Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good Insulation

My next door neighbor asked my opinion about her insulation --- how could she tell if it was any good?  Well, I am not a licensed contractor, nor do I have any construction skills, but over the years I have been able to use simple logic to answer questions like this.  For instance, I know that one previous mobile home I lived in had poor insulation, and my current home has excellent insulation.  I deduced these things from the way I felt in these homes. 

In my last home, I had some cold spots and hot spots.  Even with the air or heat on and fans going, the temperature was uneven in my rooms.  In addition, if the day began to warm up, the home became unbearably hot without a/c, and in winter if the heat was not monitored, it was easy to get that feeling of sitting in a cold car.  But in my current home, the room temperature is even. 

Another way I learned to tell how good the insulation is came from something I noticed when I held Open House in vacant homes.  On hot days, I ran the air, then turned everything off and locked it up.  I could tell a lot by how the home felt the next time I came over.  A home with good insulation, that was fairly airtight, reamined relatively cool inside even in  80-90 degree weather.

Good insulation maintains a comfortable temperature, and keeps your utility bills down.

I do not know anything about the interior walls of mobile homes, so I can’t comment on the insulation within those walls.  But, I do know a little bit about mobile home roofs (how to care for your older, metal roof will appear in another BLOG).   At Rancho Glendora, Licensed Contractor Greg Parker pulled our metal roof off, installed very thick foam insulation, and re-installed the roof over it.  We rarely needed anything stronger than a fan in the summer months (although neither of us worked from home, at the time).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Little Humor For You

At one time, I was an engineering student.  This was back-in-the-day when I was partly in (and trying to get more “in”) the entertainment industry and I found myself in back-to-back FCC-licensing classes (a job requirement that is no longer needed due to the outstanding technology available).

I was attending classes taught by a short-haired leisure-suit-wearing nerd (before nerds were ‘hot’) who we called Mr. Berger (even though he was probably only 5 years older than me), and this man went out of his way to make sure we got our money’s worth by providing a few chuckles throughout our class day.

I have never forgotten the joke diagram below.  Know what it is, any of you engineers?


It is a volts-wagon towing a mobile-ohm.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Secret of Finding a Good Mobile Home Park

You may have noticed by now that my blog and e-mail are both taken from the phrase “nice homes, nice parks.”  This began when we wrote ads stating, “We have nice homes in nice parks.”  One year, when the ad budget got cut down a little, we shortened it to “nice homes, nice parks.”  Then, I adopted it as my own identifying phrase.

Many people have a misconception about mobile homes and about mobile home parks.  I cringe when I hear my home referred to as a “trailer,” which is something one hitches to a truck and tows, rather than something that has been stationary for over 40 years.  And, we have all heard the term “trailer trash,” referring to people who don’t amount to anything.  These concepts are very outdated --- in a good market (2008), 40-year old mobile homes were selling from $45,000-$100,000, and Buyers often earned $60-90,000/year incomes.  Living in a mobile home has become an alternative lifestyle for people like me, who have decided that we will never be able to afford real property in L.A. County.  A separate blog will address the cost benefits of mobile home living.  In this blog, I will talk about what defines a “nice park.”

There are probably 3 things people are looking for in a mobile home park: Location, Safety and Community.

Location:  I have found that even though the Parks I sell in are located primarily in the E. San Gabriel Valley, none of “my” Parks are far from the Covina Metrolink train station, which means that in 40 minutes someone can be in downtown L.A.  For those who work for a company or agency that pays for parking or public transportation, Buyers have suddenly found a home that is well-located and cost-effective for their commuting needs.

Safety:  Mobile Home Parks offer a high degree of safety.  At one time, the crime statistic in nice mobile home parks was 3%.  Why?  Well, you are living in a community where your neighbor is just close enough to notice when something is wrong, but not so close they can hear your conversations through a wall.

Community:  Mobile home living also provides a sense of community.  Since in “nice parks,” homes must be owner-occupied, Buyers have a sense of what their neighbors will be like, unlike in single family housing (or the condo I used to own) where affordable property is filled with renters who may not share the same standards of living in terms of property upkeep, noise ordinances, etc.

In addition to the general sense of what Buyers are looking for, there are other considerations:  Rent Amount, Taste, and Social needs.

Rent Amount:  A Buyer’s level of monthly gross income will determine which Park a Buyer can afford.  Most Parks require that a Buyer’s gross monthly income is 3 times space rent.

Taste:  There is also the matter of what a Buyer likes --- a Park’s appeal.  Some parks are rustic, with bushy trees and narrow winding lanes; other Parks have rock lawns and E-Z-keep exteriors.   Others look like modern, planned communities.

   This is Rancho Glendora, one of the nice Parks where I list and sell mobile homes.

Social needs:  This may vary, depending on the Buyer.  Most Parks provide scheduled social activities, so in the case of someone who may want to “plug in” to the Community where they’ll be living, games like BINGO & BUNCO are offered, as well as other social events and dinners (in some parks, the dinners are FREE).  All Parks offer the opportunity to be as involved or as uninvolved as the new resident wishes
--- for a person who is new to the area and wants to make friends, often just sitting on the front porch or walking around the block will allow that.

Final Tip:  If you are not sure whether a Park is a “nice park,” do what home buyers do --- drive through it periodically at different times of day, making observations.  In a well-run Park, homes and lawns are neatly kept with no piles of stuff in driveways or on porches.  The Community property --- i.e. the clubhouse, the Park entry, the pool and other facilities --- are well-maintained.  When you observe these signs, you will know that Management is keeping an eye on the property for the benefit of the residents.

In my business, I see myself as a “business matchmaker” --- I try to match up Buyers with a home and Park they will be comfortable in at a price they can afford to pay.

If you are interested in selling or buying a mobile home in the E. San Gabriel Valley area, please give me a call:                 Elena Smith                 626-710-0791

I handle homes in 55+ and all-age parks.

© Elena E. Smith, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011


About those wood-paneled walls…

In my business as a mobile home sales specialist, I refer to mobile homes (and manufactured homes) as either “older” or “newer,” and one of the indicators of home age is the walls.  “Newer” homes, also called “manufactured homes” have drywall; “older” mobile homes have wood paneled walls, ranging in color from dark to medium to light.  (Note: some of the very old homes, built in the early to mid-1960’s, have real wood inside, which polishes up very nice).

If you want to buy a low-priced fixer that has wood paneling on the inside --- and you don’t like wood paneling --- there are several things you can do to change it.

A layer of KILZ and some nice paint that still lets the dividing lines on the paneling show through can create a farmhouse look.  (Swiss Coffee is one of the most popular interior colors, but it is not the color shown in this photo.)

Some homeowners painstakingly fill in the separating lines in the wood paneling to create a flat look on the wall, prior to painting.

And I have seen licensed contractor Michael Calabrese do a good job of installing drywall over the wood paneling.

Any of these methods is adequate for creating a modern feel in an older mobile home.

If you are interested in selling or buying a mobile home in the East San Gabriel Valley area, please give me a call:  Elena Smith  626-710-0791

I handle homes in 55+ and all-age parks.

©  Elena E. Smith, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011


                                                           Owls  (November, 2010)

One night I got home from the movies at 10:30 and when I opened my car door I was greeted by an owl duet from the property next door.  One owl’s hoot was deeper and the response from a nearby tree was higher, so I imagined that the communication was between male and female talking about their young ones or their food supply.  I could tell they were at the tops of two nearby trees, and though I strained my arches to stand on tiptoe, I couldn’t see them.  But it was a rare treat to hear their symphony that night.

                                                          Birds on a Wire

My new neighborhood is filled with parrots who do fly-bys morning and evening talking continuously in an unknown dialect that sounds like a machine gun: “Eh-eh-eh eh-eh-eh.”  Also sounds a little like billy goats.  Wonder where they live?

Here they are this morning, about 10:30 a.m., taking a rest from flying through our low-lying fog, perched on telephone wires behind my home.

©  Elena E. Smith, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do It Yourself

Someone once said, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  Well, that famous quote was not referring to me, at least not in regards to painting cabinetry.  However, the lack of remodeling budget has made it necessary to begin the remodel work without experienced help.

Before my horseback riding accident, which resulted in a head injury and a stroke (1996), I studied art and did all right with fine arts painting (modern), but those days are gone. I was delighted when I was actually recovered enough to do a line drawing, and I seem to have some of my skills back.  But home fix-it projects have never been a primary skill set for me.  That’s where Kilz and Swiss Coffee and cheap but pretty hardware cover up a multitude of sins.  Actually, I can rationalize just about any level of performance when it comes to covering up dark wood paneling.

I think I did okay, especially if you squint when you get close up.

©  Elena E. Smith, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Much Should You Fix Up Your Mobile Home Before You List It For Sale?

This is a very good question, and it’s a question I am not asked often enough. 

Although homes may fall into many categories, ranging from “So-Perfect-You-Can –Eat-Off-The-Floors” to “Pull Out” (which means it is beyond fixing up and must be removed from the Park), from the Buyer’s perspective, there are only TWO types of mobile homes for sale --- “Move-In-Ready” and “Complete Fixer.”  So, when listing your home, and thinking about staging your home, this is the perspective you will be facing at this time, in this market.

A Move-In-Ready home means that no walls need to be painted; other than professional carpet-cleaning, the floors need no work; anything that has been broken in the time you have lived there (from a chipped floor tile to a missing cabinet handle) has been repaired or replaced; the walls are a neutral color; there are no roof leaks, and no spots you forgot to paint over from an old roof leak; and everything in the home is in working order.  The minute a Potential Buyer spots something that doesn’t work --- a leaky dishwasher, a shed door that is stuck part way open, a big chip out of the edge of your tub, your old garbage disposal that sounds like it’s grinding cans instead of food --- the home becomes a “Fixer-Upper” in the Buyer’s mind.

If you are not sure which category your mobile home falls into, or if you think it’s move-in ready “except for…,” then best to hire a professional to fix all that can be fixed.  Most Buyers do not like homes that appear to have been fixed up/ repaired by a do-it-yourself-er --- to them, it goes right back into the Fixer-Upper category.  So, that cord hanging down the wall that doesn’t bother you (“because the fan works perfectly”), or that doggie stain in the hallway that you covered with an area rug… all these things will be super-noticeable in this depressed housing market.

NOTHING shows worse than a mobile home that is in-between Move-In-Ready and Fixer.  Your brand new carpet will not get you a better offer if your walls are old and stained, or if you still have the old wood-paneled walls.  And vice versa – your beautiful paint job will not go far if it is accompanied by the original 1970s carpet.  When a Buyer sees a home that needs any kind of fixing, upgrading, etc., in that Buyer’s mind the home is a Fixer Upper.  So, if your home needs any fixing at all, especially if you can’t afford to do it, best to resign yourself to the idea that you are selling a Fixer-Upper and adjust your price downward.  You cannot predict the market, especially now --- even those of us who do this every day can’t foresee what will happen next --- so don’t try to second-guess what kind of upgrades a Buyer may want to pay more for.  I have seen Sellers install gorgeous carpet and a Buyer walks in and the first thing they say under their breath is, “That carpet has got to go.”

Here is what I usually tell Sellers:  If your home is not quite move-in ready, do the extra steps it takes to make it that way.  That may mean hiring a one-time cleaning service to make your tubs and showers spotless and sparkling; removing some of your collectibles (or clutter); removing some of the pictures/ decorations from the walls; maybe even putting a few pieces of your furniture in storage, for now, so the home looks ready to move into.

If you have any question in your mind about whether to spend money fixing up the mobile home you want to sell in this economic climate --- DON’T DO IT.  The only things you really need to focus on are making sure that the plumbing,  electrical and HVAC work, that there are no roof leaks, and anything else that falls under the Health & Safety Code.

If you are interested in selling or buying a mobile home in the East San Gabriel Valley area, please give me a call:  Elena Smith  626-710-0791

I handle homes in 55+ and all-age parks.

©  Elena E. Smith, 2011