Our mobile home is 26 years old and has recently begun to really show its age. It has gone from the home of an older, single lady (the former owner) to housing 2 adults, 2 children, 2 cats, and a dog (not to mention a few mice and possibly a rat). The added wear and tear is becoming increasingly obvious.
We knew when we bought this property that the mobile home would serve as temporary housing. However, as I wrote in a recent post, our dream of building a new house changed when we learned that our next-door neighbour might be willing to sell to us this year. If she goes ahead with her plans we will buy her property, move in to her house, and rent out our current house with about an acre or so around it. But the reality is, our current home is in poor condition and not suitable for a rental.
There is no value to be gained by renovating the current home. And given its age and condition, we’d still likely have to make regular repairs on the place. Even with a reno we could not command much rent for this place given it’s age and the fact that it is a 2-bedroom home. So I decided to check out what it would cost to replace this mobile with a new one, and how the financing works for such purchases. I headed to our local manufactured/modular home dealership which has been in business here for over 45 years, got some numbers and a handful of brochures, and sat down with a cup of tea to figure out our options.
It turns out that you can roll a new mobile home purchase into a mortgage the same way you would a conventional new-build home. And since mobile homes are very inexpensive, it doesn’t add hugely to the monthly mortgage payment. As an added bonus, the rapid turnaround from delivery to occupancy means a very short bridge financing period. For those who may not be familiar with the new home process, that is the time between when you have to actually pay for your house and the time when the mortgage company allows you to roll it into your mortgage and effectively pays you back. When you are building a home conventionally that period could be up to a year or more. In the case of a manufactured/mobile home, it’s about 2 weeks. This allows one to consider even high-interest sources of credit for bridge financing.
I also took a look at what rents are going for in our area, confirmed them with an experienced landlord source, and then compared these to the cost of various mobile homes. I discovered that we would be better off replacing our single-wide 2 bedroom home with a double-wide 3 bedroom home. The added cost to the mortgage is less than the increase in rent we could charge for the bigger home.
This solved a second issue as well: what if our neighbour doesn’t sell this year? The thought of spending another winter in our current home was dreadful to me. If we bought a bigger home, we could live in it ourselves until such time as we might buy and move next door.
And here’s where it gets even easier to decide: the difference in price between a smaller 3 bedroom home without fancy upgrades versus a larger 3 bedroom home that would suit our family for years to come if need be, is truly negligible when one considers that cost amortized over the life of our mortgage. So from a host of possibilities, none of which could be counted on (will she sell? will she sell this year? if not, how many years will we have to wait?) I have narrowed it all down to one smart decision: replace our current mobile home with a larger home that would suit our family. We can stay here for years if need be, or if we move next door we can rent it out for a good price. Either way, I will be getting a brand new home before this year is over.
This is where I pause in my story to do a little happy dance around the room…
…okay, I’m back.
Now, it’s true that these factory-built, assembled-on-site homes are not really comparable to a custom-built home IF you are picky about what sort of materials go into your home. And I would certainly consider myself to be picky about those things. When we were planning a custom built home I wanted all natural materials, breathable natural wall systems, low VOC paints, etc. I can’t say I’m thrilled about the idea of living in a brand new home made of plasticky stuff and other potential nasties.
But the bottom line is simple: we need a new house. We cannot go on living in this mould-ridden, rodent-infested home much longer before it will start to impact our health anyway. It’s already impacting my sanity and my social life (I don’t invite people over unless I know them really well). If we want to be able to buy the place next door if and when it comes up (which we do), and given our current financial situation, we simply cannot afford to build the way I’d like to. Given the choice of remaining in this dump for who-knows-how-long or going with a brand-new almost-custom home that we can readily afford no matter what happens in the future, it’s not a difficult decision to make.
Today I dragged my better half to the dealership and we looked at some of their show homes. I was very impressed by the PVC kitchen cabinets. I expected something that looked cheap and plasticky. Instead they were sturdy, attractive, durable, and I could tell they would be very easy to clean. In fact the homes were all so much nicer (and bigger!) than what we are currently in that I couldn’t help but get all giddy at the prospect. I’ve already picked out my floor plan: a 1600 sq ft 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with a family room and a small den for my sewing/crafting stuff. Tomorrow the agent is coming by to check out our property and offer further suggestions and options based on what he finds. At that time we’ll also go over the option of getting a modular home instead of a mobile (the former is the same plan built on a standard foundation; the latter is the typical “trailer” home on raised blocks). I will then have a few weeks to choose all my finishing options while Husband deals with some critical work and related stuff. By this autumn we will be in a new home, whether here or next door. I’m so excited!