But when you plan to buy a home is not the only important consideration. There are plenty of other questions (especially new) prospective mobile homeowners have that need answers if they are to make a good buy and be comfortable with their decision.
The best time to buy a mobile home
Surprised to hear that even the real estate market is seasonal? Better believe it! We, humans, are creatures of comfort and habit which are mostly to blame for the changes in the home buying market throughout the year.
Before we get to the yearly seasonality, it’s worth mentioning that, in general, it’s a great time to buy mobile homes. The U.S. is currently facing a low-key housing crisis wherein roughly a third of citizens don’t earn enough to afford the average rent based on the recommended 33% of your income going to housing.
That makes mobile homes a brilliant choice and a feasible option if you want a slice of the American dream house at a bargain price. If your idea of the best time to purchase a mobile home is “whatever time of year will get you the lowest price”, then winter is your best bet! It is also the least competitive.
Know when competition peaks
The most competitive time of year for homes is during spring and summer, with peaks in June/July. This is partly due to the fact that people are more willing to get out of the house and go searching for a new home.
Another important factor is that most homebuyers are in the market for a family home and want to take their children with or involve them in the moving process. Summer break is the most prolonged period with no school and is a natural choice.
This means the market is very competitive and you may get embroiled in betting wars and be faced with inflated prices. However, during winter, and particularly January, you won’t find yourself in a race to buy a home as you can rely on everyone being safely snuggled in at home.
The homes left over at this time also have desperate and committed sellers who want to sell their properties as soon as possible and can’t wait it out until the next season.
When should you start looking for a new home?
There is no hard and fast rule. It depends on a number of factors. Do you need financing pre-approval? When is your lease up? How desperately do you want to move? How willing are you to wait for a good market?
However, the rule of thumb is to start looking for loans and applying for pre-approval 7 months before you plan to move. This will give you enough time to find a suitable mortgage solution and get any kinks out of the way financially.
If you’re on a lease, you should start looking at least 4-5 months before your lease is up to avoid any sticky situations. This isn’t necessarily a chronological process. You might need to go back and forth between financing and looking for a suitable home. 4 months might seem excessive, but you really don’t want to get caught without anywhere to move, and it’s important to realize that not all deals go through for reasons that might not be your own.
This article provides some further good advice for anyone on a lease looking for a new home.
Other mobile home buying questions
Can I finance a mobile home?
For many Americans, the only way to afford the purchase of a home is through financing. Even at the affordable prices of manufactured homes, coming up with a lump sum of $60,000 to $70,000 to pay in one go is not easy.
The short answer is that there are indeed financing options available for mobile housing, although it’s not as straightforward as for real estate. You have 4 options:
- Traditional mortgage: Manufactured homes can qualify for a normal real estate mortgage. However, you will need to convert the mobile home to real estate by removing it’s wheels and axle, permanently attaching it to a foundation, and registering it as real estate. Expect higher down payments and rates as well as shorter terms.
- FHA guaranteed loan: You apply for a loan as usual. However, the FHA backs your loan. They take on the responsibility of paying if you become unable to do so. This backing will get you an all-around more reasonable loan.
- VA loan: Works exactly the same way as an FHA loan. However, you will receive backing from the Department of Veteran Affairs instead of the FHA. You will need to meet the requirements to be certified as a veteran.
- Chattel loan: A chattel loan is like a mortgage on an item of personal property. The rates are generally not as reasonable as the previous options but it’s the easiest type of financing to get.
What’s the average lifespan of a mobile home?
It would be tempting to simply answer this question by saying that a mobile home lifespan depends on how well you take care of it. While regular maintenance certainly plays a vital role, mobile homes do come with a recommended lifespan.
Although the overall quality of mobile homes and their materials have grown significantly in the last few decades, they still aren’t as durable as stick-built homes. Most mobile homes come guaranteed by their manufacturers for around 20 years. The real lifespan of these homes can be estimated to be closer to 50 years.
Bear in mind that some homes from the early 1980’s and late 1970’s are still in inhabitable condition but were built when standards were much lower. There’s no telling exactly how long homes constructed today will last, but this figure is always improving.
Should I be worried about depreciation?
Probably the most unfortunate aspect of mobile homes is that they do in fact depreciate in value. Similar to a car, they start losing value as soon as they leave the factory. Stick-built homes generally appreciate in value because they degrade extremely slowly and because property prices are always on the rise.
This means that there are exceptions where mobile homes also appreciate because of their location and the market conditions. If a mobile home is attached to a privately owned lot, both will most likely increase in value together as well.
Mobile homes generally depreciate by around 3% per year. That’s not a significant number and you will still be able to get fair value for your home for a number of years. Caring well for it or making some improvements increases the value as well.
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Can I customize my mobile home?
Yes! It’s extremely easy to customize your home before or after you buy it. Since manufactured homes are built in factories using modern manufacturing techniques and standards, designs and layouts can easily be modified with the use of computer-aided design.
At most top manufacturers, they have a few standard models you can choose from and then provide further customization options. This can include adding or removing walls, rooms, doors, windows, etc. You can also choose appliances, faucets, sinks, bathtubs, showers, and light fixtures.
Because mobile homes are made with lighter and less expensive materials, they are easier and cheaper to DIY. We have a number of articles detailing mobile home upgrades and renovations:
- Budget-friendly Mobile Home Renovations for 2018
- Mobile Home Makeover | How to make yours a luxury home?
Do I have to live in a mobile home park?
No! Of course not. However, you should be aware that the vast majority of mobile homes are located in mobile home parks. Unless you are buying straight from a manufacturer, you will struggle to find a home being sold on private property.
Mobile home parks have an unfair and largely unwarranted bad reputation. Today, there are plenty of fantastic mobile home parks with a real community feel. There are even luxury mobile home parks where homes cost as much as real estate.
Where can I look for mobile homes?
The best place to start would be the internet. Sites like MHVillage and MobileHome.net have thousands of mobile home listings up for sale or to rent. You can even look for lots only if you want to buy a home from a manufacturer and want a place to put it.
You can also check online whether there are any mobile home realtors in your area. Some real estate realtors dabble in manufactured housing but not all since you require special licenses.
If you go secondhand, the last and probably the best option is to go with mobile home resellers. These businesses buy mobile homes from previous owners and then sell them. They screen homes for quality and standards and handle any delivery needs.
If you want to buy new, the best option is to go directly to the manufacturers like Clayton Homes, Champion Homes or Fleetwood Homes. It may also be a good idea to simply try and look for a mobile home park in your area. Not all of them have landlords nor are management savvy enough to list their units on the internet. Mobile homes typically run at 70-90% occupancy rates so you stand a good chance of finding a spot.
Why are manufactured homes so affordable?
We are always wary of scams. No one wants to spend their hard-earned money or something that’s overpriced or not worth the money. In the same breath, we are always suspicious when something seems too good to be true.
The good news is that neither is the case when it comes to mobile homes. The reasons why they are so affordable are actually very logical and stem from the very nature of mobile homes. Yes, they do target the affordable housing market, but that’s not the only reason they have remained cheap compared to real estate.
The standardized manufacturing process is the most important factor when it comes to keeping the prices of products low. Because these homes are built in factories using standard processes and materials that are always becoming faster and more efficient, prices don’t rise as fast.
The HUD code? What’s that?
Only the most important consideration to make when buying a manufactured home! The HUD Code for Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards governs the construction and safety benchmarks for mobile homes. It’s federal legislation that guarantees the safety standards of manufactured homes across the U.S.
All reputable manufacturers build their homes according to this code. However, to be safe, you should always confirm this with them. Be sure to look for the red HUD plate on their models.
Remember when we talked about financing? If your home is not HUD-certified, any type of financing will be virtually impossible to qualify for. Homes can also lose their HUD status with time if the wrong changes have been made to the home. Or if it has fallen into disrepair. Since the code was created and major updates were made between the 70’s and 80’s, no home built in that time qualifies for financing.
Brainstorm, plan, and carry out your actions
The process of buying a mobile home shares many similarities with that of real estate. However, there are some unique questions that provide you with the necessary answers. This will help you go into the process with confidence make it as effortless as possible.
We hope that this article has given you helpful answers to questions in which you weren’t aware to ask. Lastly, remember to never underestimate the importance of the timing of your purchase. There is always the best time to buy a mobile home for every purchaser. It could make a world of difference. Good luck, and happy shopping!