Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 131

Letters From Our Residents And What They Mean

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We get love letters from residents all the time – not only on Valentine’s Day. Why do people love their mobile home parks so much? In this episode of the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to read some of these letters and analyze the key drivers to customer satisfaction that we clearly deliver on every day. We’re also going to discuss other factors that make us the best housing option in America.

Episode 131: Letters From Our Residents And What They Mean Transcript

Here's a letter from Renee and Julie Gonzalez in Illinois. It says, "Living at the property has been such a blessing to my family and I put in an application the manager looked at us and smiled and said, "All right, it's okay," and I was so overwhelmed with joy I was crying and couldn't stop.

Here's another letter, this from Juanita and Norm Drew in Wisconsin. "Mobile home living offers an economical, easy to care for way of living for retired people. This park offers a bit of country living but it is minutes from town and stores. It is so pleasant during the summer to hear all the songbirds and then at night to hear the crickets. As a retired couple, we love our home and do our best to keep inside and out looking nice, and we especially appreciate how easy that doing so is very easy. Our home may be considered mobile but is going to stay right here where it is."

Then here's another letter from Penny Chambers in Texas. "I am a full-time dental hygiene student and I am working very hard to better my life for me and my daughter. For the first time we have something we can call our very own because it has been made affordable for us. We are so happy to have our own yard and space where we can work together as a family and take care of our space and keep it nice. At first, I thought this deal was too good to be true. I thought, "You can't get an apartment for this much, how can this be?" I am so grateful that I got this opportunity.

This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series and we're going to be talking about letters we received from residents and what those letters mean. Why do we get so many positive letters from our residents? Well, several reasons. The first one is people love our product and here's what they like about it. They like having no neighbors knocking on walls and ceilings. They like being able to park by their front door. They like home ownership. They like having a yard, and they like the sense of community from having neighbors that have put down roots and live there for long periods of time that are not transient.

We also find that people love our pricing. In most cases, when you own your mobile home, you're paying $1,000 a month less than a competing apartment of that same size. That's right, the average lot rent in the US for a mobile home park is $280 a month yet the average apartment rent in the US is almost $1300 per month. Even before you have your mobile home paid in full, you're still paying substantially less. In most markets, you're typically paying $300 or $400 less than a competing sized apartment.

Let's also not forget that there's lots of used mobile homes in all these parks you can buy for very small amounts of money, as little as one or $2,000. The bottom line is, people really like our pricing. People also really like our sense of community. They like having neighbors that aren't just there for a year or six months who don't come and go frequently, but sometimes have been there for 10, 20, 30 years. We had a manager in a park in Arnold, Missouri who lived in that park for over 40 years. That kind of continuity fosters great relationships with neighbors who really watch out for each other. You just don't get that in many American neighborhoods and certainly never in apartments.

People also love the whole idea of home ownership. Now, yes, they don't own the home and land, they own the home and the park owner owns the land but the home is what they really care about. They like being able to say it's theirs. They like being able to pay far lower than anybody else in the whole community for what is a really nice home. They love the fact that it's, for the first time, something that's an asset to them and that they can do whatever they want with it.

They can paint it any color inside and out, they can change out the walls on the inside as best they want. They can do anything they want. Change out the flooring, any color of paint, it doesn't matter. People like that feeling of power. They like the empowerment of actually being an owner and not a renter. You can't go into an apartment and re-paint it, they don't allow it. You can't go in and knock out a wall and say, "Well, I want to make this bedroom larger." It's absolutely forbidden.

A mobile home, when you own it, you have that freedom to do anything you want. Equally as much as people love our product, it's worth mentioning they hate the competition, and the competition is of course apartments. Now, what's the problem with apartments?Well, the main issue we'll be talking about is not with your class A apartments. Those are new, those are shiny, those are glossy, and those are well liked by most people who rent them, although they are very expensive.

Instead, I'm talking about your class B, class C, class D apartments, those apartment complexes you drive by all the time. They're typically two stories high, garden apartments from the '60s and the '70s or maybe the '80s, and they're old and they're wore it out. The problem is they don't offer any of these advantages. Number one, you have no sense of community. No one in that apartment complex, particularly those class B, C, D apartments, those people have no intention of hanging around. They want to get out of there as fast as they can. They're literally biding time until they can save up enough money to give that termination notice and leave.

If you want to have neighbors who know who you are, who you can count on to help you out in times of need, you're never going to find that in an apartment complex, isn't going to happen. Also, you have just no privacy at all with apartments. You have people literally knocking on your wall, knocking on your ceiling. You can hear their conversations, you can hear their television, you can hear their arguments, you can hear the baby cry and you can hear the dog barking. It's simply not the way that most Americans want to live and people hate that.

You also can't park by your door. You have to park in a big old communal parking lot and then walk to your apartment even if it's raining out or snowing out, it's very inconvenient. Even the trash is inconvenient. You can't just put it in a poly cart, you have to go and take it to the dumpster. You have to throw your trash in your car or in your trunk or you have to hand walk it sometimes very long distances, maybe 50 yards to the nearest dumpster to the trash is unpleasant.

Finally, you have no home ownership at all. You'll never be a homeowner in an apartment, never will happen, absolutely zero chance of it ever occurring. It's like thinking about us visiting galaxies 500 billion light years away. It's not going to happen in all likelihood. I can't fathom how it's possible but, for the time being as far as technology has ever gone, it is absolutely no chance at all. Since you never are going to be an owner, you're never going to be able to make it like you want it yourself. You're never going to have that feeling that you've made the property similar to your own tastes and desires. Never going to happen because apartments just don't offer that.

What's making it even worse for people living in apartments is the fact that as these apartments get older they need large amounts of capital upgrades to bring them back to life. Moms and pops who have been buying up these class B and C and D apartments, they don't have the capital to do it. You see, fixing up an apartment complex is massively more expensive than fixing up in a mobile home park. A roof could cost you a quarter of a million dollars or more. Fixing up those balconies, re-siding the apartment, everything is hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It's not like a mobile home park where you can go in and paint the three ugliest homes for $400 each, it's an entire different matter. What's happening is the folks buying these class B, C, D apartments they have no capital, they can't do anything with it. They can't even borrow the money to fix them because they're so massively overpaid with such low cap rates going in that they can't even, through lending, get the capital that's needed to bring them back to life. As a result, they just keep falling apart more and more and more.

When you talk to our residents and you talk to the people who hand in letters that they give us periodically saying how much they love the way we're running the business and you talk to them, part of it is not only so much they like us but part of it is how disillusioned they were, and how incredibly unhappy they were in the apartment space because apartments just can't compete.

Not the class A, we're taking that off the table, but that's not really your mobile home park competition. The class B, the class C, the class D apartments, they're just falling apart, they're not pleasant and they're only getting worse. Even if you pour a lot of capital into them, unless you could find just the right niche. We have a lot of millennials who like maybe that cutting edge 1950s, '60s look, they've just become obsolete as for far as the floor plan and finish out.

Mobile homes of today are so much nicer than any of that class B, class C, class D product. Even if folks, some point in the movie, years from now, start coming up with the capital to fix up these old buildings, they're still just going to be old buildings and they're still not going to offer any of these amenities that mobile home park residents take for granted every day. People love us so much, if we get all these love letters from residents then I guess the key question is, why does the media, why do politicians try and pretend that we are at odds with our residents, because we're not at odds at all.

They love what we do and we love what they do. We're both stakeholders in the business. They own the homes, we own the land, there's nothing wrong with that. Recently, with the politic season going on and the presidential elections coming up, the things going on in Iowa, you'll see people reading more news stories than ever before, thinking that mobile home parks are basically a microcosm of everything wrong in America. The elitists, the mobile home parks, and raise rents and take advantage of customers. Well, if that's true, then why do we get these letters? Why do we have so many happy residents?

That's the problem no one can explain. If people were all miserable we'd be getting lots of letters saying, "We hate living here," but we don't get that feedback. A lot of mobile home park owners often will go into mobile home parks where there's rumors that residents are unhappy to see if they want to move from that park to their park. They'll even pay for the cost of the move, that's called an organic move, but here's what happens. You hear these rumors, residents are unhappy over at a certain park. You have someone go over to the park to see if anyone's unhappy and wants to move and time and time again you hear the same thing. No, nobody wants to move. Nobody is unhappy.

Why do we get these new stories? I don't know. Hopefully will die down into the future but, rest assured, based on a big old stack of letters that we have and receive frequently, our residents are extremely happy with what we do and we are extremely happy that they're so happy. This is Frank Rolfe, Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast Series. Hope you enjoyed this, talk to you again soon.