Mobile Homes

4 Ways Mobile Home Sellers Mislead Buyers (& What to Do About It)

Expertise: Personal Development, Real Estate Investing Basics, Business Management, Mobile Homes, Real Estate News & Commentary, Landlording & Rental Properties, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Marketing
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Mobile home owners and mobile home sellers are average people. Many of them are upstanding and hard-working folks just like you and me. Sometimes even goodhearted mobile home sellers can do things that may seem frustrating or downright malicious.

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Over the years I’ve been fooled many times. Some of these errors have been costly, and every single one has been valuable as a well-learned lesson. Human psychology and forgetfulness may play a large role in why some sellers omit certain truths. In short there is one thing you can almost always count on regarding a mobile home seller: they want the most money they can get in the shortest period of time possible.

Below is a short list of 4 ways mobile home sellers may occasionally mislead you while you are trying to purchase their unwanted mobile home property inside a mobile home park.

4 Ways Mobile Home Sellers Mislead Buyers (& What to Do About It)

1. They Don’t Disclose Repairs the Property Requires

Perhaps one of the biggest and most prevalent mistakes a mobile home investor can make is to be too trusting when it comes to believing a seller’s word about repairs needed to their homes. As an active mobile home investor, you should walk every square inch of the mobile home property, inspect and verify previous repairs made to the mobile home, track all leaks to their point of origin and determine repairs needed for yourself.

Related: 12 “Hidden” Real Estate Expenses That Blindside Investors

If the seller tells you something that you or your inspector determines is incorrect or untrue, this may open your eyes to other issues the seller has either maliciously or unknowingly incorrectly told you about.

What to do: If you are not working with a seasoned mobile home partner or teacher, then hiring an experienced mobile home inspector can be of tremendous value. Follow this inspector around and learn exactly what he or she looks for while inspecting mobile home properties. Additionally, you will want to test and make sure all appliances are in the condition the seller states.

2. They Misrepresent the Likelihood of Closing the Deal

Over the years I’ve met so many great mobile home sellers and buyers. Occasionally I have been able to negotiate win-win purchase offers to close investment mobile homes. While the process from start to finish may only take a small handful of hours of time consisting of meeting with, understanding, chitchatting and negotiating with these sellers, it can be heart-wrenching when a seller agrees to your price and terms and then suddenly sells to another buyer prior to your closing date.

Realize that in many states a mobile home is not sold until the physical paper title is signed by both seller and buyer and transferred into the new buyer's name. Even with a purchase and sale agreement, verbal agreement and handshake between you and a seller, the seller can almost always sell their title to someone else before your closing.

What to do: As soon as you and the seller reach a win-win purchase agreement, close on the property. Remember that you should not be making purchase offers until almost all of your due diligence is complete. Once your purchase offer is accepted, aim to close in the next 1 to 48 hours.

3. They Sell Duplicate Titles

While the last two bullets above may simply be considered sellers being forgetful or acting in a way that best suits their needs, this bullet and the bullet point below are truly malicious acts in order to increase a seller’s profit.

In many states if a seller loses the physical copy of their original paper title, they may simply go down to the local titling office and obtain an original duplicate title. This duplicate title is just as good as the original and will allow the seller(s) to transfer ownership from them to their new buyer. If a mobile home owner wants to, they can go down daily and obtain multiple copies of original duplicate titles, thereby having more than one title to “sell” to well-meaning new buyers.

In rare cases I have heard of a mobile home owner selling their home to multiple parties in the same week or day. This is accomplished by the owner having multiple titles to give out to approved or non-approved buyers in exchange for cash. In these cases the seller can close with multiple buyers over the course of a few hours or days, take all the money and leave.

What to do: The first person that makes it down to the local mobile home title transferring agency, in many states the local DMV or DOT, to transfer ownership into their name, corporate name or trust name is the new and legal owner of record. After you close on a mobile home, when not closing with a dealer, make sure to take all your paperwork to your local state office and have ownership placed in your control. Aim to do this with 24 hours of closing.

4. They Don’t Disclose Liens

The very first mobile home I purchased inside of a mobile home park had a private seller-financed lien on the property. This was not an official/recorded lien; however, it was a verbal agreement between the current owner/seller (the current owner is the sweet older lady I was buying the home from) and the previous seller. whom the current seller bought from. The current owner/seller still owed the previous seller over $2,000, which had not been paid. Due to the fact that the previous seller did not place a physical lien on the property/title, I was able to transfer ownership from my seller into my personal property trust — and therefore into my control without even knowing about this money owed.

Soon after closing I received a handwritten letter from the previous seller posted on the mobile home door to alert me that they were still owed $2,000 due from my seller, and they were going to follow through with legal action to collect this money from me. Needless to say, as a 20-year-old kid, I was scared and confused. I talked with a friend and eviction expert who told me if the title was currently in my name, I was likely safe. The previous seller made the huge mistake of trusting the new buyers to pay them without placing a lien on the home.

Related: 4 Hidden Costs That Can Sneak Up After Buying An Investment Property

What to do: While this error did not affect me, I did feel bad for the past seller. She had trusted the sweet elderly lady buyer to pay her the money they agreed on; instead, the seller got stiffed all this equity when the elderly lady sold the home to me. Since then I always make the effort to ask every seller if he or she owes anyone any money on this property, even if a lien is not recorded on the physical title. If there is a lien, recorded or otherwise, I make sure to pay these parties directly before giving the seller any compensation.

In conclusion, it is so important to know everything you don't already know. The reason I can sit here and write the advice and stories above is because I have been misled and fooled too many times in the past. It is important to note if/when this happens to you, it is nobody's fault but your own. As real estate investors, we must expect the unexpected and know that human psychology and human nature are part of the equation. Before investing in any property, make sure your due diligence is complete and every possible concern is addressed.

Investors: Have you ever been found yourself in a sticky real estate situation due to undisclosed information about a property?

Let me know in the comments section below!

Investing since 2002, John started in real estate accidentally with a four-bedroom mobile home inside of a pre-existing mobile home park. Over the next 11 months, John added 10 more mobile homes to...
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    C Niman Rental Property Investor from Pennsylvania
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Thank you John, good information. I bought my first mh property with no title and the seller was not honest about repairs. I am looking into another one soon, armed with this information, I am going to do better.
    Stephen S. Wholesaler from Holiday, Florida
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Undisclosed repair needs? What planet did you come from? Sellers all seem to develop convenient-memory when telling you about their property for sale. But anyway, yes; I have A Story about a mobile home purchase. One time I saw a mobile home for sale by the owner. I went over and met the nice woman, we had tea, and I crawled all around the nice mobile home. She had the title and I had the money. So she and went to my bank to cash my check to her – I kept the cash. And then on to a motor vehicle agency to change the title into my name. When I had my new title in my name – she got the money and we went back to say goodbye. She said: I’ve paid the ground rent ahead two months – I always pay quarterly and there are two months left until it has to be paid again. I like to send it in a week early just to be sure – so send it in on this day (she showed me on a wall calendar) and that will be that. OK. Thanks for everything. See you later. So seven weeks later I mailed in a check for the ground rent – marked with the lot number. Four weeks after that I mailed in another ground rent check. Four weeks after that I mailed in a check and within another week I got a notice to vacate the lot and take my mobile home with me. So I stopped at the office with some cash and asked if there had been a problem with my check. No. Here is your check back. You are not an ‘approved resident’ and you have 14 days to leave. Well; actually twelve days now. Who approves tenants? The park does. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just approve me? I have already been living here for months. Everybody seems to like me. You must be pre-approved Before occupancy. You didn’t even apply for approval. And because of that we cannot even consider you now for approval. Doesn’t that seem a little silly? Who makes up these nonsensical rules? Is there a manager I can talk to? And what am I supposed to do with a 70′ mobile home which has been sitting for years in the same spot? You can’t be serious. I am the manager. It’s not our problem. Here’s your check back. There is nothing which can be done. Get your mobile home out of our park. Apparently what had happened to the seller is that the park wanted all sales to go through them. She had instead privately found buyers on her own and in each case the park had denied them the park-required pre-approval. She had been trying to sell the place for several years the neighbors later told me. So the being-stone-walled seller then found me, and arranged it so she would be long gone before the subterfuge was discovered. The Only thing which saved me was that the park had cashed some of my payment checks which created a de-facto acceptance by them of me as a land tenant.
    Replied over 5 years ago
    john, thanks for the great article! i am just beginning my education in RE and am curious as to why one would invest in mobile homes (besides their affordable price), since they are a depreciating asset. would you please explain a bit??? thank you!
    Marshall M. from Washington, DC
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Yeah I mean a lot of that stuff can be found out by a decent inspector and appraisal. It’s all part of the due diligence you need to do before you close!
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I am just curious as to why mobile home parks tell people that buy used mobile homes that they have to stay in the park x amount of years until they can move it. Isn’t it your property to do with as you wish just like a motor vehicle? Isn’t this practice illegal?