How to Buy a Mobile Home for your Mobile Home Park

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HOW TO PICK A GOOD USED HOME FOR YOUR MOBILE HOME PARK

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Many mobile home park owners are faced with taking matters into their own hands to fill vacant lots. Sure, dealers will tell you that they can “fill you up”, but in reality, most dealers these days are lucky to put one or two homes into a park in any given year. If you wait on dealers to fill your lots, you’ll be like a fifty year-old starlet waiting by the phone for that big offer to come in – and it never does.
 
So if you are faced with choosing older homes to bring in, rehabilitate and then sell in your park, it is critical to be able to spot a winner from a lemon. And often times, your initial walk-up impression can be very misleading. Here’s how to size up a winning used mobile home from a total loser:
 
Metal Exterior
 
The best construction of a home, as a park owner, is “metal on metal”, which means metal exterior with a metal roof. Many modern home buyers prefer imitation wood and vinyl, but that should be their preference, not yours. A metal home is a real workhorse that needs very little TLC on the exterior. As long as moisture does not get behind the metal wall to rot the wood it is attached to, these homes can last forever. And you often can simply wash them with bleach as opposed to painting them, to bring back that “new” look.
 
Straight Body
 
Under any mobile home is a frame. This metal chassis has a lot of force on it, both from the home but also any accidents in moving it or improper set-up in the field. Any home that has a “bow” in it should be avoided. Such homes are prone to break-apart when transported, which will not only destroy the home but create massive liability for you. And the home should be straight looking down the walls, as well. Just like a car, you do not want any home that has a damaged frame.
 
No Signs of Water Intrusion in the Ceiling
 
If you walk into a home and the ceiling is covered in evidence of water intrusion, in the form of stains, then you are in trouble. Moisture in a mobile home is like cancer in a person. It can sometimes be controlled, but it is very costly and there are no guarantees. Mobile home floors cannot tolerate much moisture, and there is also the danger of black mold and other items that can cause you liability.
 
Solid Floors
 
This goes with the water instruction theme. When you get moisture on a mobile home floor, especially particle board, it becomes so soft that a person will fall through it. If you go in a home and it has very “soft” floors, you know it has had water issues. Those are the homes you avoid. Be sure and check nearest the walls – that’s where most moisture damage will be found.
 
Original Breaker Panel
 
Mobile homes since about 1976 have been HUD code – which means that HUD inspects their manufacture. It is illegal to alter a HUD code home. Yet many mobile home owners will often do the repairs themselves, including completely re-wiring a home. This is definitely not a home you want to buy. Not only has it violated HUD, it has a great chance of catching on fire, and you might be held liable. If you see any signs of tampering with the wiring, avoid the home at all cost.
 
No Gray or Black Plastic Pipe Plumbing
 
This kind of pipe is called polybutylene, and was subject to a $1.1 billion class action settlement in 1995. Why? Because this stuff leaks like crazy. It was a terrible idea that created a host of plumbing issues in mobile homes that are plumbed with it. If you see a home that has it, it is guaranteed that you’ll have to replace it – and that can be very expensive. It also suggests there are moisture issues, and those are not acceptable.
 
A Large Master Bedroom
 
Of all the floor plan issues in a mobile home, the size of the master bedroom is the most important. Mobile home buyers want a bedroom that will hold a king size bed – and have room to spare around it. Modern homes have the whole end of the mobile home as the master bedroom, so it is always 14’, 16’ or 18’ wide. But many older homes have tiny master bedrooms that will hardly hold a queen size bed. Nothing kills a sale faster than a small master bedroom. Their kids’ bedrooms can be smaller than a closet, but they want their’s to be big.
 
Conclusion
 
Buying a used mobile home can be scary stuff. The last thing you want to do is buy an old used mobile home, and then pour so much into fixing it up that you could have bought a new one. And cosmetically, they may look awful to begin with, often with windows and doors missing, and junk everywhere. But you need to focus on the actual construction and design of that home to judge it fairly. A good used home can fill a lot and make many times its cost back just in lot value to the park. A bad home can cost a fortune, or go straight to the dump before it even hits your park. So put a little diligence in on the front end, and make sure all your homes are winners. Save your lemons for lemonade to celebrate buying a good mobile home.

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