Buying Mobile Homes - Watch For These Problems

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Why are so many people buying mobile homes? Affordability is the primary reason. Buying a mobile for a first home, a retirement home, or even as a rental property investment - they all can make perfect sense. They do have their own particular problems though. Here are some of those problems, and what you can do about them.

Depreciation is the first big issue that comes to most peoples minds when they think about buying mobile homes. They all go down in value, it is assumed. You might someday owe $20,000 on a mobile home that can only be sold for $15,000, right?

That is absolutely right, IF you buy a mobile home on a rented lot. The easy solution is to only buy mobiles that are attached to real estate, or that you will be putting on your real estate. My own first home was an old used mobile on a small lot. It cost just $19,500. I sold it for $45,000 when I moved fourteen years later. Mobiles on land generally go up in value just like any other homes.

Of course, the best deals, even when they are on land, are used mobiles. They have already experienced any initial depreciation in value. They also have their own problems, though.

What To Watch For When Buying Used Mobile Homes

Many older mobiles were built to meet different building codes than the more recent ones. For example, some mobile homes built before 1976 have aluminum wiring. This can be a fire hazard because of the chemical reaction between the aluminum and other metals, which sometimes causes sparking inside the walls (not good). Remove an electrical outlet or switch cover, and look inside with a flashlight. If the bare ends of the wires are silvery, they're probably aluminum.

Take this into account when making your offer, because you may have to rewire the home to get it insured. In general, you will avoid many of these issues of construction standards and codes if you buy only mobiles built after 1977. On the other hand, most problems are correctable, so you may just want to offer less.

The age of a mobile can also it tough to finance. If an older mobile home can be financed, it may be at a very high interest rate. Be aware of this, check into rates before making an offer, and take the higher payments into account when comparing your options. You should also keep in mind that when you want to sell someday, this financing issue will make it difficult, unless you will be providing the financing for the buyer.

Age is also a big factor with insurance. Some older homes may just be uninsurable. See if you can obtain insurance at a reasonable rate before buying, and again remember that this may be an issue when you sell.

Wavy walls and crooked door frames indicate that the home is irregularly settling, the walls will sometimes show it. It may also show in the door frames, so see if the gap over the doors is straight in relation to the frame.

Stains on ceilings indicate roof leaks. If it has recently rained and the stains are dry, the leaks have probably been repaired. Ask how long the roof was leaking. Quickly repaired leaks may not have done any damage, but if the roof is seriously sagging there may be rotten wood up there.

Watch for spongy floors. Many mobiles have particle-board for floors, and when these floors get wet, they warp and/or rot. Step hard here and there to test, especially in bathrooms. I've rebuilt two bathroom floors in mobile homes. Fortunately it isn't all that expensive. The toilet area is a common place to find problems. Note whether the toilet is level or leaning. Condensation from the toilet runs down and soaks the wood floor around it.

Most problems can be resolved for much less than in a traditional house, so if there are issues, you may want to use them as an opportunity to make a lower offer. The advantages of mobiles over traditional houses include the lower initial price, simplicity, cheaper maintenance, lower monthly payments, less property tax, lower insurance cost, and perhaps even faster equity build-up (during low inflation - because of the shorter term of the loan). Don't let a few problems stop you from buying mobile homes.

Copyright Steve Gillman. Visit his website for:
1. A photo of a beautiful house he and his wife bought for $17,500.
2. A free book on how to save thousands buying your next home.
3. A free real estate investing course.

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