Mobile home living is a smart housing choice for many but nothing is perfect. In this article, a homeowner shares his story of building a great single wide addition but making some mistakes along the way. His mobile home remodeling mistakes aren’t uncommon but most homeowners aren’t as willing to share their mistakes as they are their successes.
Mike’s Story: 2007 Horton Single Wide Addition
Mike shares his experience with us of building an awesome 2-story single wide addition in the mountains of Western NC, some of the oldest mountains on earth.
By most measures, the addition was a success. It wasn’t until years later, long after the addition was finished, that the mistakes became evident.
Mike is unselfishly sharing his story with us in hopes that it may help others. He told me that if he can just keep one person from making the same mistakes he would feel his labors were not in vain.
What an amazing outlook to have!
Mike lived in the same area for over 20 years and had no intention of moving which is why he and his wife decided to build the home they’d always wanted. They didn’t want anything extravagant, just a nice home with plenty of space for the two of them to enjoy hobbies and retirement when the time came.
Ultimately, the couple wanted a double wide, or at least something around that size and square footage. Naturally, they looked at both single wides and double wides on several dealer’s lots.
After crunching some numbers, they decided to buy order a single wide and when the time and budget allowed they would build a full-length addition on to the back of it. This would give them ultimate control over the floor plan and building specs.
In 2007, Mike and his wife special ordered a brand new Horton single wide with many of the same construction specs as a modular home: thicker studs, better insulation, higher-grade windows and doors, sheetrock walls, and a 4/12 pitch on the roof to name a few.
It was a top of the line manufactured home. They carefully planned every detail of the home’s 14-ft X 56-ft floorplan to work with the future addition. Every detail, down to the window and door placements was adjusted to work perfectly with the future addition the two had planned.
Soon afterward, they decided to go ahead and build the mobile home addition.
Construction of the Addition
They used site-built materials and standard construction methods that are widely accepted across the nation on the for the 12′ X 56′ addition. Mike spared no expense to make this addition safe, energy-efficient, beautiful, and longlasting. It was going to be their forever home, afterall, and the winters in the mountains could get cold.
Mike understood that they could save on heating and cooling costs by investing in insulation during construction. Not only did they install 6″ of fiberglass batting but they also had 8″ of insulation blown into the sidewalls.
A full 2-ft X 4-ft wall ‘joined’ the mobile home and mono-trusses were used for the roof. This allowed the new roofline to have the same 4/12 pitch as the home and to appear as a single roof when viewed from the ends.
While they didn’t skimp on the construction the couple did reuse materials as much as possible. All the siding was removed from the back and ends carefully so it could be re-used on the addition.
Vinyl double-pane windows from Lowe’s that closely matched those that Horton installed were used. They sold the factory sliding door and purchased a new vinyl sliding door for the addition to get better R-value.
While digging out the footings Mike realized that the end of the home would be high enough to have a 12′ X 12′ basement under one end of the addition. This created good storage at a slight cost. They reused the back door from the single wide as the basement door.
Deciding to Sell the Home
The couple thoroughly enjoyed their home and by all measures, the single wide addition was a perfect success. It gave them the floor plan they wanted along with plenty of living and storage space.
Unfortunately, the home was damaged when a massive tree fell during a cold Western North Carolina winter. Mike and his wife had the damage repaired and put the home on the market. They decided it was time to head south to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine.
They realized they had made a couple of mobile home remodeling mistakes soon after they put the home on the market.
To put it simply, most of the issues that Mike and his wife would face came down to not getting permits and inspections done while building the addition.
Of course, had they knew how important permits and inspections were they would have certainly gotten them. When Mike researched online he didn’t learn of the importance or the need for inspections in his area.
Years ago, it wasn’t such a big deal to do a complete home remodel without permits or inspections, especially in rural areas. But that isn’t the case anymore.
Whether you live in the middle of town or on top of a secluded mountain in the middle of nowhere most home remodels or alterations will need permits and inspections for a few reasons:
- Permits ensure remodels were done correctly and the home is safe.
- Permits and inspections keep the neighborhood fair and reasonable for everyone.
- Protection for future homebuyers that updates are safe.
- To obtain enough insurance coverage to protect the investment.
- To be able to classify a manufactured home as real estate.
- Finance companies will not finance manufactured homes that were modified without permits.
Limited Buyer Pool
Many states require homeowners to disclose to the home buyers all modifications done to a home. Without permits, those disclosures can be difficult.
Mike learned about this the hard way but was kind enough to share it with us in the hopes that it doesn’t happen to another mobile or manufactured homeowner.
Since no permits were obtained during the addition build they had a difficult time finding insurance that would cover the home sufficiently. That was only a minor inconvenience compared to the next issue.
Without permits, the home was not qualified for traditional financing and that excluded many potential buyers.
Unfortunately, the permits could not be obtained retroactively without significant cost or burden. Mike says he might have been able to get a land/home validation from his county had he tried or he could have paid a large fine and showed them all the pics in hopes of getting permits after the fact. He was feeling defeated by then so he didn’t try to go that route.
Another issue Mike and his wife faced was bad timing though that couldn’t have really been prevented. This addition was built during the beginnings of the Great Recession and the home was put on the market just a couple of years later. Home values fell drastically during that time and it was near impossible to sell a home because the market was flooded with foreclosures.
Hindsight is Always 20/20
Mike says the single wide addition came out quite well and they really liked it but hindsight is always 20/20.
After reflection, Mike realized he overspent on the addition. If they would have known the total cost of the addition beforehand they would have just bought a double wide.
He stated that perhaps if he would have planned it out better or been more cost-conscience building the addition may have turned out to be a better decision.
“Just because I went overboard with the addition, doesn’t mean a more frugal homeowner will. It could have been done much simpler and cheaper. But I had not intended to move when we did the home and addition. We had lived there for over 20 years and knew a lot of folks. We were friends with the people on both sides of us and the lady behind us had 7 acres of woods.”
After sinking so much into their project, and getting such a low cash offer, Mike was at first tempted to just forget selling. He and his wife really wanted to go down to a warmer climate so they ended up selling at a huge loss.
Fortunately, the couple was still able to salvage enough out of the deal to buy a home in Florida. They bought a 1989 Palm Harbor double wide with a 2 car garage in a 55+ senior park for $80,000. As with so many pre-owned mobile homes, the previous owners were DIY newbies so they are busy repairing and updating the home. With 1200 square feet of living space and 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, they have the size they wanted all along and they really like the park so far. It has a nice pool and clubhouse with wide streets and sidewalks.
Mike told me that the home recently sold for a lot more than when they sold it. Yet, even years later it still didn’t sell for what the couple had in it. Mike looks at the bright side and appreciates that someone saw his creation and liked it enough to call it home.
Mike says he would never want to be a Debby Downer to any homeowner with a single wide wanting more room. He just wants to share his experience so others don’t make the same mistakes.
“If your readers are either cautioned or encouraged, that would make me feel that my labors were not in vain.”
Mike recommends that homeowners draw up plans and “go grovel before the Prince of Permits in your county to see if you can get it approved before you do the addition.”
One of the things I would add now is to weigh out the cost and the time an addition will take, along with the fact that underneath it all, it will be hard to insure, and even harder to re-sell after your efforts, and difficult to recoup your investment.
It may be better to sell the single wide (or trade it in) and begin with a double-wide that you can dress up to your liking. Or, as we found out the hard way, start with a double-wide and forgo the hassles.
If you don’t plan to sell and move in the foreseeable future, and you are careful with what you spend, it can be a good way to add much-needed square footage to your home and live in it while you remodel.
No matter how much it looks different afterward, it is still a single-wide with an addition unless you have it transferred into real property.
Top Mobile Home Remodeling Mistakes
It’s easy to make mistakes when tackling large remodeling or addition projects.
I wanted to add some of the top mobile home remodeling mistakes that we’ve seen over the years:
Mobile homeowners should be careful they don’t overspend on a mobile home remodel. It’s a lot easier than many think.
Mobile home flippers are pros at remodeling homes on a budget. One way they stay within a budget is sticking with contractor-grade materials and neutral colors. This allows them to buy materials in bulk straight from the big-box stores with no special orders required in most cases. By sticking with whites and other neutrals the home appeals to a broader group of house buyers. They also go with bare minimums on just about all construction. If it’s not a required by law it likely isn’t going to be bothered with by anyone wanting to sell a home at a profit in any market.
Failing to Research
Our first, and most common, mobile home remodeling mistake is failing to research all the various aspects involved with remodels, additions, and general homeownership.
Some states are downright dirty when it comes to mobile and manufactured homes. Many don’t allow mobile homes past a certain age to be towed without a ton of red tape and bureaucracy. Local governments won’t allow single wide manufactured homes to even be placed in their precious city limits. Read more about mobile home discrimination here.
If a homeowner plans on selling a mobile home it’s important to know what laws and regulations apply to their situation.
- Can the home be sold and moved without an inspection?
- Does the homeowner have the right documents and title?
- Will the remodel require permits and inspections? (see below)
- What building codes apply to the remodeling project?
Not Understanding what Influences the Home’s Value
There are a ton of things that influence home values but location, especially the closest neighbors around a home, make a big impact on home sales.
Updates to a mobile home should be relevant to the location and in regards to the ultimate value of the home. You don’t want a million-dollar home in a thousand dollar neighborhood.
Updates that are too Unique
Manufactured homes sited on private property can appreciate much like a site-built home. So it’s smart to invest in the home but going too unique in your design choices could reduce the value or minimize the buyer’s pool when it’s time to sell.
If you plan to sell or rent your mobile home in the future it’s probably best to keep your updates neutral and mainstream. If neutral and mainstream isn’t your thing, just make sure you can easily ‘de-personalize.’
Overextending Yourself aka DIY Disease
Another common mobile home remodeling mistake is when homeowners think they can do everything on their own. No one can do everything.
Trying to save money during a remodel is smart but knowing when to hire a pro is smarter.
A good rule of thumb is to always hire out any project that requires special tools, a license, or needs an inspection after the project is completed. Plumbing, electrical, framing, roofing, and similar jobs are best left to the pros.
I want to give a big thank you to Mike and his wife for sharing their experience with us. Their mobile home remodeling mistakes are not so uncommon, they just aren’t shared or talked about as much. I appreciate them so much for sharing their experience.
Thank you, Mike, and thank you for reading Mobile Home Living®!
Have you learned any lessons while being a mobile homeowner or trying to sell a mobile or manufactured home? We’d love to hear your story!