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Thinking of Buying a Used Mobile Home? 18 Steps For What to Watch Out For and How to Do it Right
If you are thinking of buying a used mobile home, there are things you need to watch out for. Buying a mobile home is not like buying a regular stick built. You need to know what to watch out for before you buy a used mobile home. Here are 10 things to watch out for when buying a used mobile home. These tips will guide you to make the right decision and/or how to negotiate in your best interest. Better safe than sorry. My seven years of selling used mobile homes has taught me a lot. I am now passing on that information to you so that you can make an educated choice.
1. Age. If your finances are tight, do not buy anything older than 1977. That is the cutout time for good financing and also the year a lender can determine if the used mobile home is a HUD home. 1976 and older were registered with DMV and not built to code. Therefor, lenders requires a 20% down on a 1976 or older. The term will be no longer than 15 years and the rate will be somewhere around 11-12%. That is a lot to pay. 1977 or newer requires only 10% down, you can get 20 years of financing and the rate is 1-2% lower. That is a much better deal. If the home is newer, the rate can be as low as 8%. Preferable, look for a home that is no more than 15 years old.
2. Park. Not all parks are approved by the lenders. Before making an offer to purchase, get yourself loan approved for that particular park. If the space rent is too high or if there are too many foreclosures in the park, lenders might say no to financing.
3. Rent control. Is it or is it not? Most parks are but some are not. If not, make sure yo fully understand what kind of yearly increase the park will impose on you. You might not mind paying that extra increase per year but each time the space rent is raised, the value of your mobile home WILL go down. Its like a car, depreciating. Still, it beats renting an apartment with people above, below, left and right.
4. Crime. Does the park have a security program? Is the park patrolled regularly by a security patrol company? If not, you probably should stay away. Yes, it is true, all residents have to follow the rules and regulations but if there is no security, many things can happen. A security patrol is a deterrent, crime will go elsewhere. Call the park manager and inquire. You can also call the local police office and ask for a crime report. Strongly recommended.
5. Pets. What is the parks policy? Your 80 ldb golden retriever might have a VERY hard time getting approved. Same for your pitt bull or any other so called “vicious breed”. Most parks will NOT approve them. There is only one park in the Santa Clarita Valley that will approve a large dog, even two. However, no “vicious breeds”. How stupid. Recently, I had a dog trainer with good credit, a large down payment and a German shepherd. That dog was the most well trained German shepherd but no, considered “vicious”. So are dobermans, boxers, pinchers, chows and a couple of more. Inquire with the park BEFORE looking at any used (or new) mobile home. Save yourself the time (and your agents) by finding out first.
6. Neighbors. Most people are nice. However, since you are going to be living in tight quarters (most mobile home spaces are small and set very closely together), go and talk to the neighbors. Both the ones next door and some a few doors down. The ones a few doors down are the ones that will tell you what REALLY is going on. Maybe the couple next door do not get along any more. Maybe there is an alcohol problem. Maybe the kids play too loud. You need to know. Drive by in the evening, hang around for a while. Do the same for the weekend. Spend an hour on a Saturday night, driving around the mobile home park, you will then now if this is a place for you.
7. Managers. Do they do a great job? Do they care? Do they make the residents follow the rules and regulations? Do they arrange get togethers every now and then? Any holiday dinners? Do they publish a newsletter to keep you updated? Do you feel welcome in their office? Most managers take great pride in their park and are happy to try to help you. Make sure that is the case.
8. Trash. An old toilet sitting at the end of a car port? Knee-high weeds? A car jacked up and being worked on in a carport? You do not want that. What you should want, is a clean, manicured park community where the residents take pride in their mobile homes and keeps their surroundings clean. A carport is not supposed to be used for storage (or a back yard). A shed is where you keep your excess belongings, period.
9. Mobile home values. Holding steady? Going up? Declining? Have your Realtor find out for you. Buying a used mobile home is very much like buying a used car. A seller can set any price but is it worth it? Please do not over-pay. If you need to finance your used mobile home, you are then in a much safer position. You are then required to pay for an appraisal to find out the REAL value of the mobile home. However, if you are planning to buy your mobile home for cash, watch out. No appraisal is required but I would recommend you pay the $400 to the appraiser. It could save you thousands. The choice is yours.
10. Health and Safety. What condition is the mobile home in? The basics should all be there. If not, it is the sellers responsibility to have it done. That includes;
A. Smoke alarms. Each bedroom needs one, that is the code. And, it needs to be working!
B. Water heater. Needs to be double-strapped and not with those tiny metal bands that has little wholes in them. Is there a pressure release valve? If it where to over-flow, does the pipe go underneath? Should not. It needs to extend out to the side of the skirting. Is the water heater closet dry-walled? Has to be. Any leaks?
C. Steps. Are they solid? No rips in the carpeting (trip hazard)? What about the railing? Is it loose? Can not be. How far apart are the rails? Should not be more than 4″ so that a small child can NOT get stuck in between.
D. Cooling system. Does it work? It is not really a health and safety issue but if it were me, I would insist on it or ask for a reduction in price. Who wants to live in a used mobile home, maybe with metal siding as well, and summer comes around and it is 105 degrees outside.
E. The furnace. When was it last serviced and how dirty is the pad? Take a good look and make sure it works. Have someone come and take a look at it.
F. Plumbing. Any leaks? Should not. Run all faucets and look underneath.
G. Electrical. Does all the outlets and the switches work? Make sure they do. GFI’s? You do not want the risk of being electrocuted. Both kitchen and bathrooms needs GFI plugs.
H. Roof. Any leaks? Look around carefully to see if there are any water stains in the ceilings or around the upper walls. How old is the roof?
I. Earthquake bracing. Does it have it? Bring a flashlight and open up the access door in the skirting. There should be (on a double wide mobile home), two in the front and two in the back. Compare them to the regular piers and jacks. Are they beefier? Bolted to the I-beam? They should be. Surprisingly enough, there are still some used mobile homes out there who do NOT have them. On top of that, it is not considered a health and safety issue and it is perfectly legal to sell a used mobile home WITHOUT them!
If you do buy a used mobile home without earthquake bracing and later on decides that it was not the smartest idea, a contractor will charge you about $5000 to install them. Not cheap. If it does not have it, ask for a price reduction and then order the escrow company to set aside $5000 to the contractor. At the close of escrow, your contractor will come out and install them for you. If you can have him install it the day BEFORE close of escrow even better. Because, if you just take a price reduction, you are going to be so busy moving and exited about your purchase of your mobile home. You’ll “forget” about the bracing and end up buying new furniture instead!
Ideally, you should hire a health and safety inspector who KNOWS how to inspect a mobile home
8. Once you are park-approved, it is time to schedule your health & safety inspection. You are free to use any licensed health & safety inspector for your inspection or I can recommend several to you. Besides the health & safety inspection , I would strongly recommend you have an electrician look over the home. Sometimes, a regular h&s inspector can not really know what’s going on. These inspections are not free and depending on who it is, they all charge slightly different. When we go to see the inspectors at your future home, please bring your check bock. Once the inspection is over, the inspector will go over his findings with you.
9. It is now 24-48 hours after that the health & safety inspection took place and now we are holding the report in our hands, going through it together. It is the sellers responsibility to cover any health & safety issues, such as electrical, plumbing, roof, smoke alarms, double-strapped water heater and so on. Anything cosmetic is just that, cosmetic and the seller does not have to do anything. However, you could always try to negotiate if you strongly feel there is something you want the seller to do and of course, I am there for you, every step of the way.
10. Termites? Pesky little critters and they are usually EVERYWHERE! We would absolutely want to have the home inspected for that too. We will get a written report with a diagram, showing their findings. Anything that they find that is classified as a SECTION I, has to be taken care of and hopefully, the seller is willing to do that. If not, it’s on you. I have a very strong opinion in regards to termites. That is, if I were buying a home, why should I have to pay for somebody else termite problem? I never lived there. I did not invite them. So, why pay? On the other hand, if I got the home at a very good deal, I would probably pay for it. It is your decision and hopefully we will not run in to this problem if the seller gladly pays. SECTION 2 are recommendations from the termite inspector of things that will need attention in the future and are not items that has to be taken care of now. Termite inspections are paid through escrow.
11. Time to order your appraisal. An appraisal will be necessary if you are going to finance your purchase, the lender will require it. This is an expense that can not be financed and you will have to pay it upfront either by meeting the appraiser at your future home or by simply writing the check to the appraiser and let me handle it for you.
12. Your loan conditions. When you first got pre-approved, we submitted certain papers to the lender. There might also be additional paperwork they are asking for and whatever that is, now is the time for us to do that.
13. Your home has now been appraised and hopefully, it did appraise. If not, we might need to either re-negotiate with the seller or you might have to come up with a larger down payment, whatever is the case or we might have to look for another home for you.
14. Your loan documents are now ready to be signed and there will also be additional paperwork from escrow to sign, such as hazardous disclosures. We live in earthquake country, there are massive rains sometimes and we get flooded. You might be close to a prison or maybe an airport. These things are hazardous, we all live with them. Escrow wants you to know this,and you already do. When you go to sign all this papers, please bring your cashiers check for the balance of the down payment. Before you do, I will give you an estimated closing statement so that you know how much to bring. There will be an overage, meaning escrow will ask for a little bit more, just in case. We do not want to delay closing escrow because they are a few dollars short (maybe they needed to over-night a package twice).
15. Time for us to do a final inspection of the home. We want to make sure that everything that needed to be taken care of, has been done. We will do a final walk-through together.
16. You are now going to go to your appointment with the park to sign your lease, read and sign the park rules & regulations and pay your space rent and deposit. This takes about 1 ½ hour. If this is in the middle of the month, escrow will pro-rate the space rent. Parks do not take partial payment, only full. The deposit is refundable after paying your space rent on time for 12 consecutive months. You can then, in writing, ask for it back.
17. The loan has now funded, the money has been received by escrow, every single piece of paper has been signed by all parties involved and escrow is now closed. CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE NOW A HOME OWNER.
18. I will give you your final closing statement from escrow and possibly a check too, together with the keys to the home, TIME TO START MOVING IN!
Again, congratulations. Let me know when the movers are coming, I want to order you some take-out and something to drink, you are going to be too busy and besides, who has time to cook while moving.
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