The Guide to Understanding Your Home Value: How Mobile Homes and Modular Homes are Valued

Understanding mobile home value
  • Mobile homes in land-lease communities are personal property (chattel), not real estate, which requires a specialized valuation process.
  • When seeking mobile home value, partner with a specialist certified in the valuation of personal property who has access to comparable sales data.
  • There are two common options for mobile home valuation: the detailed market-based appraisal and the more affordable cost-based approach.
  • The best way to get an accurate, detailed valuation of your mobile home is to go with a market-based appraisal with the help of an expert. 

According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, 22 million people live in manufactured homes, and the vast majority of them—71 percent—cite affordability as a key driver for choosing this type of housing. With the average manufactured home ringing up for significantly less than traditional housing—$75,747 for a new manufactured home and $46,173 for a pre-owned manufactured home—it’s not hard to see why millions of people gravitate towards this option.

Even though the sector is clearly booming, those who live in manufactured homes or are considering making the switch often have difficulty landing on a value for their property for a slew of reasons we’ll cover in detail below. But if you’re considering listing yours, don’t fret. There are a few time-tested ways to get a spot-on market value without a ton of effort or a high cost. But some approaches are better than others, and knowing which way to go could save you thousands.

mobile home value - manufactured home worth

In this guide, we’re discussing the right way to go about getting a proper valuation of your mobile home, whether you’re planning on listing yours for sale, are sorting out a family estate, or are simply curious about the value of your home.

Why Mobile Home Valuation is Different

Mobile homes in land-lease communities are not real estate and should not be appraised as such. Regular real estate agents are typically not equipped with the tools needed to value them.

There are many reasons why getting a detailed, accurate mobile home appraisal may be difficult. First and foremost, mobile homes in land-lease communities—one of the most common situations for those living in manufactured homes—are considered personal property (chattel), and not real estate. Because of this, they require a different type of appraisal that only a few specialized companies provide. 

Regular real estate appraisers may not have the experience or data needed to be able to value manufactured homes in parks and communities. The standard real estate appraisal tools (such as a single MLS covering all home transactions and recorded sales) are not available for the manufactured home market. In short, this type of housing is a smaller percentage of the overall market compared to site-built housing, leaving the average appraiser with less data and experience.

The bottom line: it’s worth your while to seek out a mobile home expert when evaluating your property. In order to get the most accurate representation of what your home is actually worth, you need a specialist certified in this type of appraising. As tempting as it may be, don’t go to a typical realtor when selling your mobile home unless your home is located own private land and the land is owned by the homeowner or is part of the transaction.

Types of Appraisals for Mobile Homes

Most likely, the specialist you partner with will use one of two types of appraisals for valuing mobile homes. The first, the market-based appraisal, is the method we use at MHVillage. Though more complex and a bit more costly, this is the most accurate and detailed way to calculate the value of mobile homes. On the other hand, you have the cost approach using the NADA Manufactured Housing Cost Guide, which is quick and inexpensive, but leaves you with more of a general idea on value.

mobile home value in a community

Below, we’re comparing and contrasting these two popular appraisal options to help you determine which one is best for your unique needs. Many people use both during the same buying or selling journey, depending on their situation.

Pros and Cons of Market-Based Appraisals

Market-based appraisals offered by industry experts are generally considered the gold standard of mobile home appraising. This type of appraisal is similar to the approach that has been used to value site-built homes and real estate for decades, meaning it’s a bit more in-depth and accurate than the alternative, taking the whole picture into account. The most trusted name in mobile and manufactured home appraisals is our partner Datacomp.

mobile home appraisals
  • Pro: Accuracy—The biggest benefit here is that this option includes a complete market analysis with comparable sales (comps)—what other people are willing to pay for a similar home in that market—in order to help buyers and sellers land on the most precise market value possible. You may not always need such a thorough report, but if you do, this is the time to get it.
  • Pro: Inspection—When you get a market value appraisal of your manufactured home, you’re also getting an on-site inspection. Naturally, this will help point the appraiser to a much more accurate valuation because he or she will be able to see and verify the size, age and condition of the home, as well as its features.
  • Pro: Confidence—We find that both the consumer and the lender are much more confident with this type of appraisal. The consumer doesn’t want to sell or buy at the wrong price, potentially losing out on a lot of money, while the lender trusts that they are making a sound investment in that piece of property.
  • Pro: Location Consideration—Though mobile homes aren’t technically real estate, the old adage location, location, location still matters. The same home in a desirable community or area will be worth more than one in a less desirable area. For example, a waterfront manufactured home in a five-star community will be worth more than one in poor condition or one in a community with fewer amenities.
  • Con: Cost—Understandably, because it requires a much more comprehensive report, this type of appraisal will run you more than the alternative, but you get what you pay for in this situation. The difficult, labor-intensive process requires research, an on-site inspection from someone coming to visit the home, and several other time-consuming tasks. But for many, the outcome is worth it.
  • Con: Time—If you’re looking to quickly buy or sell a property and aren’t extremely concerned about cost, a market-based appraisal isn’t the best choice. It can take between five and seven business days to complete the process, coordinate scheduling with the homeowner, conduct the research and more. Sometimes, research takes longer than expected when comps are hard to find, such as in rural areas where there aren’t many similar homes.
  • Con: Result—The fact is that the consumer may not like the result of this type of appraisal. The market may not support the selling price of the home, which means that the home you’re purchasing from your neighbor may not be such a good deal after all.

Pros and Cons of the Cost Approach

We call the second method “the cost approach” because it focuses only on the cost of the mobile home and doesn’t factor in comps, location, and other important dynamics. Sometimes, this approach is called “the book value approach” because it involves looking up the blue book value of your mobile home, similar to finding the bluebook value on your car.

While convenient and affordable, this approach does have a couple of downsides that are important to consider.

blue book value for mobile homes
  • Pro: Time—With this type of valuation, there’s no waiting game. As long as you have all the information required to look up a certain model, you can have the value as quickly as the same day you place your order online. For “quick sells” and “rough ideas,” we often point consumers to this option.
  • Pro: Cost—This is one of the most affordable options for getting a rough idea of mobile home value. In fact, you can get your mobile home’s book value for under $15 and even receive that credit back if you list your home with us. Because the process requires much less time and resources, it costs much less than a heavily researched market-based appraisal with an on-site inspection. 
  • Pro: Value—When you get a book value, you are essentially coming away with a general ballpark idea of the value of your home. This is beneficial for people who are in the early stages of buying or selling and haven’t made any decisions yet. Anecdotally, we find that book values are often higher than market-based values, which may be a pro or a con depending on your scenario.
  • Con: Estimation—This approach relies on guessing and assumptions much more than the alternative. It attempts to predict the value of the home by stacking it up against average, not taking into account the home’s actual features or condition. Additionally, the book value doesn’t take location into consideration. Every home is assumed to be in an average location, and we all know this is has a big impact on value—location can affect the market price by as much as 20 percent.
  • Con: Inaccurate—Because this option requires no on-site inspection, it won’t fully take the condition of the unit into consideration. The condition of a manufactured home can affect its value by as much as 50 percent, so this is not something you want to ignore. Additionally, it often uses incorrect measurements of the home (by including a 3- or 4-foot hitch on the title measurement, for example), which can over- or under-value the home by as much as 15 percent.
  • Con: Not Verified—When you opt for a cost-based valuation, no one is working for you to verify all the details of the property. For example, many times, the home purchase paperwork or title is wrong, which could skew the value. With a market-based appraisal, an expert will comb through and verify this information to ensure that everything is accurate.  
  • Con: Info Needed—For this type of research, you need to have the make, model, and series of the home, and that information is often known or immediately available. There can be hundreds of different models by the same manufacturer, each with different values, so having the exact model is vital. This can affect the valuation of the home by as much as 40 percent.
mobile home park waterfront

Know What You Need Before Starting the Process

As you can see, there are situations where both types of appraisals will come in handy and yield the information needed. The important thing is that you determine your expectations and desires before committing to a certain type of appraisal. This will ensure that you come away with the exact information you seek. But for getting the most accurate value of manufactured homes, we highly recommend adopting the market-based approach and partnering with an expert.

Once you’ve landed on a value that sticks, turn to MHVillage to help you through the rest of the process. As the largest, most active website for manufactured housing, you can be sure your buying or selling experience will be unparalleled with us.

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