Used Mobile Homes
By Steve Gillman - 2008
Why buy used mobile homes? My first home was a mobile on a
small lot that I bought for $19,500. Even with the mortgage payments
it was cheaper than renting. I paid it off quickly and later
sold it for $45,000, so you can obviously live cheap and
build equity. (Buying in a park can be the equivalent of cheap
rent, but this discussion is about mobiles that are on real estate.)
The advantages of mobiles over traditional houses are clear
for young people starting out. First of all, it may be the only
option. Also, in addition to the lower initial price, you get
simpler, cheaper maintenance, lower monthly payments, less property
tax, less for insurance, and possibly even faster equity build-up
(I explain this in another article). Mobiles have their own unique
problems though, so be sure to check for these before buying
Problems With Used Mobile Homes
The age of a mobile home may make it tough to finance. Even
if it can be financed, it may be at a very high interest rate.
Be sure to check into this before making an offer, and take the
higher payments into account when comparing your options.
The age of mobiles is also a big factor when it comes to getting
insurance. Some older homes may just be uninsurable. Don't buy
before you know that you can obtain insurance at a reasonable
Some mobiles built before 1976 have aluminum wiring. This
can be a fire hazard because the chemical reaction between the
aluminum and other metals cause the wiring to break down, eventually
leading to sparking inside the walls (not a good thing). Remove
the two screws on on any of the electrical outlet or switch covers,
and look inside with a flashlight. If the bare ends of the wires
are silvery looking, they are probably aluminum. You may have
to rewire the home to get it insured.
Watch for stains on the ceilings. Mobiles are prone to leaks.
If it is a wet day and the stains are dry, the leaks have probably
been repaired, but if there are many dark stains, at least ask
how long the roof leaked for. Short term leaks that were quickly
repaired may not have done much, if any, damage to the supporting
beams. If the roof is seriously sagging there may be rotten wood
Watch for wavy walls and crooked door frames. If the mobile
is twisting or irregularly settling, the walls will sometimes
show it. It may also show in the door frames. Is the gap over
the doors straight in relation to the frame?
Test for spongy floors. Many older mobiles used particle-board
for floors. If the floor gets wet, it warps and rots. Step hard
here and there to test, especially in the bathroom. I have rebuilt
two bathroom floors in mobile homes. Around the toilet is the
usual place you'll find problems, because of the condensation
from the toilet running down and soaking the wood around it.
Is the toilet sitting straight or leaning?
Most problems in a mobile can be resolved, and for much less
than in a traditional house, so if there are problems, you may
want to see them as an opportunity to make a lower offer. You
could also just avoid the homes with problems. In any case, there's
no reason to give up on owning your own home due to high prices.
Just look for used mobile homes.
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