Buying a used mobile home can be an intimidating task for many new investors, but it doesn’t have to be. This type of investment can actually be easier than you think.
Here are some of the top items to inspect before you purchase a used mobile home.
Mobile Home Inspection Checklist
Checking a leaky roof on a mobile home can often seem like a daunting task, but the reality of the matter is that leaky roofs usually manifest themselves in pretty ugly and noticeable ways.
A lot of mobile homes have rolled metal roofs that can crack and rust over time. Simply checking for water stains on the ceiling can be your best indicator of whether or not the roof is structurally sound.
Sealing a roof for a mobile home is one of the most important steps you can take to preserve the home. Often times, mobile home owners will roof their home with a shingle or steel roof for added visual appeal and water protection, but that never guarantees a leak-free roof.
Mobile homes, unlike stick-built homes, do not typically sit on a foundation. This means that the bottom side of the home isn’t shielded from exposure to the elements.
Soft spots on floors are one of the most common faults with mobile homes. Luckily, they can often be remedied very quickly and easily.
A soft spot is just a piece of the subfloor that has rotted over time for any number of reasons, such as appliance leaks, window or roof leaks, faulty plumbing, etc. The good news is that it is relatively inexpensive to repair soft spots on most mobile home floors.
As you inspect your mobile home, ensure that you get a good look underneath the home itself. If you notice pooling water or suspect a leak, there could be unseen damage to the interior of the house.
If the bottom insulation of the home is torn and the skirting is not properly maintained, it can cause a host of other issues like pest and moisture problems. So be sure to check that the insulation is in good working order.
If you see large low spots on the moisture barrier, investigate the potential issue by pushing on the low spot with your hand. If you see or feel water, there may be a leak in the house that is holding all of that water between the floor and the insulation, which will quickly cause molding and rotting of the floor in the home.
3. Air Conditioner Units
Air conditioning units in mobile homes can also be a very costly repair. When you are inspecting a home, be sure to note the date of the furnace and air conditioner unit. There is never a good way to tell the functionality of the unit without physical use, but the general appearance of the unit can typically give you a good gauge of the remaining usable life of the unit.
Estimating the remaining usable life will help you better budget for these capital expenditures further down the road, and you may just decide to replace the unit all together. Some older homes were not manufactured to have air conditioners, so it should be a big red flag if you see window air conditioner units. If you see them, you can reasonably assume you will be spending a good chunk of money up front to pay for an air conditioning system.
4. Doors and Windows
Improperly sealed doors and windows are another sensitive area for mobile home owners. Any area of the home that has exposure to the exterior will likely be at risk for moisture entering the home. Be sure to check the seals around the windows and doors.
When you close an exterior door, look to see if any visible daylight is coming from around the door’s frame. If you can see visible light, chances are that you will have to replace the seals around the door. Most older mobile homes have only single-pane windows, so be sure that the functionality of the window checks out OK and that everything can close and lock properly.
5. Electrical and Plumbing
Electrical and plumbing inspections are often best done by professionals, but there are a few simple checks that you can do on your own to ensure that you are not buying a total lemon. You can pick up a receptacle tester from most retail stores for under $10.
A receptacle tester allows you to plug the device into the wall outlet and check the functionality of the wiring. The testers help determine the probability of incorrect wiring for an outlet and generates a code that you can easily read and compare against the manufacturer’s light codes.
Aside from checking the outlets directly, you can research local electrical codes to ensure that your breaker panels are in compliance and that you have the appropriate types of outlets in the appropriate locations.
Checking the septic on a home is something that you typically have done by a professional. You really only need to have the septic inspected if you are purchasing a mobile home and keeping it on the property.
A septic inspection will typically include a sewer scope, which involves a small camera line being fed down the plumbing. This way you can get a good view of not only the septic lines but also the tank.
I highly recommend that you have a professional complete this inspection. They will have all of the proper tools and equipment needed, and they will be able to provide a professional recommendation regarding the remaining life of your septic system.
If your home is located within city limits, there is a very high chance that you will be connected to city sewer lines. This doesn’t negate the need to check the lines, however.
My company and I once purchased a property without getting a sewer inspection. We later found out that there were tree roots growing into the septic lines. and they needed to be fully replaced! A simple $100 sewer scoping would have probably helped us negotiate a few thousand dollars off the purchase price.
7. Vapor Barriers
The vapor barrier on a mobile home is the first line of defense from the elements on the bottom side of the house. Because the house does not sit on a foundation, instead a vapor barrier is affixed to the underside of the trailer.
This barrier keeps moisture from entering the structure of the home. Inspect the vapor barrier to be sure that there are no evident signs of sagging, rips, or de-lamination. If there is evidence of any of these issues, there could be potential damage or mold issues on the wood subfloor above. These issues can likely be remedied by stapling a new moisture barrier to the bottom of the trailer.
As you can see, inspecting a mobile home doesn’t need to be intimidating. You just need to know what to check.
This list only highlights the basics—a few of the major must-check items. It is by no means exhaustive!
If you aren’t confident in your ability to perform an inspection on your own, I recommend hiring an inspector for the first few times and shadowing them as closely as you can.
We have an inspector check our homes after we do our initial inspection. It costs roughly $125 per home—a significantly low price to pay when you consider the cost of replacing something major (like a roof or a floor).
What else should investors purchasing mobile homes look out for? Have you ever overlooked a major item that needed replacing?