Major remodel to save money on rent. Need advice!

Repair help for the do-it-yourselfer.
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Moderators: Greg, Mark, mhrAJ333, JD

Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:41 pm

Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:39 am

Hey Everyone!

This is my first post and I'm happy to be a part of this community!

First a little background. I'm 28 years old and was married last year. I have been in the business world doing sales for the past 5 years. I decided when I got married I will follow my other dreams as well. So now, I have quit my well paying job to go back to school for my Electrical Engineering degree. We moved to a larger town in Texas where I am going to school. I am working a part-time job and my Wife is working 2 part time jobs. ( Even though she has a degree in biology) After revisiting our finances, We found that if she goes back to school to get another degree ( Mathematics) Her current student loans will be deferred. She could quit one of her jobs ( This particular one is barely bringing any money in because she has to commute 1- 1.5 hours to work and back). Needless to say, money is tight but we have good credit.

I have worked in the gas plant construction industry and have helped out with multiple remodels of homes as well as wiring. My dad owns 2 rent houses and we had to remodel them, so I have access to plenty of tools.

Fast forward to a week ago. My father-in-law owns a bit of land down by the lake. He isnt very well off as about 7-8 years ago he became blind from a car accident. So he is on disability. Somehow he fell into this land and it has a mobile home on it. He offered to give it us. Now, This is in my hometown about 65 miles from where we work/go to school.

The mobile home is a 1970 tourite 2 bedroom 1 bath 14x60 singlewide.

I will be posting pictures probably saturday when I get a chance to go back out there.

The condition: well, It was lived in by my sister-in-law about 3 years ago but my standards are a little higher than hers. Lets just say its been abandoned for 3 years. In that time, it seems some people have broken in and stolen a few things. Namely, the AC unit.

The Good things:

- The existing Siding looks good albeit dirty. A quick pressure wash should be sufficient.
- The subfloor and floor under the carpet feels extremely solid. I was very surprised because usually these have issues in my experience. Based on the feel, I would say at least half-inch plywood is underneath.
- my dad says the walls seem solid but the wood paneling definitely needs to go as its pretty bad.

- We may be able to pull an AC/Heating unit out of another trailer for free

- I think It was used 5-10 years ago by an oilfield company as a location trailer to house its employees. If thats the case, It would explain the excellent flooring, I would would feel a bit better about the structure. These trailers are reinforced since they had to move them so often.

-- My dad has extensive experience and contacts, Her dad is an excellent carpenter. ( Even though he is blind, he has made some great cabinets/ swings/ tables/ chairs/ and porches for his trailer. He also worked on HVAC commercial and residential installation before the accident.

-- I get appliances basically at the cost for the company Im working for ( Large national chain has an appliance section) to buy it. So I may be able to get some discounts for those.

The bad:
- There is a hole where a door used to be. Evidently an addition was added but the addition seems in really bad shape. They didnt use any kind of treated wood from what I can tell.

- The ceiling is sagging. -- I cannot tell if this is just due to the draftiness of the house ( windows and doors left open from thieves) or an actual leak from the roof. I didnt find any areas of pooling water on the floor though.

- Pretty much the whole inside covering need to be redone. flooring, ceiling and at least some walls.

- The built in cabinets and drawers need to be redone.

- Since it was built in 1970, I am worried about asbestos insulation as well as energy efficiency.

- I have not been able to check on the condition of the roof as it is currently completely covered by leaves and I didnt have a ladder with me when I went out to look at it.

- There are no axles, and I havent been to the underside due to current overgrowth on one side of the trailer, and the addition of a large unstable porch on the other side.. It doesnt seem that anything is hanging from the bottom.

- Not sure on the state of the water lines but if they are metal I probably need to replace them with PEX.

- no current AC or water heater. May need new appliances. ( Stove/fridge/dishwasher/water heater)

So, What we are trying to do is get out of paying rent every month for an apartment we dont own. We are currently paying around $800/ month on rent + utilites not including electricity and renters insurance.

lot rent around here is around $200-$250 and includes utilities ( no electric). So that would give us around $550 per month - cost of insurance to pay the same as we are paying right now.

I have a quote to move the trailer and hookup at around $2000. Were were originally thinking a $5000 loan, but my standards are a bit higher than my wifes. I'm also not sure what type of wiring is on the inside ( copper vs aluminum) and I would REALLY like to check all the wiring anyway since it has been abandoned so long and rodents/ copper thieves might have messed up the wiring.

In addition, She was just thinking we could get by just by replacing the ceiling and flooring and a few other minor repairs. After looking at it, I subscribe to the get it done once and right concept. There is so much to do, there isnt any point to wasting time trying to save some of it. I'm thinking about completely gutting the Inside So I can verify exactly whats wrong.

Sorry for the wall of text. What I ask of you my fellow peers is for your extensive knowledge and experience.

here are my initial questions: ( I'm sure plenty more will come!)
How much do you think it would take to make this " Livable". By that I mean, enough that I can move it and live in it while I can finish it up on the lot.

How much for a complete remodel, and where can I get the most bang for the buck on supplies. ( Especially insulation as that seems pretty expensive) ( I will be doing ALL work myself)

What are areas I definitely need to look at and check when I go out there saturday.
( My current plan is to get rid of all the overgrowth, disassemble the add-on ( its not big), and the large porch, then I can take off the skirting so I can look more on the underside. I'm also planning to clean off the roof and take down the ceiling tiles so that I might be able to access that situation)

any other tips would be appreciated!

In addition, If I do this I would like to have this excellent community involved. To be able to send out as much info as possible at to the current state, the link below is a current work-in-progress spreadsheet with a running total of potential costs. If I am missing anything ( Which I'm sure I am) please let me know how I can improve it. You can also comment directly on the spreadsheet. ... sp=sharing

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Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:41 pm

Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:58 am

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Posts: 5682
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:01 pm
Location: Weedsport, NY

Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:55 pm

OK so if I am reading this right you plan on moving a basically junk home for $5000 and rebuilding it?
If that is the case, save your money and find a livable home, the cost to move it will go a long way towards the purchase price.
If you are going to rehab the home on the land, I would do a total renovation. Take everything down to the studs and go from there, that way you will KNOW what it needs and what has been done. Plan on upgrading the doors & windows also.

"If I can't fix it, I can screw it up so bad no one else can either."

Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:41 pm

Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:05 pm

Greg wrote:OK so if I am reading this right you plan on moving a basically junk home for $5000 and rebuilding it?
If that is the case, save your money and find a livable home, the cost to move it will go a long way towards the purchase price.
If you are going to rehab the home on the land, I would do a total renovation. Take everything down to the studs and go from there, that way you will KNOW what it needs and what has been done. Plan on upgrading the doors & windows also.

well, the cost to move is only $2000. We are actually thinking of getting a 5 year $10,000 loan. That would leave $8000 for the remodel. Before interest, the price/month is around $170. That plus lot rent would put the bills to around $400/month compared to the $800 per month we are paying now. In addition, the money we are paying now isn't getting us anything but the roof over our heads. If we did this, we could make it into the home we wanted, and knowing exactly what was wrong with it, while increasing the value of the home and gaining a future asset if we chose to rent it out.

If we bought another mobile home for the 10k, and spent the entire 10k buying and still having to move the home, We would have a little less work to do at the start but still have no clue how long the home would last/what problems would come with the home. In addition, we would be stuck for a while on the way the previous owner decorated/ painted it.

In addition, its just a better return on investment. Say I bought a mobile home that was about 10-15 years old for $15000, I then put $5000 into a simple remodel. I have now invested about $20000 into this place but since it is an older home, I may not get more than 17- 18k if I chose to sell it.

Now, I'm given a junker. I rip it up and start from scratch. put around 10k into it. Since I can say the whole thing has been remodeled with newer, modern components and is safe, I may now be able to get 8k to 12k or more for that old clunker which we got for free. Whats better is if we decide to live in it a few years, we might be able to sell it for close to the amount we put into it. If not, we have still saved $400/month over 2-3 years. Besides the work to put into it, it is very difficult to find a downside. I'm just trying to figure out the minimum I would need to spend to make it livable and safe.

Posts: 72
Joined: Wed Sep 04, 2013 5:53 pm
Location: Holts Summit, MO

Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:31 pm

I don't think you should do it based on potential resale as I don't think you'll get as good a return as you're expecting.

But if you plan to stay there for a considerable length of time and maybe even rent it out if/when you do decide to move, then it COULD be a wise move. But if you're doing this yourselves while going to school full time AND working at least part time, the place will be a war zone most of the time - - since you mentioned several times about your living standards, I wanted to make sure you understand this.

Since you plan to do a gut anyway, you could easily replace the water lines with pex (for that size, I'd venture to guess less than $200). One 100' roll of 3/4" pex will run around $50 and figure one each for cold & hot plus fittings and all the misc 1/2" branches.
Don I
Holts Summit, MO
(Central MO)

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Greg S
Posts: 541
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:13 am
Location: Kingston Ontario Canada

Fri Sep 05, 2014 7:46 am

The problem as I see it is you have, in your own mind, decided you want to do this. You have come here for advice but really are looking for confirmation that it is a good idea.
It's a bad idea. Renovating a home worth nothing is a waste of time money and effort with a negative return down the road.
In addition people are brain washed into thinking that renting is a waste of money where as renting is actually far less expensive than home ownership. Renovations, insurance, repairs, interest, purchase price etc are far more expensive than renting.
Rent something less expensive if necessary but rather that throwing money down the drain concentrate on savings not spending.

Additionally as far as your wife is concerned in my opinion further education is a waste of time and money that will take a minimum of 10 to 15 years to recover. Higher education is greatly overrated and will not give you a significant financial return. It would be far smarter for her to find a better paying job with her present skills than to waste time going to school and having to start over again at a entry level job in her new field.
An individual must enforce his own meaning in life and rise above the perceived conformity of the masses. (Anton LaVey)

Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:03 pm

Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:42 am

I'll just say that costs add up quickly.

Not the big things that you think of, but the small things.

If you do the sheetrock yourself, you'll spend a fair amount in screws. You'll need tape and mud and trowels and sanders.

Are you redoing the kitchen? Cabinets, counter top, sink, faucet, caulk, silicone, plumbers putty, etc.

What kind of flooring are you putting down? In the mobile home part of our house we redid, we put down sheet vinyl in some areas and vinyl planks in other areas. Sheet vinyl was more cost effective, but the glue was expensive. You need separate trowels for this, too.

Any areas where the floor isn't level? Unless you are going with carpet, you may need to use a floor leveler.

Do you have baseboards already that you can salvage? We had to make them new for the entire house.

How are the light fixtures? Need to replace any of those? Even buying all new lightbulbs is a big cost.

Bathrooms in good shape? Need a new toilet? How's the flange? Vanity still in good shape? SInk? Faucet? Traps?

What about the wall outlets? If they are the kind where the wires just stick in instead of being wrapped around the screw, better to just go ahead and swap all those out right now.

Do you have all the tools you will need? Little tools added up. Paint brushes, paint rollers, paint trays, painters tape, drop cloths, sandpaper, etc. It all adds up quickly.

Posts: 110
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:39 am
Location: Brazil, IN

Sun Nov 09, 2014 8:00 am

IF you get lucky and things fall into place, and IF you live there 10 years, you MIGHT end up with a "break even" proposition. If you're young, healthy, and VERY ambitious, go for it. But be advised: At best it will be a "break even" proposition. You may have the satisfaction of having built the house you live in, but you'll have 10 years of ongoing remodel (it will never end), outgoing money (what's the old saying - "twice as long and twice as much"?), lack of consisten sleep, and a sore back. Heaven help you if there are kids, job losses, and health problems down the road.
Get something that's liveable now and will only involve MINOR repairs.


Posts: 180
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:04 am
Location: Western Washington, Puget Sound

Sun Nov 09, 2014 10:19 am

Google "Deals on Wheels", read it, and find a place. Your plan is a classic example of "free ain't free." Of course, it's 2 months since your original post, so you're already don3 something. I'dbe curious to find out what that is, and your progress...

Posts: 242
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:33 am
Location: Anna, Tx

Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:03 am

I priced out some of these metal buildings - a fairly large one - to use for a workshop. I was aghast at the prices. I knew I could build it myself for a heck of a lot less.

The project is not done yet - 7 months in - and i am now almost $3k more than the metal building kit. I am tired of working on it - and the list of "to be done" gets longer and longer. Yes, I know it will all get done - some day.

I went back and looked at my original plans. Even with a few days out for rain - all would be done in just two months. Well, that didn't happen.

Some good advice has been provided here. Fortunately, those pieces of advice are from voices of experience. I know, I know....that was them...this is me. But weigh this: if you are trying to reno this place - how much time are you really going to spend getting the most of the education you will be paying MAJOR BIG bucks for? Skating through ain't the way to do it.
Opportunity has a shelf life.