Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 260

Inexpensive Amenities That Residents Love

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One of the best ways for any mobile home park owner to create a nicer community is the addition of amenities. These come in all price ranges, but there’s a surprisingly large number that are very inexpensive yet have huge bang for the buck. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to explore what these amenities are, what they cost, and why they are so effective.

Episode 260: Inexpensive Amenities That Residents Love Transcript

Webster's dictionary defines an amenity as a desirable or useful feature. That's a great way to think about it, because in many mobile home parks, the things you do, those little items you add, are what gives your community that happy feel. This is Frank Rolfe, The Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. We're gonna be talking all about inexpensive amenities, things that any park owner can do to really make the quality of life higher for the residents in their property. We'll start off with the category of things which are either free or very close to free, and the first item would be a newsletter. A newsletter is such a simple item to produce. All it is, is basically one, 8 and 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, typically front and back, if you do it by printed form, or any length you want in the form of an email. Typically, in the newsletter there's a few basic features, normally a paragraph talking about something to do with that month, historically, like Valentine's Day or Christmas. And then, additionally, some additional tips for residents on things they might wanna do because of the season, so just keep faucets dripping if it's freezing out, things like that. And then, there's a whole another level of customization you can do, you can put recipes in it, you can acknowledge people who won awards in school, you can do whatever you really like to do.

And the beauty of the newsletter is, it helps to bind those residents together as they learn more about each other, then it gives them the opportunity to discuss topics and build friendships, and those relationships are all important in a mobile home park. The entire sense of community is one of the biggest amenities you can in fact offer, and often you can jump start that simply by doing a newsletter. If you say, "Well, I don't know how to write a newsletter." Well, you'll be shocked if you go online of how many services are offered out there at an insanely low price point to produce a newsletter for you. But having that newsletter, having something out there front and center that tells the residents, "Hey, we care about your life and we want everyone to know each other and build bonds," that's a really important item. The second is just a cheery attitude on the part of your manager, this is totally free. Basically, have your manager look at the half full glass as half full and not half empty. If they smile and are nice to the residents, it puts them in a positive mood, and it makes everything go better. Having a dour, unhappy manager, who approaches things in a very sarcastic and unfriendly way, really doesn't get you what you want from your community, which is something in which you get your rent, people follow the rules and everyone is happy with the value decision they have in living there.

How do you get the manager to have a more cheery attitude? Well, number one, tell them it's important to you that they do so. Another good way to do it is to go ahead and direct your phone line, the incoming calls through, such services as who's calling or if you have manager VoIP, so you can listen to the recorded messages of what your manager tells people. And then finally, have a helpline in your community, which allows residents to know what's really going on. And going on to the helpline that is next in our list of nearly free items any community owner can do. What is a helpline? Well, it's nothing more than a dedicated number, coupled with an email address, that residents can call when there's a problem. So they can either email you or they can phone, you don't have to live answer it, it can go to voicemail, the voicemail should be transcribed and the number also notated. And this allows residents to reach you if they are unhappy. Now, you don't get a whole lot of calls on them contrary to what you may think, we've had one for years now, you'll be shocked at the low volume, because in a well-running community, there's virtually none. But if there's a problem in your community, particularly something wrong with the manager, there's no way you would ever know of a problem with a manager, 'cause they could suppress that information. So therefore, the helpline is a really, really important item to have.

Next item is a company uniform, it doesn't have to be much. I'm not talking a blazer and a special hat, I'm talking more like a polo shirt with the name of the community embroidered on it, or a regular buttoned-down shirt or a jacket, wind breaker. All these things can be bought online so inexpensively today, and it really does set a different standard when you're a manager, or if you have any additional maintenance staff, if they are wearing uniforms. It makes people feel like you live in a country club. It also allows them to identify people, particularly with maintenance staff, who are legitimate folks walking around the community, picking things up, and not people who shouldn't be on the property. Next, we have adding street lights through the power company. Now, often when you buy a community, you can go, if you like, to the power company and have them add additional street lights. And many will do this at no cost to you, the only cost will be a regular monthly bill, which is surprisingly low, for the benefit of having that street light, particularly at the entrance of your property. If you have residents who are going down the road, have to turn in, it's really hard to see where to turn if it's really dark at the entrance.

And often, if you can add a nice street light, right there at the entrance, a bright one, powered by regular electricity, not solar, we're gonna get to solar here in a second, then that gives the residents the ability to know where to turn in, and makes their driving safer and generally happier. Next, an information bulletin board at the office. We love these things. Imagine a bulletin board with a protective plexiglass cover, so no one can get in and tamper with what goes in it. And you can basically put that right by the office or by the mail boxes, and you can put information in that, themed to the season, so there's a bit of creativity that goes with it. But you could also put information in it regarding homes for sale or any other information you feel the residents would like to know.

So those are a lot of amenities there that you can do for next to nothing, as far as cost. But what if we go up a notch up to around $500 and under? What can we do then? Well, let's see. The first thing you could do is you could do a Yard of the Month club. This almost falls under the near zero, but it's all gonna depend on how much you want to give out, as far as the prize. Now, in a typical Yard of the Month club contest format, you have a sign made up that says: Yard of the Month, and then whichever resident has the best looking yard for that month, they win the award, and typically, some form of cash prize. How much you wanna set the cash prize for? That's up to you. Many community owners like $50, so it'll cost them $50, or $600 a year, to do the Yard of the Month contest, but you don't have to necessarily pay that much, people are happy just to have the notoriety of winning. But it seemingly makes it run smoother and seems a little more glorious when you do give them some form of money. Another item is striping speed bumps. Speed bumps are very, very annoying to all park residents. We typically don't try and add them, but we make do with what we have. But if you can't see where the speed bump is, it's extra jarring. Striping is very, very inexpensive. So stripe the speed bumps, and you'll have lots of happier residents 'cause they can see it coming, and it just makes the road look more professional.

This next one is something called a blessing box; we've been doing a lot of these recently with lots of great feedback. A blessing box... And I know everyone has seen this. It's a box that typically sits on a single pole, they can be made of wood, they can be made of metal, they have a door on them with plexiglass. And inside, you have several different options, typically chosen by the residents. Some people use blessing boxes to put in books, the concept being, read a book and then put the book back. If you have any excess books, put them in. Wanna read a book? Well, there's plenty in here you can read for free. In other communities we have, those blessing boxes become filled with food. People put canned goods and other items that are safe and store well in the blessing box, with the concept being, if you've got a little extra money, a little extra blessings, put some excess food in the box for those who need some. What's great about the blessing box is, not only does it make people feel good 'cause they're helping others, but people never ever vandalize those things, I think they find it almost sacrilegious to do so. So we've added blessing boxes now in most of our communities for a while, and they never get tampered with. People use them as they were originally intended, to either put food or books, or whatever else you think in there that a community resident would need, and it's there for them in times of need.

You can typically get a blessing box for less than $500, depends on the quality of what you do, whether you go with wood or metal. Next, just generally cleaning up your mailbox area. I'm shocked at how many communities I go in where everyone overlooks the mailbox. And the mailbox is something that every resident sees at least once a day, except possibly on Sundays. So why not make it look better? Typically, mailbox areas, all they need is some paint. The posts that hold up the mailboxes, and it depends on the kind of mailboxes you have. But regardless, there's always room for improvement. You might also wanna add a trash can. A lot of mailbox areas, there's tons of paper that fall on the ground and blow around the property, because there's not a place to just put all that junk mail. You can get a nice commercial trash can to go by your mailboxes, again, for less than $500. And it will pay dividends, wonderfully, as far as aesthetics, because all that junk mail will be contained and won't be blowing around the property all the time.

Next, one of our favorite amenities, the good old American picnic table. We find that residents prefer this amenity to almost all others. You put a picnic table in any mobile home park, on any vacant lot or green area, and you will have lots of people using it. It's fun for people of all ages to use. They can eat there, they can draw pictures there, they can simply sit there and converse, they can sit there and converse while children run around playing in the background. So picnic tables are great. Now, picnic tables may cost you a little more than $500, based on the kind you buy. If you look online, you'll see there's many, many options. You need to buy ones that are commercial grade, typically made out of some form of resin or metal. But those picnic tables, if properly maintained, will last a long time, but yes, they might cost you a little more than $500, maybe up to $700 to do so.

However, if you're gonna put in picnic tables, another great amenity for under $500, and this one costs less than $500, is the outdoor charcoal grill, the commercial grade, the kind you see that the National Park Service use, the kind that you find in almost any dedicated roadside stop along the highway. Those grills give people the ability to cook outdoors, and what a wonder that is for most people. In fact, an RV industry study done years ago found the number one amenity, the number one pleasure for most people in RV parks was just outdoor grilling of food. So by putting that in your property, what are you gonna get? Lots of happy residents, they're gonna use that thing all the time, and it fits in perfectly with that picnic table addition. Next, let's replace all those ugly, hideous, rusted road signs inside the property with new ones on beautiful PVC post with nice matching PVC caps. Mom's and pop's angle iron street sign series is not a winner. Rip it out. You can buy the signs, whether they be speed limit signs, other signs, stop signs. Those things cost online probably about $50 new, or maybe even $100 in some cases. You add in the cost of the post, you've got something that's about $200 roughly in cost, and it's just a great looking amenity to your property. Removing all these old rusted signs and replacing them with new ones gives a whole another level of charm and aesthetic sensibility to your mobile home park.

Let's not forget solar streetlights. We love solar streetlights. We've been adding them to our properties... Oh, I think now for nearly a decade. We saw them in a trade show, at one of the Vegas mobile home park events years and years ago. We started buying them as a test, and we found the more we added, the more we liked them. We buy the ones made by Gama Sonic. We buy even the big ones. Now the big ones you can't get for $500, but you can get lots of the smaller ones for that amount. And we use them to create ambient light throughout the darker areas of the property. Residents like ambient light, it makes them feel safe, and it's aesthetically pleasing. Next, feather flags. Feather flags are flags that look completely furled out in the wind, perfect, regardless of what the weather is doing. Unlike a traditional flag, when there's no wind, the flag just sits vertically and doesn't do anything. Feather flags are always out because they don't require any wind to keep them exposed... The full color of whatever flag you've selected. We love feather flags, you can buy feather flags for about $200. We like to run them down the entrance if we can, roughly to a space of about 50 feet. But if you can't afford that, if you just put maybe one or two at your entrance, and another one, perhaps, at your office, it would do you a world of good.

And then finally, as long as we're adding signs, let's go put a few more signs to let residents know we appreciate them. Signs that say things like, "Welcome home". Those kinds of signs definitely affirm your residents' value perception that they like paying and living in that community. And when you reinforce that, you reinforce retention, you reinforce attraction of new residents, does you a world of good. The bottom line to all this is, there are many, many amenities out there for every park owner at a very low cost. And there's really, as a result, no excuse not to go ahead and put most everything I just mentioned into your property. You can still get it in this year before winter hits, and your residents will be very happy you did. This is Frank Rolfe, The Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.