The U.S. demand for affordable housing is huge, but you can’t rent or sell a mobile home unless it’s been renovated. Home readiness is, in fact, the number one problem for most park owners that have vacant units. But it’s perpetually harder to find those who will work on mobile homes as they seek better paying alternatives. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review some fresh ideas that we’re implementing to find home renovation workers in a tough U.S. workplace.
Episode 261: New Ways To Find Mobile Home Rehabbers Transcript
The US demand for affordable housing is gigantic, but you can't rent or sell a home until it's ready. This is Frank Rolfe from Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. We're gonna focus on how to find more people to help you get your vacant mobile homes in a ready condition so you can get them out the door. Now, we all know we live in a very challenged America right now. There's a lot of people who have bought on to this idea of the great resignation, they all quit, they don't wanna work anymore. Right now, there are two vacant jobs available for everyone who's supposed to be out there looking for a job. We're a crazy employment market, and a job that most anyone doesn't want is rehabbing mobile homes, 'cause people who rehab mobile homes, they were good at it. Well, they move on typically into the single-family home arena where they make far more money. So we're starting off behind the eight ball to begin with, trying to get mobile homes renovated into a world right now where all the megatrends make finding anyone to do anything nearly impossible.
So what do you do to try and find a fresh supply of people to renovate your vacant mobile homes? Well, the first thing is, look internally. Is there anybody on your team, on your staff right now, maybe in a maintenance position that could actually be used to renovate homes? One of the best people we have to renovate our home started off just as a maintenance person, and then we tried them out doing things, and it turned out they were really good at almost everything. They had an innate craftsman capability, they were good, they were fast, good with their hands. So the first question is do you have anyone out there right now in a different role who could be someone to remodel mobile homes. Now, if you don't have a big enough park where you have any maintenance staff, well then ignore this first item, you have no one to choose from to begin with. But if you do happen to have a maintenance person and you have them out there picking up litter and things like that, well, it's a lot more economically profitable for you to use that person to remodel homes if they can do that, 'cause you can always delegate those other items to somebody who's less skilled.
Next, just drive other mobile home parks and steal their contractors. There is an easy way out. Just drive through all the other mobile home parks in your market periodically or have your manager do so, and look for guys rehabbing mobile homes. And then when you see one, you see the pickup truck, you see the debris out in the yard, you see the saw, go in and say, "Hey, do you guys remodel mobile homes?" "Well, yeah, obviously, we do." "Well, great. Give me your name and number. You got a business card? What's your schedule looking like?" That's a very easy way to start amassing a bigger list of potential workmen, is by just looking at who's doing the work at the other properties around you. And on that note, just call the other community owners, all the surrounding ones in your metro area. It doesn't hurt. What's the worst that can happen to you? If you own a mobile home park, and you periodically have homes that are vacant that have to be renovated, it would do you no good if the guys you normally use aren't available because they went out of work because they couldn't find anyone to hire them.
So they have an innate reason to go ahead and tell you if there's somebody out there that they use to remodel their homes because that'll help keep them employed. So when they need them a year from now, they're still in business. So just call all those other community owners and say, "Hey, do you have anyone who remodels homes that you could recommend?" Worst they could do is hang up on you. Best they could do is give you an idea that might lead to a good profitable thing for you. Next, start thinking in the Henry Ford way of the assembly line, as opposed to finding someone who can do everything. A lot of times you wanna choose that one person who can go in and remodel the whole home and they can do everything, the carpentry, and the carpet, and the paint, and the whole deal. Well, maybe you'll be better off finding people who have more limited skills who can just do it in an assembly line format. Maybe you should just look for someone who can just paint, or somebody who just does carpentry, or somebody who just does flooring or plumbing or whatever the case may be, because it's a lot harder to find that one jack-of-all-trades person, than it is someone who has a little lower, smaller skill set.
And if you've got two or three homes, it may work out better for you just to get one person to do those two or three homes in their little finite skill than a general contractor concept that does all of it. Another thing you can do is just put more ads on Facebook marketplace for contractors and Craigslist. Put anything out there you possibly can, put in search of, on Facebook and Craigslist, get the word out more heavily that you're looking for someone to renovate these mobile homes. A lot of parkers do not use the internet well on that, they use it great on getting homes out the door to rent or sell homes. Oh yeah, let's pour all that online, but they don't do anything as far as looking for workers online. So give that a shot. See if that might lead to a few names for you. So what we've started doing is we're putting big banners on a lot of the fences, on a lot of our properties that just say, skilled carpenters needed. And why do we say carpenters? Is it all carpentry? No, but we find that that's probably the most important skill, if you're going to renovate the homes, is someone who's good in carpentry.
A lot of people can paint but not that many know actually how to saw things and nail things and screw things together that fit and that work and look attractive. So if you've got decent road frontage, our typical mobile home park that we own has a traffic count typically of about 10,000 cars a day on it. We're mostly major secondaries and a lot of freeways. So I can reach a lot of people. It's a message you don't see very frequently. I don't know when I've last seen a banner that said skilled carpenters needed, but if you're a carpenter, and you saw that and you were looking for employment, well, then I think you might well respond. And since it costs nearly nothing, a banner costs $200 to $300 to have it made, a big old vinyl one, and you've got the frontage already, well, why not use it? See if it brings something in the door that might be able to help you get your homes done. This next one is interesting because many community owners, they when I say this, they'll say, "Oh yeah, that's a great idea. But why aren't you already doing it?" And that's doing a resident referral letter looking for contractors.
Many of us have always found one of the best ways we had to find residents to fill vacant homes was a letter to all the other residents saying, "Hey, if you've got somebody who wants to live here, a friend or family member, a co-worker, and they go ahead and buy a home from us or rent a home from us, we'll take X dollars off your lot rent." Typically a couple of hundred dollars, and it was easy when you send a letter out to get a lot of response because people knew a lot of friends and family members and co-workers who wanted to live in the mobile home park, but many of the people in the mobile home park also know a whole lot of people who are potential home rehabbers, because mobile home park residents often work in the exact same trades where you would find those who are open to the idea of fixing mobile homes. So try sending out a letter only on that attack plan saying, "We are looking for contractors," and you can even offer them a bonus, if they can go ahead and get a contractor, you sign up and they do a home work for you, you'll give them X dollars off their lot rent.
But even if you don't give them economic incentive, they're still gonna tell people just to be nice because they may have a lot of friends and relatives and co-workers who need extra work, or need a job who have those skills. So often you're overlooking your resident base and for no good reason, because they are... They're often one of the best potential sources of new workers to get those homes done. The final item is, it's time for many park owners to change their entire bonus system away from just renting or selling homes but to focus more on home readiness. For example, if you've got a bonus system, maybe you should impact that bonus system based on how long it takes for the home to be ready to go once it's been vacated. So, start tracking the number of days vacant and if the home has been vacant for a long period of time, possibly, then their commission is reduced when they ultimately get it rented or sold or maybe instead if you flip flop and you had that they get a bigger commission based on how few days that the home was not ready to go, because a lot of times where the home readiness really falls apart is the manager and their own inherent sense of urgency.
So if the manager doesn't feel like getting the home out the door is really important to them, they'll just let it fester and they'll just procrastinate and let it just go mañana, mañana, mañana and they'll never get that home in a move-in-ready condition. But when you change it around on the manager and try and impact them financially, through how quickly they'll go out and find the home rehabbers and get the home rehabbed then suddenly it's gonna get your home on the market much, much faster. It's very, very hard as a park owner to ever get anywhere getting those vacant homes filled, unless you and the manager are on the same page. And if your bonus structure is just, "Okay, you saw the home and you get X," but there's no preamble to how quickly they must do it. They often can just... If they have other interests that they find more pressing, just backburner that.
You don't want it to be back burner-ed any longer. You want the manager every day to be obsessed with how fast can I get this home fixed because the faster I get it fixed, then the faster I'm gonna get it sold and the faster I'm gonna get my money. And when you can tie your bonus to how long the home is vacant, that you're really really going to align that manager's goals exactly in line with yours. The bottom line to it all is rarely a problem with most communities and getting homes filled. The phone rings off the wall, people drop in every day, they're all looking for an affordable place to live, we all know that. The bigger challenge you have as a community owner is typically simply finding people to get your homes rehabbed so they can be sold or rented. This is Frank Rolfe of the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.