Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 329

Can Old And New Homes Happily Coexist?

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In most mobile home parks you can find homes from nearly every decade from the 1970s to current. But can old and new homes happily coexist side-by-side? It’s a fair question – particularly when you’re bringing in newer homes to fill vacant lots in a predominantly older park. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast we’re going to focus on this issue and what we’ve learned over the past 30 years.

Episode 329: Can Old And New Homes Happily Coexist? Transcript

When you buy a Mobile Home Park, you typically get a mix of old and new homes, and it's no big deal. And then when you start filling your vacant lots, suddenly you start thinking and perhaps overthinking whether a new home can happily coexist side by side with an old one. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're gonna talk about what happens when you place a new home next to an old home and if that really, really works.

So let's just first start off with how this normally comes to the attention of the park owner. When you buy the Mobile Home Park and you've got all those '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s and 2000s and perhaps even newer homes, they're all mixed together there, old home, new home, and they all seem to get along just fine. And you're initially just concerned about pride of ownership and street scaping and cleaning up the park. But at the same time, to maximize income, you want to fill all your vacant lots.

So when it comes time to buy that first newer home, whether it's brand new or maybe a repoed home or something from a home wholesaler, but yet as many decades newer than many of the homes, you can't figure out where to put it. You got a sporadic number of vacant lots. And the question is, which lot do you put it in? And then you come to find out that based on the length of the lots and the home that you found that that 76 footer will only fit on the lot next to that home that was built in let's say 1974. So what do you do? Can you put that new home on that lot and hope that you can sell the home? Well, the answer is yes.

Old homes and new homes get along just fine. But why is that? Well, the first observation is it's not the age of the home that's the important factor, it's the condition. In many of our Mobile Home Parks, we have old homes, which are some of the best looking ones we have. We have a park up in Niles, Michigan, and if I let you walk around it and ask you, okay, which home is the nicest? You're going to pick one that's near our office that's painted yellow that dates to the early '70s. And you would say, how is that possible? If you don't know the industry and you didn't know the the story and the evolution and the dating of it, you would just choose that home because it's so well maintained. That resident has lived in the park their entire life. They've kept that home up as nice as new. It's well painted, it's got nice looking shutters on it. It's got those old fashioned awnings on it, and the yard is beautifully landscaped and mowed.

So as a result, it's our nicest home, yet it's among our oldest. And in other parks we own, we've got newer homes, let's say a home from 2000, which is in no way really attractive because the resident is not maintaining their property. They let a shutter fall off, they're not mowing the yard well, we're sending them rules violations frequently. And if you ask someone, okay, is this among the nicer homes? You would say, no, no, it's not. That home over there is, which might be 20 or 30 years older.

So really it's not about age, it's just all about condition. So the key question if you wanna put a newer home on a lot next to an older home is, what's the condition of that older home? And if the answer is, it's well maintained and the person really cares and has great pride of ownership, then it's probably going to work.

It also means, however, that if you start populating those lots next to the older homes, it is imperative that you do push those to be in good condition. In some cases, you may have to be a very active participant in that home looking its best. You'll have to be the grain of sand that makes the pearl. You'll have to have your manager go to the resident and say, look, we're bringing in a newer home on this lot next to you and we really wanna get your condition up and here are some suggestions we have. And you may have to pay for those, even if it includes repainting the home or fixing up the skirting or putting the shutters back on it. So you can manipulate to some degree the condition of the home. And again, that's far, far more important than the age.

Another issue you have is, what are the views? What do you see when you look out the windows? Because really when someone looks in that new home or newer home as far as buying it, and you're all concerned about the proximity to the older home, you only see that when you drive up. But then the question is, what do you look at the windows at?

And the answer is, well, you look at the the windows sometimes out the back of the house, not away from the home next door, the front of the house onto the street. And sometimes the view out of the windows is the problem. It's not the quality of the home next door, it's what it looks out on because every park and every resident has often some unsightly things that need to be improved that make that window's viewpoint not really that good. And in those cases, you may alter the attractiveness by simply going through room by room, looking out the window and making some adjustments. We've had cases, for example, where you've got some kind of utility there. A utility pole or something that's not attractive looking. And you can therefore block that by, for example, installing a piece of white vinyl fencing. But look at the views at those windows, not just the home and the quality of the home that you're pulling in, but what do you see out of all those different windows?

Also, remember that when you bring in that new home, it's going to give, if contrast it with an older home, it's going to give that resident perhaps a little more pride of ownership, a little more glory because they're the new home on the block or they're the newer home. Even in all subdivisions, it isn't that every home is supposed to be identical, that it's supposed to match the neighbor. People like to feel superior. When I took my psychology class at Stanford back in the '70s, '80s, I remember there was a class that said, we all have two innate desires. One is to be highly attractive, and the other is superior to everyone else. So sometimes it's a turn-on for the potential home buyer to have a home that is next to an older home because it makes him feel superior that he's got the nicer, newer home. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

Now, bringing in homes and selling homes is a complicated business. You've gotta do a great job of running ads, you've gotta have a nice show home. You have to have a manager who really caress and has really good people skills. But I've never seen a deal collapse simply over the age of the home next door. Often it revolves around the price, if the customer can get the financing, number of bedrooms that you have. But I've rarely ever seen a customer say, well, this home checks all the boxes, but unfortunately it's next to that home that's from the '80s. You just never see that. That's not really a prime part of the buyer's consideration. So in that whole laundry list of things that make them wanna buy a home and not buy a home, the age of the home that's neighboring that property is way, way down the list.

Now, I have been to a property though, where having an old home and a new home side by side, they couldn't happily coexist. There was a park out in California near a beach, and in that case, however, the park owner was trying to sell incredibly expensive mobile homes. They were bringing in double wides and even triple wides and trying to sell them in the $300,000 and $400,000 category.

So in that case, the proximity to that old double wide next door, maybe from the '60s, which only has a price point of $50,000, it really didn't work. But remember that in a Mobile Home Park traditionally, particularly one filled with single wides, that all of the homes have a relative identical value. So it isn't, even though you have the newer home, maybe the home from the 1990s, it's not as though its price point is significantly higher than the neighboring home that may be a decade or so older.

There's not that contrast. I wouldn't want to own a $300,000 mobile home next to a $50,000 one, and neither would you. But on the single wide side inside of a Mobile Home Park, that disparity rarely gets any attention. The bottom line to it all is yes, you can happily have a brand new home sit side by side with an older one. Make sure it's well maintained, has good condition, make sure you've checked the views out the windows, make sure you've got a good salesperson and good ads running 'cause that's what really makes them sell. But as far as that older home being a turnoff, it's really not. This is Frank Rolfe, Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.