Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 31

Residents’ Mobile Home Selection Criteria

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The conduit to lot rent is an occupied home. So what makes the consumer choose one mobile home over another? What can you do to make your mobile homes more desirable? In this episode of our five-part series titled “Lessons Learned From Our Customers”, we’re going to examine what the key components are in the buying and renting decision of mobile home consumers. We’ll discuss not only what these hot-buttons are, but even the ranking of priority. If you have vacant homes – or will have in the future – this should give you some great ideas on what’s essential and what’s not.

Episode Transcript

We've all heard that the most important selection criteria for a stick-build home, for most consumers, is the kitchen and the bathrooms. But nothing could be farther from the case with a mobile home. This is Frank Rolfe with Mobile Home Park Mastery, and this, our third part in our five part series on lessons learned from our residents. We're gonna be going over home selection criteria inside of a mobile home park. And let's start off by acknowledging the location is half the battle.

You're never going to be able to sell or rent a home that's in a bad location, despite how nice it might be. So, if you have a brand new from the factory double-wide or triple-wide, at a startlingly low price, you'll still never get a person who will take it if it's not in a desirable location. So before you can really think about home selection criteria, you first have to acknowledge that location is also equally important.

But for the case of this discussion, we're going to assume you've got several homes inside of a mobile home park or maybe strewn about over several mobile home parks in a similar location. So that being the case, what makes the consumer choose one mobile home over the other to rent or buy? Well, and I've done these in the order of priority as well. So we'll discuss each item and then we'll discuss the priority in which the consumer uses these criteria to evaluate. The first and most important item to any customer who ever has walked into a mobile home park in history is how many bedrooms and how many bathrooms does the home have?

Everybody has their own number of bedrooms and bathrooms that are very, very important to them based on family size or preference. So the consumer who wants a three bedroom, two bath is going to go to a three bedroom, two bath over any two bedroom, one bath or any two bedroom, two bath regardless of if it's newer or bigger or better because they simply need, on a utilitarian basis that number of bedrooms and bathrooms. As far as that goes, you'll find that most in demand home is going to be that which is a classic three bedroom, two bath.

So if you're looking to buy homes to put in a mobile home park, without question you would always gravitate towards three bedroom, two bath. Even customers who really only need one bedroom, perhaps just the elderly man or woman who is downsizing, they're looking for a smaller, quaint, charming, but less expensive place to live. Even they always want two bedrooms. So bedrooms and bathrooms as far as number is a very, very important criteria in home selection. The second is the monthly price.

The consumer, of course, in most parks is looking for affordable housing. They have a budget in mind. If you've got the number of bedroom and bathrooms they need at the price they can afford, that deal is virtually already done. So your monthly price is also very important. Now I didn't say sales price. I said monthly price. Typically in affordable housing, the consumer is just looking for a monthly amount. They would like to own ultimately if they could, but they're not really going to do price shopping as far as this home is $15,000 and this home is $13,000.

What's more important to them is their monthly amount. As we all know, 70% of all Americans don't even have $1,000 in savings. So basically our nations all living hand to mouth. And when you're living hand to mouth, you cannot afford to break your monthly budget. So the monthly price is very, very important. Third item is the amount of money required to actually move in. Monthly price is one item, but what about a deposit? What about having to put up more than one months rent on the front end?

We have found that most consumers really hit a wall when you exceed $1,000 on total move in cost. So what does it mean? It means that even though you might have the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the right monthly rent, or sale price, the problem is if you still require too much money to move in, they're not going to move in. So if you're not getting your homes out the door, one thing to always look at is have I gotten a little bit to overaggressive on my move in cost?

The fourth item is, is it clean and smells good. You'd think anyone would know on the front end this is very important criteria. But I go in so many mobile homes that violate this. They just apparently forgot the maxim that people like to live in a place that isn't filthy and doesn't stink. So how do you do it? Well you clean your home. And don't just vacuum it and say, "It's clean." You know what I mean. You need to go in there with cleaners, whether it's you or someone that you pay, and you need to get that same kind of clean you would want in your own home.

As far as smells, the number one smell that happens in a mobile home is basically a bi-product of pets. Pet urine and other things in carpet and carpet pad. If you can't get rid of the smell, you're gonna have to replace that flooring. You're never gonna get somebody to buy or rent a home that smells badly. Just because you were too cheap to acknowledge the problem and fix it. So you've gotta get those homes clean and you've gotta get them to smell good. Whatever it takes to do that.

The next item is the ability to put in a king size bed. This is very, very, very important. I've been showing homes for over 20 years and I can tell you one of the first things the consumer does is go in and either eyeball or pace out a king size bed in that master bedroom. You've got to be able to handle it. A lot of your customers in affordable housing have very, very difficult physical jobs. You know, it always amuses me when someone comes in, into a luxury area, say, "Man, I had a really hard day." No you didn't.

You sat at a desk, you had a nice lunch, you had air conditioning. What about the people who really, really have hard jobs? They have to go out there and put down paving or sit there in the heat at 110 degrees all day or maybe hard physical labor like digging things or sawing, cutting, and building things. Changing tires. These are jobs that are really physically demanding. When they get home, they don't wanna sit. They wanna lay down. They just wanna go to a king size bed, lay there, maybe prop themselves up on a pillow or two, read a magazine, read a book, and watch bi screen TV.

You've gotta have the capability in that case to hold a king size bed. Next item is the age of the home. Now the age of the home you see is kind of odd, right? Typically in stick-build housing world, age of home is very, very important criteria, but in our industry, it's really not. Most of our customers, if you've got the right number of beds and baths and monthly price and move in price and it's clean and smells good and holds a king sized bed, they don't care if it's from 1980 or if it's from 2018. Doesn't really matter to them.

So age of home is not really critical. Of course it is a part of the buying decision. If they had two identical homes, they probably would select the newer. I mean, who wouldn't? But it's not really a really super important item to them. This next one they don't care about at all. And that's the make of the home. You know, I don't wanna insult any manufacturers who may be listening and God knows we buy lots of homes from different manufacturers and we love all of them, but most of our consumers are really not that concerned whether it's a Clayton or a Schult or a Fleetwood or a Cavco or a Legacy.

It doesn't matter. You yourself would be hard pressed if you went to the mobile home shows in Louisville and Tunica to be able to tell, if I blink fold you and put you inside of homes and you can't get any external ideas of who built it. No banners, no area saying, "Hey, you've entered the home selection area for Fleetwood." You can't tell one from the other. Not even close. I can't and I've been doing this for over two decades. I can tell in a very macro level. I can say, "Yeah, I think I'm inside of a certain manufacturer, but I don't know for sure."

And most mobile home park residents are not really into all the different types of manufacturers and all their subtle nuances. So make of home, which is so super important in stick-build, right? It's huge. People all, "Oh, I've got a Polty home. I have a Breeze home. I have a custom home." It's not the case with mobile homes. So what's really odd to me on the way people select which mobile home to rent or buy, is that they're actually starting off with utilitarian side, bedrooms and bathrooms and monthly price and total move in. And if it's clean and smells good and a king size bed.

And then they're moving into the things that we think are so important. Who made the home and how old is it? It kind of really puts a strange break system on your home purchasing, when you're trying to fill vacant lots 'cause you quickly realize that why not buy that 1980's home? Why not buy that 1990's repo possibly and bring that in? If the consumer doesn't know the difference, then perhaps buying that used home helps them out. It lowers that monthly price. So because of that, it's kind of a little different playing field when you're buying a home.

Because again, the customer doesn't really cherish the age of the home or the make and model. But now there's two other items that need to be discussed that are not really part of the home, but again are very, very big in that home selection criteria. The first one is the yard size and the layout. Now we all know that mobile home lots are not extremely big, but yet we all know that providing the yard is very important component of why someone wants to live in a mobile home over an apartment. So if you've got a mobile home, which has a larger yard and a more attractive layout, maybe it's a little longer, it could be pie shaped, you'll have a little bit better ability to get people to purchase the home because it comes with that particular yard.

What it also tells you is when you're looking at putting homes into your park, you should look about where to orient that home on that lot to maximize the potential of that lot. And additionally, what can you do with that lot to make things even better? Can you cut out some of the brush at the back? Can you shape the tree? What can you do to make that yard more attractive to the end consumer? Because again, that yard is a bit part of the home selection criteria. Next you've got trees. Now we all know that trees are in a mobile home park, a very important source of a lot of items. They produce shade and they also produce character.

I have looked at many mobile home parks and there is where there are no trees. And those are some of the most homely parks you will ever see. If you go to any part of America where trees just don't grow because it never rains. Lot of Western America, this is a problem. The parks just don't look as good. If I take you to a park in Wisconsin or Missouri or some place where it rains a lot and the trees grow really lushish and large, you immediately note that those parks look very different, but you're not exactly sure why. It's because trees really contribute to the overall ascetics of the park.

So if you have trees in your park, it's a big deal. I think you will always find if you go to red or sell a home that has a nice tree or more in the yard, that home will sell more quickly than the one that has none. So then the question becomes how can you do that if you've got a home and you wanna sell it and you've got a yard, but the yard does not have a big tree, what can you do? Well still if you can, try and create some additional character. See if you can't plant something. You know, crate myrtles are amazing trees. They seemingly grow without water.

It's just astounding. They work very good in Southern United States. Put some crate myrtles in that yard. Put in some kind of Wax-leaf Ligustrum or some kind of evergreen that is hardy and native that doesn't require a lot of watering. Because landscaping is a big deal and a little bit of landscaping goes a really, really long way with mobile homes and also as far as the resident selection. One final item because this can be added later, but it's still worthy of discussion, are decks. People love decks with mobile homes.

Why is that? Well it's because mobile homes are a natural for a deck because they're already up on stilts. So when you're already three feet off the ground, it just seems like a waste if you don't put a giant deck on that home, which is also three feet off the ground. So what do you do about decks and stairs? Well I don't think it's really the key deciding item for most residents choosing the home because you can always add it on later. But if you're trying to sell a rental home and it's not moving well, a good idea would be to go and put a nice attractive large deck on it.

Those decks are like an additional room of the home. It's an additional outdoor space that people can go and sit and commune with nature and discuss things and so they're really a great item. You'll find a lot of homes that sell very quickly, if you have several homes in a row that are all someone identical, is the home with the big deck because people just look at that outdoor space, they go, "Wow. Another room. Another place I can go out there and sit." Now again, it's something you can add. It's not really expensive to add decks.

You can build a really, really nice deck on a typical mobile home for around $1,000. And look at all the impact you get from that. I think in many cases you might get more impact on putting on a deck than a lot of items people do inside the homes. You put a little less, better carpet in their and put on a better deck, you might make that home move quicker. Now you also notice I left off a lot of items. I left off paint colors, I left off carpet colors, I left off carpet types and that's because those are typically not huge parts of home selection.

Yes, they are important. There's no question of that. However, you can always change paint, you can always change flooring so those aren't typically a big deal. Now if I had to choose on the front end what to put in, I of course would put in a neutral colored paint, a neutral colored carpet, something that's light and bright and keeping with our times. And decent quality. And I think that's very important, but that's not a key selection idea. So that's the ranking. Let's go over one last time. Number one, location. Absolutely essential. Number two, number of beds and bathrooms. Number three, monthly price. Number four, amount of money required to move in total.

Number five, that the home be clean and smells good. Number six, king size bed adaptability. Number seven, the age of the home. Number eight, the make of the home. Number nine, yard size and layout, which are not really part of the home. Number 10, trees, landscaping, making lots look good. And then the one additional item, which are decks, which again, you can always add to a home. They can always add in later. But if you're having a home that is not moving well, sometimes a deck can do all the difference and make all the magic.

Again, I hope you enjoy this and our five part series on the lessons learned from our residents. We'll be back with two more interesting ones shortly. One on the hopes and dreams of our residents, what we think in a macro scale really motivates people. And then finally all the regional differences in our customer bases throughout America. This is Frank Rolfe at Mobile Home Park Mastery. And we'll talk to you again soon.