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What to know about buying a mobile home

buying a mobile home
There are pros and cons to buying a mobile home. Here's what you need to know.

For the right home buyer, there are plenty of advantages to buying a mobile home. The price, of course, is usually far lower than a standard single-family home. Plus, mobile home communities often include shared spaces like swimming pools, playgrounds, and clubhouses.

Should you include mobile homes in your house hunt? Buying a mobile home is different than buying other houses, and understanding the process will help you decide whether it’s a good fit for you.

What is a mobile home, exactly?

A mobile home is a house built off-site by a manufacturer and then transported to a property. Some people call them manufactured homes or trailers. Mobile homes usually come in two types: the single-wide, a long, narrow, and typically compact design; and the double-wide, which has twice as much space and feels more like a traditional single-family home inside.

Interested? Here are a few things you should know about buying a mobile home:

You may have limited financing options.

If you’re wondering how to get a mortgage for your mobile home, there are some things to know. Banks consider mobile homes personal property instead of real estate, so they might only offer you a personal loan. To have a better chance of getting a loan from a mortgage lender, you’ll need to make sure the mobile home is permanently attached to a foundation.

If you don’t want to go that route, credit unions may be more likely to offer a mobile home mortgage. You could also take out a personal loan or borrow money from a mobile home dealer. No matter where you take out a loan, though, your lender will likely require that your home meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements. That means you’ll hire a special contractor to do a home inspection and certify it.

You can buy in a park or buy land to put your home on.

You might assume that mobile homes are always in mobile home parks, but that’s not the case. It’s also possible to buy a mobile home along with the land it sits on, which could be a big plot of land in the woods.

Or, if you’re buying a brand new mobile home, it can go wherever you want. A mobile home park may be the most convenient option because they’ll already have utility hookups and other creature comforts. But if privacy (and avoiding site fees) is your priority, you can purchase your own parcel to put it on—as long as you’re prepared to take on the extra cost and handle utilities yourself.

If you buy in a park, factor fees into your budget.

About those site fees: buying in a mobile home park may be cheaper than buying land, but it still comes with costs. Most mobile home parks charge lot rent, which averages around $300 per month and usually covers the costs of garbage pickup, water, sewage, and grounds maintenance. (Home maintenance is up to you.) This happens in cases where you don’t own the land below your mobile home, just the house itself.

But in some parks, you do own the land. Those communities typically have a homeowners association (HOA) run by park developers or the residents. The HOA establishes community rules, and dues often run in the $200-$300/month range. Often trash, water, sewage, and park maintenance are covered by your dues. You’ll also need to follow the rules of the HOA, which might limit which colors you can paint your house and where you can park, among other things.

Mobile homes lose value over time.

Homeowners are used to assuming that homes will go up in value over time, which single-family homes often do. But that’s because they’re typically attached to land, and the land is what really appreciates. Mobile homes that don’t come with land don’t go up in value, and they can be tougher to resell than a regular home.

But it all boils down to what you want out of your home and how much house you can afford. Not every homeowner is buying a home as an investment, and not everyone can afford a conventional house. If you want to buy an affordable place to live without a lot of property maintenance, buying a mobile home may be the perfect option.

Ready to look for land to put your mobile home on? Start your search on Trulia.