Cheap Homes may not be a great deal

Wow, there sure are some low priced homes on this website!

Yes, and there are some low priced classic cars for sale on the internet too. You can buy the rusty frame of a 1960’s Ford Mustang on Ebay for $900, but how much is it going to cost you to fully restore it? 

Homes priced under $50,000 are a little like buying the rusty frame of a classic car off Ebay. Your mobile home “Restoration Project” may end up costing you a lot more than just spending the money on a newer house in good condition in the first place. If you're not a contractor or extreamly handy, you probably shouldn't be looking at the "Project Homes"

Captain Mike's Cheap Mobile Home Buyers Guide - Know what you're getting into before throwing away your money.

Before you read any further, you can’t buy a mobile home in a leased land community at the beach without good credit. We wouldn't have to mention it if it weren't an ongoing problem. Lots of you don't have good credit. 

Even if you have the cash to buy the house outright, you still have to pass the park approval process which means a decent credit score (usually 640 or better), a verifiable source of income and a clean background check. We don’t mean to sound like jerks, but if you don’t have a 640 or better credit score we can’t help you. It's not up to us. We don't own or work for any of the mobile home communities you see on this website. 

We realize you’ve got a little cash burning a hole in your pocket and you’ve dreamed about buying a little place at the beach for years, but before jumping in, take a few minutes to read what I’ve got to say. I’ve got over 20 years of mobile home sales and flipping experience under my belt and I’ve been a licensed Delaware Contractor. 

  1. Don’t buy a mobile home older than 1978. Why? Prior to 1976 there was no national building code for mobile homes. The building materials used before 1976 were shoddy at best. The use of lead based paint was outlawed in 1978. Why even take the risk? If you need a loan to buy a mobile home, most lenders won’t touch mobile homes built before 1976 which also means when you go to sell it, there will be less people able to buy it. I've been offered pre-1978 mobile homes for free and I won't take them. They aren't worth putting any money into.

  2. Buy the newest one you can find for the price you can afford. Unlike Classic Cars, there’s no profit in restoring old mobile homes to their original condition.  If you have the choice between a 2004 and a 1985 model for the same price, almost always buy the newer house. The difference in newer materials and newer building methods over the older are substantial and the newer the house the better the materials. 

  3. Stay away from mobile homes that don’t have “A frame” peaked shingled roofs. The older flat or slightly curved metal roofs are prone to leaking if not re-coated every few years. 

  4. Avoid mobile homes that still have Tin or Metal Siding. The industry switched to vinyl siding in the 80’s. Some of the local mobile home parks require that a mobile home with Tin or other metal siding be re-covered with Vinyl siding within 60 to 90 days of taking ownership of the house. That’s $3000 to $5000 that could have gone to other things if you had just found a house with vinyl siding in the first place. 

  5. What’s the single most expensive part in a car restoration? Usually the engine. Think of the HVAC system of a house as the engine. Try to find a house with a well running and relatively new HVAC system otherwise you may get stuck paying $5000 to $10,000 for a new one.

  6. Most older mobile homes had polybutylene plumbing. Why does this matter? In 1995 after a billion dollar lawsuit, polybutylene was no longer accepted by US building code because it often becomes brittle and cracks from the inside out, and over time can wear out completely causing it to rupture and leak. It’s not so much a question of will it leak, but when. It will usually cost you $2000 to $3000 to re-plumb a mobile home with PVC or new PEX plumbing. How do you know if a house has polybutylene plumbing? Look for GREY pipe under the sinks or feeding the toilet.

  7. Watch out for "Federal Pacific Stab-Lok electric panels" They sometimes catch fire, and will be noted as a “Major Defect” by most local home inspectors. 

  8. If possible, try to find a Mobile Home with newer vinyl double pane windows. The older single pane windows are not very energy efficient and prone to leaking.

  9. Watch out for floor issues, the most common are soft spots near water leaks at the kitchen sink, refrigerator ice maker, bathroom sinks, toilets as well as around the clothes washer. Some mobile homes are far from level. Run away from these. It could mean the piers that it sits on are sinking. Other things to watch out for are “waves” in the floor, usually due to excess humidity below the home which is often caused from leaking polybutylene plumbing.

  10. Don't forget the old saying "If it seems too good to be true..."  Sometimes you find a house that looks like a great deal only to find out it's in a bad neighborhood. Even here at the beach we have a few communities with reputations for mayhem. Unfortunately due to the fair housing act, we can't tell you which ones they are, but we can recommend you driving through the communities you think you might be interested in, talking to local residents and doing additional research on your own such as looking at crime statistics or talking to local law enforcement before making your decision. 

  11. Some people see these cheap homes and think “that would make a great income producing rental unit” Unfortunately, most of the communities don’t allow subletting (renting). A few of them do allow renting, but only to renters who can pass the same stringent credit checks and background checks as the homeowner and only for long periods of six month or longer. This rules out any short term beach rentals.
  12. Beware of "Lipstick on a Pig."  There are a lot of home owners doing their own mobile home remodeling and mobile home flipping. They may put in nice new flooring, repaint the walls and stage the house with pretty furniture but are the floors flat? Does the roof leak? How old is the HVAC? Has the polybutylene pipe been replaced? Is the electric panel one that won't pass a home inspection? Was the work done to code?

Armed with my 12 step list you will find that very few of the homes priced under $50,000 are the incredible deals you may have thought they were when you initially looked at our website. And Just like that 1969 Mustang Restoration, buying the body of it for $900 is just the beginning of the money you'll need to spend to turn it into something nice.

Don’t get me wrong, if what you want is a money pit or a project house, we will still be happy to sell you one, just know what you may be getting yourself into and don’t say we didn't warn you.

I still flip Mobile Homes when I can find a really good deal.
The ones I look for are:

  1. Newer than 1985
  2. A Frame Shingled roof
  3. Factory installed Vinyl siding
  4. Upgraded to PVC or new PEX plumbing
  5. Have an HVAC system that is less than 20 years old
  6. Flat and level floors with no soft spots
  7. If it has newer double pane windows it's a big plus
  8. Located in a community where it's easy to sell a house quickly and for top dollar. What communities are the easiest sells? Rehoboth Bay MHPAngola Beach and Angola Estates, Sussex East and  Sussex West

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