Henry Ford’s Model T – the first car designed for the masses – went on sale on this day in 1908 at a total price of $825. If there was anyone who would have appreciated the mobile home park, it would have been Henry Ford. His ambition was to produce a product that everyone could afford, and to make it of high quality and durability. Although Ford died in 1947 – just a few years before the first true mobile home parks were built – he would no doubt be a huge supporter of our segment of affordable housing. Ford was a big advocate for mass production (as found in mobile home manufacturing) and in systems to keep prices down (as found in mobile home parks). He also had strong beliefs regarding the duty of business to promote charity and good works, as found in the current mobile home park movement to improve common areas and create greater community spirit. Ford believed in the two bedrocks that all mobile home parks are based on: pride-of-ownership and sense of community. Ford would be proud.
Memo From Frank & Dave
Warning Signals That A Mobile Home Park Has Potential Problems - And Which Ones Are Deal Killers
Mobile home parks are fairly complicated enterprises that have large number of attributes that collectively make them function. But sometimes these traits can be off-track and the buyer has to decide which ones are “deal killers” and which can be worked around. Here’s an overview of potential park problems that most buyers will run into, as well as the potential impact these present.
No permit or license
There are three types of mobile home parks: 1) legal conforming 2) legal non-conforming (grandfathered) and 3) illegal. You can buy legal non-conforming as long as the city shows no sign of denying your grandfathered rights, and you can probably win in court if they did. However, you can never buy a park that is “illegal”. Even though it may have been operating for 50 years in some cases, the risk is too high that you will be shut down, and no lender will make a loan on such a designation.
You cannot buy real property in the absence of good and marketable title. Without title you are buying an asset that may or may not be yours. No lender will loan on such a transaction. Sometimes these title issues can be fixed but it can take months (or longer) to get it solved and you cannot buy the property until good title is in hand.
This is a fairly common occurrence, in which the mom & pop seller has not been using computerized records but instead only have their financial statements produced with a pencil on a sheet of notebook paper. While this is how things were done back in the day, the modern park is run by a software system such as Rent Manager. Since buyers are spoiled by having computerized records, they are sometimes distressed by the fact that mom & pop have records that look like 4th grade homework. This is typically not a deal breaker, however. Most banks and appraisers are accepting of the fact that mom & pop did not keep good records, and will re-build these items from the ground up. There are certain formulas for park performance that can be extrapolated to virtually any situation.
Tax returns do not match income statements
In this fairly common item, the seller’s tax returns don’t match the park’s profit and loss statements. Mom & pop will often claim that they are not reporting their full income as to not pay tax on it, but you don’t know if that’s the truth or if they have instead simply puffed up their net income. This is again not a deal killer typically, as the bank and appraiser don’t necessarily trust the seller’s performance and will look to their own analysis to be their guide.
Low collections rate
Many mom & pop owners have large uncollected balances. They have actually created these by not requiring residents to pay their rent each month, but instead engaging in “payment plans” in which the resident promises to make up for this month’s rent next month (and then repeats that every month thereafter until the unpaid balance can grow into thousands of dollars). It has been our experience that you can fix these problems relatively easily when you enact a “no pay/no stay” strategy – requiring the resident to make a hard choice between paying rent or moving out. Most residents have always had the money to pay the rent, they just preferred not to and mom & pop let them get away with that plan. This is not a deal killer, but it does require you to potentially re-negotiate the sales price to reflect the potential cost of having a number of residents move out, thereby costing you not only rent but capital to fix up and sell/rent their homes after you take them through a legal abandonment process. One option would be to set up a reserve at closing in which every resident that runs off gets the buyer a release of a certain amount of money to cover the pain and suffering of having to evict, obtain possession through abandonment, selling or renting, and foregoing rent during that entire process, coupled with legal fees.
Private water or sewer
When you don’t have access to municipal “city” water or sewer, the only other option is “private” water and sewer, which includes well water, septic, packaging plant and lagoon. These may or may not be a deal killer, based on their current condition, the cost of replacement, and operational status. You simply can’t succeed with a mobile home park without working water and sewer, so this is a huge issue and one that requires extremely focused due diligence. One solution, if the system is failing, is to connect to the city utility, but that requires access, approval by the utility company, and a fair amount of cost.
Low housing prices
It is very hard – if not impossible – for a mobile home park to succeed in a market that has low single-family home prices and low apartment rents. In order to have the demand for affordable housing you have to have expensive housing to create the need. In a market with $50,000 single-family homes, and $500 apartment rents, there’s simply no need for a mobile home park, as traditional housing units fit the affordable housing bill and have no negative stereotype. This is a deal killer.
Small metro area
This may or may not be a deal killer based on a number of factors. If the park is in a boutique market in Colorado, it will do well. In Arkansas, not so well. Probably the key driver to a small metro working out is the price of the housing. If you are in the mountains of Colorado with a $600,000 median home price, then the demand for affordable housing is so red hot that you can fill virtually anything regardless of the metro size. But there is typically a correlation between small metros and lower home prices, as well as issues with employment. So be really careful about this one.
One person owns most of the homes
We’re not talking about the park having a lot of park-owned homes here. That’s not a problem as the park buyer can just sell them off to the residents. What we’re talking about is when a single individual – not associated with the park ownership – holds title to a bunch of homes (typically a “Lonnie Dealer”). This can be a total deal killer. You simply can’t let one person hold sway over your destiny like that. A general lender rule is 5% or less owned by one group. That means that a 100 space park can handle one Lonnie owning up to 5 homes. But 50? No. The only solution would be for you to get a contract signed by the owner of these homes to sell them to you at closing, but that’s capital intensive and unlikely to be possible.
Master-metered gas or electric
This may or not be a deal killer based on the condition of the gas or power system. This is an issue that requires intensive due diligence efforts. You need to know that gas or electric system like the back of your hand. You also need to know the laws verbatim and have all necessary permits and licenses to allow for repair and replacement.
Roads in poor condition
This is seldom a deal killer, unless you can’t get a loan or the seller refuses to discount the price to allow for paving repairs. Roads are one of the most capital-intensive items in most mobile home park and, unlike other items, wear out rapidly. Pothole repair is typically an annual function, while resurfacing is less frequent. To do major road repair can cost $100,000+, so this has the capability of being a deal killer but yet it can be solved through negotiation.
Orangeburg sewer lines
This is a terrible type of sewer line construction that was sometimes used in the 1970s. It’s effectively a toilet paper roll tube coated in resin – probably the worst idea in American history. Over the years they effectively dissolve and the only thing the sewage is navigating is the cavity left in the earth from when the pipe dissolved during the heyday of the television show “Miami Vice”. This is a deal killer unless you can budget in the complete cost of replacing the sewer system and still hit attractive financial returns. Typically these deals have disclaimers on them from the broker.
Lack of resident pride-of-ownership
This is not a deal killer and becomes solved through proper management. The reason many residents give up on their homes and yards is because the owner fails to enforce any rules, so they get an attitude of “why should I even try since my neighbor’s home and yard looks so bad”. But you can turn this around as soon as you take possession, starting with a park “clean up event” and then working with each resident to clean up their yard and home and start taking pride in their housing.
Homes that hang over into neighboring properties
This is not typically a deal killer, but you need to be aware of your exposure and get seller discounting to cover it if you can. At issue is when the ends of some of the mobile homes hang into the neighbor’s property, typically because mom & pop never actually knew their property lines. Sometimes they hang over by as little as a foot or so. The good news is that you can typically fix this issue by pulling the home forward. But, more than likely, that scenario will never come up, since you have some good arguments to block the need to do so, such as “adverse possession” and “constructive reliance” which means that after a number of years of encroachment you have a legal right to remain that way.
Some issues with mobile home parks are “deal killers”, while others are just “deal concerners” and still others are simply not that big a deal. The key is to due terrific due diligence and be watchful for signs of issues that could seriously impair your ability to make money with that park. “Better safe than sorry” is a theme that all smart park buyers embrace.
Helping Residents To Make Property Improvements Is Just Smart Business - With A Heart
Jim is an elderly Marine veteran in one of our properties in Wisconsin. He also recently suffered three heart attacks. Our community manager heard that he had always wanted to install three flagpoles in his yard to proudly fly the American flag, Wisconsin flag, Marine flag and Green Bay Packers flag. So we had our employees – at no cost to Jim – complete his vision for him. It was a win/win for all parties involved. The community looks better, Jim is delighted, and we are happy to have a nicer looking property and a happy customer.
All community owners should watch for these type of opportunities. They don’t cost much money yet the rewards are enormous. They build community spirit and that’s one of the most important amenities a property can contain – and one you can’t buy. So if you drive by and see three flagpoles with four flags on them, you’ll know that’s Jim’s house.
How M.J. Vukovich Can Help You Build An Empire By Re-Using The Same Capital
There’s an old concept of tying a string to a dollar bill and buying each item in the vending machine and then yanking the dollar back out and using it again. That’s illegal in most applications, but not in buying mobile home parks. The way mobile home park owners yank the dollar back out is in the form of cash-out re-financing. To accomplish this, you need to obtain a conduit or Agency loan that allows for this to occur. And the master of putting together this type of debt product is M.J. Vukovich with Bellwether. We have been using him on all of our institutional debt (which means deal sizes of $1.5 million or more). If you are working on park financing on deals $1.5 million or greater, you should give M.J. a call at 720-758-9227 to discuss the options, or email him at [email protected]. The call costs nothing and the results may give you huge cash-out proceeds (which are also tax free as they are technically a loan).
Mobile Home Park Lessons Learned From Grocery Store Merchandising
Grocery stores have extremely sophisticated planning on which products go where. They have it down to a science based on thorough testing. And mobile home parks also have some logical placement issues. Here are some of the most basic.
Put the office at the front
If you’re buying a mobile home park that has no office, or the existing one is a shack that needs to be torn down, then the logical place for the new office is right at the front. The reasons are numerous: 1) it’s the easiest place for prospective customers to find 2) it allows the manager to watch over who comes in and out of the park 3) it’s a central spot for rent collections that everyone passes by daily.
Put the amenities at the rear
Just as the office is at the front, many amenities are better off being at the rear. The reason? It ensures that the users of those amenities are park residents and not outsiders. For example, if you have a playground at the front of the property, it might encourage someone who lives down the street to park their car and give it a try. This is not in your best interests, as that creates liability for no reason, and also can disrupt your park’s safety. The only amenity that really needs to be near the office is the swimming pool – if you have one – since that requires constant attention by your manager.
Put dumpsters at the front
When you put the dumpster at the front of the property, you preserve your roads. That’s because a dumpster truck weight around 75,000 pounds – it’s like running a locomotive down your streets. If the dumpster is at the front, you don’t have to worry about giant potholes forming and you can disguise it with a dumpster enclosure.
Put new homes at the front
If you are brining in new homes to sell or rent, the logical choice is as near to the front of the park as possible so as to be seen from the frontage. This allows you to have signs and banners, with the product right behind them. People then pull into the park and immediately know where to go. It also increases your drive-up appeal and first impression, and will reward you with a higher value and price when you get the park appraised or sold down the road.
Make sure that all homes and office smell good
This isn’t a placement issue, but is an interesting fact about grocery store design. The reason that most stores have a bakery in them is not only for revenue, but also because they found that shoppers stay longer and buy more when the store smells good with fresh baked bread. The same is true of using air fresheners in your homes and office. Things just go better when they smell good.
Placement of items is key in both mobile home parks as well as grocery stores. Consumer behavior is not that much different between industries, and there are definite financial benefits from being smart about this.
It goes without saying that creating a budget is a great way to track where money is being spent. A budget allows you to forecast, control, coordinate, and monitor income and expense for the approaching year. But, should you base your budget off of purchases made last year that aren’t necessary this year?
Traditional budgeting relies heavily on previous years’ spending habits. While this budgeting method is efficient, it perpetuates unnecessary expenditures and eliminates the opportunity to reduce costs. It includes one-time expenses that would not necessarily take place in future years; like plowing following extraordinary snow storms or fixing damage to buildings after a hail storm. These expenses find a way to sneak through the review process and can end up in budgets for years. Another budgeting technique, Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB), suggests starting a budget from the bottom, $0, and adding your expenses and income from there. This clean start helps justify how much money should be spent on a property and forces the preparer to justify where the money is being spent.
ZBB is a laborious, but important task. It not only fosters critical thinking about each and every expense, but highlights where those expenses are incurred. For example, did the property obtain multiple quotes for an ongoing landscaping service, or are they using in house staff versus third parties for painting projects? The ZBB process can also highlight if they are buying office or maintenance supplies through a contracted vendor. Although traditional budgeting saves time and effort, that process may not catch those issues. The ZBB technique challenges employees to discover more effective ways to create value and accomplish goals. Making sure your employees understand the context and reasons behind those goals will also better their judgement when making purchases.
It is important to note that ZBB is not necessary every year. It takes a few years for a property’s budget to start perpetuating unnecessary expenses. As a best practice and because it is a larger undertaking, ZBB should be utilized every 3-5 years. For companies that own several properties, it will allow for ZBB to be utilized at a handful of properties each year on a rolling basis, so as not to slow down the entire budget preparation timeline for the company.
It is also important to note that ZBB can result in expense increases. This critical thinking process may cause employees to determine that they are not spending the necessary funds on an asset to keep it in acceptable condition. While frustrating, it is equally important not to starve your properties of necessary upkeep, which would result in much larger future expenditures. In these cases, it pays to lean on people that can help reduce costs, while still providing the necessary supplies and/or work. Some companies may have internal resources to draw from for this expertise, while others use external firms like Purchasing Platform to control pricing.
Better expense control can’t just be accomplished with ZBB. Companies should regularly review vendor pricing and obtain volume based pricing on a granular level across a portfolio of assets. Once negotiated, companies should establish a broad set of company standard products, or a “Corporate Catalog”, to channel purchasing toward better quality and more heavily discounted items. Supervisors should also monitor more than just the dollars being spent on a monthly basis. They should have the ability to see and even approve line-item details on orders with all vendors, before purchases are made. These are tasks that large companies spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars trying to control each year. However, accomplishing this objective should not be exclusive to companies with multi-billion dollar portfolios. In fact, many people would argue that the large companies are incredibly inefficient in their quest to reduce expenses. Purchasing Platform can help simplify all of these procurement and expense visibility issues property management companies face and even saves those businesses meaningful money in the process.
Regardless of where you spend your money, consider adopting the zero-based budgeting technique. It will open your eyes to what is happening at your properties and will very likely result in significant value creation.
Peter Hepner is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Purchasing Platform. He has spent more than 20 years in the real estate industry, most of which promoting operational efficiencies and extracting value from small, medium and large portfolios alike.
You can try Purchasing Platform at no risk for 90 days
Purchasing Platform allows all park owners to try their system for three months with no obligation to continue. That’s how Frank & Dave got started – they gave it a try and liked it. So if these advantage look good to you, contact us today at 312-622-6552 or [email protected] and get set up on a 90 day trial.
An Encyclopedia Of Celebrities And Mobile Home Parks
Most Americans never associate move stars with trailer parks, but this is definitely the case. There have been many ties between celebrities and mobile home parks over the years. Here are some of the most famous mobile home park residents or developers.
Pam Anderson, Hillary Duff, and Sean Penn
All are current or former residents of the two mobile home parks in Malibu, California called Point Dume and Paradise Cove. Of course, these are not your normal properties. Mobile homes sell for around $400,000 and the lot rent is over $2,000 per month. Of course, when you consider the single-family homes next door start at around $5 million, it’s easy to understand the attraction.
Marshall Mathers (also known as “Eminem”) grew up in a mobile home park near the “8 mile” section of Detroit. He also used lyrics in his songs based on mobile home park slang terms. But what’s really interesting is that the mobile home park he lived in is still there and it’s a senior community with homes in good shape – a far cry from what was depicted in his move “8-Mile”.
This popular television personality was also the owner of mobile home parks in Hemet, California. He was a pioneer in trying to create upscale communities that complimented the growing trend of older Americans who were looking for an inexpensive yet quality location to downsize and spend their “golden years”.
This famous author wrote about mobile home parks in his best-selling book “Travels with Charley”. Passages included “… and then I discovered the greatest selling appeal of all, one that crawls through nearly all American life. Improvements are made on mobile homes every year. If you are doing well you turn yours in on a new model just as you do with an automobile …”
Considered America’s first “sex symbol” she was also opposed to public transportation, and exclusively travelled between Hollywood and New York City on a custom-made RV. It featured a porch on the back that allowed her to sit outside and wave to the crowds while travelling down the highway.
The founder of the Neiman Marcus retail brand, he was also a pioneer of mobile home park construction, having built a prototype park in Dallas. Unfortunately, this mobile home park brand never took off, despite the interesting aesthetics it offered.
Ryan Gosling and Hillary Swank
They both grew up in mobile homes, although they hate admitting it.
This huge star of the 1960’s and 70’s actually lived in a mobile home in the television show “The Rockford Files”. It was located on a beach in California, which is hard to understand because beaches are not privately owned and would never allow a mobile home just to be parked there. Rockford was a dangerous detective and this mobile home helped advance that image of uniqueness and grit.
Most people do not know that this huge music star actually lives in a doublewide in Michigan. After losing his home to his ex-wife in a turbulent divorce, he elected to simply place a mobile home on some lake property and let that serve as his home base. He is a vocal supporter of the industry.
Probably the most famous of all mobile home park residents. Elvis lived in “trailer parks” in both his movies and his real life. The films were “It Happened at the World’s Fair” (1963) and “Speedway” (1968). His actual mobile home was located near Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, and actually went up for auction a couple years ago.
Movie stars and mobile home parks have a lot in common, other than sharing the first letters “MO”. There has been a long association between the two, and this continues to be the case today.
The Benefits of Solar Lights in a Mobile Home Park
Coach lights in mobile home parks have been around for over a half-century. And most of them are rusted out and no longer working. But you can bring the idea of individual coach lights – with the welcome security lighting and aesthetics – back to life in a much more efficient way: solar fixtures. We’ve looked at a bunch of solar lighting products over the years, but Gama Sonic is the best for several reasons:
- They are maintenance free other than changing the rechargeable batteries every three to four years. It’s extremely simple.
- They look the most like traditional coach lights (same height and shape, whereas many competitors have units that are too small).
- They are the brightest. They are basically the only solar product we’ve seen that casts enough light to truly be a replacement for traditional hard-wired or gas sourced pedestrian lighting.
So why would you need solar lights in a mobile home park to begin with? Well, there are several reasons why they make a great addition to your community.
- Affordability. Outdoor solar lights are extremely cost-efficient since they are operated by rechargeable batteries via the sun and do not require any digging, trenching or wiring whatsoever. In addition, Gama Sonic’s products are manufactured using LED’s. Using LED solar lights are ideal for owners looking to cut back spending since these LEDs will last for 10-years and use zero electricity. But even if the power cost was the same as conventional electric or gas, you’re talking several thousand dollars saved in installation alone!
- If you have dark areas in and around your park and running electrical wiring has been cost prohibitive, their solar lights are an excellent solution for safety and security to light up those areas.
- Safety. If your homes and communities appear to be occupied by having lighting fixtures in place, it can decrease the chances of having the property getting broken into or vandalized. And for areas known for having bad weather and power outages, exterior solar lights are beneficial since the solar fixtures would continue to function as they normally would since they are operated by rechargeable batteries – you have no reliance on the local power or gas company.
- Hassle Free. Just look at your existing electric or gas pedestrian coach lights. They are a management nightmare with bulbs or elements going out, tops broken or missing, leaning rusted poles – you name it. They’re incredibly expensive to fix or replace because you have to hire an electrician or gas plumber to re-connect them to the utility line. Limitations come when owners decide to use standard gas or electric outdoor lighting. With solar lighting, installation takes minutes and does not require costly routine maintenance or any digging, trenching or wiring.
We’ve been a big fan and customer of Gama Sonic solar lights since we first saw them at the MHI Vegas Show back in 2014. Dave liked them so much that he ordered about 20 units just for his yard and many for the parks as well. And recently we were made aware of their brand new super bright solar streetlight that will light up a 40’ diameter on a 10’ pole – pretty impressive!
If you’d like to learn more about their solar lighting, email or call Matt directly at [email protected] or 727-688-5030 and let him know Frank and Dave sent you!
How U.S. Mobile Home Parks Stack Up Against Global Initiatives On Affordable Housing
We recently toured around Wisconsin with a film maker from Ireland who was in the U.S. gathering information for a documentary film on the global affordable housing crisis. His observations regarding our product were interesting.
Affordable housing is a global problem – and the U.S. is better off than most
If you think the U.S. has housing challenges, you should check out Europe. The cost of homes in many European cities are double U.S. price points. And the quality of what you get is far inferior. I was told that a simple “flat” in a city like Rome would be $400,000+ and would be lacking central heat and air and current renovations. That’s why many European households share dwellings with multiple generations living under one roof.
The mobile home park is a great product at a great price
The filmmaker was extremely impressed with the quality of the mobile home park product. He found the homes to be large and well floor planned, and the lots attractively sized as well. He had never seen a mobile home before, and was shocked at how nice they were, having built his entire expectations on what he saw in the movie “8-Mile” with Eminem.
All other nations support affordable housing, but the U.S. does little
Apparently the U.S. stands alone in giving little support to promoting affordable housing. In most countries – which offer no subsidies such as Section 8 – the government feels the responsibility of creating more affordable housing units and to support any initiative that gets people into dwellings they can afford. He could not understand why the U.S. does not offer financing on mobile homes when it would be such an easy role to play.
American media hates mobile home parks yet other nations support all affordable housing options
The rest of the world apparently has no stigma against mobile home parks. They look at all affordable housing options as smart and worthy of respect. While mobile home parks are mostly an American invention (although they can be found in England, Italy and Poland) the stereotype against them does not cross international lines.
We enjoyed touring the Irish film maker around some of our properties, and learning more about the global perspective on affordable housing. We also wish that more Americans would appreciate what we do.
The CASH Program From 21st Mortgage: One of the Big News Stories of 2019
One of the biggest things going in the mobile home park industry is the CASH program from 21st Mortgage. If you own a mobile home park, the power of this program is astounding. You can fill vacant lots with zero out-of-pocket cost. You can get customers approved to buy homes with amazing speed and a “can-do” attitude. You don’t have to get in the middle of financing or the SAFE Act. And you can tap hundreds of thousands – or millions – of dollars sitting there in vacant lots. The demand for affordable housing in the U.S. is enormous, and the only thing holding most parks back from 100% occupancy are new and used homes that your customers can qualify for. With the CASH program, those obstacles can be overcome and your occupancy can soar. We are the largest users of this program in the U.S., and we know how great it is.
Back When “Trailer Park” Was A Compliment
The original term “Trailer Park” was a source of pride for those cities wealthy enough to build these parking lots built to accommodate luxury cars with trailers. This is a photo of one of these affluent customers from that era: a 1939 Packard V-12 rumble seat coupe pulling a 1937 Conestoga. It’s a little known fact that those that owned trailers from this period through the 1950s were more affluent than those that lived in traditional stick-built homes. This is reflected in the 1951 film “The Long, Long Trailer” in which architect Desi Arnaz leaves his Manhattan penthouse to live in a trailer with his wife Lucille Ball. The bottom line is that the negative stereotype against the term “trailer park” is a modern invention and has no basis in history.
Are Mobile Home Parks The True “Small Town” Of The Future?
This is a painting by Normal Rockwell of small-town life from the 1940s. That was a time in which America reflected simple values of community building and bonds between neighbors. While that may have been lost in a modern America, it’s just possible that mobile home parks are the last vestiges of these healthy relationships.
Mobile home parks residents typically share the same goals. They have strong family values and a desire to live in a clean, safe environment. They want their kids to have successful lives and their neighbors to succeed. They are supportive of those in need and willing to lend a helping hand when possible. In short, the residents of the mobile home park all want the same basic things out of life.
Sense of community and commitment
Because of these shared goals, they are willing to take action to support their neighbors and the macro community. If someone has transportation issues, they will give them a ride to work. If an elderly neighbor needs to get to the doctor, a resident who is at home will be happy to take them. If a child can’t go to work but the parent must get to work, a neighbor will be happy to watch them. This is very similar to the small-town atmosphere of the 1940s.
Communal impact of actions
There’s an old T-shirt design that says “mess with me and you mess with the whole trailer park” and while it’s intended to be “hillbilly humor” in many ways it’s true. Mobile home park residents realize that anything that is bad for one resident may impact the whole. They take offense of any person or group that demeans their community and stand up for neighbors who are being harmed by the actions of an unruly neighbor. Of course, in the 1940s this threat was from World War II, but there are still more minor problems today that the overall park is willing to stand up against.
Mobile home parks may offer the last American institution of “small-town” values in a modern big city. This is the “sense of community” that Time magazine raved about in the article “The Home of the Future”. And it is commonly overlooked by most Americans.
Is Your Attorney a “Deal Killer” or a “Deal Maker”?
How many deals have you seen go down the drain because your attorney stacked up a million roadblocks to even the simplest problems, and then failed to offer any path to solve them? This is called “deal killing” and some attorneys do this so that they take no risk – if the deal never happens, they can never be criticized for missing a deal point, or for not spotting a flaw in the contract. The problem with this, however, is that you can’t get anywhere. At the other end of the spectrum are the “deal maker” attorneys that recognize real problems from trivial ones, and strive to solve these roadblocks using common sense and legal experience. And the best of those type of attorneys is Dave DiMarco from Woods Oviatt Gilman. We once had a deal go south in a big way – the very driveway into the property was determined to be on somebody else’s property. Any other attorney would have said “well, that’s it, the deal’s dead” but Dave DiMarco sprung into action. We located the owner, negotiated a purchase, personally handled the details, and the deal went forward. And all that over a weekend, no less. And that’s why we love Dave DiMarco and you should, too. If you need service like that, then consider using Dave DiMarco on your next transaction. You can reach him at (585) 987-2833.
The Important Points On Mobile Home Length
Mobile homes are typically measured by width and length, as they are rectangular in shape. While the width is a pretty standard 14’, 16’ or 18’, the length is the prime measurement that changes wildly between different models. So what are the important things to know about mobile home park length?
The home is 4’ shorter than what everyone thinks
Contrary to what most consumers are aware of, the length of the home is typically measured on the title as including the hitch, which is roughly 4’ long. So when someone buys a 16’ x 80’ mobile home, they are really buying a 16’ x 76’ structure size. This can then lead to mass confusion when looking at filling a lot with a home. It’s essential that you understand the length in terms of the “box size” instead of “with hitch” as – if you get this wrong – the home may stick out 4’ into the street upon delivery.
They don’t come much shorter than 36’
Most 1 bedroom/1 bath homes are roughly 36’ long. If you have lots that will not hold a mobile home of that length, they may need to be considered capable of only holding RV’s (which are much shorter). There are some FEMA models that may come in shorter dimensions, but those are typically hard to come by and often not up to the floorplan needs of many residents (and therefore hard to sell).
Not everyone wants a 76’
While many customers want a 3/2 home, there is perhaps an industry-wide misconception that everyone wants the longest home there is. Many smaller households prefer shorter lengths as they are less expensive to buy as well as cheaper to heat and cool. A good 52’ 2/2 may do nicely for some households.
48’ gets you two bedrooms, and that’s essential in most markets
While not everyone needs a 3-bedroom, most also do not want a 1-bedroom as they desire at least one extra room for guests or hobbies. That means that the minimum length that you need is 48’ – the smallest 2 bedroom/1 bathroom available from most manufacturers.
100’ was the world record – and a total failure
Many mobile home park owners may not remember it, but there was a time in which manufacturers offered a 100’ long mobile home. This behemoth was not a popular model for several reasons. One problem was that it would not fit in most mobile home park lots. The second problem was that it was just too long and awkward, resembling an enormous French fry. But the biggest issue was the price – it cost about as much as a doublewide, and the floorplan was not as desirable. The only one that we ever had arrive at our park was later removed in repossession by the lender.
Length can tell a lot about a mobile home. It can tell you the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as the desirability to customers and the ability to fit on your lot.
Simple Sayings Of Mobile Home Park Owners
Mobile home park owners have their own unique sayings that relate to the industry or past experiences. There is something to be learned from these expressions. So what are some of these sayings?
No Pay/No Stay
This is related to rent collections, and it simply means that any resident that refuses to pay their rent cannot remain on the property. This makes complete sense – no business on earth would allow you to remain using that service without payment – but to some mom & pop owners there is a second option which is to continue to live at the mobile home park without paying the full rent. Of course, that makes absolutely no sense, but they sometimes get in a rut whereby they refuse to file evictions and some residents take full advantage of the opportunity. When buying mobile home parks, you will sometimes find that mom & pops have let residents live rent free for years. That just doesn’t work as a business model. You can’t make anyone pay the rent, but you can make them make the hard choice between paying or moving out. It’s the only system that works.
No Play/No Stay
Similar to the above saying, this reflects the attitude that any resident who refuses to follow the rules of the community cannot continue to live there. It is completely unfair for a customer who has no respect for their neighbors to ruin the quality of life for many surrounding homes. It’s the job of the park owner to ensure that all residents are given the opportunity to have a quiet and attractive place to call home, and the unruly resident that disregards all requirements cannot be tolerated.
It’s Easier to Change People Than to Change People
This is a saying typically relates to park managers and maintenance staff. The fact is that most properties only have one single employee, and the mobile home park cannot survive someone who is not capable of exercising their duties. Running a mobile home park is a demanding job, and some employees are simply not up to the demands. When this happens, there is no choice but to find an immediate replacement, as the park cannot afford to have a weak employee for a long period of time, nor can it withstand a lengthy period of training or counselling. It may seem cold, but an airplane in the sky cannot afford a poor pilot any more than a mobile home park can survive a bad manager.
Before You Evict a Person …
This was a saying given to me by an old-time park owner circa 1997: “before you evict somebody, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, once you have the eviction, they’re a mile away and you have their shoes”. There’s no actual meaning to this saying, it was just to put some humor into the drudgery of an eviction proceeding. But I’ve never forgotten it.
Every industry or hobby has its own sayings. They can be smart, funny, or just plain awkward. The mobile home park industry is no different.
Need A Phase I Environmental Report? Mike Renz Is Your Man For The Job!
The New York Times called Frank a human encyclopedia of all things mobile home park and, if that’s true, then Mike Renz is the human encyclopedia of all things under the ground. You see, when it comes to Phase I Environmental Assessments, nobody in the industry is more knowledgeable than Renz. He’s our go-to guy for all things pollution-oriented, from Phase I reports to simply asking questions on what we see going on next door to the property (or even inside that concerns us). We were once walking through a property and saw a brown colored solution oozing from the property. Within minutes, Mike had pulled up the data and figured out what it was (rusty water from an iron-ore- rich artesian spring). That’ the kind of information that we find invaluable in today’s litigious world of environmental condition. On top of that, we’ve had Phase I reports that failed for existing pollution, and Mike Renz has been able to solve them by using common sense and technology, like the time he proved the EPA wrong by doing a simple core-drilling to prove that a supposed landfill on a mobile home park did not actually exist (it had been phoned into the EPA by a former manager who had a grudge against the owner). If you want that level of expertise on your side, then you need Mike Renz to be your Phase I Environmental provider. That’s who we use, and he’s amazingly good.
You can contact Mike Renz at (614) 538-0451.
How To Assess The Risk Vs. Reward Health Of A Mobile Home Park Deal
Sam Zell’s book “Am I Being Too Subtle” focuses on the important relationship between risk and reward. In the book, Zell says that the key consideration of any deal is if the reward outweighs the risk. So how can you determine the risk vs. reward metric and decide if you should go forward?
Step #1: What’s the best-case scenario?
The first step in deciding on the healthy relationship of risk and reward is to determine the potential best-case scenario. For most mobile home parks this is to assume that the total number of lots are filled at a lot rent that is reflective of the full market rent, with water and sewer cost sub-metered and billed to the residents, and with the expenses being as efficient as possible. You can then take the resulting EBITDA (net income) and cap this at perhaps 8% or so, depending on the market and size of the community.
Step #2: What steps are required to get there?
Next, inventory the steps required to achieve this goal. These would normally include renovating and selling vacant homes, bringing in homes to fill vacant lots, installing sub-meters for water, raising rents, cutting costs, and making capital expenditures to improve the physical plant.
Step #3: What is the risk level of achieving those steps?
Now you need to analyze the potential risk in completing these steps. While raising rents is as simple as sending a letter, bringing in homes to fill vacant lots require finding suitable inventory, running ads, and finding customers with successful credit scores and the required down-payment. You will quickly get an overview of how much you will have to gamble in both time and capital to complete these steps, and can also decide on the impact if you fail in achieving them.
Step #4: In light of the above, does the reward outweigh the risk?
In most deals, the completion of the above analysis will give you a gut feel as to if you should proceed or not. If the reward is small and the risk great, you should never do that deal. But if the reward is high and the risk low, you should definitely proceed. You may also refine your thinking by doing the analysis on what the impact will be if you miss those targets.
Sam Zell is the largest owner of mobile home parks in the U.S. as well as the former largest owners of apartments and office buildings. He accomplished this through a careful review of every deals risk vs. reward. It’s a smart method for all mobile home park investors.
Properly Insuring A Mobile Home Park Is More Complicated Than It Looks
Mobile home parks are a unique asset class of real estate. And their insurance needs are equally unique. You have to make sure you properly protected against a number of factors including liability, property damage, employee practices, flooding and fire – it’s a long list. Your typical insurance agent at State Farm will not even be able to populate this list, and their rates would be far too high if they did. You need a specialty lender who is completely focused on mobile home park insurance. That agent is Kurt Kelley at Mobile Insurance. He has spent most of his working life focused on the needs of park owners throughout America who are wanting to get the right insurance at the lowest price. We’ve been using Kurt for over two decades, and we heartily suggest you think about doing the same.
You can contact Kurt Kelley at 800-458-4320 ext. 17 or [email protected].
Listening To Our Residents
I like the people that live around me. We have pot-luck dinners and friendly gatherings throughout the year. I think it’s nice to everyone’s yard clean, neat and have nice gardens planted. I also like the property manager. She keeps everyone following the rules, which is for all our own safety and security.
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