"You know, I said there's storm clouds but I'm going to change it … it's a hurricane. While conditions seem "fine" at the moment, nobody knows if the hurricane is "a minor one or Superstorm Sandy.”
-Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan
A combination of factors has the U.S. economy on the verge of a potentially apocalyptic event, which includes inflation, supply chain interruptions, high energy prices, the Ukraine war, and the reduction of quantitative easing. All combined this may trigger the worst economy since the Great Depression and, best case, a recession unlike anything experienced since 2008. So what can you do to find a good investment “storm shelter” for this high-odds occurrence? One good option is buying a mobile home park.
Why a mobile home park should make a good “storm shelter”
There are many reasons why mobile home parks offer good protection from the coming economic catastrophe:
- They are the “dollar store” of housing. In times of economic hardship, consumers are completely focused on searching out and embracing the absolutely lowest cost option. Mobile home parks are the cheapest housing option, as they have been for over 50 years. Mobile home parks are contrarian: as the economy gets worse their demand gets higher.
- The homes never leave. Mobile homes are anything but “mobile”. If the home is pre-1976 then it can’t be moved and reinstalled in a mobile home park by law as it does not have a HUD seal. If the home is built prior to 1990, it can’t be moved without the risk of it falling apart in transport. If it is built in 1990 or newer, the cost to move one is around $5,000 to $10,000 based on the market you’re in – and that’s like half of the total value of the home. The bottom line is that residents may come and go but the mobile homes rarely ever depart. This gives you an unbelievably stable income.
- Residents are retired or have essential jobs and rarely get laid off. We learned a lot from the Covid pandemic, namely that most mobile home park residents have what are classified as “essential” jobs that are mostly immune from layoffs. These include such professions as logistics, food preparation, and other basic industries. In addition, a huge number of mobile home park residents are retired. As a result, mobile home park tenants are uniquely insulated from economic recession and loss of employment.
- You can raise rents and still be incredibly cheap. The average mobile home park lot rent in the U.S. is around $300 per month. The average apartment is around $1,500 per month. It’s a no-brainer.
- Real estate, in general, does well during inflation. If you look through any economic textbook you’ll see that there are two investments that do the best in times of inflation: real estate and precious metals. That’s because they hold their value well and as the dollar erodes they are simply worth more dollars. But precious metals pay no dividends and mobile home parks do every month when you collect the rent.
- Private individuals can still find deals and buy from old moms and pops. Mobile home parks are the most fragmented of all real estate segments – the top 100 owners only control less than 10% of the roughly 44,000 mobile home parks in the U.S. This means that buying a mobile home park is still an attainable goal and is only a fraction as competitive as single-family and multi-family home investing. And since the bulk of mobile home park sellers are the original moms and pops you can get great deals at lower prices and often with seller financing.
- Banks love mobile home park loans. Due to all the reasons above, banks love to make mobile home park loans. In fact, mobile home park loans have the lowest default rate of any type of real estate loan. This plentiful availability of financing options makes buying a mobile home park much easier.
How to find a mobile home park “storm shelter”
So if mobile home parks offer a safe harbor in the economic storm, then how do you put that into practice and actually buy one? Here are the basic steps:
- Learn what you’re doing so you can sort deals into “good” and “bad” stacks. The average American has absolutely no knowledge of what makes mobile home parks work successfully, nor what you should avoid. Although the product appears simple, it’s actually pretty complicated and if you don’t know what you’re doing your odds of success are remote. Everything you need to know can be found on one website: www.MHU.com .
- Choose a territory and deal size. You can’t just get into the mobile home park business and say “OK what’s out there?”. You have to be more scientific about it and select what part of America you want to invest in as well as what sized deal you can afford.
- Build a “deal funnel”. There’s no way to find a good mobile home park without building a network to facilitate deal flow, which is called a “deal funnel”. There are basically four sources of deals to look at: 1) online listings such as Mobilehomeparkstore.com and Loopnet.com 2) brokers (both public listings and pocket listings) 3) direct mail and 4) cold-calling. The sum of these parts will determine how many deals you get to evaluate to purchase.
- Pour as much product as you can into that “deal funnel”. Buying a mobile home park is all about volume. The more deals you look at, the more likely you are to find one that works for you. You can never look at too many deals.
- Start making offers. You can’t buy a mobile home park unless you start making offers on them. Even if the offer is nowhere near what the seller is asking, that’s fine. You will be surprised how many deals started with a lowball bid. But you will also find deals that appear to be priced less than market value. Your goal is to make an offer on every single deal that might hit your criteria.
- Think like a “deal maker” and not a “deal killer”. If you look at the people who have done well with mobile home parks, you will find one universal trait: the ability to creatively work to make deals happen. We call this trait being a “deal maker”. At the other end of the spectrum is the “deal killer” personality, in which nothing is ever good enough and there’s no effort to try to fix the problems. That’s the kiss of death in this industry.
Mobile home parks are perhaps the best “storm shelter” you can create during this economic mess the U.S. has brought upon itself. Buying a mobile home park is a very attainable goal if you go about it the right way. The nation’s economic prosperity is floundering and you need to move fast to get your “storm shelter” built.