Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 269

Whining Even When You’re Winning

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A new study shows that mobile home values are up 34.6% since 2016 – nearly matching the 35.4% increase of single-family homes. You would think that would be good news for the 8% of Americans that live in mobile homes. But NPR is determined to show that even when park residents are big winners it’s all part of an evil plot by corporate owners. So we’re going to dissect their latest ridiculous article.

Episode 269: Whining Even When You’re Winning Transcript

Whining when you're winning, Why Mobile Home Parks Can Do No Good, according to NPR. This is Frank Rolfe, from the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. National Public Radio brought out another article recently, it was titled, Mobile homes are rising in value. But current residents can't cash out. So even in an environment where mobile home prices are increasing on par with single family, apparently we can do no good. Here's the stat. A recent study showed that mobile home values are up 34.6% versus single family, which is up 35.4%. And that's from the period of 2016 through 2021. So you'd say that's pretty good, right? You remember all those articles about a year or so ago, bashing the mobile home industry claiming that the homes never appreciated in value, and that single family was what really appreciated. And the people who bought mobile homes were basically chumps. Because they invested in an asset that never increased. And now that's been proven wrong. The stats are in, mobile homes went up just as much as single family. So that's good, right? Well, no, it's not good enough, according to NPR.

These are the basic points of the article. I thought we'd just go over them briefly. Number one, the first item was that mobile homes fall into disrepair over time. Now, that's, what a strikingly observant thing to say. I mean, a single family home falls into disrepair over time also, right? Any asset, I don't care if it's a car or a plane or a boat, anything you buy will fall into disrepair the longer that you own it. But the problem is with mobile homes is that the residents do not maintain them. The article points this out as a fault of the park owner. This is something that I've found always in talking to journalists over all these many years, they don't understand we are not in the apartment business. They think the park owner owns the land and the home, but that is not part of our business model. Our dream as a park owner is to be a parking lot, to never own the homes. And if we have to own the homes only long enough so we can fill a vacant lot to sell them off.

But in this case, they're trying to blame the fact that many mobile homes are in poor repair on the park owner, even though it's not our property. And that's simply not fair. Now, if you wanna lodge blame on why many mobile homes do deteriorate over time, it's the reason that people don't do things like sealing their roofs when they're leaking or replacing their hot water heaters when those leak or fixing the plumbing in the kitchen sink when they leak, and the ejection of water into any housing structure leads to infinite peril, floors weaken, wood rots. You could have black mold. There's a myriad of issues that come from not doing proper routine maintenance, yet most mobile home owners do not. And as a result, the homes decline in condition. But you can't blame that on mobile home park owners.

The next point was that park owners lowball homeowners when they want to sell to them. Now, that is the dumbest thing of all time. Why would someone in a mobile home go to sell to the park owner? The park owner doesn't want the home. We wanna be a parking lot. We want nothing to do with the homes themselves. Nevertheless, the point of the article is that if you own a mobile home in a mobile home park, and you go into the office and go up to the manager and say, "Hey, do you wanna buy my mobile home?" They get a lowball offer. Well, of course they do. The park doesn't want it. That's not even the correct way that you would sell a mobile home. If you wanna sell a mobile home, you would advertise to others who need an inexpensive place to live and sell your home accordingly. Can you imagine if single family homeowners always just approached the homeowner's association in their neighborhood and said, "Hey, you wanna buy my house?" Can you imagine the offers they would receive? Can you imagine how idiotic it is to even make that a point of contention? 

Next, it says it costs too much to remove them. Well, once again, I'm puzzled. I didn't realize that single family homes are that easy to move. So I guess I was wrong. I saw some specials on it once on television about them moving a two or three story brick house down the street to a safer location. I've seen them move a lighthouse once in a documentary, but I didn't know that the whole point of housing is that you'd be easy to move. And what's really stupid about that article item is that it's the location that makes the mobile home valuable. There are mobile homes sitting in mobile home parks in Malibu, California, for example, Point Dume and Paradise Cove, are the name of the two parks. And there a single wide 1970s home may sell for $400,000.

Now, if I picked up that mobile home and moved it with a helicopter to Kansas, that mobile home would be lucky to fetch $5,000. That $395,000 price difference is based on the location. You don't detach the mobile home, you don't move it to some sales lot to harvest the value of the home, no. Real estate is all about location, location, location. And that location is provided by the park owner. So if there's any value, if these mobile homes have gone up 40% in value, a big part of that is because mobile home park owners provided good, solid, attractive locations for the mobile homes to sit in. And that's what has created the value. But to say that the owner of that home is somehow punished because they can't move the home, well that just doesn't make any sense to anybody.

Also, the article wants to lambaste the industry, because it says that there is nowhere affordable to move to if you sold your mobile home. Well, once again, I'm puzzled on what NPR is thinking here. When they say that, they are affirming the fact that we are in fact the best at providing low-cost places to live, we are the champions of affordable housing. And they're absolutely correct. If you sell your mobile home and move out of the mobile home park, you'll never find anything even remotely as inexpensive. But how is that our fault? Once again, they're taking something that they should be patting us on the back and applauding us for, which is providing America's only form of non-subsidized affordable housing, yet they're using that statement to try and lay blame on us because somehow we are creating this unfair environment that housing in America is too expensive.

Some other items in the article which are equally offensive, is there's a whole section where they interview residents who say such things as their mobile home park does a lousy job of trash and snow removal. Seriously, is that the best you have? How in the world is a mobile home park really in the snow removal business? For at least half of the United States it's not even an issue, and on the rest of it... The parks I know all do a really good job of it, but guess who does not? The residents don't. You go in the mobile home park, and all of the streets and the entrances are perfect, but all of the parking lots and the sidewalks and things, which are those residents' responsibility as spelled out in the lease, they remain untouched.

They don't wanna get out there with a shovel, they don't wanna get out there with some salt, they just basically want the park owner to clean their property, and that's never going to happen. And how in the world can we do a lousy job of trash removal? Mobile home park owners use the same trash companies that everyone else uses: Is either gonna be dumpster or more likely polycart. So is the city's polycart provider deliberately doing a worser job in the mobile home park? I doubt that's true.

Also in the article, it talks about the fact that inflation is hurting residents. So apparently now park owners are also responsible for inflation. Well, that's good to know, I didn't know that. So perhaps if we could all just collectively, all of us park owners get together and knock down inflation faster, it will stop Jerome Powell from raising interest rates. But alas, again, a ridiculous statement on the part of NPR.

I love this one. Someone says, "The community used to be really laid back." What does it mean when someone says, "The community used to be really laid back and now it's not?" Well, it means it didn't use to collect rent, and it didn't use to enforce the rules. And once again, that's a ridiculous statement by NPR. No one with any common sense would think that a mobile home park is better off when it is "laid back." Which means you've got a refrigerator in that yard, and five non-running cars in that yard over there, and no one has paid rent in three years, so therefore, no capital injection has happened in the mobile home park.

So here's what's really happening out there that NPR does not want to address, apparently. There are a lot of old rundown mobile home parks in the US. Probably by far, the majority of the 44,000 parks need substantial renovation to bring them back to life. And there are some brave souls out there, and private equity groups and other companies that go out and buy these things and inject the capital in to bringing them back to life. And by so doing, they increase the value of life for everyone in the mobile home park, and they're responsible for why those mobile home values have gone up.

And 99% of the residents in all of those 44,000 mobile home parks, and particularly the ones that have been turned around, they really cherish and value where they live. And they know there's no alternative that can possibly give them the quality of life that they have for the price that they're currently paying. But there's that 1% of residents who just hate everything: They hate their neighbors, they hate everything imaginable about America, about the world, about the human race. And those are the ones who apparently are the audience of NPR, because why else would they keep writing these negative ridiculous articles over and over and over? And yet again, who is even reading them? Probably the only reason that NPR can get away with this is it doesn't really have any paid advertising because it wouldn't have any audience at all in all likelihood.

And when they write things like this, I have to assume, if we could go inside of NPR and look at the actual rankings and ratings of viewership of their own articles, it would have to be near the bottom of the pile. The really good news is that... And hopefully this will all soon be ending, we have the mid-terms coming up shortly. Once again, maybe we can inject a little sanity and realism, maybe the adult can re-enter the room. And finally maybe someone out there will start writing articles again about how great mobile home parks truly are and how fortunate our residents are to live in them.

This is Frank Rolfe of the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. I hope you enjoyed this, talk to you again soon.