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Mobile Home Rehabbing: Your Initial Walk-Through

by Mike Scarbrough   

Walking through a used mobile home can sometimes seem overwhelming. Cat urine and dog feces on the carpets, soft floors by the tub and laundry areas, holes in the walls, ceiling repairs needed from a leaky roof, and more. When considering whether to take on a rehab job, take a deep breath and begin your walkthrough.

The first step is deciding if the home should be rehabbed at all. Sometimes you can flip a mobile home without doing any work; and sometimes you should just walk (or run!) away. When doing your walk through you should concentrate on and write down how much everything will cost to fix.

  • Don't be side-tracked by how disgusting it is that someone had two Great Danes in their 12' x 60' mobile home that left huge souvenirs throughout the house.

  • Don't allow yourself to be distracted by the stove in the middle of the living room that is an obvious sign of thieves without much cardio or strength training.

Your only focus should be the amount of time and materials it will take to fix this home.

What to Look for - The Furnace

There are certain things that I always look for when walking through a home. The furnace is definitely one of those. This is a big ticket item, so I always make sure to take a look. You can't always tell if the furnace works just by looking at it, but you sure can tell when it definitely won't.

Take off the furnace cover to see if the furnace is even there! It is not uncommon for furnace parts, or the whole furnace itself, to be stolen if the home has been vacant. Sometimes the entire furnace is there but the wires have been pulled out, and it has been otherwise vandalized.

Major Water Damage

Next, I look to see if there has been major water damage that has been left unchecked. By major water damage, I am talking about bowed floors and sagging ceilings throughout the home. If a home has had this type of major water damage, I personally just walk away. There are too many other mobile homes out there to deal with that.

Plumbing

Plumbing is something else you should be thinking about. It's hard to tell if the home is going to need new plumbing because you can't see it all. Many times you don't even have the luxury of having the water to the home turned on. Sometimes, it is obvious. The toilet is cracked or the lines into the water heater are split open. But often times it's harder to know.

If the home is in a cold weather state and has been left vacant, you will want to check to see if the home has been winterized. You should look for pink anti-freeze in the tubs and sinks. The hot water heater should have been drained. You can check this by gently rocking it forward to see if it is empty.

It's important to remember that just because a home has been winterized, doesn't mean that it's been winterized in time. I have bought homes that have been winterized, but weren't winterized before the pipes froze. This is not a nice surprise.

You should look underneath the home to see if there are any pipes hanging down or just plain missing. Sometimes you just don't know until you turn the water on, but you can definitely check for these signs.

The Walls & Ceilings

Check the walls as well. Will you have to fix or replace many sections of wall? Will the whole home need painted or can you spot paint? Are the rooms painted so dark that you will have to put multiple coats on?

Are the ceilings in good shape? If they are in good shape, will they need painted? Remember when you get a home rehabbed and realize that everything looks great, except for the yellow smoker's ceiling, you may change your mind.

The Floors

Looking to see if you need new subfloor is easy. Just walk your way through the home and feel for the soft spots. Be careful when you do this. I've almost had my whole leg go through the floor before! Subfloor, if the floor is even, is not a really difficult fix and soft spots on the floor should not drive you away.

Carpet can be a major expense. Can the carpets be cleaned and fixed up? It is surprising how good a carpet can look after steam cleaning it. If the carpet is not salvageable, then you may have to put new down. The good news is, if there are no strong pet odors, you can normally save the carpet pad.

Electrical

Electrical is something you do not want to miss. Make sure to check the breaker box. I have seen many homes where the breaker box is completely gone. I have also seen many boxes where breakers have been taken from the box.

Electrical in general is difficult to check without the electricity on. Sometimes, though, it's obvious. I have seen electrical lines that have been pulled through the light fixtures as well as the outlets. This can make for an expensive and frustrating fix.

On the Outside

On the outside don't forget about the skirting. Skirting can be pretty expensive, and is usually required to be in good shape by the mobile home park. Will the park make you paint the home or vinyl side it before they let you sell it in the park? All of this needs to be figured in your budget.

Make sure to get under the home. As mentioned before, you may be able to tell if there has been damage to the plumbing, and you will definitely get to see if the belly board is still intact. Don't make the mistake of not getting under there.

These are just some of the initial things to look for when going through a mobile home. Remember...

  • Keep a good tally of all of the repairs

  • Don't be distracted by minor cosmetics

...and you will do great!

About the Author:

Michael Scarbrough is a veteran real estate investor. He has owned and managed single-family and multi-family rental properties and flipped single-family homes.

He has extensive experience in buying, rehabbing, and selling used mobile homes. He has used the knowledge he has gained to rehab a mobile home community he owns in Indiana.

Mike shares his hard-earned knowledge and experience in his DVD series:

 
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