So you took the plunge and bought a mobile home. You pictured lazy summer days lounging on your own private deck, mortgage payments that didn’t crush your savings every month, and a cozy little nest to call your own.
But now, just a few months in, you’re starting to second guess your choice. Nagging worries keep you up at night as you wonder: should I have waited and saved for a traditional house? Did I make a huge financial mistake?
You’re not alone in your mobile home regrets. Let’s walk through some of the common reasons people end up feeling buyer’s remorse after purchasing a manufactured home.
Is Buyer’s Remorse Common with Mobile Homes?
Research shows that almost two-thirds of millennials regret buying a mobile home. And it’s not just younger buyers—a third of baby boomers also have misgivings about their manufactured home purchase.
There are a few key factors driving this high rate of buyer’s remorse:
- Fast depreciation: Mobile homes can lose 20-50% of their value in the first 5 years. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
- Hidden costs: Maintenance, repairs, land leases, and moving a mobile home all cost more than buyers initially expect.
- Resale challenges: It’s simply harder to find buyers for a used mobile home than a traditional house.
No one wants to be stuck with a lemon of a home that they can’t sell without taking a bath on their original investment. Unfortunately, that’s the reality many mobile home owners face.
Hidden Costs of Mobile Home Ownership
Beyond the actual purchase price of a mobile home, there are a litany of expenses new owners often don’t anticipate. These hidden costs quickly add up, leading to financial stress and regret.
You’ll Need Land to Put It On
Mobile homes don’t just magically appear—you have to put them somewhere. And since you don’t own the land your community park sits on, you’ll have to pay monthly land lease fees. These generally range from $200 to $500.
New manufactured home owners are sometimes shocked to find their total housing costs are much higher than expected after adding this land lease expense.
Moving Isn’t Cheap
Sticker shock really sets in when mobile home owners go to sell their home and discover how much it costs to move. You can’t just hitch up and drive it away. Mobile homes require specialized equipment and movers with technical know-how. Moving a single or double-wide mobile home can cost $5,000 to $10,000.
Lack of Appreciation
While the median price of a site-built home increased 117% from 1990 to 2016, mobile home values only went up about 20% in that same timeframe. Minimal appreciation makes it extremely difficult to sell without taking a loss.
Paying More for Financing
Since mobile homes are classified as personal property rather than real estate, it’s tougher to get affordable financing. Interest rates are often 1-2% higher than a traditional mortgage.
Key Factors When Considering a Mobile Home
Clearly mobile home ownership comes with some financial disadvantages compared to traditional houses. But money matters aren’t the only considerations. Here are some other key factors to weigh:
Municipal zoning regulations restrict where mobile homes can be placed. You usually can’t plant them on any residential lot—they’re confined to specially zoned mobile home parks. Ensure your preferred community allows manufactured homes before purchasing.
Lack of Customization
With a site-built home, you choose the layout, features, and finishes. But mobile homes come as-is. You’re limited to picking from pre-determined floor plans and upgrades offered by the manufacturer. For those who want to put their personal stamp on a place, this can be dissatisfying.
Vulnerable to Weather Damage
Constructed from lightweight materials like vinyl siding and OSB sheathing, mobile homes are easily damaged by extreme weather. Storms, flooding, wind, and even heavy snow can cause structural issues. Replacing a damaged manufactured home gets extremely costly.
As noted earlier, getting a loan for a mobile home is tougher and often comes with stricter terms. You’ll likely need a higher credit score and higher interest rate. Save yourself the headache by lining up financing before shopping for a manufactured home.
Mobile homes lose 50% of their value in the first 5-7 years. After that, depreciation slows, but values continue to decline faster than site-built homes. Making upgrades rarely boosts resale value since buyers know the home itself hasn’t gained quality.
Less Living Space
Today’s mobile homes average just over 1,000 square feet. That’s half the size of a typical new site-built home constructed in 2020. Mobile homes work well for singles, couples, or small families but become cramped as your household grows.
Lightweight construction coupled with cheap materials equals more repairs. Expect to spend 15% or more of your mobile home’s value annually on maintenance costs. Things like leaky roofs, plumbing leaks, and skirting/foundation damage add up fast.
Paying for a Foundation
Mobile homes require a permanent foundation. This ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 depending on climate and unit size. It’s mandatory but eats into any upfront savings of choosing a manufactured home.
The Dreaded HOA
Many mobile home communities come with HOAs that charge monthly or annual fees. You’re obligated to pay and follow their rules if you want to live there. Fees typically run $25-$100 monthly.
Tips for Avoiding Mobile Home Regret
Maybe you’re still determined to buy a mobile home after considering the pros and cons. Here are some tips to avoid being filled with buyer’s remorse.
Work With Specialized Lenders
Tap into financing from lenders who deal specifically with manufactured housing loans. They can guide you through the quirks and requirements to make the lending process smoother.
Consider a Used Mobile
Opting for a used mobile home often makes more financial sense than buying new. You’ll avoid the huge depreciation mobile homes face in the first few years. Just be sure to inspect it thoroughly first.
Inspect Before You Buy
Don’t trust seller promises or even appearance alone. Hire an independent mobile home inspector to point out any lurking problems before you finalize a purchase.
Pick Your Spot Carefully
Factor in climate risks, zoning laws, community restrictions, and moving challenges when choosing where to place your new mobile home. Getting this decision right from the start prevents headaches down the road.
Budget for Maintenance
Acknowledge that maintenance costs will be higher for a mobile home and budget accordingly. Set aside a repair fund to handle issues that pop up without sinking your monthly budget.
Mind the Foundation
Some buyers try to dodge the foundation cost, but this is risky. Protect your investment by properly installing your mobile home on a code-approved foundation.
Weigh the HOA
Before picking a mobile home park, consider the HOA costs and bylaws. Make sure you can live with the rules and that the fees fit your budget.
Look Down the Road
Consider your long-term plans, too. How long do you intend to live in the mobile home? Will it still suit your needs in 5 or 10 years? Project your changing housing needs before committing.
There’s no universally right or wrong answer when it comes to buying a mobile home. While manufactured housing presents some distinct disadvantages compared to site-built homes, it can still be a smart choice for certain buyers. The key is going in with full awareness of the pros and cons.
Carefully weigh your options, run the numbers, and look down the road before deciding. With eyes wide open, you’re much less likely to end up with a mobile home you regret purchasing.