Many mobile homes around the country may appear to be very similar. Most mobile homes are rectangle in shape, have steps in the front and back of the home, are surrounded by other mobile homes, and often have aluminum or vinyl siding on the exterior with a flat or pitched roof. However, there are many differences, both obvious and subtle, between mobile homes locally and nationwide.
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to better understand mobile home differences in and around your local marketplace. Understanding these differences can save you time, energy, frustrations, and money.
This article uses the terms “manufactured home” and “mobile home” interchangeably. With that said, this article does not pertain to modular homes, which are typically built to local site-built housing codes within any given municipality.
5 Ways Mobile Homes Differ Across the United States
1. Building Codes
Different regions of the country require different building codes. A manufactured home’s roof in Florida does not need to support the weight of heavy snow or ice, but the same home does ideally need to survive a tropical storm or hurricane. Additionally, there are different levels of snow-load rating and wind rating minimums around the country. Some additional examples are:
- In coastal areas, a maximum wind rating may be required on any mobile homes that are moved into a specific region, state, county, or city.
- In some areas near the Gulf of Mexico, mobile homes are required to be set on piers five feet or higher off the ground due to flooding.
- In areas with regular annual snowfall, a specific snow-load rating for a roof may be required on any mobile homes that are moved into a specific area.
- The specific foundation a mobile home is required to have will absolutely vary from location to location. Some areas have little to no foundation requirements for mobile homes.
- The amount of anchors/straps and sizes needed legally to keep a specific mobile home safely tied to the ground will vary from city to city.
Pro Tip: Before purchasing any mobile home you plan on moving to a new location, talk with the local municipalities building departments, permit departments, and code departments to understand what is required when moving a mobile home into the area. If moving into a pre-existing mobile home park, do not rely solely on the park manager’s advice. Double check directly with the local departments listed above.
2. Price for Average Mobile Home
This is fairly obvious—the cost of a mobile home (example: 1990 Fleetwood 3/2 single wide) will vary in price around the country. In every different area of the country, there is a unique supply and demand ratio between available mobile homes and serious buyers. In some areas there is a much higher demand for affordable housing, and in other areas there is a lower need for affordable housing.
While mobile homes across your local city/county do vary in cost and demand, the three statements below almost always hold true. All other factors being equal:
- Mobile homes for sale in well populated areas typically sell for more money than mobile homes in more rural areas.
- Mobile homes in better condition typically sell for more money than homes that need multiple repairs.
- Almost every used mobile home (and seller) is unique and should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
3. Local Inventory of Homes
State by state, there seems to be a fairly even mix of mobile homes of all different ages. The amount of mobile homes within a 50-mile radius of you will typically be different than the amount of mobile homes within a 50-mile radius of some else in another area.
So, how do you determine the amount of local mobile home parks in your area?
- Follow the instructions in this YouTube video to learn how to search for mobile home parks in your area.
- Once you obtain the number of parks around you (within a 50-mile radius), begin to understand what this amount of mobile home parks truly means. Understand that some of these parks will be overpriced, rental-only communities, age-restricted parks, and/or even out-of-business.
- Any amount of parks over 30 within a 50-mile radius is a good start.
- Be aware that in most states, an active mobile home investor can simply drive farther than a 50-mile radius in order to be closer to mobile home parks that fit their criteria.
4. Moving Process
Plan on transporting a mobile home? The moving process around the country will vary in a few ways.
When considering to move a mobile home:
- Make sure to call the local county and city municipality’s zoning department, code department, and permit office. (This may be overkill, but it is better to have complete clarity as some of these department’s overlap in some locations.)
- Let the clerk over the phone know your intention of moving in a used mobile home to the desired location and asked them for requirements needed from you now and moving forward.
- Understand the steps needed to file for permits, move the mobile home, and have it set up and installed at the desired location.
Pro Tip: When talking with the clerks in the local government offices, try to figure out if they are happy with you adding more mobile homes or if they have any resentment or negativity towards the community or mobile homes in their city in general. This is not a deal breaker, but it’s good to know. Some cities make it very easy for you to move in a mobile home, while a minority of cities make the inspection process a nightmare of endless hurdles.
If moving to a piece of land you own, confirm:
- The current incoming water source (well or city water) is functioning properly.
- The sewer waste pipe, septic system, septic tank, leach field, etc. is in proper working order. An experienced plumber can greatly help in giving you an understanding of the lifespan and health of your current system.
- Electric going to power pole (and then to the home) is working and sufficient for the new mobile home. An experienced electrician can greatly help in giving you advice for understanding your particular situation and mobile home.
- With the local code department the setbacks for the property. This is the distance of land on each side of the mobile home that is required by local laws. Fifteen-foot setbacks mean that your mobile home must be at least fifteen feet from the edges of your property line.
- The existing foundation is adequate for your specific mobile home and with the local municipality. This can be found out by talking to your local code department as well. You may also want to speak to a local experienced mobile home dealer in the area that sells other new and used mobile homes. They will likely have experience with regards to the local ground/soil conditions and which foundation types are suggested or required in the area.
Pro Tip: Only hire a local mobile home transportation company that comes highly recommended by a local mobile home dealer or mobile home park manager you trust. Make sure to call around to get at least three quotes from three different mobile home transportation companies to determine what is included in the cost, the turnaround time, warranties, and who you like the best.
5. Process to Transfer Ownership
In some states, mobile homes have physical titles. In other states, only a bill of sale is used. In a few states, a warranty deed is used to convey ownership on personal property from one mobile home owner to the next.
So how do you find out how to transfer a local mobile home (personal property) in your state?
- Head to this BiggerPockets forum.
- Click on your state and follow the necessary instructions.
- Ask questions below if needed.
Every mobile home is a unique property. Every mobile home seller and buyer is in a unique situation. There are typically no cookie-cutter approaches or purchase offers to make with mobile home sellers. It is best to fully understand exactly what you are making an offer on, buying, who you are working with, and the steps needed to safely move forward in any win-win transaction.
Did we miss anything?
Please feel free to comment below.
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.