How to Buy the Perfect Mobile Home

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How buy a mobile home - used mobile home in Florida
A nice existing mobile home for sale in coastal Florida.

A Definitive Guide to Buying a Manufactured Home That You Will Love

Manufactured and mobile homes offer a great way to acquire your very own home at an affordable price. Throughout your journey to buy a mobile home, in order to find the right fit, there are many important decisions to be made on what you should get, where, and how.

One of the benefits of the factory-built process is that you can buy a new home, one that no one has ever lived in. The mobile home buyer can have it made to their specifications right from the factory floor, and it can take but weeks to move in, unlike new site-built homes that are guaranteed to take a year or two to move in.

Or, perhaps you want an existing home. Do you want to reside where the home is today? Would you want it moved? Do you prefer to live in a mobile home park, or would you like the home on your own land?

There is plenty to consider when going about this process, so let’s get started.

buy a mobile home desert sky
There are thousands of beautiful previously lived in mobile and manufactured homes listed on MHVillage.

Tip #1: Start With Your List of Wants & Needs

You want to develop strong criteria when going about your hunt. This is to help filter out homes that fail to meet your most important considerations. Ask yourself the following questions and start a checklist. When you use MHVillage to find a home, each of these options can be checked to drill down through the thousands of homes available to help find the perfect mobile home for you.
Do you want to buy new or used?
When you buy a new manufactured home model, you can work with a builder, a retailer or community operator to adjust a floor plan, upgrade appliances, determine materials to be used and upgrade technology in the home. If any of these things are critically important to you, a new manufactured home may be the way to go.
Buy a mobile home interior
If you are less concerned about a customized home, you can buy a used mobile home and still find the ideal fit. It will take a bit more time and research, but it also is likely to be much more affordable. You may not be able to physically change a floor plan, but you can search through all the home options to find the best existing floor plans. And, of course, any upgrades you want to make on appliances, materials or technology can be projects for after you buy a mobile.
Do you want to buy a single-section or multi-section mobile home?

Back in the day, mobile homes often were referred to as single wide or double wide. Many still do refer to home sizes and floor plans in this fashion. Increasingly, we refer to sections. A single-section manufactured or mobile home can be as minimal as 16-by-68 feet. They also can be 18×90′. A multi-section home would expand by approximately the same floor width. So, a two-section home could be 36×90′ and any larger multi-section home would expand in width accordingly.

How to buy a mobile home - find the perfect fit
The interior of a new Platinum Homebuilders manufactured home on display during a home show in Tunica, Miss.
Are you going to live in a community, or on private land?

The community lifestyle is a huge draw for many people looking to buy a mobile home. They come for the golf, they come for the water, they come for the walking trails or the community activities. There is a long list of reasons why people may want to move into a park, and there are many different types of mobile home parks to consider. Perhaps you know some of the current residents and want that camaraderie? Or, you prefer to be near or in a city, where there’s easy access to the metro area benefits of shopping, arts & entertainment or health care.

This last part is very important for anyone looking to purchase a mobile home. If you’re a city lover, finding a great mobile home community is the way to go. While modular housing fits city infill plans in some communities, manufactured housing in metro areas remains primarily a community-based residential setting.

That said, options open up some if you’re outside the incorporated area. County land, townships and some villages often allow mobile homes on open land. Essentially, the non-metro area often treat a factory-built home in much the same way as if you were building on site. The home site can be land you buy, land you already own, or even land that is owned by a friend or relative with space available to bring in a single- or multi-section residence.

buy a mobile home exterior
Also for consideration if you’re looking to live in a mobile home community:
  1. Are you retiring, flying solo or are you empty nesters? You may want to consider “55+” (age restricted) communities. Otherwise, if you have a family or want to live in a park with families, look for “all ages” communities. Again, each type of community comes with amenities worthy of consideration.
  2. Do you have pets? If so, you want to make sure you filter out properties with pet restrictions. But, don’t be alarmed. We’ve put together a couple of quick tips to help you find available pet-friendly mobile home parks.
  3. On those amenities, do you want a pool? A clubhouse? A dog run? Hiking trails? Consider the particulars and make a list as you go through potential mobile homes to buy.

The P.S. on this section is this: If you have a specific mobile home market in mind, your search on MHVillage can be an exact match to a city or area. Or you can expand your geographical parameters out to include any home that meets your qualifications within a 50-mile radius of your original search. This should help immensely in buying the mobile home that fits you best.

how to buy a mobile home - getting a mobile home loan
When you know what you want out of a home, it’s time to look into your financial and credit standing.

Tip #2: Understand your current credit situation

buy a mobile home charming decorWhen home buyers start to dream up their perfect home purchase, one area that may be overlooked in the early stages is the potential buyers’ financial standing. Just like with any home or large-ticket purchase, you want to plan a strategy that will help with getting quality financing.

In short, you want to pay off as much debt as possible and save for a down payment. Your credit score will improve and you’re most likely to get the best possible terms if you can lower your credit utilization and improve that debt-to-income ratio.

Credit Score – This may or may not be news to you. But your credit score is a prime indicator of the ability to finance and purchase large ticket items, such as a home or a car. However, what lies under a good credit score may actually harm your ability to get the best mobile home loan. Even if you have a score in the 700s, which is “good credit”, you may have that rating because you’ve just recently established or re-established credit. If you have a good score, but no credit history or limited credit history.
These underlying factors may lead a lender to up your rate, ask for a bigger down payment or possibly put a cap on the spend amount. What lenders want to see is a good credit score that comes from a breadth of historical accounts, usually from five or more accounts.

Those credit-building accounts that help you buy a mobile home:

  • Credit cards
  • Auto loans
  • A school loan
  • Home improvement loan
  • A personal line of credit
  • Loans for large tickets items, such as home appliances
If you need to build credit history into your credit score you can simply give yourself some time to make smart, moderate purchases of small- to middle-ticket items. That’s the easy first step. The most important part is that you pay off, or pay way down, that credit balance. This means paying well above the minimum each month. This strategy will provide credit history, but you’ll maintain that low credit utilization and debt-to-income ratio.
How to Buy a Mobile Home with Bad Credit
Buy a mobile home kitchenLet’s face it, nearly everyone has some financial challenges. If your credit has suffered, and you’re worried about your ability to buy a mobile home with bad credit (300 – 499 score), there are still ways to find the mobile home you want. You may need to take a higher interest loan, and potentially can benefit from getting a government-backed loan. Perhaps you’ll need to save more for your down payment. You can pursue alternate financing, such as seller/owner financing. Or, it could be as simple as getting a loan from a friend or relative.

If you don’t know what your credit score is, now is the time to find out. After years of confusion regarding how to safely check your, the Federal Trade Commission has provided a safe way to get your credit report from three reporting agencies once in any 12-month cycle. The report will come to you without showing up as a “hard credit inquiry”, which is something that actually can impair your credit rating. The site the FTC set up to safely field credit inquiries is at Annual Credit Report.com.

Buy a mobile home credit history

Tip #3: Do Your Research – See What’s Out There

At first glance, this step may look a bit like Tip #1, establishing wants and needs. But there’s more to it than that. Each one of us knows what we want, but that’s based on our current knowledge.

But what about the things you don’t know?

There’s a big difference between spending the time building a list of preferences from personal experience and advice from others and the deeper dive into Googling, reading, touring homes, talking with appraisers and otherwise. This latter set is all research. It’s research you can do in your spare time, and it will expand your possible decisions greatly.

One thing we hear ALL THE TIME is “Wow, I had no idea how great manufactured homes are!” It’s true. Even in the last three years, manufactured homes have come a long way — inside and out.

Buy a mobile home wash the dog Southern Homes
Mud rooms near the rear of the home now are beginning to include dog wash stations.

For instance, there are developing programs from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that provide homebuyers with traditional mortgages for manufactured homes on private land that have features commonly associated with residential site-built homes.

Also, did you know you can have porches, decks, dormers, garages and carports added on to your manufactured home? Some homes come with elaborate mud rooms that even have a designated dog washing basin. How’s that for amazing! How about an outdoor fireplace? A kitchen with an island and smart appliances? There are sliding barn doors. Or energy efficient features, like low-e windows, increased insulation properties or a smart thermostat.
buy a mobile home interior barn doors
Interior barn doors in a new Clayton Savannah manufactured home saves floor space and adds a fun design feature.

Where Will You Live When You Find the Right Mobile Home?

In the “do your research” category of buying the perfect mobile home, geography is a vital consideration. And it’s more than your preferred climate or close to the parents.

When you’re buying a new manufactured home, you want to buy from a plant that is close to your destination — typically within 100 miles. This will keep transportation costs down. A short commute also will reduce the likelihood of wall damage during transportation, for instance. Additionally, a shorter haul with your new home also will take less time for you to be relaxing and enjoying your new digs!

On the other hand, if your interest lies in buying a used mobile home, consider where the home sits today and if you want to live where the home already resides. If you want to move an existing home, hire consultants to ensure the mobile home is safe to move. Additionally, transporting an existing home to a new location, if possible at all, likely will coast $5,000 or more. So, know where you want to be, and buy a home that’s close if not already in place.

How to buy a mobile home new
A new home from Deer Valley Homebuilders.

Tip #4: Give Consideration to Site Preparation

Hey, any time a new home goes in, no matter what type of home it is, the site needs to be cleared and leveled. Obviously, this is particularly true if you’re buying private land for a manufactured home.
Adequate soil density should be confirmed. If the soil under the home is too hard, the property may need to be irrigated. If it’s too soft, the home and/or the foundation it sits on may settle. You also want to confirm how the home will be positioned, as any detail on sidewalks, walkways, decks or surrounding ornamental landscaping.

Are You Moving To a Mobile Home Park?

On the other hand, if your home is in or destined for a mobile home park, much of this will be settled. You’re going to want to have a conversation with the owner or operator regarding community rules.
Here are some good starter questions regarding site prep and set up:
  1. Is there enough room for the home?
  2. Will I be able to position it the way I imagine?
  3. Is the existing pad for the home going to hold up under the weight of the new home I’m bringing in?
  4. Can I add a carport or other attachments?
  5. Can I use lap siding, or is there a need for mobile home skirting?
  6. What grounds maintenance can I depend on?
  7. And the big one… How much is lot rent?
That last one is key. Any place you buy a mobile home in a community, or pay to have one moved in, you will be responsible for monthly rent on the space for your home. Yes, you will own the home, but you will lease the community land it goes on. So consider your home payment AND your lot lease agreement into your monthly expenses.

Buy a mobile home new

Tip #5: Proper Home Set Up And Installation

Much is made of mobile homes and weather. Don’t be deceived — any home is susceptible to damage during severely inclement weather, even mobile homes.
The key to keeping you and your home safe during a storm has as much to do with set-up and anchoring as it does with the integrity of the home itself.
Hire a professional to set up your home. That professional will have knowledge about the regional wind zone regulations and what needs to be done to strap down and secure your manufactured or mobile home.

Kickstart your Mobile Home Search with MHVillage

Finally, if you haven’t clicked through to research your ideal home options, take a look at MHVillage’s database of mobile homes for sale. It’s quick and easy – start hunting!