There is an old proverb that says "Marry in haste, and repent at leisure". I suspect many a visitor to those little wedding chapels in Las Vegas can attest to the validity of this saying. Here in the Zephyrhills area of Florida I often have home buyers call me and they tell me that they have seen a mobile home for sale for just $15,000! Now that is an unheard of price here unless the home is in ruins. What turns out to be the case, is that the home is located in a park where you do not own the lot. You rent the land from the park owner, which is often a larger company.
Unfortunately, what sounds cheap can quickly become very expensive. First, keep in mind that you will be obligated to pay monthly rent to the land owner which can commonly range from$200 to $500+, depending on the location. Not only that, but you will not likely have any say in future rent increases. If they become too high your only options will be to either sell your home or have it moved. Not a cheap operation.
Second, the management will make all the rules that you will have to follow. They may accept suggestions, but they have the final say. Afterall, to them, you are just tenants.
Third, the rent you pay will probably not be deductible on your income tax returns (confirm this with your personal accountant or financial advisor). But do not think you will not be paying taxes. A part of your monthly rent check will go towards the taxes, yet it will be the landlord that gets to claim the deduction as a business expense.
Fourth, what will happen if at some point the park gets sold to a new owner who wants to use the land for some other purpose? Where will that leave you?
Fifth, in general, mobile homes on rental lots are treated much like an RV or travel trailer. They are not considered real estate, and therefore their value decreases over the years.
Sixth, financing a home on a rental lot can be difficult to obtain, and the terms are often less attractive since basically you are buying a vehicle, not a home.
Seventh, every year you must pay for a new vehicle registration sticker for your home, just as most of you do for your automobiles.
Finally, at least in Florida, a real estate agent cannot sell a home on a rental lot. You need a dealers license to do that, and few real estate brokers have them. That leaves you at the mercy of the park management to try to sell your home, or sell it yourself via posters or ads you place in newspapers. Our Multiple Listing Service will not allow us to put homes on rental lots into the system since they are not considered real property. This can severely hinder your marketing abilities and cost you a good price. At least once a week I have someone call me asking me to help them sell their rental lot home, but there is very little I can do.
So though the initial prices may be attractive, buyers will very quickly see that the costs on the backside start to mount up rapidly.
Since I am a REALTOR® I deal strictly with buyers who want to purchase mobiles on their own land. Do these homes cost more? Of course. However, there are many benefits.
- If a mobile on its own land is properly maintained, the value of the property will generally increase, unlike homes on rental lots.
- If the home is your permanent residence, you can take advantage of the Homestead Exemption and others to reduce your property taxes.
- As a homeowner in the subdivision you will help elect the governing board of directors and have a say in fee increases, subdivision rules, improvements, etc. The owners are the bosses.
- When you decide to sell your home you can use a real estate professional with all of his or her resources and knowledge, therefore getting the best price possible for your home.
- You will not have to register your home every year since it will be considered "real estate" and will be taxed accordingly. You will probably be able to deduct these taxes from your income tax returns.
- Fees will, in general, be much less. I know of several fine mobile home subdivisions where the fees range from $18 to $50 per month. That is a lot lower than the costs in rental parks. And keep in mind that it is you as a homeowner that helps determine what the fees will be, not a landlord.
- Since the home is considered real property, financing can be easier to obtain. And the interest that you pay can often be used as a tax deduction (See your accountant). Rent is just "money down a rat hole", as my grandfather used to say.
- If you get a mortgage, often the monthly payment is not all that much more than the monthly fee that you would pay in a rental park. Something to think about.
So before you make an offer on what appears to be a great bargain, think carefully about the pros and cons of buying a mobile home in a rental park. Perhaps in your case it is the best way to go. But I bet that in most cases buying a home on your own land will be the better investment in the long run.
Do keep in mind that I am speaking from my perspective here in Florida. In other parts of the country, some parts of the above post may or may not apply.
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