Full disclosure. My very first residence with my young family was a mobile home. It was in Labrador Canada. It was a harsh climate where the ice did not come off the lakes until June. We had mushrooms growing on the shag carpeting. Regardless, it was ours and we were happy.
I know that the correct term is ‘manufactured’ not mobile, so my apologies to any industry purists. However I will refer to this housing option as a ‘mobile’ because it has a friendly feeling about the term, particularly its affordability.
Here’s my top 3 items that that first time buyers are likely to be concerned about.
#1 Limited life of 20-25 years: Advancements in building technology in the last two decades have been substantial. I would always go for the newest unit that one can afford. Manufacturing standards, government regulations and codes vastly improved over the last two decades, for the consumer’s protection. If the mobile has not been abused, has had regular maintenance, old mechanical systems replaced (furnace, water heater, poly B water piping) and the building envelope (windows, doors, roofing, belly wrap) attended to, then there is a reasonable expectation that it will continue to serve its purpose.
#2 Roof and exterior wall leaks: There is no question that flat roofs, low slope roofs, flush mounted doors and windows, zero to minimal roof overhang are much more susceptible to weather if the flashing, caulking or weather stripping has deteriorated or been neglected. Once neglected, the impacts can be severe (rot, soft spots, mold). Repairs and renovations are possible but for your protection you have to consider whether the work has been performed competently and depending on the jurisdiction, under permit.
#3 Foundation issues: Four decades ago, it was typical to have a precast concrete block on earth for a footing, concrete hollow-core blocks for the piers and wood shims for leveling, all hidden behind the skirting. Over time, footings can sink, piers can crack or deflect with wind loads, shims rot, the mobile’s steel beams may deflect. The damp from the earth or water ponding below the mobile may contribute to moisture damage of the sub-floor. However even here, a qualified mobile home installation firm can get an assessment done by a PE, repair footings and piers, re-level the unit, install poly over the bare ground, insulate the skirting, repair the belly wrap and retrofit with tie-downs and anchors if required by insurers.
Excluding lot or property value, buying an older mobile home is a balancing act between its condition and the appropriate asking price.