Used Mobile Homes - Be Careful
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Why consider used mobile homes? My own first home was a mobile on a small lot. I bought it for $19,500. With the mortgage payments it was still cheaper than renting, plus I paid it off quickly and later sold it for $45,000. Obviously you can live cheap and build equity with a mobile home. (Buying may be the equivalent of cheap rent, but this article is about mobiles that are on real estate.)
The primary advantages of mobiles over traditional houses are clear for first time home buyers. It may be the only option, for starters. Then there is the lower initial price, the simpler, cheaper maintenance, lower monthly payments, less property tax, lower insurance cost, and perhaps even faster equity build-up (I explain this in another article). Mobile homes do have their own unique problems, so be sure to watch for the following.
Problems With Used Mobile Homes
Sometimes the age of a mobile home makes it tough to finance. If it can be financed, it may be at a very high interest rate. Check into this before making an offer, and take the higher payments into account when comparing your options.
The age of is also a big factor when it comes to insurance. Certain older homes may just be uninsurable. See if you can obtain insurance at a reasonable rate before buying.
Some mobile homes built before 1976 have aluminum wiring. This is 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 good). Remove 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, and you may have to rewire the home to get it insured.
Look for stains on the ceilings. Used mobile homes are prone to leaks. If it is raining and the stains are dry, the leaks have probably been repaired, but if there are many dark stains, at least ask for how long the roof leaked. Leaks that were quickly repaired may not have done much, if any, damage to the supporting beams, but if the roof is seriously sagging there may be rotten wood up there.
Look for wavy walls and crooked door frames. If the mobile 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.
Check for spongy floors. Many mobiles have particle-board for floors. If these floors get wet, they can warp and rot. Step down hard here and there to test, especially in the bathroom. I've had to rebuild two bathroom floors in mobile homes. Around the toilet is a common place to find problems, because of the condensation from the toilet running down and soaking the wood around it. Is the toilet level or leaning?
Most of these problems can be resolved, and for much less than in a traditional house, so if there are issues, you may want to see them as an opportunity to make a lower offer. Alternately, you can just avoid the mobiles with problems. In any case, don't give up on owning your own home due to high prices. Just look for good used mobile homes.
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