There are a lot of businesses and real estate assets you can own. But few that give you as much freedom as mobile home parks do. In this event, Frank Rolfe gives you a video review of how owning mobile home parks can give you vast rewards that are greater than just financial. He gives you a tour of his life in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri and how mobile home parks have allowed him to have the quality of life he always dreamed of.
If you are tired of having the same old lifestyle and living in the same old places, maybe it’s time you started exploring how to give your “quality of life” a boost. While financial freedom in today’s uncertain America is a key component of happiness, the freedom that mobile home park ownership gives you regarding your lifestyle is also an important consideration. The passive management of simply “renting land” allows you to have unlimited lifestyle options – and in this event we go over what those options might look like.
Following the video presentation there was a Q&A session with no question taboo. Frank was described by the New York Times as the “human encyclopedia of all things mobile home park” and there’s no part of buying and operating mobile home parks that he can’t answer for you.
If the freedom of the mobile home park owner's lifestyle meets your goals, consider our upcoming Mobile Home Park Investor's Boot Camp. We cover everything you need to get started including how to successfully identify, evaluate, negotiate, perform due diligence on, re-negotiate, finance, turn-around and operate mobile home parks to develop your own perfect lifestyle. It’s a three-day immersion event with Frank that is completely live and featuring continual Q&A throughout.
The Joy of Being A Mobile Home Park Owner - Transcript
Billie Mintz: Frank Rolfe?
Frank Rolfe: Yes.
Billie Mintz: Billie Mintz.
Frank Rolfe: Hi, Billy. How are you?
Voiceover: Frank Rolfe's company is the fifth largest owner of mobile home parks in the United States.
Billie Mintz: Beautiful place.
Frank Rolfe: Thank you very much.
Billie Mintz: Wow.
Frank Rolfe: Show you in here.
Our motto was kind of we provide a clean and safe, affordable place to live, just like it is here. Micro housing is hot. You just have a whole lot of people who just can't afford… to buy a house today, it's almost impossible for people. So we're like by far the least expensive form of detached dwelling there is. Some homes you'll see are like $2,000 for the entire home.
Frank Rolfe: Well I'm certainly glad we got them out of our house. National Geographic was all kinds of interesting, but sadly I'd rather talk to you directly. So welcome to the old academy. The house has first three items in American history west of the Mississippi. We were the first public school in America, first Christian Brothers School, and also the site of the first court ordered hanging was out here in my yard in a big tree.
Now I always dreamed of living in an old historic, spooky house, and the only reason I'm able to do that is because I'm in the mobile home park business. So that allows me to kind of live anywhere I want, to live in any style I want and I just happen to be a huge history buff. So living here, amongst so much American history, I find highly entertaining. Now to some people, they may say, "Gosh, that just is too strange for me." Well, then go live like you want to live. Again, it doesn’t matter where you live. The fact is you can live wherever you want, however you want, because you're not tied down to any conventional work week or work day, or working for any kind of employer.
Now one reason I like this house so much is I kind of get this vibe from it that's very positive. It makes everything that goes on here seem like it's kind of historical. Because it's been in so many firsts in American history, and there's so much that went on here. In the room that I'm standing in, this room used to be adorned with nothing but stuffed birds from John James Audubon because General Rosier who owned the house, his father was John James Audubon's business partner. He liked to shoot birds, stuff them, and then paint them. Then he would send the dead, stuffed birds to his former business partner as a joke, and they used to line the walls in here. Everything about this to me just reeks of American history, and that's why it turns me on so much. I would feel very sad if I could not live in an old, historic house because I'm just interested in history so much.
Let me show you one of the many items we have in here. A couple items which are interesting. This is a George Caleb Bingham painting, and this is of Chouteau Junior, the founder of Saint Louis' son. This is another painting by Manuel DeFranca, he was the top painter in the Midwest back in the mid 1800s. This is of Emily Berthold which was the granddaughter of Chouteau Junior. Everything you find in America, and this part of America, it all ties together. It doesn't matter whether you want to talk about Daniel Boone or John James Audubon or whoever it may be. It all ties together because all roads left from this part of America if you're going out west.
But I don't just collect things of Americana. Here we have a helmet, a Khula Khud, something that would have been worn during the crusades by the Persian army. You've probably seen that kind of thing in the movies before. I like to collect all forms of history. I just find it interesting, and owning mobile home parks has been a great catalyst. It's given me the freedom to go ahead and buy antiquities, to appreciate them, and to just live in the manner that I want to live. So let me give you more of a tour of the house.
This is one of my favorite rooms in the house. This is one of the old Christian Brothers bedrooms. We're down on the first floor. In these old houses back in the early 1800s often they would build the first floor a little below the ground level, so we're about four feet low here, but we're not actually in basement. We're on a living floor. In fact, there's more living that went on in this floor of the house than any of the others until modern times.
So back when the house was a Christian Brothers school, this is where one of the Christian Brothers lived. Now, I didn't put it back as a bedroom simply because the Christian Brothers weren't here that long. They only lived in this house for approximately about six years or so. And when they left the home, what happened was when they brought the Christian Brothers over to teach it was three months from France, sent here under Louis the 18th. They promised they would not separate them because they were concerned that if they separated them, they would lose that kind of intrinsic brotherhood values that they had shared at the monastery in France. But what happens? Well they come here and start the Christian Brothers school, and it is so successful they decide why have three monks in one school, let's put one monk and open three schools. So when they sent the other two away, they all kind of went bad. Not necessarily went bad, they just changed up their lifestyle.
So, one of the Christian brothers went on to become a riverboat captain. One of them went on to become a riverboat gambler so I've kind of re-themed the bedroom into a river riverboat gambling kind of a theme. So this is kind of like a giant stone room devoted to hobbies and pastimes that might have been found on a gaming ship, although, obviously, the pinball machine doesn't meet that criteria. The slot machines off the Admiral, it's an old riverboat gambling thing in St. Louis from the 1930s. So I come close there. I also have some interesting paintings over here. I have Soulard and his wife, the founders of the big market in St. Louis. Over here I have the founder of El Paso, who left from Missouri to go to El Paso to kind of colonize that part of Texas. He did very successful for a while he later went bankrupt, he retreated back to the Midwest. But once again, I just like the history.
Now the reason this room, to me is interesting is this is the most authentic room in the house. We've got the original 200 year old brick floors, we have the original giant oak beams that you can see were cut by axe and you can see every mark, every time an axe hit that beam, it's very, very evident. And you'll see on the walls we live kind of like in an old medieval castle here because the walls are solid stone, about two foot thick. And it's just stacked stone. There's no framing in the house. So basically, this house is held up simply by them being so efficient at cutting the stone, that they were able to stack it and have a stand up on its own. Now if you actually burn the house down, all you do is put the floors back and you're back in business because the walls wouldn't matter.
Just to show you how much history there is in this part of America. The stone of the house is not even from this area, per se. This stone was cut by the French to build a fort, a giant medieval fort like you see in the movies, right across the Mississippi River from us, an area called Prairie du Rocher. And when they built the house back in 1808, they went and found all that old stone from the fort. They pulled it all off stone by stone. They put it on, on very crude log rafts, floated down the river, crashed it into the embankment and dragged them all up here. And that's where the stone comes from. It's actually the stone is all from that French fort from the 1700s.
Let me show you in here we have a little museum. This is where my best historical artifacts are because I'm such a history nut. In rapid fire order I've got a letter to John Hancock, not from John Hancock, but to John Hancock. It's from a revolutionary soldier named Abraham Holmes, and in it he's complaining because Hancock gave a nice job to someone who did not fight the American Revolution. And Holmes was mad saying, What about me? How come we aren't giving the soldiers first dibs on the job? So people are kind of similar even back in 1797.
I have here five words written by George Washington. You might say well, why five words? Back in the back in the day, if you had an old historical document of any value, every time someone died and they pass the estate on, they would cut it up into portions based on how many heirs they had. So if whoever owned these five words, it had five children that would have been cut and given each child a different word. So I have just the five words from whoever that side of the family.
I have a letter here from a David Cobb who was George Washington's assistant. I have a US newspaper from about the same 1790s era. I have just a number of odd items here. I have a letter written in French from Madame Chouteau two who was the founder of St. Louis' wife to Mrs. Pierre Menard, who lived across the river right across from me here and down a little bit. He was the original Governor of Illinois. I had the letter translated and it said, "I am sending you a small box of pears," so not really of great historical significance there.
Also inside the case, I have various items that all relate here to the house. I even have the ledger books of all the kids that lived here and ate here back in the early 1800s. Playbills have every annual performance they had when this was a private school. And then some of my most other interesting items actually don't relate to early American history, but in fact, the Civil War because Missouri is just so steeped in Civil War having more people in Missouri in the Civil War than any other state. I have here a ventriloquist dummy from the Civil War. He's a fairly rare item. I found it in a junk store in Missouri. It's actually a confederate one, they make both the Confederate and the union. Each army typically had one of each and at nighttime around the campfire, they would entertain themselves by acting out skits.
I also over here have a ballot to Lincoln's election. So you don't see that every day. And I have the rarest item in the whole collection which is the piece of the shirt Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated. Now you might say how the world that I get this. I tried to buy this about 25 or 30 years ago at auction and didn't get it. Then that person died, went back to auction again, I got it the second time around. When Lincoln was assassinated, they could not get his shirt off, so they cut it off with scissors. And then his entire tuxedo he was wearing ended up in the Smithsonian, but the shirt was cut into portions and then people in the cabinet at that time, sent it to everyone, basically as souvenirs and remembrances. So this piece was written in the case was sent to the official surveyor of the US government, a guy named B.A.M. Forsythe. So that's how he ended up with that.
Other items I have in here is I have a ballot actually Jefferson Davis's election. I thought well, if I've got one for Lincoln, I must even get Jefferson Davis, which is even more rare and more difficult. Then I have lots of other items in here that pertain mostly to the family, the last family to live here. It's strange this house is over 200 years old, and we're only the second family to live here. Even this very rare book when Jesse James robbed the owner of the house's bank, and in the book, he gives great chase to Jesse James, and they have a huge shoot out, although none of that actually ever happened because he did no such thing. I even have a piece of Mary Todd Lincoln's hair under the table there underneath. I ran out of space is the problem. I'm rapidly running out of space here.
But at any rate, let's go look at some more stuff. You know, another benefit of owning mobile home parks is you get to be really eccentric. When I'm here in St. Genevieve, my normal modes of transportation are right behind me. The Black Easy Go golf cart, and the 1968 T-bucket Hot Rod. Now you might say how can you drive around in that and I feel a little strange? Well, again, we own mobile home parks, I guess you're strange to begin with. At least that's what everyone in town thinks. And then on top of that, you don't have to answer any kind of boss. I obviously couldn't be driving that car or that car around town if I worked at a bank or normal business. People would therefore maybe think oddly of me. But mobile home parks give you that chance to bring out your own creative self and do what you want to do.
And I just, when I drive the Challenger so much, so many miles when I'm driving, and I'm not on business, I don't like driving conventional cars. I like driving things very different than the Challenger. I love the golf cart because it's nothing but fresh air and completely quiet. And I love the orange car because frankly, I always wanted one when I was growing up. I'm a child of the 60s and Hot Wheels. And it looks to me like a Hot Wheels. I always wanted one of these things. I searched for one for over a decade before I found this. It was a barn find out of Minnesota, an old farmer had bought it on a whim when he was driving through Nevada, of all places. It wasn't running, we brought it back to life. It's kind been my own personal car style mobile home park. So it's a really cool asset. But when that was when I bought it in horrible condition, it wouldn't run.
In fact, we had to have it towed out of the trailer that he'd started in for all those many years. But we brought it back to life and pretty presentably so. Again, another big advantage to me of mobile home parks is whether you're into old Hot Rod, classic cars, golf carts, drive around in a moped, it doesn't matter. You don't have to worry about what how people judge you or what they think of you because you're out of the mainstream. You're kind of on your own living where you want to live, and then living life how you live how you want to live it.
I'm going to go ahead and give you a tour of my town here. Again, we're the first city in America west of the Mississippi, and we date to around 1735. That's the official date, although the town moved up river after a giant flood. So really moved to this location around 1750. Coming up here on the left is the old brick house. This is the first brick structure in America west of the Mississippi. And we'll just go on down here. you know that it's really fun living here. I could not live here if I was not in the mobile home park business because as you can see, this is a town that people live in. Not a whole lot of jobs and employment going on here. But at the same time, it's a very quaint environment. Great schools, low crime, really, it's really a wonderful place to reside. And I really am very thankful that I had this opportunity in my life to live here, because it's probably my favorite place I've ever lived. And it's just it's just been so much fun for me. So relaxing.
You get to know almost everyone in the town. Here we have the old Commandant's house. You'll notice the sign, we are now a national park here in St. Genevieve. So we're now part of the National Park Service. I think we have about five structures currently in the national park but I'm sure there'll be at least another five or more into the future. Why do people study this? Why is the national park here? Well, we're considered one of the most authentic French colonial settlements in the United States. And we have actually more original buildings standing than in Williamsburg.
Now, you know again, small towns are not for everyone. But that's not the point here. The point is here that I love small town living. You may not like small town living. Mobile home parks give you the freedom to live wherever you want to go. So if there's another kind of living you like more than living in a small town, whether you like living in the mountains by yourself, that's kind of how Dave does in Colorado. And I know owners you live in all kinds of tropical climates. You can live in a beach somewhere or if you really want you can live in another country. I know people who own mobile home parks who no longer live in the United States. They favor living elsewhere. But it's the freedom that a mobile home park ownership gives you that, to me, is so very, very important.
Here we have the Felix Vallé State Historic Site. It's owned by the state of Missouri. Another extension of that, in fact that's where the old art colony was. Here's Parfait Dufour's house. He was the scout for Lewis and Clark. So bottom line to it all is mobile home parks give you that freedom to live where you want to live. And this is where I want to live here in St. Genevieve, Missouri, right along the Mississippi River, about an hour south of St. Louis.
To me, one of the greatest attractions to owning mobile home parks is having mastery over your time. I'm standing here in front of my daughter's school, Vallé. It's our private school here in St. Genevieve. We also have a great public school as well. My daughter played a lot of sports. She was in basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, track, and I went to every single game, I didn't miss a single game all the way from first grade to when she graduated. In fact, at one of the final meetings at the school, they made a presentation that I had, in fact, been the number one parent as far as attendance, I had never missed anything. Anything she had school wise, I was there. Any field trip I was on. And to me that was more important than anything else. Money could not buy that ability to spend that long portion of my life with my daughter and all of her activities in school. So what is that worth? It's absolutely priceless to me. There's no amount of money that I would substitute for having to spend that time.
And whether it's going to kids school activities, or just doing what you want to do, the beauty is having the ability to do whatever you want to do with your time. That's something that people work normal jobs don't have. They have to be there at a certain time, stay till a certain time, they may have additional homework or items to keep them late. They may have to miss out on special events, family reunions trips, because there's something at work that holds them back. Now, of course, that's not to say there wasn't always something going on. I was often at her games there in the bleachers, at volleyball and basketball or track, with a laptop in my lap, or my cell phone and I was doing work, doing transactions, selling homes, talking to managers, trying to get things under contract, but I could be wherever I wanted to be. And you can see that's kind of a constant theme, whether it's the city you want to live in, or the house you want to live in, or even just how you want to spend your time within those two confines that's so extremely important to me.
And so if you're thinking about mobile home park investing, if you were to ask me, what is the single most important attribute, people would think that I would answer with money. It's not. Money is just a tool, a tool to do things you want to do in life. But of all the things that I wanted to do in life, the number one thing I wanted to do was to be in that school there in the stands at all my daughter's events, that was very important to me. And mobile home parks gave me the ability to do that. But again, it doesn't have to be just attending someone else's activities. If there's something you really like to do, if you like to surf, if you'd like to climb in the mountains. This gives you the ability to do that as often as you want.
Now, every night, I take an old timey Day Timer, and I lay out my schedule for the next day. And I insert into that all the different things I have to do throughout the day on that legal pad, and then carry that legal pad with me religiously. But often when I'm doing those activities, I'm not in a typical office environment. Sometimes I'm in my car, sometimes I would be at a game. Sometimes I may be at a restaurant, maybe I would even be on a trip. But the beauty of it all is I have complete time mastery.
Now there's a responsibility that goes with time mastery, because you are your own boss, you are in charge of your own destiny. But you just can't get that freedom in a normal career. It just does not exist. And to me, that is one of the key benefits of owning mobile home parks is the ability to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. I don't mean that in a childish way, like a rebel who says I refuse to live within the confines of society. I'm talking more as far as just an opportunistic way to do what you want to do. You only live once. It's kind of depressing not to do what you want to do with your life since you don't get a do-over with your life. So mobile home parks have given me that flexibility and I think if you really think about it, that maybe the most important item for many park owners is the ability to do whatever we want to do with our own time. Now let's move on again.
You know, one big advantage of owning mobile home parks is the whole concept of leaving a legacy. Here in St. Genevieve, Missouri, everywhere you go, you'll see plaques. My house has many plaques on it, and around it. And it's a constant reminder of the fact that all of us only live on earth for a portion of time. And then we're kind of gone, it is kind of interesting to people left to the next generation. So when you hit about 60, you started thinking about, you know, what is my legacy going to be? What am I really going to leave the future generations of value? And with mobile home parks, you have the ability not only to leave the fact that you took typically a community in poor condition and brought it back to life, but also just the financial benefits of having that and leaving that to the next generation.
You know, a lot of times when I'm in old mobile, home parks and the original office, often that hasn't been seen by anyone, other than the mom and pop who has recently sold it, and go through the different drawers and cabinets, I come upon lots of photos and drawings and documents of the legacy that they left. In fact, I enjoy talking to these old sellers, who often don't even realize what they accomplished. It's kind of amazing. People had gone in and they had built these mobile home parks as a hobby, often as a side hustle, way to get some additional money. And not really at the time realizing they were building a very rare thing, because as we all know, you can't build mobile home parks anymore. Each one is precious and unique. And they kind of did this and created you know, in with every mobile home park its own legacy.
And I've always been fascinated with this idea of having something to show for your time on Earth. To me, it's kind of depressing if you ultimately die, and no one knows you were ever here. So I'm a big believer in items like plaques, I love plaques. I love anything that celebrates that something happened on that spot. And pretty much every mobile home park that we've ever had all the way back to Glen Haven, my first park, to me it's kind of its own little plaque, its own little recognition that I actually was on earth for some period of time. And although I'm not here anymore, that there's something to show for what I did. So that's another huge benefit of me to parks is just the fact that you do leave this lasting legacy, this kind of reminder that, hey, I was here and I did something important enough that it's this property here. And whether I still own it or not, the very fact I brought it back to life to me is something that's worthy of a little recognition. Now let's move on.
Alright, you're looking at my office. It may not look a lot like your office. But I've spent more time in this car than probably just about anywhere else talking about mobile home parks. This is my beloved 2015 Dodge Challenger, which travels all over America. A few years ago, I think it hit 100,000 miles in one single year, which I'm sure set a record somewhere. Certainly confused the guy here in my small town that does oil changes. I was coming in for new oil change every couple of weeks. Now, why is it important to me to be able to office out of this vehicle? Again, it's the freedom potential. I can multitask. I can be out looking at mobile home parks driving, and during all that drive time, I'm able to call and talk to people. So really, this has become my mobile command center. Often when I'm out in the field, I turn this thing on, I don't turn it off until the very end of the day. I leave the AC on everything running because I'm in and out of this over and over. And it's just like a continuum. It's kind of like an office in a high rise office building only something that's on wheels flying down the road at 60 and 70 miles an hour.
But I wouldn't again, trade this for anything in the world. I love "officing" out of this vehicle. I'll be very, very upset if this vehicle ever dies. I've replaced everything in it so far, I will probably even replace the engine when it ultimately blows. I'm up to about 200,000 miles on it. And the engines on these will only last maybe 250 or 300. So I will actually come to that point in my life. But I will happily do it. Because I ergonomically fit in this thing so well. And I've spent so much time and I'm so comfortable and so happy in this car, I can't ever bear to give it up. But really when you talk about when I think of mobile home parks and my office, my office is the laptop that sits on my lap in the house or wherever I am. But as far as a dedicated workspace, this is my dedicated workspace right here and I love it and I would not trade it for anything else.
This is a video of a mobile home park that we've brought back to life. And I want to talk about that as another joy of mobile home park ownership. And that's the feeling you get of accomplishment when you've taken something that is old and rundown and decrepit, something that no one really has any pride in anymore, and you bring that back to life. I felt that feeling on my first mobile home park Glen Haven. I've talked about it many times. It was a community in complete shambles. There was nothing good you can say about it. But I knuckled down, invested my time, invested my capital, and through a lot of work, effort, risk, sometimes not even sure and not even confident I'd made the right choice. But in the end, I created something of lasting value, which still last today.
There is for every park owner a feeling a good deed has been done when they take that old mobile home park and reopened it as something that now is truly worthy of pride of ownership, and a sense of community. So that's a huge joy of park ownership is simply the feeling of accomplishment when you take things that are in terrible condition, and simply make them nice again. The park you're looking at here, if you'd only looked at it when we first bought it, you would have felt very, very depressed, very sad about the condition that had fallen into. A lot of these parts were showplaces at one time. You could go into the office, and you'd find in mom and pop's old desk drawer photos during its heyday, when it first opened. Everyone was so happy, so proud to live there, so excited. But over the years things wane. Energy is lost, conditions suffer. Now, when you bring these back to life, you get such a huge feeling of positive accomplishment.
Beyond that you know that you've done something that's really, really important for society, and will long outlast you. Whether you live for five years, 50 years or 100 years, you know that that mobile home park wouldn't be around if it was not for you, nor would be in such great condition. And once you fixed the mobile home park up and made a nice place to live, every time you drive through it, it makes you happy. It still makes me happy today when I drive through parks that I turned around and sold even decades ago. My mobile home park that I used to own over in Balch Springs, Texas where I planted over 100 Crepe Myrtles, a pattern of white and red alternating with white vinyl fence. It looks fantastic today. Those trees are huge. And when I drive by that I think man I did that. I remember when that thing was an absolute dump, and now it is such a positive part of the community.
The bottom line to it is that every time anyone who owns a mobile home park does their job and brings these old communities back to life it is a blessing for the community itself. It's a blessing for the city at large. And that feeling of accomplishment, of doing something amazing, is a huge joy of park ownership.
All right, well, we're back home. Just glad we had this time to spend this little quick tour of what I view to be the benefits of owning mobile home parks. As you can see, it's not all about financial reasons. A lot of people in the real estate world, the investment world, all they want to talk about is money, rates of return, how much money you can make. That's all good and everything, but money is just one tool as part of that bigger quality of life. So mobile home park owners get to do other things that really enhance their quality of life that are not necessarily tied to finances, such as living where you want to live, living how you want to live, having a complete mastery of your time, leaving a legacy. All of these many benefits, the mobile home parks are the catalyst, the tool that allows you to do that. And really when you buy a mobile home, particularly when you buy a mobile home park in transition, if you can succeed out of your day job into the mobile home park, it really opens a whole new world to you. It certainly did for me.
When I owned my billboard business, I was stuck right where those billboards were. I could not move out of Dallas, I couldn't do much of anything. But now that I'm in the mobile home park sector where it's such a more passive management, I'm able to now do things I never dreamed possible. And I'm so thankful that I was able to do it early enough that mobile home park was my second career, so I had that mastery of time, particularly during my days when I when my daughter was very young all the way through school.
But again, if you've not looked into mobile, home parks and the different benefits you have from it, I would highly urge you to do so. It's a sector of America that people don't know much about, they don't think much about. They may drive by mobile home parks occasionally. But very few times is anyone or most Americans say, "Gee, what is that mobile home park all about? Is there money in that? How does that function?" Because I am certainly glad I did. If I had not bought Glen Haven, everything you've seen in this video would all be erased. It'd be like Back to the Future, and suddenly, the future ends. I'd still be stuck in a rut doing what I was doing before. So I'm so insanely thankful that I got into mobile home parks, that I went out and bought Glen Haven even though I didn't know what I was doing, and even though it was a very, very difficult park, very difficult turnaround. I would do it again in a second. because that was what led me to live the way I live today. And I have such a high quality of life today. I can't really improve on it. It is exactly the life I always dreamed of living, all thanks to mobile home parks.
So I'm glad you took the time to go with me on this journey of my little world, my little space. This may in no way be like the space you want to live. I fully appreciate that. I fully embrace the idea that you need to live the way you want to live, not the way that I live. But I'm hoping this opened your eyes as many of the benefits the park owners have every day that gives them such a high quality of life. And now we're going to go ahead and turn it over to Q&A. So we'll go ahead and answer any and all questions you have, any topic you want. No topic taboo. I'm ready to answer your questions.