How To Accept And Love Your Mobile Home Park Utilities

When you first buy a mobile home park, you are a little terrified of your water and sewer system. "What if it breaks down?" you worry. "Can I afford to fix it?". "Will my tenants get mad and leave if the water goes out for a couple days?".

One of the key things to remember is that each mobile home park's utilities has its own personality. Just like people, all utility systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. The key to living with your utility system is to recognize it's unique "personality" and to accept it for what it is. Here are a few of the different utility systems and their typical strengths and weaknesses:

Metal Water Lines

Burying metal in the ground is not a great idea. Metal rusts. So metal water lines are a time-delayed disaster. But how much time do you have? In some cases, a whole lot. I have seen metal water lines that have virtually no corrosion despite the fact that they're 50 years old. If you think about it, virtually all the water lines you can think of (unless you live in a brand new subdivision in a town that was entirely built in the 1990s) are made of metal. And everything seems to be O.K. Sure PVC is better, but metal can be just fine. And there's nothing you can do about it. Can I sleep at night with metal lines? You bet I can. I have had little trouble with all my metal lines, and I can definitely be proud of them with all their faults.

PVC Water Lines

If you have PVC water lines, you are a very, very fortunate person. There are very few parks out there that have them. They are the best. Nothing else can compete with them. Before you get too excited, make sure that the whole system is PVC. A lot of times, the park owner has retrofitted PVC onto metal lines where they come out of the ground. To have a PVC system, it has to be 100% PVC below and above the ground.

Clay Tile Sewer

This was the standard design from about 1900 to the 1970s. Most of what you see out there is clay tile. It's basically sewer pipe that is ceramic it looks like pipe made out of the same stuff as the flower pots at the fancy nursery. And it is really a pretty good system. I have had many clay tile sewer systems, and I was not worried about them when I went to sleep each night. The biggest weakness with clay tile is tree roots. The clay tile pipe does not fit together so tightly that tree roots can't find a way to get into such a terrific water source. So when you have clay tile, you will be doing a lot of rooter roto repair calls. But that's a manageable expense. The other weakness with clay tile is its inability to survive jetting of the lines. When you "jet" a line, you spray extremely high pressured water down the sewer lines to push any debris into the city main line. The high pressure spray can often cause a cracked pipe to cave in. When we discontinued jetting our clay tile lines, we had no further cave-ins.

Cast Iron Sewer Line

These are very rare systems. Of course, they are easy to work with. They don't cave in. They can deteriorate over time, theoretically, but I've never actually seen that happen. We've only had one of these systems, and the only fault it had was a series of "bellies", where the flow was slightly uphill in places to it would not drain properly. You would never lose sleep over a cast iron system.

Thin-Walled Plastic Sewer Line

This is the bad boy of the sewer pipe world. This is the crazy, undependable cousin of real utility lines. This junk will cave in all the time sometimes in 50 foot segments. Having this type of sewer system is like inviting a mass murderer over as a house sitter. It might be O.K. or it might be a catastrophe. It's like the crazy gun slinger in a spaghetti western who might shoot you or smile at you. Living with that type of uncertainty will drive any sane person nuts. The only thing you can do with this type of system is "tough love" if it can't work properly, then replace it. And make sure you budget for this eventuality when you buy the park. If I was looking at a park built with this junk, I wouldn't touch it unless I could re-pipe the entire park into PVC, and still have a great return on investment. And that's probably where you are going to end up, either replacing the system at one time or in sections over time. I can't sleep well with this stuff.

PVC Sewer Line

This is the Cadillac of the industry. It is, if properly installed, flawless. Whoever invented this stuff was a genius. I can think of no weakness with PVC. If you have a full PVC sewer system, then you are very lucky indeed.


Like people, water and sewer systems come in all types of shapes and sizes. But that does not mean that certain types are to be avoided or discriminated against. It is possible to accept the type you have, and be happy with it. You just have to understand the character flaws, and work around them.

Frank Rolfe
Frank Rolfe has been an investor in mobile home parks for almost 30 years, and has owned and operated hundreds of mobile home parks during that time. He is currently ranked, with his partner Dave Reynolds, as the 5th largest mobile home park owner in the U.S., with around 20,000 lots spread out over 25 states. Along the way, Frank began writing about the industry, and his books, coupled with those of his partner Dave Reynolds, evolved into a course and boot camp on mobile home park investing that has become the leader in this niche of commercial real estate.