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Any love for mobile homes ? (trailer homes)  RSS feed

 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Hello from Maine,

I've been reading about green architecture and affordable housing for a while now, I've seen everything from EarthShips to 300 square foot TinyHouse. Chainsaw Retrofits and passive solar. Yet I don't understand most of it LOL. I need an architecture crash course.   

I see folks using shipping containers as homes and all kinds of things. Some small homes look (to me) just like mobile homes but cost a lot.

However I never see any mention of using mobile homes for green projects or affordable housing ()

Is it a social stigma, a conspiracy, or did I simply over look some information ?

I don't currently own a home, but I am saving and working, my daughter and I recently discovered mobile homes ! They are a house on wheels (!!!) and sell for as little as zero (and need work) and some are $6k (and ready to go) and some are $14k (that's a little high) and of course some are crazy expensive.

But I never hear mention of them - it's as if they are erased from the public's memory. The only mention I got was the FEMA trailers are made from toxic out-gassing materials ()

I even asked in an architecture forum what the cheapest house was, and they said an unmodified "A frame" was the ticket. They didn't mention mobile homes.

I have crazy ideas for them - even connecting several mobile homes together LOL. I also think they would be easy to modify for green projects. And an addition can be added that holds more weight (like a rocket stove).

So tell me about mobile homes will ya ? Is there any love for those rectangular houses on wheels ?  Any good mods for them ? Is there a good reason they've been erased from popular memory ?

My daughter, her best friend, and I all conspire to move to the country and each have our own trailer on the same acre LOL. To be home owners is a great honor

Thanks
Craig

(click to enlarge)
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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It seems that whenever I watch the news and they are showing the aftermath of a flood, hurricane, or tornado, the view showing the worst destruction is the mobile home park.  In a high wind prone area, I would think that they need an extensive anchoring system to make them a viable option.  Most of the older ones (the cheap ones you find) have little to no insulation, so heating/cooling becomes a major economic factor.

Some of the more modern models seem to be very comfortable living accommodations.
 
Robert Ray
gardener
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Location: Cascades of Oregon
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I guess it depends on County Code in our area pre 1984 models can't recieve a placement permit. Roofs have to be peaked and have shingles (no metal roofs).
Financing, in our area at least, is extremely difficult unless on a permanent foundation.
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Robert Ray :

I am in Maine (USA) and have my sights set on the small town of Livermore, Monmouth, or similar.

I called Livermore Falls building code guy at the town office today and he said they accept any year of mobile home. The home I was initially looking at was a 1972 Starlite that had been upgraded.

John Polk :

As for mobile homes being destroyed by disasters, if I lived in a place frequently hit by tornadoes or hurricanes I'd look into a concrete dome home (monolithic dome) LOL

But it raises a good question about building a storm shelter of some kind if you live in a trailer.

And you're right, trailers are always portrayed on TV as trouble. But when I get a bank loan for my trailer house it will likely be less than $10k to start for what I have in mind. My parents and my nephew are the other home owners closest to me and went in debt by over $100k each with large homes. That's quite a debt ! I don't want to go that far under

Thanks for the replies, I hope we get a good discussion going

Cheers,
Craig
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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We may end up in a mobile home.  To be honest, I hate them, at least the older ones.  They are cheaply constructed and tacky, and fall apart at the slightest excuse.  Not exactly the kind of housing I want us to be living in.  However, it's absolutely crucial that we keep the property taxes down to no more than $600/year at our new home (which will probably be in Maine!) -- may buy bare land and put a house of some kind on it, but will have to be very careful what we put on it to keep the taxes down.  From what I've seen so far, looking on the internet, any kind of house, even a very old one with no electricity or running water, has much higher taxes than even a decent mobile home.  So a mobile home is what we may end up with.  I've been reading a lot about how to rehab an old MH and make it fit to live in.  One thing -- I won't use the original wiring.  We'll be staying off-grid and using solar, and I'll just rewire the whole thing to be safe.  Will have to add insulation, and want a rocket mass heater -- where to put that?  In an addition as you suggested, or cut a hole in the floor of the trailer and put in a foundation? 

We need more land than you are looking at.  I figure at least ten acres, mostly wooded, so we have adequate firewood for the future.  Need room for a garden, and feed for three to five dairy goats and a flock of chickens or ducks.  The land can be cut-over re-growth, as long as it's been several years since it was logged -- using a rocket stove for heat means we can use smaller pieces of wood, and my aging back will appreciate not having to handle large pieces, and not having to split them! 

Kathleen
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Howdy Kathleen

That all sounds good, I look forward to seeing your progress

As for trailer homes being modded, it seems like it would be easy to replace the wires and add insulation. Check out "Chainsaw retrofit" - they add framing and insulation to the outside :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/robharrison/5337590411/

I see a lot of potential in these affordable rolling homes

Cheers,
Craig

 
                              
Posts: 20
Location: north georgia
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They are better built these days.  The one I bought had a laundry list of code inspections and engineer certifications.  They are built in a controlled enviornment with traveling down the road at 70 in mind.  The two limiting durability factors are lack of roof overhang and the base on the concret pillars not being set below the frost line.  If it means getting to your own land sooner I say go for it.  I have built homes for 10 years but still see great value in trailers.  For the price of a car you can move onto your own land and keep your family warm safe and dry.  Once past the "trailer trash" Stigma they are a vuable option I feel more people should investigate
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Thanks for chiming in
 
                                          
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I live in a 80' trailer I paid 600.00 for. catch was 1600.00 to move. Still was that or rent and no thanks on that. some thoughts to share. I had to pass st fire inspection to be allowed to move into county. They will not pass aluminum wiring so just check that. Yes insulation may need to b upgraded as well as old paneling removed(do all at once-wiring too)The old paneling begins to dryrot and produce dust. Keeping pipes from freezing can be an issue. I dislike the long straight run.  Try to get one with doors fairly centrally located and for me a mostly central kitchen is best.This helps more than you can imagine. Watch for leaks that run down inside walls and around windows. Old water damage is a bit of a pain to fix. Can be really extensive. Plug/seal/put trimwork in as mice and bugs seem to find every hole.My trailer had upgraded tongue and grove pine flooring-very stout. the wood would have cost more than I paid for whole thing. I have a 660 lb. wood stove in my kitchen. If you are willing to piddle,fix up and add on and do good work you will end up with nice looking, comfortable affordable housing. I hope to add on a greenhouse(shedroof) soon. Sure I wish it were all fixed up at once but I would not have been able to make the leap to my minifarm any other way. Just be picky about which trailer(s)you get. Best Wishes!
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Interesting Thanks for chiming in
 
Brice Moss
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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almost no mbile homes are well enough insulated to be a good choice for cold climates and many of them are heat traps in sunny weather too

saving several hundred a month on your house payent then spending it on your heating bill seems unwise.

Also they are fire traps. the trailer I grew up in burnt to the ground in half an hour flat just good luck that no one was in it at the time.

all that being said I grew up in a  trailer and it allowed my folks keep us in a pretty decent lifestyle while my pa was making low wages, it was at least easy to work on. repairs were constant though water pipes every winter siding all the time untill we finaly spent more than the value of the trailer putting good wood siding on, three attempts at a roof over before we got one that kept the thing warm ect.

all of this leads me to view trailers a a good choice for temporary housing while you build something, but while you are living in one keep enough cash on hand to replace it if it burns, if you can
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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That's very interesting. I wonder if a retrofit would have made that particular mobile home more livable ? (regarding the insulation)

See this, they add studs and insulation to the outside of a house :

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/green-basics/remodel-project-deep-energy-retrofit

As for mobile homes being a fire trap, I wonder how that can be avoided ?
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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I bought this place about a year ago, more for the land than for the antiquated trailer on it.  It was built in 1972.  I was built in 1967.  Some work has been done to the place over the years: covered porch in the front, and an addition on the back almost the entire length of the thing-added a living room, bedroom, screened in porch.  There is plenty of room and the roof and appliances are less than 5 years old.

I live in a trailer in Florida?  What was I thinking?  The place has heat, lights, air conditioning, everything works, and there is only the one mouse.  It's affordable and serves a function, as long as that function is not aesthetics.

Back in the day, mobile homes/trailers were not constructed with the same building codes as site built homes.  2' spacing on studs, 2x4 roof supports, narrow doors, inferior materials and inferior methods are the norm.  Affordable was and still is the selling point.  You can save a few bucks on the front end, but you pay later on.

Maintenance is a hassle.  Being that most trailers are built with mobile home parts, finding parts at the big box hardware stores can be difficult.  They dont usually carry 24' outswing metal doors, crank out window parts, 54" bathtubs.  Before the mid 80's, many trailers were constructed without a pitched roof.  Sags are common and a pain to repair.  Lots of elastometric coating and tar in tubes can get you by, but its just a patch.  A structure needs a sloped roof.  Plumbing is often done with plastic tubing that wont take city pressure, 55 psi, which is why they are more popular in a rural setting.  You have to watch it when you repair or replace the well pump and holding tank.  Put in too strong a system, you get to replumb the place.

Walls are either 1/4" decorative luaun panels or 3/8" prelaminated decorative sheetrock.  Not a whole lot of insulation value, but easy to ignite.  Newer models are constructed with better materials owing to the massive destruction seen over the decades.  This place had the outside sheathing replaced with T-111, a type of plywood, and was well painted-about the only thing the previous owner did right.

Financing a used trailer is a hassle.  Most banks wont touch them after a certain age.  This year, 1976 is the cutoff date.  Mine is owner financed, as is my home in town which means I still qualify as a first time homebuyer.  This has advantages down the road when I go for my next place.

Getting insurance on a older trailer can be a hassle.  Most insurers require skirting to be in place and in good repair.  The place often needs to be inspected before a policy is sold, with repairs required.  The policies are expensive and offer little coverage.  To insure this place was $55/month with an $11k policy limit and $1k deductible.  I arranged with the seller to eliminate the insurance need with a larger downpayment. 

Because the things are poorly built with substandard materials, they can be had for cheap.  With the economy and banking systems in their current shape, if you are looking to buy one, you have an advantage in negotiating with a seller.  Still, you get what you pay for.

Trailers are junk, always have been, always will be.  Compared to what much of the world has to live in, trailers are not so bad.  If you are willing to accept the social stigma that comes with living in a trailer, you can get cheap housing.  If you are a handy and creative carpenter, thats a big advantage.  Regardless of the cost or your ability to maintain a trailer, you cant overcome the fact that the things are not constructed solidly on a ground foundation.  You will always be at the mercy of storms.

 
                              
Posts: 20
Location: north georgia
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Craig,
    No doubt old trailers were poorly built.  Comparing them to new ones is not apples to apples.  I would encourage you to research a competent trailer manufacturer and compare them to stick built homes.  I think you will be suprised by the similiarities. 
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Thanks for the replies fellas

It's all very thought provoking.

I am trained in a few areas but I don't understand architecture, I think I need a crash course.

I am a computer repair guy (over 10 years) and could teach it to you in a few hours.

I am a student of photography (for 3 years), I found a nice crash course called "James Beltz Photography 101" that you can learn the fundamentals of photography in just a few hours. I often recommend it, and a few other particular courses for afterward to my fellow shooters.

You can learn how to quit smoking for life in just 6 hours, using Allen Carr's audio book called "Easy way to Stop Smoking".

I worked in construction for a few years as a laborer so I know how to use tools. I also build arcade machines and can teach you that.

But architecture - is there a fast way to learn it? A crash course ? A few books that teach the basics ?

For example, what is the advantage of having a foundation below the frost line ?  (as previously mentioned) - I don't understand that comment

I need more knowledge

Thanks!
Craig


 
                                          
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The freeze thaw cycle causes movement of a concrete footer unless it is below the depth where soil will freeze.  Because concrete is immobile it is subject to cracking(cant flex with the changing temps.) Sounds like you dont wnt to talk about trailers anymore but just to say, mine has 2x4 walls spaced at 16 in. on center, standard house insulation, 2x8 floor joists. Doors, windows and plumbing stuff can be harder to get. Just go to a mobile home dealer or order online. they are not all built alike. Im done.
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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I still want to talk about mobile homes, I can dig it

Thanks for the information. I just think I need a crash course in architecture to go with it LOL

For example I don't fully understand what you wrote LOL

But I will keep reading and see what I can come up with ...

As for concrete footer flexing, what if a series of small squares is laid down rather than a large solid rectangle ? That could flex I bet
 
Ken Peavey
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Location: FL
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The idea is to NOT allow the floor to flex.  If it does, anything connected to the floor also moves-walls for example.  One wall not moving with another wall is bad news.

As you go deeper into the ground, the ground gets warmer.  About 4 feet down, in most places, will reach a level where water wont freeze.  I grew up in Bangor, Maine, even owned a trailer up there.  It's about 4 feet down up there.  Setting concrete posts into that zone greatly reduces frost heave problems.

Trailers and frost heave can be an issue.  Plumbing for the water supply comes up from the ground, sewer lines go into the ground.  Trailers rest on centrally located axles, unless they have been removed.  If the axles are moved a different amount than the plumbing, problems can occur.  It's not a big problem as there is usually less water under a trailer, and the plumbing is often kept warm with intermittent water flow.  Then there is the problem of freezing pipes-gotta have heat tape in the winter.

As a starter home, the things can be had for cheap.  It offers a chance to keep the mortgage down while you put together a real house plan.
 
                                          
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didnt mean to make it sound like movement was desired just that you go deep in soil to avoid movement.sorry for the confusion.
 
                              
Posts: 20
Location: north georgia
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I think the best way to get a basic understanding it to look at some of the how to build a shed book.  As far as framing its a pretty simple house.   I teach Cubscouts by building a large doghouse.   Maybe look at an unfinished basement.  Most bookstores have a construction section.

My fave shed book  - "Sheds  the do it yourself guide for backyard builders"  by David Stiles

My fave construction book  - " Carpentry and Building Construction" By John Feier and Gilbert Hutchinsons  My copy is  1980 so some of the info is dated but its still a pretty solid go to book. Maybe its been updated.
 
I love construction but  we've moved off of trailers.

The HUD site has some good info on trailer requirements and set up.   There are minimum performance standards listed.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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If I had to choose between buying land w/ a trailer or a 'house' with no land - I'd take the land with the trailer any day.

I have tried to convince my daughter to purchase an acre or so and put a trailer on it.  You can always upgrade later but the land is still yours.  But she insists on looking at homes and condos on postage stamp lots with HOA fees.  I don't get it.

One of my earlier purchases was a 23 year old trailer with 12 acres.  Allowed me to get my horse boarding/training business started many years ago with little overhead.  There was a small concrete block building on the property that we sheltered in during severe storms.  If I had to do it all over again - I'd still do it the same way.
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Thanks for all the replies Lots to think about

And Thomas, I did order the book :

http://www.amazon.com/Carpentry-Building-Construction-Louis-Feirer/dp/0870023276

That ought to help my understanding.

I have this book about funky architecture :

http://www.amazon.com/Design-Limited-Planet-Norma-Skurka/dp/0345252411

It's really groovy

----

Here's another question :

If mobile homes are the cheapest, is an "unmodified A frame" in 2nd place ? I used to hear a lot about those (as affordable housing).

I have this book :

http://www.amazon.com/Vacation-Homes-Cabins-Dept-Agriculture/dp/0486236315

...it has plans for an A frame cabin. I can upload the plans if you want to see them

According to this :

http://architecture.about.com/od/periodsstyles/ig/House-Styles/A-frame-Style.htm

... it's a good design for places that get a lot of snow, Maine gets crazy snow in the Winter and it's very hot and humid in the Summer. The only season I like here is Autumn.

Other houses that look affordable from the list :

http://architecture.about.com/od/periodsstyles/ig/House-Styles/

... are "Shotgun house" and "Katrina house" LOL

http://architecture.about.com/od/periodsstyles/ig/House-Styles/Shotgun-House.htm

http://architecture.about.com/od/periodsstyles/ig/House-Styles/Katrina-Cottage.htm

Also I wonder if a mobile home can be modified into a "shotgun house" and if that would solve any of the problems stated so far (?)

Cheers!
Craig
 
Troy Rhodes
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In the short term, they're cheaper than just about anything.  In the long run, mobile homes rarely appreciate and usually depreciate, so your investment will probably go down in value. 

And if you invest in a big upgrade, you will still just have a dressed up mobile home.   It is unlikely you will come out ahead on the money you spent to make it better.

Of course, if you plan on living there forever, and never selling, resale value is less of an issue.

Another problem with resale, is many banks are not very motivated to finance a MH, making it harder for potential buyers to purchase your property, even if they really want to.

I lived in one while I went to school in Michigan.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either.  Insulation was definitely inadequate.

To get one properly anchored on a good foundation that goes below the frost line, and add a bunch of framing and insulation and proper wiring, you have almost build yourself a conventional house (if you're careful and do your own work) in terms of cost.  But the house would go up in value, and the MH wouldn't.

It can also be a good transition house, while you plan on your long term super insulated retirement house.  If you buy a used one, and sell it five years later, you won't get killed on depreciation.

Think about the total cost of ownership over 20 years, and run a few spreadsheets where you assume the cost of propane or whatever your heating with, triples or quadruples.

I'm not morally opposed to them, but they do have their drawbacks.

My favorite carpentry books are everything written by Bob Syvenen, like so:

http://www.amazon.com/Carpentry-some-tricks-trade-Syvanen/dp/0871067838


He's a great teacher and good illustrator.  He used to edit Fine Homebuilding a while back.  Awesome books.

HTH,

troy
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Thanks for chiming in You've all made this an informative discussion

It's a good point, mobile homes are not an investment - however I can't imagine a much lower cost to get to wear the badge of "home owner"

I think my first one will work out to $10 per square foot once all is said and done ! Before I start modding it, that is.

I also think it's ironic that Lowes is charging for the plans for their "Katrina" house. Shouldn't they be giving those plans away as part of the rebuilding of New Orleans ? It's $700 for the plans, yikes!

It's good to know that Lowes can make a good profit from a national disaster (sarcasm)

Anyway, I still think there is a lot of positives about trailers, however - we haven't named an official "2nd place" - what is the closest home to compare to a trailer ? Similar in price and ease ?
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Another point to consider:
Since mobile homes depreciate rather than appreciate - your taxes should go down each year instead of up. 

That can be an important consideration especially if you are not counting on resale.  If you are planning on forever then who cares if the value goes up?  That just means more property taxes to pay.

My father in law has property that he wants to pass on that I absolutely do not want because I will not be able to afford the annual taxes when I retire.  Heck - I can't afford them now!
 
Brice Moss
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Location: rainier OR
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the fire trap bit. comes from the paneling without drywall underneath and the lack of cross walls


one issue that remains even with the best built mobiles  (and modulars) is that the interior wall are partitions rather than walls the new ones use materials that are a better fire barrier but still are still too thin to keep noise down attach heavy shelving too and things of that sort.
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Thanks for the info, those are good points.

I like the idea of taxes going down LOL

Regarding fire traps - I'm glad we don't smoke.

I wonder how these shortcomings can be resolved ?

I wonder what other low cost homes compete with mobile homes ?
 
Troy Rhodes
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Many of the "big box" lumber yards sell a "garage" kit.  They are not that expensive, and include pretty much everything to get it weather tight.  You  supply the slab.

If you insulated the slab, and insulated the walls, you could have about the same square footage as a MH, for maybe the same money, or pretty close.

Of course, I would tell you to build a simple rectangular house with 2x6 walls, and strap foam insulation inside and out (that's under the siding, and under the drywall.

The cost per square foot is pretty cheap for materials, and you have something when you're done.  20 x 40 would give you some pretty nice floor plans, and more space than a lot of mobile homes.  Plus you could heat it and cool it for very cheap.

800 sq ft at $35 per sq ft works out to 28,000. 

Don't forget that either solution might require a septic system, a well, and electric brought in, which could add another 10 to 40 grand easily.

You could even hire somebody to supervise you and help out with the tricky parts if you want to build it yourself.

Still not too much money.

Another option is a shell home.  They build the shell, you finish it.

Good luck, we're pullin' for you.

troy
 
Len Ovens
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Location: Vancouver Island
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If the MH comes with the land and the price is right.... no worries... the MH is free anyway and you know that it is probably to code... (a check at the county office would make sure) So you can live in it as is.

If you are going to use it as a temp home (less than a year.... maybe more with some places) I would use an RV. I can move it, it comes with a waste solution and water solution though not great one, but legal. (both involve trucking) Build a barn first... most places consider a small WC a reasonable part of a barn. "Store" RV in barn... have a legal address at a friend/relatives place.... only sleep in the RV when you are "too tired" to safely drive home. (building a home is tiring work after all) Be quiet at night, with few lights.... it may be legal in some places to post yourself a a night guard. Do be building a house.

Long term home... The MH is for some people and not for others. It is a house. It requires all the same ground work as any house. Talk to someone in the area who has put one in... in the past two years(who is not selling)... talk to the county. Price it out. Buying land with a house may be better or not depending on price and what you really want. Check out the container home thread too.

Ask yourself... if I have the choice of land with a MH or a house and both are the same price, location, size, etc.... which would I choose? If it means the difference in being able afford a home or not.... my opinion is it is best to have something rather than rent. If you can afford both, but getting a MH gives you some cash to be able to do something else (like eat?) That is another thing.

Even if I was going to put a MH on land, I thik I would get an RV while I was doing it. There are old licensable RVs for free or cheap ($500 or so) up to 30feet long. You will:

a) find out if mobile living is for you or not.

b) it will make your MH look huge when you do get it

c) save rent.

d) putting you MH on its pad will take longer than you think.
 
Craig Conway
Posts: 79
Location: Maine, USA
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Again, thanks to all who have chimed in. I'm not knowledgeable and can use all this good information

Though it seems like nothing can compare to the price of a mobile home.

Even the DIY solutions that are "free" still cost "virtual money". For example, mike oehler's $50 "underground house", or an "Earthship" made entirely from free or donated bits and pieces (it's conceivable). If either house takes a year to build, that is a year not spent making money. Even a low budget person makes like $10k per year - so that is $50 plus $10k (so to speak).

I'm not against DIY homes, in fact I enjoy building things. But "time is money" is a consideration.

But to be logical I guess we need to make a list of pros and cons for mobile homes, and rate the severity of the cons.

Also there has to be buildings to compare against mobile homes, similar priced dwellings.

I'll start with a list of pros and cons, in no particular order. And since I don't know much about this stuff feel free to correct me LOL

------------------

Pros of mobile homes :

1. Affordable, they cost as little as zero. I've seen nice ones for $5k. But they must be professionally moved and set up, so add $2k to the price of the home. For this example we'll say $6k for the home, moved and set up. It's 800 square feet. So that's $7.5 per square foot. But it needs to be modified so that's a hidden cost (insulation and such) so it will work out to be $10 per square foot I bet.

2. Small homes are easy and affordable to work on compared to big homes.

3. Small homes are too small for excess clutter, so it keeps us from becoming pack rats

4. Because the house is on wheels, it is resistant to earthquakes (?)

5. Because the house is on wheels, we can take it with us if we move (?)

6. It gives us an opportunity to "get in cheap" and "pay as we go". A perpetual project

From this list it's clear that price is the biggest "pro" of a mobile home. But our world does revolve around money, sadly. 

------------------

Cons of a mobile home :

1. Social stigma. (? intangible)

2. Cheaply constructed. 2' spacing on studs, 2x4 roof supports, narrow doors, inferior materials and inferior methods. Maintenance is a hassle.  Being that most trailers are built with mobile home parts, finding parts at the big box hardware stores can be difficult.  They don't usually carry 24' outswing metal doors, crank out window parts, 54" bathtubs. Before the mid 80's many trailers were constructed without a pitched roof.  Sags are common and a pain to repair. A structure needs a sloped roof. Plumbing is often done with plastic tubing that won't take city pressure, 55 psi, which is why they are more popular in a rural setting. You have to watch it when you repair or replace the well pump and holding tank. Put in too strong a system, you get to replumb the place. Older mobile homes have walls that are either 1/4" decorative luaun panels or 3/8" prelaminated decorative sheetrock.  Not a whole lot of insulation value, but easy to ignite. No drywall under wall paneling, no cross walls, makes it a fire trap. Lack of roof overhang. Base on the concret pillars not set below the frost line. Lacking good insulation. More prone to various destructions, like fire, hurricane, flood, etc. Interior wall are partitions rather than proper walls, too thin to keep noise down and attach heavy shelving to.

3. Financing a used trailer is a hassle.  Most banks wont touch them after a certain age.

4. Getting insurance on a older trailer can be a hassle.  Most insurers require skirting to be in place and in good repair.

5. Trailers depreciate in value with age.

From this list it's clear that the construction is the biggest "con" of a mobile home. But that can be remedied

------------------

DIY projects that compete with a mobile home :

TinyHouse
House made from shipping containers
Small cabin made from locally procured rough lumber (conventional)
Mike Oehler's underground house
Small Earthship style house (?)
Shotgun style house
Katrina style house
"A frame" cabin
Mud brick or blocks and rough lumber house (?)
"garage" kit
school bus (?) http://www.bobsokol.com/bus.html
RV / camper
 
Len Ovens
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spystyle wrote:

------------------

Pros of mobile homes :

1. Affordable, they cost as little as zero. I've seen nice ones for $5k. But they must be professionally moved and set up, so add $2k to the price of the home. For this example we'll say $6k for the home, moved and set up. It's 800 square feet. So that's $7.5 per square foot. But it needs to be modified so that's a hidden cost (insulation and such) so it will work out to be $10 per square foot I bet.

Add 5k for a foundation. *k (not sure) for septic.... whatever for a well and maybe power too (same for any house... but a DIY can be built for off grid. They are very much set up to be "grid homes". If you wish to go off grid, you want to spend some time (worth money as you say) doing presetup for off gridness. (there I invented two new words )  Off grid for heating means an addition for a wood burner or a shack for a wood boiler. Some of them do come with propane heat/water/cooking, but most are all electric for at least some of that.... propane is offgrid in some peoples eyes and not in others... no judgement here, its up to you. Something to look for when buying. Many gas appliances can be converted, electric can't... it has to be replaced for gas. Off grid means as little electric use as you can so solar has a chance of doing it all.


2. Small homes are easy and affordable to work on compared to big homes.

3. Small homes are too small for excess clutter, so it keeps us from becoming pack rats


Same for any small house... a DYI house may be smaller.


4. Because the house is on wheels, it is resistant to earthquakes (?)


Most MH don't come with the trolley, you rent it from the company that does the move. Even if you own your own trolley, most places want it rested on a foundation, not on wheels. You then have to store them and keep them in good shape or they are useless when you need them.


5. Because the house is on wheels, we can take it with us if we move (?)

see above.... if you build a small house right, it can be moved just as easy.


6. It gives us an opportunity to "get in cheap" and "pay as we go". A perpetual project


All houses are a "perpetual project".... trust me on that.



Cons of a mobile home :

1. Social stigma. (? intangible)

so is off grid, DIY housing (if it is tiny), etc. Not really a con


2. Cheaply constructed. 2' spacing on studs, 2x4 roof supports, narrow doors, inferior

Quick fix for roof... build a pole barn over top. A MH should be built for city water... in any case there are pressure regulators for water.... most houses have them... thats why the front outside tap often has more pressure than the back, it's installed before the regulator.


3. Financing a used trailer is a hassle.  Most banks wont touch them after a certain age.

4. Getting insurance on a older trailer can be a hassle.  Most insurers require skirting to be in place and in good repair.


Same problems with many offgrid, DIY homes. Mortgage depends on land value and even an old mobile home may give you an edge over raw land for this. A 5k MH? Insure yourself or the land for public liability. My deductible on a house is already 2K. You may be able to get content insurance (renters do).


5. Trailers depreciate in value with age.

so do RVs... and houses for that matter, though not as fast.

From this list it's clear that the construction is the biggest "con" of a mobile home. But that can be remedied

At the cost of your time to do it.

One pro... is that you have a steel frame that doesn't need continuous support and so the foundation can be posts.... of course steel conducts heat out of your house too
 
Craig Conway
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Interesting

Also, regarding the "garage kit idea"

I wonder if a garage could be built, but rather than the big garage doors on the front, windows, and a passive solar plan developed ?

 
Troy Rhodes
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"
I wonder if a garage could be built, but rather than the big garage doors on the front, windows, and a passive solar plan developed ?"

Yes, but that will not work well in most climates unless you really  beef up the insulation.  That's not hard, it just has to be planned for.

Another disadvantage of the mobile home is that they are more flammable, up to very flammable.  Many older ones have substandard aluminum wiring.  They are also extremely not resistant to wind damage.  By the time you put up enough pole barns and straps and anchors to mitigate that,  and gut the walls to fix the wiring, you could have built a house the same size, almost.

If I could only ask one question about a mobile home, it would be, "oes it have aluminum wiring?"  It's easy to check, ask if you need that info when you're close to buying.

HTH,

troy
 
Craig Conway
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Thanks for the tip

Also in case anyone doesn't know, I Googled it and "HTH" means "Hope that helps".

 
John Polk
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You're looking for cheap, and in Maine, right?  Have you considered a pre-fab barn?
You can get this 20' x 21' steel barn assembled on your property for $3500 plus tax.



Check them out for other sizes/models @
http://www.usaqualitysteelbuildings.com/B3.html

You can partition it off, insulate the "home" part, and get taxed @ barn rates vs home rates.  Gives you a place to stay until you can build a home, and you'll have a functional barn.


 
Brice Moss
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I did know some folks too far out for zoning to much care who bought the larger camp trailers, then put up large pole buildings around them, that kept the wind and snow off and gave them a small area to heat with a large dry area to work and play in right out the front door seemed a rather ideal set up overall to me
 
Craig Conway
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The "convert a barn" idea and "pole barn" idea are both excellent Thanks all for chiming in
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Brice Moss wrote:
I did know some folks too far out for zoning to much care who bought the larger camp trailers, then put up large pole buildings around them, that kept the wind and snow off and gave them a small area to heat with a large dry area to work and play in right out the front door seemed a rather ideal set up overall to me


This is actually something that I've been considering, at least temporarily.  Could still use one end of the building for a barn for my goats and chickens, too.  Actually, in the winter, that would be an ideal set-up, and in the summer I could move the animals out to smaller shelters around the property.  Hmmm.

Kathleen

ETA:  I would rather build my own 'travel trailer' instead of buying one already built.  That way I could put in a reasonable amount of insulation, and the storage that we need (travel trailers are NOT built for storing a year's supply of food!!).  But I think I'd rather start with a shell already built, rather than building one up from scratch like my nephew is doing right now.  He got an old travel trailer with good tires, axles, and frame; gutted the top part off down to the bare frame, and now has an eight by twenty tiny house framed and sheathed.  He's hoping to get it closed in in a couple of weeks, just waiting on money for windows and doors.  He's doing a really nice job on it -- it's going to be very nice.  But I'm seeing some of the headaches he's had -- getting everything square and level, for one, and getting the sheathing in place by himself.  It would be easier to find a cargo trailer or something already closed in, and finish off the inside the way I want it.
 
Len Ovens
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A friend of mine dropped two older MH down beside each other and cut the wall between. Put a beam where he cut out and floored right through. It is no longer movable but really nice inside. I think they started out with just the one for years and when they found the other added it. They are slightly staggered which looks less boxy and I think they put a single roof over the whole thing. He deals in used building supplies and most things he builds come from the bits he hasn't sold or connections he has made over the years.

He also builds tiny homes. He has an old RV frame and makes them to fit... so 8x18 or 20 I would guess. He uses standard appliances (tub, fridge, stove etc.) and they are set up for a single person. They are built to look like a house, not a trailer and after he delivers them, he takes his trailer with him so the house is then a permanent house. This is his retirement work, so he builds them as he has time.... when he feels like working... gets 20K each for them so if he sells one a year (he often manages two) he does just fine. (my mother in laws retirement is half that)
 
Craig Conway
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I like the "shell" concept.

A mobile home, a bus, a garage, a barn - anything that can be framed, insulated, and dry-walled. For those of us that are not professional home builders, a shell can make it easier

As for the pole barn over the vehicles - I've seen a similar concept before. A (mostly glass) desert home with a gas station style canopy over it. Keeps it in the shade

Hey I found it :

http://www.newhouseofart.com/contemporary-minimalist-desert-house-design/

 
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