Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 184

Top Tips On Filling Lots

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We’ve been filling lots with good paying customers for over two decades, and there are some tricks of the trade we’ve learned along the way. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast, we’re going to review some of the top tips we’ve found that make gaining occupancy possible at levels you may have not yet experienced. If you want to increase your park’s revenue, then this podcast may give you some new ideas.

Episode 184: Top Tips On Filling Lots Transcript

In 1947, a pilot named Chuck Yeager piloted the X-15 to break the speed of sound, 761 miles per hour. It was a mission they had tried for many, many years and always failed. They could never figure out how to push the plane over that threshold, it would start shaking violently and lose control. It was Jaeger always willing to push the throttle that little bit extra, they finally were able to devise a way to break the speed of sound. And today of course, planes fly up to three times that speed, but nevertheless, it all began back in 1947 with the X-15.

I've also had my own dream of the speed of sound, as far as occupancy in a Mobile Home Park. I've always hoped that it was achievable with our portfolio to gain 1,000 lots in a given year. We came close in the past, we'd never been able to push over that threshold. It seemed unattainable, until this past year when we finally were able to break the 1,000 net filled lots for the year. So what did we learn from that? We learned quite a bit from that, probably that as much as Chuck Yeager learned on aviation, we learned on how to sell or rent mobile homes effectively.

So here's some tips for you if you really want to increase your occupancy at dramatically. This is what we learned in our experiment towards breaking 1,000 net occupied lots. Number one, you have to take control of every part of the entire process. If you're going to try and hit big numbers like that, you can not leave any of that up to human error. First thing you have to do is you have to take your phone number, import it through either who's calling or a similar service, like Voice through rent manager, such that every call coming in gets tracked.

Every time someone calls it, captures their phone number, it records the call. It just gives you all of the information because that information is absolutely vital if you're going to try and hit big numbers. Number two, you've got to make sure that all advertising is verified. You have to make sure that the manager is in fact, running the crack and the appropriate advertising, and you have to check their work. Sometimes they'll say, "Yeah, I'm running that Ad on Craigslist or on Facebook. And you'll get a copy of the Ad and it's terrible." Some them obviously do not have very good marketing ability. They aren't really weren't hired to be marketeers. So often one big problem, a lot of parks suffer from is the ads are awful. The photo of the home that they showed in the Ad, they could not have selected a worst photo.

It'll be the most unappealing shot of the entire home. So you just have to take all the advertising and you have to vet it. Now that would be a big undertaking to vet every single lab, but you can get a rough idea by looking at the Ads who needs help and who does not. Number three, you've got to make sure that someone answers the phone. The manager has to know that one of the biggest parts of their job is in fact to answer the phone. Because if you don't answer the phone, then you're never going to sell in anything. The phone must be answered. Know those whose calling reports as void reports, it will show you if the phone is getting answered or not and how much. And it's absolutely essential that the manager understand they can not miss those calls.

Next, mystery shop the showings, pay somebody, hire someone on Craigslist for $50 to go and mystery shop your park, have them show up as a customer to look at a home and see what happens. You'll learn a huge amount from that. You may learn that that manager just is not the appropriate choice to be selling or renting homes in your property. Next, do plentiful exit interviews. You already have those phone numbers captured through whose calling in the VoIP system. Utilize that information, call those customers up and say, "Hey, I was just curious, how did it go? Did you buy or rental a home? And if you did not, why not?" You'll learn so much. You'll learn either the manager did a terrible job or you'll learn the homes are overpriced. Whatever, this is real information from the real deal, the real source of the person, your customer. So that information is absolutely essential.

Next, make sure that you've got an attractive commission structure. You want those managers in the field to be just thinking 24/7, about how much money they're going to make on commissions. If you really want to hit big numbers, you're going to have to give reasonable commission structures in the field. Well, how reasonable? It's up to you, but I would want them to make something, at least in the hundreds of dollars on every home that they sell or rent. Some owners don't give the manager any commission when they sell or rent a home or a pitifully, small amount, 50 or a $100. That is not going to get anybody into the fervor you need to hit big stats. Also, consider supplementing your manager. If the manager is not up for the job is great in every other category. If they're good at collections, if they're good at supervising the property, property condition, working with residents, there's nothing wrong with supplementing them with an additional sales person If the number of homes, warrants that.

If you just have one home, then no, they'll have to get that out the door. But if you've got 10 or 20, perhaps you could elect to hire somebody else in the property and make them just in charge of sales. That often can give you the real boost you need because now you have a single focused person on one tight narrow area and hopefully someone who has a background in sales. Many Mobile Home Parks have already living in them people who have a sales background. Might be retired car salesperson, retail salesperson. These people have all the sales skills that you need, that your manager may not have. And it's a perfect team supplement to get the job done. Also, make sure that you've got office hours on weekends and at night because many of your customers, they work and that's great.

You want them to work? That's how they have the money to pay you to begin with, but you've got to set your hours around what your customers need, not what your manager needs and having the manager work on a Saturday and maybe not at all on a weekday that's corresponds. That's the thinking you need if you're actually going to get more customers in the door and often the better customers who are very busy with their own careers. On the pricing side, use some common sense, go to a Walmart. If you're going to rent a home for $800 a month, let's make it 795. Let's use the old Walmart approach of dropping it down by a few pennies because it just sounds so much better that to the consumer. Also, don't be afraid to take small losses on homes to get them out the door.

If you look at a vacant lot, which is worth zero, and you look at the occupied lot in that same property, which might be worth, let's say $40,000, you think it might be worthwhile to sell that home at a $5,000 loss to gain $40,000 of value? I would think so. Think like a car dealer, when people make you offers, be flexible. Flexibility is a hallmark of hitting big numbers because it's been learned in every other industry since the beginning of time, that the most important thing is to close the sale. If it's within a reasonable rounds of profitability. If you look at the books on any car dealership on every single one of those Camaro's that was sold, you'll see probably a different sales price. One might be a little bit higher than the next, one might be a little bit lower than the next.

The point of is they got the deals closed. So you can be flexible on pricing because at the end of the day where we're making our big money is by occupying that lot. We're not making our big money by renting or selling the home, not a home dealer. Let the home dealers worry about that. Let that Clayton manufacturer retailer up the highway. Sure, he has to obsess because he gets no further profit. If he buys that home for 30,000 and sells it for 29, he'll go out of business pretty rapidly because he made no money. But you as a park owner, if you buy the home for 30 and sell it for 29, well that's okay because that occupied lot is worth $40,000. So you still made $39,000. It's just a different perspective when you own the property, the mobile home sits on.

Also, be aggressive if you can, on RVs. In many parts of America, you can place RVs on mobile home lots with no restrictions from the city. In other areas you can place RVs and mobile home lots, but it can not exceed a certain percent of your total lot flow. The important thing to remember is that a lot of Americans are buying or already owned RVs. And they're retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day. And many of those people are going to then sell their home and retire into the RV. I know many people doing this, very upscale people doing this. I know a college professor who recently elected to sell his house, a really nice house and just travel America in an RV, but there's not make good customers. I think they would. RVs by a large cost, more than mobile homes. They typically reflect greater pride of ownership than mobile homes in many parks.

So don't forget about RVs. How do you reach RVs? It's a little different to market RVs than to mobile homes. When you're trying to market RVs, you've got to have a very strong online presence. When people Google up RV park in blank, they need to immediately find you on that list. And you have to have a really good website because in today's competitive world. They're not going to go to your property unless you have a good website. You also might want to put a banner on your fence out for this is RVs welcome. Now when the RV customer comes in and they express the desire to be there for an extended period of time, if not forever, then is the customer you need to try and get into your Mobile Home Park lot. If in fact it meets the laws of your city and or state because you're going to see a whole lot more of that coming up.

Many more Americans after the pandemic are thinking about their life and what they want to do with their life. When they're already getting turned on to the whole idea of being away from people, being in a more natural setting, outdoors, lower density. And I think that will be a much bigger part of the customer base of Mobile Home Parks going forward. Also, you never want to miss the opportunity for organics. An organic is when someone pulls a mobile home from another property into yours. How do you get organics? You'll be on the radar screen. You can have a big banner on the front of your sign that says, "Move here for free." If anyone ever calls you wanting to move their mobile home and give them MVP treatment. And most importantly watch for opportunities to collect in large numbers of organics from other mobile home parks that are being torn down for redevelopment.

Every time you see an Ad or your manager sees an Ad in the paper, talking about a mobile home park that had been redeveloped, you need to jump into action. You need to call that owner, call that manager and say, "Hey, I've got a place for those residents you need to move. How many can I get?" If you jump on those projects with gusta, you'll be amazed how many lots you can pick up, might even be able to pick up every single vacant lot in your entire park. Offer that one transaction. Remember that when they redevelop these parks, often, the park owner or the developer is the person who's given the responsibility by the city to get that zoning, to move those people to new spots. So they really welcome your call with open arms because they see you as the solution to pushing their project forward.

The bottom line is if you do all these things we just talked about and you do them in tandem, in unison, you'll be amazed at how many lots you can fill. And filling losses, one of the key ways to make money with your Mobile Home Park. So this is definitely something that's worthy of a lot of thought and introspection so that you too can break the sound barrier of filling your vacant lots. This is Frank Rolfe, of Mobile Home Park Mastery. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.