retiree becomes ill and has to find a place closer to a certain medical facility, or a retired loved one dies, the seller wants to sell quickly and at a discounted price. Less than a year ago, when we moved here, I was once again diagnosed with breast cancer after 18 years of being cancer free. We had to drive an hour and a half for chemo treatment every 3 weeks. That was fine since we could do major shopping each time. Later, when I went through six weeks of daily radiation treatments, The American Cancer Society put us up in participating hotels. Throughout all treatment, we were given gas cards and grocery cards to help out with expenses through various charities. So, even if you have to drive farther to get a better price for a used mobile home, it has been absolutely worth it. There is a medical office here and emergency helicopter service if needed. My husband and I pay $25. each per month for this potential emergency service. Purchasing a used mobile home has worked out great for us.

  3. I bought a 1976 single ,for a good price .But didnt have it inspected before buying .Now I’m finding out that the walls on outside are just dryrot with lots of paint on them.Dont mind having to spend the money ,but dont really know how to do this.My understanding is to start from roof down.Yes I think there’s been water coming down the walls outside and inside ..because the window seals look like it. That’s fine so I need to get a roofer ,too repair roof or new one .ok.But the walls on the inside have wall panelling dont know where to start .I pulled off some the wall on outside the wood is in shreds, which is just some really thin rotted plywood and alot of dryed paint .How do I start this job.Know body in this mobile home park seems to know how .I’m in Northern Calif.I live by Los Banos,Ca.It gets hot here in summer 90s-100 every day in summer.Thats why some of rot too, the wood is baked I think .And I’m thinking in 1 corner the floor is the same way .These rooms do have wooden beams ?And have no clue how the walls are made do they have sheetrock or what .Can you please tell me.And how the floor is put together &made of ..please .I’m retired moved from Silcon valley where its soooooo exspensive to live now.But want to fix mobile so I can feel happy about where I live ..Would really appreciate some wise words ,on how to do this …please .Thank you …Sincerely.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Without looking at your home it would be impossible to tell you how it was made (every builder does things a little different). However, in any remodel you want to make the home as waterproof as possible first. No need to replace anything until you are sure it won’t get wet.

      Also, keep in mind that what you think you see and what you actually see may be two different things. Mobile homes are made with a lot of petrochemical materials so they are thin and flimsy but joined together it creates a strong structure (like the vinyl-coated wallboard). Are you sure water is coming down your wallsDoes your area ? Could it just be sweating? get enough rain to cause that kind of damage?

      Before you remove a single thing please call in 3 different contractors and hear what they say. Of course, they will tell you anything you want to hear so be sure not to be the new homeowner that thinks she was just ripped off. Be the homeowner that just wants to see if this is a leak or sweat…Even if it is all painted, the previous owner at least took steps to keep the moisture from damaging the home too much so don’t write it all off as bad.

      I’ve seen a homeowner start with a clogged drain and end up replacing the entire roof and siding because she went down the rabbit hole and thought everything was wrong with the home she had just bought. She overspent and can never recoup those unneeded costs.

      Let me know what the contractors tell you. Best of luck!

  4. I am currently remodeling, or should I call it rebuilding, a 1990 Guerdon. A very poorly built unit as far as quality is concerned. I have it down to the studs and upgrading to 2×6 walls and drywall. Also adding 2×6 rafters in for ceiling support. Already replaced the plumbing, in rough now. I had a war against particle board so all that will be left is the original decking, covered in plywood, and the siding. I just put in bigger, new windows and am painting the outside now after caulking everything. I had a footer poured around the perimeter and had supports added all around along with something called Duraskirt, 3/4 inch thick concrete panels for skirting. I removed the bag underneath and insulated it like a site built home. Awhile ago I tore off all the roof sheathing and installed 1/2 plywood with Snaploc metal roofing. The electrical will get gutted too, looks like a bunch of spaghetti running all over the place, but that is after I put walls back in. I own it and the wonderful land it is on outright and plan to stay as long as I am able. I am 66 and retired, single. I have 10 acres and 22 goats! I thought about scrapping it due to rats underneath, poor construction, but I have already, in the past, upgraded the master bed and bath by moving the bathroom to the other side, new closet, and bedroom with large window overlooking the valley, with 2×6 walls, all 1/2 drywall. So I am part way there. With home construction prices and high realestate taxes, I decided to go ahead on make it as stick built as possible. Some studs are being replaced with 2×6, others I add 2″ to the existing studs. Anyway, a fun project, and no where near what it would cost to build a house!

    1. WOW, James! You’ve essentially built an entire home! I would LOVE to see and share it. Especially if you have some photos of it before or during. It would be a great example of the potential and possibility of an older mobile home.
      Thanks for commenting! if you’d be willing to share your remodel please email me at We would just need some photos and have a few questions answered.

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Terrific article, many thanks for sharing. One safety pointer you might pass on to the owners of the $5k 1978 single-wide: IF YOU LOVE YOUR HOME, DO NOT LEAVE THAT TELESCOPE IN THE WINDOW. IF THE SUN PASSES IN A POSITION TO SHINE THROUGH THE TELESCOPE, YOU’LL INADVERTENTLY AND ALMOST INSTANTANEOUSLY START A FIRE. I’ve seen this happen more than once, burning homes to the ground. Put a lens cap on, or be sure to aim the telescope away from the window.

  6. Need help-bought 1969 20×50 in sr.park 6 yes ago for $3000. Very cheap in decent cond. Of course its paid for. We have bad credit-owe IRS but in unrecoverable status and medical bills. Remodeled kitchen,bath,floors. Now need to finish 2nd bedroom and new roof. Its worth $55,000 as it sits. Will private lender take title on a loan of $20,000 so we can finish? Prime location in park Do you know anyone. Mobiles selling
    Like hotcakes here across from beautiful pool area with mountain view in back. Ideas? Want to finish and stay forever park is so affordable. Thanks for any input. Cecilia T. San Diego calif

    1. Hi Cecilia,

      From what I understand, it is near impossible to get any kind of home equity loan on a factory built home in a park. It’s unfair because data proves that manufactured homeowners home equal to or better rates of repay on home loans. Unfortunately, you’d probably only be eligible for personal loans.

      There are a lot of issues in the manufactured housing world. Financing and insurance are the two that upset me most.

      I wouldn’t give up though. You may be eligible for some grants. This post should help a bit, 18 Home Improvement Loans And Grants For Your Manufactured Home Remodel.

      Best of luck!


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