Your mobile home might have been a cozy comfort for the past few years, but thanks to living conservatively, you’ve saved enough to trade up for one of those site-built homes in a chic development or downtown. Now, how to handle selling your starter place so you can have more money in your pocket for the future?
There are some logistics involved — you’ll need to make sure your property is legally attached to land so it’s not considered a movable asset, plus make it appear spacious and inviting in spite of the ranch-like challenge of a boxy shape.
“There are some mobile homes that are so well done and so upper-end and kept up so well, it’s hard to tell it’s a mobile home,” says Sheila Newton, a veteran real estate agent and single-family homes expert serving Anderson, South Carolina, who has sold several mobile homes.
To make yours look like the type of home Newton describes, here are our expert tips on how to prepare your manufactured home so it fetches a great price and sells at a fast clip.
1. Sync up with a real estate agent who has experience in local mobile home sales.
Just like selling a site-built home, selling a manufactured home can have its hurdles. But a seasoned real estate agent with experience in selling mobile homes is a valuable resource in helping you stage your property, advise you on repairs and improvements, and know what housing codes you need to meet to get to the closing table.
HomeLight collects information about your property type to find you the best agents in your area with relevant experience, including selling manufactured housing, so you can list with confidence and find your next place to call home.
2. Detitle your mobile home to officially classify it as real estate.
People can and do sell mobile homes that aren’t attached to land, such as those on leased lots, but those are considered personal property transactions. Selling a mobile home as personal property is similar to selling a vehicle and transferring the title to a new owner.
If you’re looking to sell your mobile home as real property, it must be classified as such. The process of attaching a mobile home to a piece of land is called de-titling. This legal process retires the DMV-issued title and changes it to a warranty deed for people who own both the mobile home and the property where it sits.
The cost for this may vary depending on where you live. Some municipalities charge just a filing fee. In South Carolina, Newton says this costs about $500 to $700; some owners opt to have an attorney handle it because the process can be complicated.
Other areas, such as Bay County, Florida, put the application to retire the certificate of title online for the owner to print and record with the local clerk of court.
Check with your real estate agent or whatever local agency handles vehicle registrations and titles. In some states, this may be the department of motor vehicles while in others, it may be your county tax collector.
3. Check whether your home meets all installation standards.
All manufactured homes built in the United States after June 15, 1976, must be constructed in accordance with the Model Manufactured Home Installation Standards from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These standards specify how the home should be anchored in place, locations for the perimeter support piers, and other requirements for the ductwork, heating, air conditioning, drainage, water supply, and electrical system.
Newton works with a structural engineer who assesses manufactured homes to check that they’re tied down properly and meet the most current codes. “Even if it was certified fifteen years ago, it’s probably not certified now,” she says.
If the engineer says that, for instance, the piers need to be mortared correctly or that the vinyl skirting should be replaced with brick, Newton will list the property noting that these repairs will be done before closing with an acceptable offer.
“Generally, when you’re dealing with a mobile home, a lot of times people don’t have the money to spend to do that,” so it’s written in the contract a certain way that the cost comes out of the seller’s proceeds, she says.
In addition, manufactured homes are eligible for government-insured loans offered by the FHA, the Veterans Administration (VA), and the Rural Housing Services (RHS) under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which many buyers in this price range will use.
To open up your potential buyer pool, you’ll need to be sure that your manufactured home meets certain standards to be eligible for both these loans and related mortgage insurance. For instance, to qualify for FHA mortgage insurance, a manufactured home must be larger than 400 square feet, certified as meeting installation standards, and classified as real estate.
4. Set an attractive price for your mobile home.
Data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, indicates that the prices of the manufactured homes purchased through federal lenders perform similarly to those of homes built on site. However, there are several factors that definitely affect price, including:
Some states have a more robust mobile home market. California, for instance, has about 18% of the U.S. housing market but only about 4% of manufactured homes, based on units shipped, according to the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization founded in 1968. The top markets for manufactured homes in 2019 based on housing units shipped were Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Carolina.
We mentioned checking whether your home is attached to land for the sake of appealing to a broader selection of buyers, but it also impacts your pricing. That’s because land generally appreciates more than structures, the Urban Institute notes, citing data from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy from 1995 to 2016 showing that land had a total appreciation rate of 204% compared to 87% for structures alone. The type of land also can add value, for instance, if a manufactured home sits on lakefront property, Newton says.
A double-wide mobile home fetches a higher price than a single-wide. The average sale price in 2019 of a single-wide manufactured home of about 1,072 square feet was about $53,000 compared with that of a double-wide manufactured home. The larger home had about 1,747 square feet and sold for about $104,000, Census data shows.
Much like with a home built on site, a manufactured home can have a higher asking price for amenities such as an attached deck, a screened porch, or a sunroom, provided they’re in good condition, Newton says.
To arrive at an asking price, Newton says her team doesn’t look at square footage but what the market says. She pulls three to five comparable listed properties, plus three to five comparable sold properties, and adjusts for acreage, amenities, and possible repairs such as meeting federal housing codes. “We build these numbers in so the seller knows what to expect,” she says.
5. Head off any issues that might crop up through the home inspection or appraisal.
Manufactured homes use a different appraisal form than the one for single-family homes. This includes information for an appraiser to note the area’s topography and other factors particular to this type of housing, such as locating the HUD Data Plate/Compliance Certificate that verifies it meets installation standards, says Mason Spurgeon, a certified general real estate appraiser since 2004 who handles appraisals in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.
“We don’t compare a manufactured home to stick-built homes because they are two different types of properties,” Spurgeon says.
“Manufactured homes differ from stick-built homes because they tend to have a shorter economic life, at least in our market; however, appraising them is the same [basic] process because we compare a manufactured home to manufactured homes.”
However, you’ll want to be sure that the property is accessible for the appraiser and that you’ve gathered any relevant paperwork, such as your most recent tax receipts, a list of home improvements and upgrades, and details about the neighborhood such as walkability and nearby schools.
A home inspection may not raise as many issues because of the amount of metal beneath the home, but you should still be sure that the inspector can access the attic, crawl space, plumbing, wiring, and ductwork, Newton says. A pre-listing inspection can help point out any red flags, such as termites. “People mistakenly think mobile homes cannot have termites. They can,” Newton says. “We have that happen around here quite a bit, unfortunately.”
6. Spruce up your interior and your curb appeal for an attractive listing.
The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, that real estate agents use in your area likely separates listings for single-family homes from manufactured homes because they’re different property types. Regardless, with 90% of homebuyers searching online for their next home, you’ll want your manufactured home to look sharp, especially in photos or video.
Boost your curb appeal with the following tips:
- Go beyond traditional lattice or vinyl skirting and choosing brick, stone, or a polyurethane version that mimics such natural material.
- Repaint or repair your siding, particularly any dents in your aluminum or cracks in the fiber cement.
- Create architectural interest — and break away from that boxy look — with eye-catching details such as awnings, flower boxes, and vertical greenery such as vines on carport supports.
Potential buyers might wonder about how spacious your manufactured home is, so spruce up the interior with these hints from the magazine Mobile Home Living:
- Remove the curtains to let in more natural light. (Add blinds or roman shades for privacy if needed.)
- Clutter can make rooms feel smaller, so clear it by using multi-purpose furniture such as a coffee table with storage compartments and paring down what you display.
- Avoid dark wall paint and flooring. Lighter colors seem to reflect light, making your space feel more open.
- Stage rooms with furniture with exposed legs instead of those hidden under upholstery. Again, this creates an open, airy appearance.
- Choose a focal point. Instead of hanging several photos or multiple pieces of artwork (which a real estate agent would say is a personal touch that distracts buyers), pick one item as a statement to draw visitors’ attention.
Sell your mobile home with confidence
Selling a mobile home, like selling any house, can be stressful. But keep in mind that your property type holds a lot of appeal. With an average size of about 1,400 square feet and a cost of about $82,000, manufactured housing suits a wide pool of buyers because it’s an affordable way for many to achieve homeownership. The cost alone is roughly 35% to 47% cheaper per square foot than housing built on site. And with proper upkeep and curb appeal, you can show buyers that there’s little difference day to day in mobile home living versus owning a single-family home.
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