The U.S. Presidential Election will be over in about a week. We have endured another campaign season and endless advertisements and media analysis. But, as exciting as a change in regime may be, it will have very little impact on the affordable housing industry. Why? Because the government has failed to take much interest to date in this sector, and it remains fully non-subsidized. So new leadership – regardless of who wins – won’t really much matter as there’s no funding to increase or withdraw. Nor is our segment of the economy much related to taxes or employment. Opening the borders or closing them won’t affect occupancy. Military spending has no effect, except if it influences new G.I. Joe toys at Walmart at Christmas. The strong point of the mobile home park industry is stability, and that’s especially important during the 4-year change of Presidential office space. So go vote, but don’t worry much about the impact on the mobile home park niche. Because there’s none.
Memo From Frank & Dave
The Key Political Issues And Their Impact On The Mobile Home Park Business
Obviously, the big news story for November is the U.S. Presidential Election. So we thought it would be interesting to review the impact of the key political issues Americans are facing in the election, and their impact on the mobile home park industry. These are our thoughts.
Increase in personal income taxes
Clinton has been vocal in her desire to raise income taxes on America’s most wealthy. Based on the demographics of mobile home parks, this is not an issue. Even the trickle-down theory will be limited, as most mobile home park residents are not employed in the yachting or high-end watch industries. Neither Trump nor Clinton are proposing higher taxes on low-income Americans, so the only sector of housing that is sweating this election are McMansion builders.
Increase in capital gains tax
This will have an impact, if Clinton is elected. The end result is that there will be a huge number of mom and pop park owners who will rush to sell their parks before this is enacted. Nobody knows for sure the exact plan that Clinton will implement – or if she can get it through Congress – but just the thought will send many older sellers, who were on the fence, heading for the exit doors. This should actually create a good buying opportunity.
This has been one area that Trump has been very vocal in, with the talk about building a wall on the Mexican border, and deporting illegal immigrants. However, we think this was all boast and has zero chance for implementation if Trump is elected. The reason? The Hispanic vote is a huge part of the political process in most states, and it would be political suicide for anyone in Congress to support the issue, except in a few states. Without the votes, it’s not going to happen. And we think that Trump realizes this reality. Clinton, of course, would potentially expand immigration in the U.S. Since a large number of residents of mobile home parks are Hispanic in most southern states, this is a very important issue to watch, but the actual deportation of existing residents, in our opinion, is never going to happen.
While free college has been a big issue on the campaign trail, it’s of little concern if you have a low income, as there are already scholarship programs in place to supplement financial restrictions. Nevertheless, there are quite a few kids in most parks, and the prospect of free college is definitely a plus for our residents, and would potentially lead to higher disposable income.
Don’t tell anybody, but the bottom third of Americans pay nothing for healthcare (not including those on social security), so this issue is meaningless. No matter what happens to Obamacare, virtually no mobile home park resident will pay either way. So the effect on their pocketbook is nil.
Higher minimum wage
OK, here’s one issue that has a lot of weight. But it’s both good and bad – so maybe we should consider it a draw. It’s unclear if either candidate has the ability to shape this, as it is mostly on a state level, and has already been enacted in a few states. The plus is that it gives our residents more discretionary income, as mobile home parks contain a huge number of minimum wage workers. But at the same time, there will no doubt be layoffs by many employers to offset the increase in wages. The typical fast-food establishment, in our opinion, has a budget of $X and will hit that budget if it means reducing their workforce an equal amount to offset the higher hourly rates – and don’t forget that fast food is the fastest-growing business in the U.S. since 2008. Automation will definitely increase if workers cost more. So we see some workers making more, and other workers losing their jobs.
This will have effects on all Americans, but mobile home parks tenants only slightly. If Trump is elected and enacts more tariffs on goods, it could make items you buy more expensive. But it also could cause plants to not move out of the country – some of which our residents work at – so it’s kind of a draw again.
This could be an extremely large item in some markets – perhaps life and death in areas where a military base is the prime employer. It’s unclear where either candidate stands on base closure, but it’s likely to come up as a topic again. The closure and relocation of military bases would make some markets stronger and others destroyed. Always make sure in due diligence to see if the military base in your market (if there is one) has been on the closure list before. The last time base closures happened was 2005. And before that 1995. It seems to happen every 10 years. That would have been 2015 – so you know it could happen any time.
This is a huge topic, but it’s unclear what the effect would be of Clinton vs. Trump. The Fed sets these targets – not the President. Nevertheless, the President is an important part of the algorithm, and it appears to us that Clinton will lead to lower rates than Trump. That’s been the subject of many articles, and the coziness of Clinton and big banks seems to support this observation. Lower and stable interest rates are good for the mobile home park business – and all real estate in general.
Over 50% of all Americans receive some type of social subsidy, so this is obviously a huge issue to our customers. Cutting back on subsidies would create financial hardship for our customers in many cases. And, as it’s well known, Clinton is much more into such subsidies than Trump. The recent announcement that Section 8 customers can start using their vouchers to buy mobile homes is yet another positive subsidy development for mobile home park owners.
While there are some key issues, many of the most talked-about campaign position stances are of little consequence to most park owners. Of the other issues, it’s unclear how much impact the President would even make. While you may watch the election with a great deal of stress, we would not have massive concerns from a mobile home park perspective. No matter whether it’s Clinton or Trump, the park business should be fine. The welfare of the nation, on the other hand, is a whole other story.
Las Vegas Boot Camp Attendees See A Billionaires Mobile Home And Park
We have written in the past about the fact that Tony Hsieh – the founder of Zappos.com with a net worth of nearly $1 billion – lives in and owns a mobile home park in Las Vegas. But we were thrilled to be able to drive by it during the recent Mobile Home Park Investor’s Boot Camp in Las Vegas. As you can see, it’s far from your typical park, but it still represents the concept of high density housing with a community feel. It appears to be a combination of Airstream trailers and micro homes. But what we thought was interesting was the location. It’s right off the strip, and not in a good part of town. Interestingly, Hsieh plans to increase his park holdings in Vegas, using this same model to promote revitalizing downtown. From the looks of his prototype, his doing a good job.
Henry Ford Was Wrong About Mobile Home Park Colors
Henry Ford had a unique concept on automobile color choices. He once said “the customer can have any color they want, as long as it’s black”. Ford was huge into assembly line production, and he found changing exterior colors to be a distraction that slowed down the line. However fine Ford was as the founder of the affordable automobile, his theory is a complete disaster when put in the context of a mobile home park.
A color monotone damages a park
Unlike the Model T and Model A, having all homes the same color makes a park look drab and depressing. You don’t have a lot to work with when trying to raise the aesthetics of a mobile home park, and home color selection is one of the key components. A park that has homes all of the same color looks like a military barracks, not the cover of Architectural Digest.
Recurring colors can bring attention to park-owned homes
Lenders and appraisers don’t like park-owned homes, and when you paint all park-owned homes the same color you basically are building a giant neon sign that says “hey, this is another one of those park-owned homes”. Bad idea. You should try to never use the same color more than a couple times in any park. Remember that it costs the same to paint a home green as it does tan. It’s all labor. Don’t be such a miser on paint that you buy 100 gallons of white because it’s $10 cheaper. Deliberately map out what homes are what color, and make sure that you have massive diversity.
Pride of ownership involves the home exterior color, too
What’s really crazy is when park owners limit or restrict the homeowner’s ability to paint the home the color of their choice. I was no different when I got into the business. But over time I realized that you can have a great looking yellow house, or pink one. Let the residents run wild and you will be amazed at the results. Some of the best looking homes in our parks are older homes where the resident wanted to make the home a showplace, and their selection of color – while not our first choice – turns out spectacular when mixed with the landscaping and deck.
Great colors are so easy to select
One thing that’s so annoying when a park owner fails to take advantage of the use of color is the ease in which you can select some show-stopping color choices. How do you do it? Easy. Just go to your local mobile home retailer. Take some paint chips from the local hardware store and quietly match them to the newest homes on the lots. There you go. Professional designers picked those out, and they are always winners. Match their skirt and trim selections, as well. Original thought is a hindrance when it comes to picking out mobile home colors.
Mobile home exterior color selection can literally alter your cap rate, drive-up appeal, and resident retention. Take advantage of this option to upgrade your community. Don’t be like Henry Ford – let creativity ring.
Why Mobile Insurance Is The Best Protection At Affordable Prices
Whether you are simply in need of an insurance quote or you have the unfortunate, yet common task, of filing a claim, Mobile Insurance is ready and waiting to take your call. We’ve used Mobile Insurance for over a decade, and their superior service is known throughout the industry. Kurt, the owner of Mobile Insurance, is a top resource for any park insurance question, and they provide free quotes on parks that you are acquiring. That’s why around 2,000 park owners in the U.S. are Mobile Insurance customers.
Mobile Insurance can help you engineer the policy you need to cover all your concerns, and their prices are unbelievably low. Being able to contact them when you need them is just as important. We recommend that every park buyer call them first, as we know of no other group that has the same expertise, quality of service, and low prices. Call them at 800-458-4320 or email [email protected]
The True Impact Of The Micro Home Movement
We get calls all the time from people wanting to know the real impact of the micro home movement on mobile home parks. While nobody knows for sure, this is our opinion on the topic.
Bring positive press to a blemished industry
There is very little positive media attention related to mobile homes. While the airwaves are filled with COPs and 8-Mile, there were no positive shows about the sector prior to the HGTV shows regarding micro homes, such as “Tiny Home Hunters”. Any way you cut it, these shows are great ambassadors to an industry that rarely can get a break on national TV.
Make mobile homes chic again
It’s unbelievable to think that it’s been 50 years since mobile homes were considered “cool”. In two films in the 1960s, Elvis lived in mobile homes in mobile home parks (“Speedway” 1963 and “It Happened at the World’s Fair 1968). It’s fantastic that micro homes are making the industry in vogue again. While we are still miles away from the average American thinking there’s no stigma to living in a mobile home, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Bring more creative thinking to HUD design
One factor that we hope to see from the micro home movement – but haven’t yet – is the incorporation of more cool design elements into the standard mobile home. Frank Lloyd Wright built a prototype mobile home called the “Usitonian Americana” and we know that the boring shoebox look of mobile homes could be dramatically improved upon. While the interiors are fine, the exteriors are not. It’s always a disappointment at the MH shows in Louisville and Tunica that the exteriors are not even remotely as nice as the interiors. We hope that there will be pressure from the micro home crowd – and inspiration – to come up with some new designs.
Micro homes are a huge fad in America right now – there are at least four television shows regarding them on the air. We think that this is great P.R. for the industry. While it’s not going to affect any park owner’s bottom line at this point, it certainly has a chance to create a new group of millennial customers going forward, who like the product and will play more for it.
A Story About Dave DiMarco
The best corporate lawyer we have ever used is Dave DiMarco at Woods Oviatt Gilman, LLP. We have used him on virtually all of our conduit loans, as well as traditional bank loans. What we love about Dave DiMarco is that he knows what we are trying to accomplish (get the loan closed quickly and inexpensively) and he can quarterback the situation and push it to the goal line without us having to bug him or worry about our progress. Here’s a story that illustrates why we use Dave Dimarco.
A few years ago we bought a mobile home park and, after turning it around, went to refinance it into conduit debt. Everything looked great until the lender’s counsel found a minor problem with the title: a city street that fed into the park actually belonged to the park and not the city. On top of that there was around 16 square feet of land that the park owner had not obtained an easement for 40 years ago, and that made one side of the city’s road in jeopardy. Now, the whole situation was ridiculous, as the city itself was adamant that they owned the street. In fact, state law mandated that, under adverse possession, they had owned the street for decades. It even showed as the city’s street on the street map. However, the impossible-to-please lender would not move forward unless we could obtain a letter from a judge stating that the city owned the street – which could take months or years. So Dave DiMarco ran out and located the owner of the 16 square feet, initiated negotiations, and we bought the easement. It saved the day on that loan. No other attorney on earth would have taken that outside the box effort. We knew then that Dave Dimarco was our man.
If you need service like that, then consider using Dave DiMarco on your next transaction. You can reach him at (585) 987-2833. And, yes, he’s the brother of Anthony and Gerry DiMarco – the #1 mobile home park loan brokers in the U.S. This is a family that definitely shapes the industry.
What Legacy Will You Leave Your Heirs?
If you are a Baby Boomer, like many of us, your life expectancy would reflect that you have about two to three decades to go. And that’s plenty of time to build a mobile home park portfolio. So why would a mobile home park be a great asset to hand down to future generations?
Income producing real estate is a great hedge to economic woes
If you haven’t noticed, America is greatly troubled economically (that’s as big an understatement as saying that Johnny Manziel has a drinking problem). A safe harbor in such times of economic uncertainty is income producing real estate. And our choice for that asset category is the mobile home park. Income producing real estate does well in times of inflation, and even hyper-inflation. It is well insulated during times of higher interest rates (as long as your loan does not come due at that time). Mobile home parks – as a part of housing – have a captive market that serves American’s most basic need of shelter.
Income producing real estate is very forgiving for bad spending habits
We once got a call from an heir to a mobile home park in California. It had 100 lots and rents of $1,000 per month per lot. So basically this 30 year-old guy was making $100,000 a month. He wanted to know if he should sell it. We told him “look, you’re 30. You may make some huge mistakes. But every month you’re going to get another $100,000 to spend. If you sell the park, you’ll probably blow the whole amount and end up homeless. So don’t even think about selling it at this point”. That’s an extreme example, but can you imagine a better position for your heirs than a sizable amount of money each and every month? And don’t forget that you’ll have no debt in 25 years, so it’s straight cash flow.
Mobile home parks are in the right spot for all U.S. megatrends
At the risk of getting boring, mobile home parks are in exactly the right place at the right time for all U.S. megatrends including 1) the decline of the U.S. economy 2) the aging of the Baby Boomers 3) the lowest interest rates in U.S. history (but lock on those note terms) 4) the growth of minimum wage employment (50% of all new jobs since 2008) 5) the rise in single-family home prices 6) the rise in apartment rents and 7) the decline of Class B and C apartments. Wow, can you name any other industry that well positioned?
Mobile home parks allow your heirs to have the best of both worlds: income and capital appreciation
Raw land has no income. Single-family homes – given the wrong fundamentals such as the fact that millennials don’t want to own any – have income but no capital appreciation. But mobile home parks offer both. The main reason? Because you can increase the rents annually and you have a huge multiplier of value: the number of lots x the rent increase x 12 x 10 (for a 10% cap rate). So the short formula is number of lots x rent increase x 120. For example, a 100 lot park that increases the rent $20 would yield an increase in value of roughly $240,000.
The necessity of young people getting a break in today’s economy
For those who say “why should I care about future generations – let them make their own money” we would point out that the opportunities in the U.S. have never been bleaker. There’s no way to make any wealth in home ownership, and the business playing field is grim. Employee stock options and pensions are going down the drain, and world competition with folks overseas who charge $3 an hour but have doctorate degrees is alarming. For your heirs to maintain a decent standard of living, giving them some type of head start is essential.
What’s a great inheritance? A mobile home park. Have one to leave to your heirs? If not, go get one. There’s still time.
Why We Love Clayton’s CASH Program So Much
As many people know, we are the largest users of 21st Mortgage/Clayton Home’s CASH program in the U.S. We have around 1,000 homes in our parks under this initiative. So why are we such huge fans of CASH?
- It allows you to fill your vacant lots with no money out of pocket.
- You are not the home owner: the customer is the buyer and 21st is the lender.
- 21st Mortgage handles all the paperwork, so you do not have to be SAFE Act licensed.
- 21st does a terrific job of screening applicants, and has very low defaults.
We’re not alone in our excitement for this program, as the number of homes ordered under CASH has more than doubled this year from a variety of park owners, both large and small.
For more information on this program, call Candice Doolan at 800-955-0021 ext 1735 or email her at [email protected].
How To Make Money With Mobile Home Dealers
Surrounding most mobile home parks are the mobile home dealers. Although their business model has fallen on hard times since the great chattel collapse of 2000, there are still some win/win opportunities for mobile home parks and local mobile home dealers. And since an occupied lot may be worth $30,000 more than a vacant one in your park, if you convert just one of these ideas into a reality in your park, it’s time well spent.
Send customers to your park
Any discussion on how to work with dealers should begin with the simple concept of having them send mobile home customers to your park. This is the easiest and most efficient. Of course, the problem is that very few folks buying mobile homes from a dealer put them in parks these days – they almost all go on to private land. But if you can get just one customer, it’s definitely worth the effort. Start by finding out what it would take to get them to refer customers to you and not your competitors. In all likelihood, it means that you will have to raise the offers on commissions and “SPIF”s (which stands for Special Purchase Incentive Funds). If another park is offering the customer $2,000 cash back on bringing a home into their park, you may have to offer $3,000. But that’s still a total bargain for you as the park owner.
Reference tool for repairmen, movers – all types of issues
One of the best sources of information on movers, rehabbers – and everyone in-between – are the street dealers. They use these groups all the time, and know who’s good and who’s bad and who’s expensive and who’s cheap. Since you are not a direct competitor, they will typically be happy to give you this information if you will only ask.
Sell you trade-ins, repos and used homes
Dealers are also a great source of homes to buy for your park. Most dealers have some used home lying around that they got as trade-ins, or maybe a park gave it to them to get it off a lot assigned to a new home. Some of these are really cheap. And, since the dealer is local, the moving cost is low. Check out what inventory they have on their books. You may find some real deals.
Bring used homes into your park and sell them in position
Some dealers will decline to sell you their old homes for cheap. But here’s an alternative plan that’s even better. Have them move them to your park, set them up, and sell them on location at full price. It’s a good deal for them because they typically have the men and tools to do those things in-house. And a $4,000 junker can be a $14,000 used home in your park, with them investing maybe $2,000 in parts. Remember that when you sell a home in a park you are selling a complete lifestyle – you can move in on the spot and customers prefer that. If your park has a great location, all the better.
Don’t write off those mobile home dealers near your park. They may be able to give you some huge returns on a small time investment. If you’re not working that angle, you’re making a huge mistake.
Why Mike Renz Is The Only Name You Need For Phase I Environmental Reports
You can’t buy a mobile home park without doing a Phase I – you could lose everything if it turns out to have environmental pollution on it. So who do you choose to do the report? We choose Mike Renz. Mike is the consummate professional and his range of knowledge is unparalleled. Here’s an example. We were buying a mobile home park and it failed the Phase I. Most people would have given up, but Renz knew that something did not seem right. It seems that a disgruntled manager had called the EPA and claimed that the owner had been operating an illegal land fill at the back of the property, yet Renz saw no evidence of this on aerial photos. So he did some quick borings and found the claim was a lie and the EPA removed it from their database. Case closed and park purchased. That’s the reason that we refer so many people to Mike Renz. Have you ever seen the “Beard of Knowledge” character on the show Pawn Stars – the guy who is a walking encyclopedia of all trivia? Well, for environmental issues, Mike Renz is that guy.
You can contact Mike Renz at (614) 538-0451.
The MHU Investor’s Club Classified Ads
This is a new section of the monthly newsletter that will allow park buyers to better communicate directly with each other for opportunities and information sharing. To advertise here, you must be a member of the MHU Investor’s Club which is a program available to our Mobile Home Park Boot Camp and Mobile Home Park Home Study Course customers.
Security Mortgage Group Is The Premier Loan Broker For Mobile Home Parks
We do a lot of conduit loans -- and regular bank loans -- every year. A common feature of those loans is Security Mortgage Group. If you are buying or financing a mobile home park, let Security Mortgage Group get you the loan. They build the loan package, they pitch the banks, and they bring you the best options. It saves a ton of time and energy, and the rates and terms they find are always better than what you can obtain on your own – they effectively more than pay for themselves. If you have any loans you need help on, you can reach Anthony or Gerry at (585) 423-0230. Tell them Frank & Dave sent you.
The Market Report
Equity Lifestyle Properties - 81.87
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