With its warm temperate climate, beautiful beaches, and lack of state income taxes, Florida is a great place to live. And, a growing number of people moving to the Sunshine State are choosing to live in mobile home communities or buy manufactured homes for their land.
Figuring out how to buy a mobile home in Florida can be just as complex as buying a site-built one – maybe even more so. Let’s explore some of the biggest issues that come with buying a manufactured home, including Florida mobile home financing and taxes.
5 tips for buying a mobile home in Florida
In many ways, buying a manufactured home in Florida is a lot like the process of buying a traditional home. You want to determine if you’re ready, start saving for a down payment, and look into mobile home financing in Florida. Those steps, however, may look a little different when you’re purchasing a mobile home, so we put together five tips to help you dig into the specifics.
1. Determine what you’re buying
Yes, you’re buying a manufactured home, but you want to decide if you want to buy just the dwelling and rent a lot in a mobile home park or buy the land, too. Buying the land your home sits on may mean you see some return on your investment if the land appreciates. But lots in mobile home parks usually have utility hook-ups, so they can be more convenient.
The additional services and the bonus of living in a secure location can make the fee for renting worth it. However, ownership can mean lower costs in the long run and the ability to recuperate a significant part of your investment by selling the land for a higher price than when you bought it.
Making the choice between a mobile park community or buying your own land also gives you a better idea of your monthly costs. This is a key consideration when purchasing any home.
2. Investigate several communities
Some of the more common Florida mobile home communities are land-lease parks (i.e., you don’t own the land), land-owned subdivisions, and resident-owned communities. Within each of these, you may also find age-restricted or retirement communities. That’s a lot of options, so go to several and talk to the residents to get a sense of which fits you best.
You should note, too, that some municipalities in Florida restrict where you can place your mobile home. This usually means you end up in more rural areas outside of city limits.
3. Perform your due diligence
Before you buy a mobile home in Florida, check public records for any red flags. This might include:
- Going to the clerk of court and checking eviction records, title disputes, and other legal issues.
- Calling the local code enforcement office and asking about serious violations.
- Searching the internet to see if the mobile home park is up for sale or has recently changed hands.
- Checking the mobile home’s vehicle identification number through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).
4. Read up on Florida’s mobile home laws
When you want to buy a mobile home in Florida, you may also want to familiarize yourself with the Florida statutes that govern mobile home park tenancies, particularly the section on obligations for residents and park owners. For example, mobile home park owners have to:
- Comply with all applicable building, housing, and health codes.
- Provide access to all common areas at reasonable times.
- Keep the utilities the park is responsible for in good working condition.
Mobile home owners have to:
- Keep their mobile homes clean, neat, and sanitary.
- Comply with the mobile home park’s rules.
- Get written approval before making modifications to their mobile home.
Another important aspect of Florida laws governing manufactured homes is the information regarding mobile home installation and permits.
5. Buy mobile home insurance
One of the attractions of mobile homes is their affordability. But even if they’re less than traditional homes, manufactured homes are major investments that need to be protected. That's where mobile home insurance comes in. Policies can help you overcome a financial setback if your mobile home is damaged by covered perils.
For example, our mobile home insurance offers open-peril coverage for your dwelling, which means damage is usually covered unless it was caused by one of the events specifically excluded in the policy. The most common losses, like those caused by fire, windstorm, theft, and vandalism, are typically covered.
How to finance a mobile home in Florida
While mobile homes cost less than traditional homes, you’ll probably still need to get financing. A mobile home is only considered real property if the owner also owns the land it sits on and the home is permanently attached to that land, according to Florida law. If your manufactured home doesn’t fit this description, then it’s more likely considered chattel, or moveable personal property.
You can finance a manufactured home that is chattel through a personal property loan, much like you finance a car. Typically, this requires about five percent down with your home as collateral that your lender can repossess if you fail to pay.
Another option is the Federal Housing Authority’s Title I program. These are usually 20-year fixed-rate loans that you can use to purchase a manufactured home, a lot, or both. The down payment is usually between 3.5 and 10 percent.
If your mobile home is considered real property, you may be able to get the following types of mortgages:
- Conventional loan. These privately funded and insured mobile home loans in Florida offer competitive interest rates but often require a good credit score, a low debt-to-income ratio, and about 20 percent down.
- A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan. You can apply to the USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, but you’ll have to meet certain income and geographic criteria to qualify.
- A US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan. The VA also has a guaranteed loan program that can be used for manufactured housing.
How are mobile homes taxed in Florida?
According to the Florida Department of Revenue, mobile homes are taxed in one of three ways:
- Assessed and taxed as real property. Your manufactured home is taxed annually as real property if it's affixed to land that you own.
- Subjected to an annual license tax. If you don’t own the land your mobile home sits on, then you must buy a mobile home decal from the DHSMV every year.
- Assessed and taxed as tangible personal property. This tax applies if your manufactured home qualifies for the mobile home decal, but does not have a current one on it.
If your home is taxed as real property, you may be eligible for Florida homestead exemption.
Understand mobile home community rules
If you’re aiming to live in a mobile home park, you want to read through its regulations, including bylaws if there’s a mobile homeowners’ association. These can give you a good understanding of what you’re getting into﹘especially the behaviors that may get you fined or evicted.