Trailers is as trailers does
I’m a big fan of mobile homes. To me, they have the best returns, by far, of any investment in real estate today. But be aware, mobile homes are quirky.
We have a doublewide on Berry Bennett Rd. It was a little rough when we bought it, but we got it rehabbed and looking nice. We did all the normal stuff like painting, new floor covering and new lighting. But we also did some big ticket projects like putting on a metal roof, new plumbing and installing a four ton package unit.
In case you don’t know, a package unit is one of those huge outside AC units. When you see them, you probably think they’re way oversized for the house they’re sitting next to. For most houses, the air conditioner has two parts: the inside and an outside unit. The inside portion consists of a furnace and air handler, while the outside unit is a condenser. This is called a “split unit” because the furnace and the condenser are split into two parts.
A package unit, on the other hand, has both the furnace and the condenser all in one big outside unit. This makes them very efficient and also causes them to require less maintenance. Because of this, even with the slightly higher cost, a package unit is a great investment for a rental property.
Mobile homes don’t come from the factory with a package unit. They normally have a split unit that’s specifically designed to work with mobile homes.
The “Specifically designed” part brought with it a lesson we just learned the hard way. We thought we were doing a good thing by upgrading to that four ton package unit.
As it turned out, we were wrong.
Something you should know about mobile homes is that it’s best to buy an early 1990s unit or newer. The reason is that in the early 90s, they started using an OSB-type material for the subfloor.
Prior to that time, mobile homes were manufactured with particle board floors. This material is nothing more than sawdust and glue that when it gets wet, the floor begins to sag and fall apart. You’ll literally step right through the floor if you’re not careful.
The house on Berry Bennett happens to be an 86 model with particle board floors.
Also, mobile homes don’t use the same ductwork as regular houses. They have a trunk line made of sheet metal that runs down the center of the home.
When we put that brand-new package unit on those metal trunk lines and that ice cold air hit them, condensation formed on the lines like a cold coke on a hot day causing the subfloors to get wet.
The AC ran for months before the tenants noticed anything. By then, it was too late – the floors began to buckle, and then they fell through. We had to replace about 400 square feet of subfloor in the livingroom and bathroom. OUCH!
It wasn’t all the package units fault. The belly board had been cut (that’s the plastic that holds the insulation in under the trailer) for previous plumbing repairs. That gave way to lost insulation around the metal trunk lines which led to the condensation. Like I said, mobile homes are quirky.
Even with all this, the property is still a great deal. We’re all in on this doublewide on an acre for less than $30k, and it rents for $615 a month. If we keep it for nine years, that’s a return of 20.73 percent.
With returns like those, you’ll want to have some mobile homes in your portfolio. Just make sure you don’t over-upgrade. Sometimes you have to say, “Trailers is as a trailer does”.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.