Here’s the scenario: you’ve got a mobile home and a piece of land you want to sell, but you don’t know where or what the title is, how to find it, or who to call for help. Sure, it’s a little niche, but as a cash buyer ourselves, we’ve seen it countless times in the past year alone.
In fact, cash home buyers and mobile home investors often run into mobile home title challenges, and most of those challenges have roots with previous owners, like you! Many investors won’t even take a chance on a mobile home without a clear and clean title, which can leave you out of options as a hopeful seller. Luckily, there are a ton of solutions available to you if you know where to start you search. Hopefully this article will help you sell your property!
What is a mobile home title anyway?
In most states, the state in which the mobile sits issues the mobile home title. Think of it like the title to your car. In fact many states, including our home state of Florida, treat it almost identically! That title contains all the information needed to identify the mobile home, such as the: VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), manufacturers serial number, make, model, year built, owners name, and lien holders information (did you borrow some money to buy that mobile home? It will be on the title.) And a double-wide mobile home has one title issued for each side.
In Florida the Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for the issuing, transferring, and record keeping of Mobile Home Titles, and this is also the case with most others! Additionally, most states issue the title as a piece of paper, though some offer digital options, and many keep a separate record with their Department of Motor Vehicles. Seems simple right? It should be, but often that’s not the case.
Common Title Issues for Mobile Homes
The most common yet difficult to overcome issue facing a mobile home sale is a lost or missing title. Maybe you don’t know where your title is, or maybe it was destroyed or damaged beyond recognition. Maybe you never got a title, which happens often when a mobile home is gifted by family or friends, or purchased as a package with land.
Call your local DMV or go to your local DMV office and have them search for your title by name and address. Bring your ID and a document with your home address, as often they can verify your ownership and print a duplicate title for you right there for a small fee!
If they can’t find the title by name, the next step is to have them look up the title by VIN. There are a couple of places you can find the VIN if you don’t know it off-hand.
The first is on the I-beam of the home’s frame. Typically the manufacturer will stamp the I-beam with the VIN for this exact scenario. However, this won’t be an option if you or a previous owner has taken the mobile home off of it’s trailer or affixed it to a foundation.
Another place to look is the HUD data plate, which is required by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) to be affixed to every manufactured home. This data plate may be a metal decal or a piece of framed paper, and is typically located on an inside wall in the master bedroom or closet, inside of a kitchen cabinet, or near the HVAC closet.
Finally, if the mobile home is on private land, and has ever been sold with the land, you can check the property appraisers records for previous sales information. Find the party names and dates of previous deeds. Then check the digital public records of the Counties in which those deeds were recorded or request hard copies. Often if a mobile home is mortgaged with the land, the VIN will have been included with the legal description in the recorded document. This last option is particularly important if you bought the mobile home at a foreclosure auction or tax deed sale!
If all else fails, research a local mobile home title agency and see if they can get involved. Sometimes they may be able to access documents that you cant!
Another common issue that we’ve seen personally as a cash buyer, investor, and seller of mobile homes occurs when the potential seller isn’t actually the mobile home owner. If this is your situation, don’t freak out. It happens more than you’d think, and we’ve managed to navigate and overcome this challenge numerous times.
The primary reason this occurs is simple oversight. The title company that handled your closing may not have included the mobile home on the deed, and the lender might not have realized that the structure in question wasn’t affixed.
Another way this occurs is through purchase at a foreclosure auction or tax deed sale, as the final judgement, Tax Deed, or Certificate of Title may have been exclusively for the land, and didn’t actually include the mobile home itself. Again, not the end of the world, but obviously an issue.
If you know the previous owner, or know how to contact them, and they are on good terms with you, the solution is simple. Call them and ask them to transfer the title to you. This can usually be done with a Bill of Sale, and whatever title transfer documents your state’s agency requires. At most it usually takes a few signatures, a notary, and a witness, along with a small fee. We recommend you make it as easy for the previous owner as possible by paying the fees and setting up the meeting with the notary, but that’s between you and them!
If you don’t know them or how to reach them it can be a little bit more complicated. Your local title company or a local attorney may be able to help track down the previous owner, and can sometimes work with the lender or title company from previous sales to help complete the transfer.
Even if the previous owner can’t be reached you aren’t out of options. Depending on how long the mobile home has been on the property, and if it was vacant when you acquired it, or the previous owner acquired it, you may be able to file for an abandoned title. In Florida, filing for an abandoned title can be handled by most mobile home title companies, and typically costs a few hundred dollars and takes 3-4 weeks.
You’ve managed to get the title and you are the owner, but for whatever reason there is still a lien stopping you from transferring it. This is common when lenders and banks fail to send your local government agency documentation showing that you, or the previous owner paid off the mobile home.
Call the lender that holds the lien. Typically this information can be found on the mortgage documents or deeds recorded in the public records of the county where the mobile home resides. If the loan was originally in your name, the lender can typically provide a payoff letter showing that you are in the clear. Bring this letter to the DMV when you transfer the title and they should be able to handle the rest.
If you aren’t the original loan recipient things can get more complicated, but as we keep stressing, stay calm, there’s always a solution. If the loan was paid off, a title company or attorney may be able to get a copy of the payoff letter for you. If the loan wasn’t paid off you may be able to work with the lender or your title company to get the back balance paid off, or even forgiven depending on the status of the mobile home.
A Final Note
Even if none of the solutions above fit your problem, and hey, it’s unlikely but possible. We like to think we’ve seen it all but new challenges constantly appear. However, a local real estate investor may be willing to take a chance and pay cash for the land with the hope that they might be able to figure out the title situation after the fact. Call your local cash buyers and find out!
This article is intended for entertainment purposes only. Always consult legal and/or professional counsel before making any decisions about your home, mobile home, or land.
About the Author: Erik Jacobson is a real estate investor and marketer for Duval Home Buyers LLC. A four year veteran of the Jacksonville market, he provides his expertise to help homeowners find solutions to difficult real estate situations.
Duval Home Buyers LLC is a real estate investment firm based in Jacksonville Florida. We buy houses (we even buy ugly houses) in any condition including mobile homes, vacant land, condos, and commercial properties! If you are interested in a cash offer on your home or need to sell your house quickly, give us a call at 904-346-0600. Duval Home Buyers LLC utilizes the brokerage and real estate services of Wholesale Realty LLC.