The Problem With Sheds

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “shed” as “a structure built to shelter something” but in many mobile home parks it’s more like “the ugliest thing on the property”. Why are sheds such a problem and how can a park owner turn the situation around?

They get ignored by the homeowner

For some strange reason, even residents who have immaculate homes and yards often have sheds that are rusted and/or falling apart (as shown in the photo above). We’re not sure where this attitude came from, but we’ve had residents tell us “but it’s only a shed” when we ask them to make it presentable – as though a shed is somehow off-limits for park rules.

But they can do a huge amount of aesthetic damage

The problem is that sheds are actually highly visible and very damaging to the aesthetics of the mobile home park when unkempt. Based on location, they are sometimes more visible than any other feature of the home, as their car blocks visibility of the side of the home but not the shed. It’s basically impossible to have a nice park unless the sheds are properly painted and maintained.

Very visible from the frontage – not a good situation

One huge problem with sheds is that -- although they are normally at the rear of the home – this is exactly the first thing you see from the frontage when you approach the property. Many park owners give their primary focus to the front of the home, which is what you see from the street inside the property. However, many mobile home parks have substantial frontage that places the rear of the homes along that street on display. Often these hideous sheds stand out like a sore thumb, damaging the curb appeal and happiness of neighboring property owners and city inspectors.

They are so easy to fix so there’s no excuse

Most mobile home park sheds simply need paint. The bulk of the models installed in the 1960s and 1970s are metal and – despite zero maintenance – are still structurally sound. Amateur models built of plywood can still be disguised with painting, although they may also need a door or two. Paint is cheap; really cheap. You can paint a shed for maybe $100. The impact is much, much more.

But don’t think about banning them

Some park owners think the solution to run-down sheds is simply to ban them. This is a terrible idea that has been tried before. The problem is that the stuff inside these sheds looks far worse than the sheds – the contents are typically rusted tools and such. You can win the battle of painting sheds, but you cannot win a new battle of hundreds of rusted items littering the yard and porch. Most owners, in fact, encourage residents to add sheds to their property to hide items such as tools and toys. A good shed is a great asset to the community. And the new sheds made of ABS plastic (which never need maintenance) are a great step forward.

It’s all in the approach

It’s worthy of mention that most shed problems simply need a proactive, positive approach from the manager to be quickly and easily solved. The plan should not be to say “what are you going to do about that nasty shed?” but instead “your home looks so great it would be terrific if we could get that shed touched up – do you have a plan for that?”. If the residents has no plan, then simply offer for the park to paint it and bill it back in, say, ten installments of $10 per month (or just gift it if your budget allows).

Conclusion

Sheds are important assets to any mobile home park yet are often horribly neglected. Make these storage workhorses an attractive member of the community. Your residents will be happy, and so will the surrounding neighbors and city hall.

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.