Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 209

Quick Charm

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When you buy a mobile home park, you are in a race against time to improve it’s appearance for a number of reasons. Higher existing customer retention, higher new resident attraction, better city government relationship and stronger banker satisfaction are all made possible through simple aesthetic improvements. So what are these key improvements that can be made rapidly? That’s the focus of this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast.

Episode 209: Quick Charm Transcript

Ever seen those shows on TV like Counting Cars where they take an old jalopy and make it into a great collector classic? It takes them typically a month or so to get the job done, straightening the body, repainting the car, doing the interior. But with mobile home parks, you can typically get a lot of charm really fast. This is Frank Rolfe with the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're going to be talking about how to get quick charm with a mobile home park, things you can do so fast, it makes your head spin, ways to take old beat up derelict mobile home parks that have seen their best days decades ago, and bring them back to life in such a manner that the residents themselves don't even recognize the place.

So let's go down the quick list of ways to create quick charm with any mobile home park. Number one, the sign. Normally every sign that we see in every mobile home park we've ever purchased, was an abomination. A sheet of plywood rotting, often you can't even read the words on it, and sometimes the signs missing. We bought a park once where the sign had snapped off of the ground was laying on the ground. Putting a new sign in, it is not in any way hard to build a professional yet very inexpensive sign to let people know that you're proud of the community, that they've arrived at the community, the name of the community and even the phone number the community. How do you do it? Well, two 4x4 wooden posts in the ground and concrete, sleeve with white PVC with a nice looking PVC cap. Typically a 4x8 or 5x10 sheet of aluminum. You can use green, blue, whatever color you like, typically with white letters. Make the letters large, the words few, typically the name of the community and the address and the phone number that's about all you can put on there. And you've got a really nice looking sign for probably $2,000 or less. Doesn't have to be a fancy sandblasted sign, doesn't have to be a fancy sign made of metal letters attached to beautiful stonework. That type of sign will do just fine.

And while you're at it, let's keep the theme going. You've got white vinyl posts on the sign. Well, let's put it a white vinyl fence. Nothing makes a mobile home park standout more than when there's a white vinyl fence running right down the frontage. We prefer three rail white vinyl, but I'll leave it up to you. There's two rail and four rail, but we've tested it, we think three rail is the best. Since I have that fence up, well, what more can I do with the front? Well, let's put in some feather flags. Feather flags are relatively inexpensive, a couple hundred dollars each, typically spaced them around 50 feet from flag to flag. And when you put those feather flags behind that brand new three rail white vinyl fence with a brand new sign that matches, you will have quite the entry. Your residents will arrive home when you install this, which you can typically get that whole thing installed in two weeks or so, and they will say, "Oh my heavens, this place is looking good."

What does that get for you? Well, once you have their adoration, it's a lot easier to raise the rent. It's also a lot easier for them to tell their friends and neighbors, "You've got to live here. This place is getting some really big improvements." But let's not stop there. Let's keep going. As long as we have a white vinyl fence and white vinyl posts on the sign, let's go ahead and keep that going throughout the park. Take all those old rusted metal and old rotted wood signs in there. Let's throw them all in the trash. Let's put a new white vinyl pose with brand new signs, it cost you at $50 a sign to buy them online, with matching white vinyl caps that match the sign out front. And now we've got a theme that goes throughout the property. You know what, even the largest REITs that's the same process they use. So inexpensive, so quick and easy to install.

But let's not stop, we're having too much fun. So let's go ahead and let's make those common areas immaculate. Whether it's your little mailbox building, little office, little shed, little shop, whatever the case may be. Let's get that thing painted an attractive color. Let's make sure there's no broken windows. Let's make sure if there's a sign on the building that we get a brand new sign that hey, let's get one that matches the one out front. You see, the common areas kind of allow you to see into the heart and soul of the ownership of the park. Great parks have great common areas because it sends a message to the residents "Hey, we want to make this the best that it can be." Really hard to get residents to have pride of ownership when the owner themselves has none.

But let's not stop there. Let's keep going. Well, what do I do next? Well the next thing I would want to do is I would want to go through that park and streetscape all of the homes that need significant aesthetic improvement. What do I mean by streetscape? Streetscaping is the art of looking down the street as you enter the park, and from each of the key vantage points and just saying what are the big things that really, really bug me? Not the little stuff, just the big stuff. Typically, when I look down a street, what really bothers me the most are rusted roofs, that one item drives me nuts. A mobile home rusted roof is literally the dimensions of a billboard. And it's a billboard that screams we care nothing about living here, this place is a junk heap, don't live here. It's very inexpensive to paint a rusted roof, around $250 per roof. That is the best money you'll ever spend making a park look good.

Also look for missing skirting, very obvious missing skirting typically where you have whole sections, it looks like broken teeth. Again, not that expensive to fix. Buy some skirting and patch it in there. Even if it's not the exact same skirting because they don't make it anymore, it still, from a streetscaping perspective, won't draw your eye like having that big gap. And let's say the home has got several different colors on it. Let's paint it back into one color. Sometimes a resident will buy paint, they buy a paint roller and they're not paying attention. And they come to find out that they can't reach the top of the wall. So the home suddenly has a two tone paint job that looks atrocious. Let's fix that. If the home is covered in green mold, well, let's get a solution of bleach and water in a bucket and a paint roller. And let's go ahead and get that bleach on there and get all that off the side of the home. Again, these are all things you can do very quickly, very inexpensively. It gives you huge, huge bang for the buck.

And don't overlook shutters. Most mobile homes were designed to have shutters on them. Now, if you don't have shutters on, they don't look right. It's like a face without eyebrows. Shutters are very, very inexpensive. You can buy those things typically for around $20 to $50 per set. And there's not that many shutters on a mobile home, typically just one set on the end. And then through the whole rest of the home there might be as many as six sets. It's not much, but the impact is huge. Pick shutter colors that correspond to the color of the home but are contrasting in the same color family. Now questioning what you should do as far as shutters and home colors? Just go to your local mobile home dealer. Look at what they've got, match those colors exactly. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Another thing you're going to want to do is put hitch covers on your homes. You want to cover the hitch because hitches do not send the right impression to the audience. Whether the audience are residents, future residents, or even banks or appraisers. You want that mobile home park look like a subdivision. You don't want to look like a mobile home park. When a lender looks at your mobile home park and what they see is a miniature recreation of where they live, they're obviously going to be more attuned to giving you a much higher value and feeling much better about the loan. So how do you get rid of the hitches? Well, again, you can cut them off, but the problem is if you cut them off, it creates fire. When you cut them off with a saw or with an acetylene torch, you have the potential of catching the grass on fire. The easier route is simply to cover them in the same skirting material as the rest of the home and they will pretty much then just disappear visually as you drive through. The bottom line to at all is it's not that hard to get a really quick charm going to any mobile home park you're trying to bring back to life.

Now if I had to pick one more item from that list, perhaps I would pick streetlights. Now why streetlights would that do for you? Well, street lights have a double role. Number one it looks more professional during the day. But it also makes it look much, much better at night. That ambient light leads to better security. It makes the people feel happier and safer in living there. And the cost again is not nearly what people think. In most mobile home parks we tend to go with solar lights, typically the streetlights made by Gamma Sonic. When I install the streetlights, they look so professional but I don't have to wire them because they're all running off the power of the sun. So all I have to do is put in the foundation for them and put it up, I don't have to wire it. The cost to wire a streetlight, boring under or boring through the street to get the wires there would be in the thousands of dollars. All of that is saved when you use solar energy.

The bottom line to it all is you can take any mobile home park in the United States and if you use a smart strategy, and you find vendors that can move quickly, you would not believe how drastically you can transform any property at a fairly low amount of cost. That's one of the great things about the mobile home park industry is the ability to rebrand, to re image any mobile home park. You can't do with apartments. Too expensive for you to change the roofline, the balconies, just to paint the apartment you're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases. But with mobile home parks, it's unusual but the simplicity of which they were designed and the fact you're using basic materials that are not very expensive, at heights that almost anyone can reach, lends the ability to bring old parks back to life in a very, very affordable manner. And very quickly. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.