Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 164

Park Layouts And What They Mean

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We all know the trends in fashion, from the 1920’s spats to the 1960’s Nehru jacket to the 1970’s bell-bottoms. But do you know the trends in mobile home park design and what they can mean as an owner? In this week’s Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to discuss some of the most basic mobile home park design trends and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As you’ll see, mobile home park builders changed the product up considerably over the decades – and not always to the good.

Episode 164: Park Layouts And What They Mean Transcript

We are all aware of the change in fashion, the trans from the 60s to the skinny lapels to the 1970s to the wide lapels. But how familiar are you with the trans in mobile home park layouts, because those have also changed over the years and it is important as mobile home parkers buyers to know what the layouts are, what they made, with the drawbacks are, what the benefits are. How each mobile home parks fits in the historical perspective of their overall macro whole?

Letís start off with one of the most common mobile home park designs that you will see as a mobile home park buyer and that is the shot gun street. Now what is a shotgun mobile home park? Basically, kind of like the definition of a shotgun house, which is a house that is just as a long skinny rectangle where you can open the front door and the back door and shoot a shot gun through it and not hit any interior walls. And the shotgun approach to the mobile home park, you have a single street and just one street in the entire park. Each mobile home is either on the left or the right hand side of that street and typically just dead ends. They have this strange awkward ending where instead of having some kind of turn around, the street just basically comes to a complete stop and you have and you have to pull up in to the yard of one of the mobile homes through their parking pad in order to turn your vehicle around.

So what is the reason behind the shot gun street, well that is back in an era when people had no planning what so ever for mobile home parks. So who wanted to build the mobile home park, didnít have a lot of capital, didnít have any know how, they typically would often even build them in phases. So they build the street, they might go up three or four trailers out on the left and the right hand and stop. Then they got some more money once they fill those eight lots they would build up and extend another three or four lots, the very most basic way you can build a mobile home park and itís pretty much universally not like that much. Nobody feels when they see a shotgun park that they are looking at something thatís had a lot of design integrity, lot of design flare involved. Typically, not a lot of pride of ownership unless it has a great location because your just not that aesthetically pleasing. They are also typically not that large. Iíd never seen a one hundred space mobile home in shot gun arrangement, I normally see it on parks. They are typically about 20 to 40 units in size. There is nothing really wrong with them operationally, the shot gun seems to work just fine and it antiques for the awkward turn around at the end. Of course the only one who has turn around is someone who doesnít live in the park, because everybody else pulls in to their own parking pad and backs and leaves the park in that manner. Nothing really wrong with the shot gun but again itís not in any way the favored park design for investable home parks. 

Another popular design I call the spaghetti ball. What happened here is that Mom and Pop tried to have something more imaginative than the shot gun approach. But yea they didnít know what they were doing. So as each home came in they would just kind of add on a road in a strange angle here and a strange angle there. When you look at it from the aerial perspective, it looks just like a ball of spaghetti. Itís a street system that doesnít have any communality of the lines or really anything. Just looks like Mom and Pop build it out of memory on whimsy as they wimp. Some streets only have two homes on them, some streets have five, some streets may have twenty. 

The problem with the spaghetti ball park is traditionally those were built at the time when the homes were much much smaller. And because you have so many roads running around the park, you canít put very large homes in them, thatís problem number one. Problem number two is since they were built at a times when homes were smaller, its often very hard to maneuver down those roads. Iíve been in spaghetti ball in Florida where I donít think you can get a mobile home longer than something about 30 feet down the street. So as a result as homes have increased in size, doubled in size over the decades, as in some cases tripled in size over what the parks are built for, they just donít fit in those parks. So when you have a spaghetti ball park, you typically have very high levels of density, very difficult access. SO the most awkward ones in fact only have one lane street, one way only one lane streets, coz Mom n Pop to save money didnít build the streets wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic. You can imagine how difficult that makes it to try again to new mobile home in to a lot, because the road is barely wide enough and the mobile home itself to even pass down much less trying turn sharp corners. 
The Number three park the hodgepodge. Now the hodgepodge that dates back to an era in the earliest parts of when mobile home parks began. In the olden day if you look at post cards and read books, youíll see that you had a motel alongside of the road and people would come down the road with their trailer behind them (I am talking back in the nineteen forties and fifties) and they want to stop for a night but they didnít know where to put their trailers so they would go in the office of the motel, the motel guy would say ìOh yea just park it behind the motelî. 

Over the years the mobile home park industry grew in stature but those early motel units say just didnít. I know youíve seen these, these are the kind of little bungalows often with a parking in the front or sometimes with a garage attached to them. Problem is they donít really meet any current ordinances on the way they were built and also in the modern world no one stays in stuff like that anymore. So over the years the motel units became apartments and what you have is when you look at these properties you have hodgepodge of assets all rolled in to one.  The old motel units which are now apartments often Mom N Pops original house, sometime what used to be the originally gas stations converted in to a store or retail use of some type. And then you have both RVsí and Mobile homes really really densely tightly packed in together. The problem with the hodgepodge is what business model are you even in? Itís hard to sell it an RV park lender, he says itís a mobile home park. Mobile home park lender says thatís an RV park and then both lenders may say no that more of some kind of an apartment motel combination. So the problem is typically high levels of density, really hard to finding a home for lending. Not really sure what model it even is, since we all really prefer the passive approach to the mobile home park investing, the hodgepodge takes a lot of pleasure away from you coz you are always stuck with certain things you owned in there such as those little motel apartment units so we normally see the hodgepodge is typically in the older section of the --- parks first began. Thing on the western sea board, states like California and washing seem to have quite a few, but you also see in Florida frequently.

Next up to back the Cul-de-sac, this was more of a nineteen sixties design. The first three we discussed those are pretty much nineteen forties, nineteen fifties and a little bit of sixties. But in some point during the sixties people wanted to get a little more advanced. I remember that at this point, Elvis Presley had lived in two different mobile home parks in two different movies. It happened when the world was faring speed way, mobile home parks were a hot commodity. It looked like it would be the bastion of wealthy people going forward and such. Some people built a design called Cul-de-sac. Now whatís wrong with the Cul-de-sac design. I am sure youíve seen them you pull in and it appears to be a shotgun street but then suddenly it goes way round at the end and some of them never even has the shotgun, itís just Cul-de-sac all the way around. The problem when you have the Cul-de-sac arrangement is, it forces the hubs to spaced whatever is called radial spacing. They are not parallel to each other and not perpendicular to the road, but they go out the spokes of the wheel out from the Cul-de-sac. Now the problem with that is once again the homes were built or the park was built back when homes were small. But homes are no longer that small. So that problem today is trying to find home that will fit this unique radial spacing. If you really think about it, big problems youíll have you can imagine is where the road flares off in to the Cul-de-sac. Those first homes are in the angle that is angled towards the last home of when the street was straight and unless their homes are small, they would actually hit each other.  I had a park with radial spacing back in Oklahoma City built in the sixties.  It was very very difficult to operate, because it was very hard to find homes to fit the various lots. Every single lot in fact because of the radial spacing seemed to be a different sized home and some were so small I couldnít find any modern home that would fit. Over time I agreed to go ahead and respace back in parallel lots and get out of the entire redial concept. I had just too much trouble with homes hitting each other at the rear and therefore I had lots that I could not use. At least to harken the idea of mobile home parks being a little different, a little more on the round, a little upscale but the problem was it just didnít have it all together and it really wasnít built for the modern home. 

And then that brings us to our final variant, the HUD park. The HUD park is called a HUD park as it refers to a program that HUD had. It would try to influence better park constructions back in the late sixties. Iíd say that most of the HUD parks that weíve had normally date from about nineteen sixty-eight approximately and I would say this is the finest of all the versions of the Mobile home parks. So why is the HUD version so good? Well HUD put a lot of fire in to what they did. I like Mom and Pop, say didnít do it just on the seat of their pants, they actually took architects and they draw some very far sighted ideas. They didnít do just what was going on than in the Mobile home park spectra, they looked far in to the future. One thing I like about the HUD park is just how well built they are. The roads are typically extra wide, always paved, very well paved so thatís a huge plus. Drain systems are really really good They always have a parking plan either on street or two car parking off street pads thatís great so you donít have to worry about cars and car congestion but most importantly the lots were extra big. Some of these HUD parks even though homes back in the sixties were not really as long as today. They can still accommodate seventy- six foot 3 bedroom 2 bath modern homes on those lots, because just back they gave people a really extra-large yard. Today we are occupying some of that yard with the home.  But itís interesting to note all the way back then back in sixty-eight, whoever designed the park had their foresight to know that potential was there for the house were bigger over time. Also the HUD park has some unusual aesthetics for example they tried to keep the streets from not being straight shotgun approach but to having slight curves in them to look a lot more attractive than those early variants. Another great thing on the HUD parks are they typically have good common areas, normally playground areas, green space, offering a club house and a pool. You know the pool may have gotten away from now, the club house is typically still there and can be retrofitted to a number of good uses for the residents. 

So the bottom line is the Mobile home parks like all assets just tend to change over time. They morph, they improve, they did things based on a modern culture, modern economics of what was part of what was not. But we really find that we really did do quite a bit of improvement as an industry accommodating what we would call today the HUD park. Now what about parks through modern? Well remember that most parks died out as far as new construction in the seventies. Really wasnít anything more advanced in the HUD by the end. Now today people are building in some very very select cases, new parks for example thereís a community down in Austin being built by a guy named Scott Roberts, I think he has finished at this point, somewhat of a tiny home sub division but people have started to try out new things, new wave of amenities in different items. But as far as a typical Mobile home park that you as a buyer going to see out there when you are looking at properties for sale, those five, the shotgun, the spaghetti pull, the Hodgepodge, the Cul-de-sac and the HUD, those are the normal variants that you will see. They all have their plusses and they all have some minuses, but over all its not a bad way to approach the cost up of affordable housing and placing people in organized fashion for sense of community on a single piece of property. This is Frank Rolfe from Mobile home park mastery pod cast series. Hope you enjoyed this, talk to you again soon.