Buying a used mobile home is no easy task. Mobile homes don’t have huge websites like Zillow that analyzes every home purchase and calculates value versus worth for each zip code like site-built home buyers have.
Used mobile home buyers have to rely on a much smaller network of resources and a combination of knowledge and inspection skills to ensure we buy a good used mobile home. And after reading this article you will have a better idea of what to look for in a used mobile home (and what to watch out for).
Know the Rules and Regulations Before you Begin
A manufactured home that is 5-10 years old can be a great buy. A home that is between 10-40 years old can be an even better buy assuming it was well-maintained and can be moved or sits on its own land.
Buying a Used Mobile and Moving it to your Property
Unfortunately, some really awesome older mobile homes cannot be moved into some places. Many parks won’t allow you to bring in a home that is 5 or 10 years old. Many towns don’t allow single wides of any age to be placed within their city limits. You’ll need to research the rules that apply to your particular situation.
Buying a Used Mobile Home and the Land it sits on
If you are buying a used mobile home and the land it sits on, you will attack the situation just as you would if you were buying a site built home. When a mobile or manufactured home is permanently attached to its own property it’s typically categorized as real property.
Note that if you are using government backed loans (FHA or VA) you will want to stick to manufactured homes that they accept in the program (usually 10 years old or less). You’re still buying a used mobile home (well, manufactured home but I can’t write mobile or manufactured home every time) and you’ll still want to use the tips we give below to find the best home for you and your family.
What Does Home Mean to You?
Once you know what kind of home is acceptable to your situation or legal in your neck of the woods you’ll want to do some soul-searching and figure out what you need in a home.
Do you need a lot of house or just a little? Do you prefer a single wide with a kitchen on the end or a double wide with the kitchen in the middle?
Are you a growing family that wants to live debt-free? You could be like the Alredge’s and add a two-story addition onto a 2010 Horton single wide to create an 1800 square foot dream house.
Or, are you retired or single and just need a cheap, but nice, home that allows you to travel the world with all the money you save not paying an expensive mortgage?
Are you a DIY junkie that just can’t get enough sawdust or someone that would rather not play with dangerous power tools?
Once you understand what you need in a home it’s time to learn about the construction and how to inspect the home.
Where to Find Used Mobile Homes
Thanks to the internet, buying a used mobile home without land is much easier than it used to be. Search Craigslist, local trading papers, newspaper classifieds, local real estate channels, internet classifieds or even Ebay for local or regional used mobile homes.
To buy a used mobile home on land you will do the same as above but you may be able to hire a real estate agent. Just make sure they are knowledgeable about factory built housing.
First Impressions Count When Buying a Used Mobile Home
First impressions will be one of your most powerful tools when buying a used mobile home.
You can usually tell if the home has been properly cared for and maintained by appearance alone. Homeowners that have kept their home neat and tidy are more likely to stay up to date on maintenance. If you see that the home wasn’t well cared for you’ll need to be extra cautious.
Water and Wiring
The two most important things to look for when buying a used mobile home is water damage and wiring issues. These are the two things that will be most difficult to repair or correct.
You can easily replace a light fixture or update the stove or floor covering but water and electricity require professionals and professionals are expensive.
Wiring is Serious Business
Electricity is one of those things you just don’t play with. So if the home is older than 1976 it should have already been re-wired and a new breaker box put in place. If not, you will need to re-wire the home and have an inspection done to ensure everything is safe.
If the home should have been rewired years ago but wasn’t you may want to consider moving on to another home. Look at like this, if the seller didn’t have enough money or care enough to replace outdated or unsafe wiring that could burn their home down what else didn’t they do?
You should know that from the late 1960’s to around 1973 a lot of mobile home builders used aluminum wiring. Technically, the aluminum wire itself isn’t the problem but the connectors they used to combine the wires are a huge fire hazard so no aluminum wiring in a mobile home of any age.
HUD standards did not take effect until mid-1976 but you still need to check out the breaker box for ample, organized circuitry and check all the wall switches. Everything should work and GFCI switches should be utilized at all water sources. Read how one homeowner learned about the danger of her Federal Pacific breaker box here.
Plug into every outlet to make sure it works or use a tester. Seriously, wiring is no joke – test it.
Water is a Mobile Home’s Biggest Enemy
You need to be a super sleuth when it comes to water in a mobile home . Look everywhere!
Thoroughly inspect around every water source and look above and around windows and doors and walls for signs of water. Water is always a mobile home’s biggest enemy.
Look for leaks at all water sources: sinks, tubs, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, and showers.
Inspect the water heater and the floor and walls around the water heater. Flush the toilets while running water, look for pressure loss.
Look under the home for signs of water damage or leaks. Wet insulation is usually a sign of a leak.
Bathroom floors are the most commonly damaged and replaced areas in mobile homes.
Believe it or not, several manufactured home builders installed carpet in the bathrooms. Yep, I’m serious! Homeowners could have a seriously water damaged floor in their bathroom and never even know it till the floor fell in.
Be sure to lift the floor covering and check for mold, bowed and sagging subflooring, and wet spots in and around the tub and toilet, especially.
Personally, I would never buy a used mobile home unless I could visually inspect the bathroom and kitchen floors so if the sellers have a problem with you lifting the floor covering I would walk away, quickly.
Here’s a PDF you can print out and take with you when you inspect a home:
Is the Home Level?
If the kitchen cabinets or interior doors won’t stay closed without help, you may be in a home that is un-level.
An unlevel mobile home puts stress on the home’s joints and can cause leaks, squeaks, and other things you don’t want to deal with. Most mobile and manufactured homeowners don’t realize just how important it is to keep a home level. Soil settles and the earth shifts during freezing and thawing, so a mobile home needs to be checked at least every other summer to make sure everything is level.
What’s it look like under the home?
By looking for certain issues under the home you can save yourself a lot of issues in the future.
Piers and Footers
Look at all the piers. Each and every pier should be supporting a beam. If you see space between the beam and the top of the pier, the home could be stressed and compromised.
While you’re under the mobile home, inspect the plastic sheeting, or underbelly, for tears or holes. The plastic sheet under a mobile home is more important than most people realize. It acts as a vapor barrier, insulator, and protection for the home.
Used mobile homes should have good insulation and a healthy underbelly! If the owners didn’t maintain or properly care for the underbelly they probably didn’t care for the roof or the flooring either.
What’s it look like on top of the home?
If the roof is not properly maintained, the entire home can suffer damage.
Each type of roof have their own issues:
Flat roofs need to be sealed on a regular schedule. Some professionals advise new coating be applied every two years,
If you end up purchasing a used mobile home with a flat roof, you will need to seal it immediately after the move. The trip will cause the sealant to break bond.
Metal roofing should be dent free and trimmed properly. All seams should be water tight and sealant used around all cuts. A wider eave is never a bad thing. Insulation should be placed under the metal panels.
Shingled roofs require re-roofing every 15-30 years. Check that all shingles are in place and all angles and cuts are water tight.
Will it pass all necessary codes?
Depending on your location, your used mobile home will have to pass several codes before you can occupy it. Inspections for transportation, structural design, electrical, plumbing, foundation, and several others may be required. Naturally, you want a home that will pass theses inspections.
This is where it pays to spend a couple hundred dollars and have a professional manufactured home inspector come in and inspect the home. They should not be affiliated with the seller at all. Spending $200-400 dollars at this point is a lot better than learning about a leak on the left corner eave and needing a $5,000 repair a year later.
Comparing Prices and Getting Appraisals
The market for buying used mobile and manufactured homes without land is a lot different than the real estate market for site-built homes. A site built homebuyer can easily learn what their home should be valued at and a seller can learn what the home is worth.
The used mobile home market doesn’t have all that but we do have two companies that are now offering manufactured home appraisals online, NADA and MHVillage. Punch in some data, give them $25-30 and get a decent appraisal on the home you are considering.
Of course, if you are buying a used mobile home with land you’ll go through the same or similar steps as a site built home buyer.
Summary for Buying a Used Mobile Home
The information in this article should get you comfortable enough to at least narrow your choices down for a used mobile home.
We also wrote an article with 30 Tips For Buying A New Manufactured Home. It has some good points for both new and used mobile home purchases.
With the right knowledge and research, you can find a solid and affordable used mobile home that meets your needs.
Living in a used mobile home is a great way to save money and still live comfortably. It gave my family a chance to catch our breath and save money while still living in a stylish home.
If you have anything to add, please let us know in the comments. I can update the list, and we will be able to help more people that are buying a used mobile home.