The 10 Most Common Problems with Older Mobile Homes

by | BiggerPockets.com

As an active mobile home investor, you will likely walk through older and newer mobile homes. Over the decades, more and more regulations have been instituted regarding the manufacturing of these factory built homes, resulting in better and better quality. However, after a home has been lived in for years and possibly decades, some problems and repair issues may arise that you will want to notice as an investor.

10 Common Problems with Older Mobile Homes

1. Sinking Foundation

A mobile home’s foundation will vary from area to area and home to home. Local mobile home movers may follow current local codes—or they may not. Some areas allow for your investment mobile home to sit atop a peer and beam foundation, while others allow for your property to be supported by concrete blocks sitting on top of crushed rock. Still others allow for additional foundation options.

Ultimately, if the foundation is not sturdy enough, situated correctly, or on a concrete slab (permanent foundation), a mobile home’s support may sink slowly into the earth over time. Add soft ground or wet weather, and this sinking action can speed up. In most cases, this is not a deal-breaker when purchasing a used mobile home.

Pro Tip: Raising a mobile home is a common task that may need to be performed every now and then to specific mobile homes you purchase. An experienced mobile home handyman or mobile home mover will be able to raise/level a mobile home in the matter of a few hours or days with the right tools.

2. Doors Not Aligning

A common side effect to a mobile home sinking is that the main front and back doors may not line up or close correctly any longer. Keep in mind that when a home sinks, it will typically be just on one side of the home or one set of peers that are sinking into the ground. This will cause the home to be lopsided and put unnecessary stress on one side of the mobile home.

3. Windows/Walls Leaking

Water is a natural enemy of mobile homes. Always check under every exterior window, as well as on the entire interior perimeter of a mobile home. Overflowing gutters, a leaking roof, or holes in the siding may lead to moisture entering the mobile home and problems/mold in the wall cavities.

Related: 12 Repairs to Make to Your Investment Mobile Home if Capital Is Limited

Pro Tip: Push hard on every exterior wall when walking through a potential mobile home investment. The wall should be very sturdy and not feel loose due to wood rot.

mobile-home-parks

4. Amateur Electric

It is common for mobile homeowners to make their own electrical repairs over the years. You may see electrical outlets that do not work, extension cords running across the home, wires hanging from ceiling electrical outlets, and other obviously “amateur-style” repair jobs.

Pro Tip: Remember that it is often wise to hire a professional electrician when dealing with repairs.

5. Questionable Plumbing

Is common for mobile homeowners to make their own plumbing repairs over time. If you are unsure of any plumbing issues, always consult a professional.

Pro Tip: Before purchasing any investment property, make sure to check that the hot water heater works, that all plumbing seems to work, that there is no evidence of leaks inside or out, etc.

6. Ceiling Repairs

It is common for many mobile homeowners to make their own repairs over the years. When it comes to roof and ceiling repairs, many homeowners may not do things 100 percent correctly. Over time, these mistakes and oversights may allow moisture/water to seep into the roof, causing additional problems, wood rot, mildew and mold to develop over time.

Pro Tip: Before purchasing any investment property, make sure to understand all repairs needed in the home. Also, ask sellers how they made certain repairs and feel free to raise/unscrew ceiling panels to look and feel around in the ceiling to ensure you know exactly what you are buying.

7. Doors Missing

It is common for interior mobile home doors to go missing. These may be ordered at specialty mobile home supply stores locally or over the Internet at mobile home-related websites.

8. Holes in Walls

It is common for the interior of some older mobile homes to have holes in the walls. While these repairs are cosmetic, they can certainly go a long way in helping you resell the home.

Pro Tip: Replacing broken wall panels and/or fixing drywall can be a quick “test repair job” for a new handyman you may be trying out. Give prospective handymen a small area of wall to fix. After the job is complete, you can review the speed and quality of each person to choose who you will continue using. Always keep on the lookout for more experienced mobile home handymen.

9. More Than One Source of Air Conditioning

Be aware when a homeowner has multiple cooling systems for their home. Swamp coolers, window AC units, central HVAC systems, fans, etc. all serve the purpose to cool down a home’s interior temperature. Make sure you know which systems work and which do not. If a seller has more than one source of air conditioning, then it is highly likely that one of these systems does not work properly.

Pro Tip: Unless you are able to verify repairs needed, do not simply trust/believe what a seller tells you about a non-functional appliance. If you cannot physically test this appliance or system, then you must assume it is broken and will need a good deal of money to be replaced or fixed.

10. Missing Insulation

Always check underneath every mobile home to verify a majority of the insulation is still intact underneath the home. This layer of thick insulation should be supported by a vapor barrier/water barrier to keep out moisture. This vapor barrier may be a dark blue or black color color and should stretch along the entire underside of the manufactured home.

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Related: 5 Tips for Those Buying a Used Mobile Home as a Primary Residence

Bonus: Window Cracks

Mobile home windows may be made of glass, plastic, or plexiglass. This material may crack or break over time. These windowpanes should be removed and replaced accordingly. Be aware that only the clear glass/plastic windowpanes, not the entire window, may need to be replaced.

Low Pride of Ownership

These amateur repairs, lack of repairs, and deferred maintenance are typically the result of a “low pride of ownership” with regard to the homeowners living in the home at the time. Sometimes this lack of maintenance is on purpose, and sometimes it is due to accidental neglect. Some mobile homeowners may not have the financial resources to make these repairs, and others may have the money but are simply too lazy or do not care about their property.

Pro Tip: Be aware of a seller’s pride of ownership. This may help you in negotiations. Typically a seller with a low pride of ownership will be less emotionally attached  to their property and therefore may sell at a reduced price compared to a homeowner who has taken care of their property and loved it for the last few years.

In conclusion, none of these repair issues are a deal-breaker by themselves. In fact, many of these issues will overlap in a number of mobile homes you look at for investment purposes. Make sure to walk through every inch of the potential investment property and bring a powerful flashlight to look and test for leaks. Know exactly what you are purchasing. Continue helping local sellers and buyers while always protecting yourself and knowing exactly what you are purchasing before you buy.

Any issues you’d add to this list?

Be sure to comment below!

About Author

John Fedro

John Fedro has been investing in manufactured housing since 2002. John now spends his time continuing to build his cash-flow business in multiple states while helping others enjoy the same freedom he has achieved. Find John here.

3 Comments

  1. Paul Ewing

    I have a number of manufactured homes as rentals so was interested in seeing what was listed as issues for them. The list is basically the same as what you need to check for in any house you are looking to buy. Even the foundation issue isn’t unique to manufactured homes. I looked at two conventional pier and beam stick built houses last week that had worse foundation issues than any mobile I have ever seen.

  2. Curt Smith

    Hi John, Tnx. we own a park and also a dozen or more double wides all in rent to own, we never rent mobile homes.

    The worst problem besides rotted / soft sub floor in any age of mobile home usually due to a source of water near by. IE soft bathrooms or kitchens floors. New folks under appreciate the hassel and labor in replacing subfloor. I suggest a new MH buyer do the sub floor repair themselves as a learning task. 🙂

    The 2nd is the use of super thin wall CPVC in an age class in the 90’s that by now is 100% brittle and breaks with the smallest tug. Without someone watching over my shoulder I go under a sink and give a good tug at the point the pipe comes up through the cabinet bottom. I look for ease of breaking or the presence of already broke CPVC. The entire MH needs every inch of that brittle pipe removed and replaced with new CPVC (cheaper solution) or PEX the best solution but if the installer is not an expert you may end up with a bunch of leaking joints. PEX crimp rings and the crimp tools are not a guaranteed solution in the hands of a new installer. I prefer Home Depots solid black copper rings and tool and trust brass fittings but just superstitious. I’ve seen newer slip on crimps that seem faster…

    Yes roofs are the next most common weak areas. Take a ladder with you to inspect a MH. Ifs a metal roof stay off the roof just look. If its shingle roof then carefully walk lenghwize testing each 8×4 sheet of decking for strength. I put on a new roof on a 1998 double wide and when the roofers got most of the decking off we found the structure to be mostly 2×2’s basically sticks not solid strong 2×4 and 2×6 rib board. A 2×2 will have almost no strength when exposed to leaks and I ended up putting $5k into that roof. An insane re-roof expense. I have always found that new roofs for double wides to be much more expensive than the equivelant squares (unit of roof size) stick built due to so much more decking and some times roof rafters work.

    I’m saying walk from a deal that needs a roof, in fact a lot of the deals you’ll look will need roofs, some sub floor fixing and some re-piping the plumbing. We always toss every single electrical and plumbing fixture in a MH purchase. They where junk on day one and few bathroom faucets don’t leak (drip drip) by the time I get the homes so its a needed expense to upgrade bedroom lights to fans and other electrical fixtures and plumbing fixtures to brand new.

    AC: or in my area the SE we want heat pumps not just elect heat and straight AC. I actually prefer to replace HVAC units 100% new. Unless freakishly the prior owner just put in a new 410a HVAC heat pump I prefer to put in a all new. A busted AC will be 80% of your Friday at 4:30 PM calls. Toilets that don’t flush are the other types of calls which means call out the septic pump truck Saturday AM. 🙂 FWIW I’m now pumping the tank ($350-$450) as apart of the rehab to prevent the Friday PM calls. Its a frustration to tell tenants to go to McDonalds for dinner and go to the bathroom. OMG!!! 🙂

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