6 Things To Consider Before You Start A Mobile Home Restoration Project

Thinking of tackling a mobile home restoration project? You’re not alone! Many people have caught on to the great benefits of living the manufactured home way. They chose to restore an older home because of the experience as well as to create a home perfect for them. However, many still make the big mistake of not making all these crucial considerations before they start!

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These considerations define the entire way in which you will proceed with the project. Additionally, it will be applicable to anyone who wants to restore a mobile home.

What’s your goal for the mobile home restoration?

People often forget always to keep their goal in mind when it comes to a big project like this. And it isn’t only restricted to restoring or renovating a home. However, you should always make sure to clearly identify your goal. Write it in stone for yourself so that you can use it to inform every subsequent step or decision. For example, you might choose to renovate a home for any of the following reasons:

  • Do you want to “flip” the house by selling it off soon after the project?
  • Do you want to create a home for you and your family?
  • Would you want to retire in the home?
  • Or, do you simply want the challenge and sense of accomplishment?

It’s easy to underestimate just how important this consideration is to make. Plus, it’s advisable to stick to it. After all, why does it matter what you do for the home afterward? Especially if you create a beautiful and functional home within budget?

Consider these points

The first counter to this understandable, yet slightly naive thought is: what and how you renovate does make a difference in how successful you will be in your goal. For example, let’s say that you want to create a home to flip and sell. Here are a few vital follow-up considerations to make:

  • Where is the home located? Not all areas have equal housing markets. If you plan to sell the home, the location will become one of your primary concerns to find a willing buyer.
  • What do people want? If you’re creating a home to sell, what you and your family want in a home doesn’t matter. You should create a home that’s “generic” enough to appeal to anyone.
  • What is the value proposition? Suddenly, it’s all about the bottom line. What will the profit be? How much does the home cost? How much will the renovation cost? What can you realistically expect to sell it for?

Contrast that with restoring a house to make a home for you and your family:

  • Now, you have the freedom to create exactly the home that you want.
  • The location and sales potential doesn’t matter as much as you will be holding on to it.
  • You also won’t be primarily focused on increasing the value of the home or making a profit. Although this could still be important for the future.

Establishing this goal will also help you get more specific as we’ll cover next.

Identify specific “sub-projects”

Door frame with a ladder

Now that you, hopefully, have an overall goal for your project, you should get deeper into the specifics. As you are restoring a home, we can assume that you will be starting from a so to speak, “blank slate”. This is potentially where little of the old home will be usable or presentable, at least on the surface. An easy way to approach this next consideration is to break it down room by room. Then, put together the puzzle that’s your finished house.

For example, for today, these are some critical questions that deserve answers:

  • How many bedrooms/bathrooms do you want?
    • Would you want a kitchen, dining room, family room, etc.? Come up with a floor plan.
  • Do you want a designer bathroom?
  • How about a designer kitchen?
  • Do you want a flat or pitched roof?

Be sure you know what you want and make a plan

The first point above is particularly important and may play the biggest role in defining your living experience in the finished product. Once you have the frame and chassis of a manufactured home, changing the floor plan is actually a fairly simple task. Manufactured homes don’t depend on their internal walls much for support. Essentially, this gives you a lot of freedom to play with the floor plans.

We would recommend that you go to manufacturers’ websites and look at floor plans for specific models like this. This will help you come up with practical and realistic designs as well as picking your creativity. Additionally, dish up plenty of new ideas that you can build on.

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For example, today it’s considered convenient and modern to have an open-plan kitchenette, living room, and dining room combination. You might also want a master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom. Then, you should consider your specific need. Maybe a small home office, or a reading room. If you have kids, they could have a painting or kids room, etc.

From here, you can get even more specific. For example, looking at certain building materials, bathtubs, kitchen cabinets, light fixtures, and even heating or cooling systems.

Is it worth restoring in the first place?

Depending on your situation, and the condition of the home, it might not be worth it or even feasible to restore a mobile home. This is particularly true if it’s an older mobile home. If you are restoring a home that’s older than 1976 or was in particularly bad shape – there is virtually no chance of reclaiming its HUD compliance.

This should be one of your top concerns. A mobile home’s resale value and its chance of being financed are directly tied to its adherence to the HUD code.

Of course, maybe you are restoring the home to retire in. Or you plan on making it your permanent accommodation for the foreseeable future. In this case, it should be of less concern, unless you want to mortgage your home for another reason.

Check the available options

Carefully consider the condition of the home and then estimate the amount of money, time, and work it will take to restore. This is not a project to be taken on lightly. You will need a comprehensive set of tools and equipment, experience, and, occasionally, some extra manpower to complete certain tasks.

This means that, at least from a financial perspective, it can be much cheaper to purchase a new or secondhand mobile home. Slightly older, second-hand double-wide mobile homes can be found in good condition. And guess what? For as little as $40,000, for which financing options should be possible.

Short stacks on coins

A real fixer-upper single wide should only cost a few thousand dollars, whilst an equivalent double-wide should still be under $10,000. You then need to consider the materials you will need, the equipment, and the “sweat equity” or time investment.

Of course, if it’s the challenge and sense of accomplishment you’re after, there is simply no alternative to restoring a home. You can wake up every morning with an immense sense of pride that your current living arrangement is all made possible with your own two hands.

What permissions or permits do you need?

Unfortunately, this process could be slightly confusing and frustrating. That’s because different cities, counties, and states can have their own construction permit requirements. Individual mobile home parks may also have additional restrictions. This means that in the worst-case scenario, you might have to apply to multiple overlapping permits to legally tackle your restoration project.

Luckily, this is usually pretty cheap and should cost only between $20-$50 per permit. Some contractors will either help you apply for the permit or guide you through it. And that can be a great help. However, it could also be a worry as contractors can lie about having applied for a permit – potentially putting you both in trouble.

Your best bet is to just contact your local city, county, and state authorities and ask. The hassle and cost of getting into trouble if you proceed without a permit are far worse than the extra effort to get one in the first place and cover your back.

You don’t need to apply for a permit with your mobile home park, but some parks prohibit extensive construction or renovation. This is because it can cause significant disturbance to other residents. Moreover, it could cause damage to a unit that will be hard to replace or sell. Of course, if you own the mobile home outright, then there should be fewer objections. At the very least, it’s simply good manners to get the consent of your park management.

What is your budget?

Setting a budget should be an obvious first step before a big mobile home restoration project. But sadly, many people still get themselves stuck by wading into the quicksand of a DIY project without a budget. Setting your mind on a specific amount will help motivate you to find cost-saving measures when needed and plan with a specific budget in mind.

Of all the ways to do this, the most recommended and satisfying way is to save up or collect all the money you need ahead of time. Having this hard limit not only makes the planning easier but also frees your conscience from monetary concerns while you go about it.

Of course, we understand that with a massive restoration project, not everyone will have the full amount available initially. After all, this project could take months during which you might or might not still receive usable income. In this case, you will need to be far more disciplined when it comes to what you spend and when you spend it.

When spending over a long period of time, the temptation and risk of going “just a little bit more” is far greater. You don’t want to find yourself at the end of the project, thousands of dollars over budget, wondering “where did all my money go?”

Your budget will also play a big role in your next consideration of whether or not to hire a contractor. A contractor will almost always end up being more expensive. However, as the scope can expand and unexpected challenges arise if you go it alone, the gap might not be as great as you first imagined. Especially when you take your time investment into account.

Contractor vs. DIY?

This might be our last consideration, but it’s certainly not the least important. Regardless, this is a crucial decision you have to make. As we briefly mentioned, hiring a contractor will almost always cost more than doing it yourself, at least from a purely monetary perspective.

However, to make a really valuable comparison, you will first need to determine if you have all the equipment, time, and help you actually need to complete the project. If not, you might have to hire expensive equipment, extra pairs of hands, etc. which can dramatically increase your own cost estimates.

A contractor talking on the walkie talkie

For example, installing a roof kit or pitched roof will almost definitely require the use of a crane. We’re guessing that most of you don’t have an unused crane lying around in your backyard. Hiring this piece of equipment can balloon your costs.

A contractor will be able to supply all the equipment and labor they need. This is one of the big reasons why they are able to complete the same project in a much smaller amount of time.

Because mobile homes aren’t as big a market, it can be harder to find a reputable and licensed contractor. Usually, your best bet is to get word of mouth recommendations from someone that lives nearby. Your mobile home park management may also have connections with reliable contractors that they prefer working in their park.

Finally, keep in mind that most contractors won’t be OK with splitting the work. They usually like to take a job, all-or-nothing, to ensure consistency of workmanship. Additionally, this will decrease any unnecessary delays and back and forth.

Plan out your restoration project to get satisfying results

A mobile home restoration can be an extremely rewarding project. Even more so if you feel confident enough to tackle it yourself. Building yourself a solid foundation by making the necessary considerations ahead of time will inevitably save you time, money, and effort as well as improve your end result.

If you think that scrapping the structure or repurposing it is the better way to go, we have a great article on 6 Thrifty Things You Can Do With A Mobile Home Frame. On the other hand, if you basically only have a chassis to work with, we have a guide on building your home up from the chassis.

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