Some investors live in a cloud of shame about their investment strategy.
Now how can anyone think that an investment is something to be ashamed of? Yet a few investors have been quietly living under this cloud for years. That time is over for RV park investors.
The stigma surrounding RV parks
In the past, the operators of mobile home parks (MHP) felt inferior to other real estate investors. There was a stigma attached to this realm, with despicable terms like “trailer junk”. People thought these investors were crazy to own and run a park for these tenants.
This has changed dramatically in the past five years. Green Street analysts even say RV parks are the darling of commercial property these days.
The popularity of RV park investments has really skyrocketed. BiggerPockets’ Brandon Turner wrote about investing in a RV park in Forbes. He invests heavily in MHPs because it is difficult to find fair prices in other sectors and for various reasons that he outlines in this article.
Why and How to Find RVs for Sale
There was a popular strategy promoted by Lonnie Scruggs over the past few decades. It was about buying and renting used RVs. It seemed to work in the past, but most MHP operators abandon this strategy as quickly as they can. Learn more about it in this post from BiggerPockets.
Nowadays, knowing how to buy RVs is an important skill in increasing the profitability of a RV park.
Why? Because the value of the park is a ratio between the net operating income and the return. More accurate:
Value = Net Operating Profit ÷ Cap Rate
Discover your investment strategy
Everyone knows that real estate investing can be a powerful way to build wealth and gain real financial freedom – but because each individual’s journey is different, knowing the first steps to take can be difficult.
Mobile home park invest in numbers
If an MPH operator purchases a 100-pitch RV park with 60% occupancy and a net annual operating income of $ 200,000, the value would be approximately $ 2,500,000.
$ 2,500,000 = $ 200,000 ÷ 8%
What if you decide to fill 30 of the 40 vacant lots with paying tenants? Assuming no other changes, this could increase net operating profit from $ 200,000 to $ 300,000 (50% increase in utilization [90 ÷ 60] = 50% increase in income).
$ 3,750,000 = $ 300,000 ÷ 8%
But let’s say you bought the park with 66.7% debt and 33.3% equity. At $ 2,500,000, that’s about $ 1,666,500 in debt and about $ 833,500 in equity.
At $ 3,750,000 when new, the return on equity of $ 1,250,000 equates to a return on equity ($ 1,250,000 ÷ $ 833,500) of 150%.
The leverage takes the wealth gain and multiplies it by three times [1 ÷ (1.0 – 0.67)].
So a $ 100,000 investment in this park would be valued at an asset level of $ 250,000. And this before all other improvements or cost-cutting measures.
Benefits of increasing the occupancy of a RV park
In addition to increasing income and value, increasing the occupancy of a RV park has several benefits. These include:
- When you add new RVs, they add quality and appearance to the entire community. Placing a few new houses near the entrance will add to the drive-by appearance.
- You can create a higher rental standard with new tenants who receive the market rent. It increases your income level and the expectation of current tenants that there will be increases in the future.
- A higher total income allows you to increase payroll, thus hiring a better manager and maintenance staff and reinvesting them in the community.
- Agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac like to lend loans to RV parks – at surprisingly favorable terms and prices – but would like to see a certain occupancy rate and quality standards first.
- If you are looking to sell your park, higher occupancy and standards will attract more buyer competition, a better buyer, and a higher price. You can even get an institutional buyer who will pay more than most buyers.
More about BiggerPockets mobile homes
How to find mobile homes for sale for mobile parks
There are several ways to find new and used homes for RV parks.
There are great financing options for park owners to buy new mobile homes. For example, Warren Buffett’s 21st Mortgage provides financing for park owners as they search for a renter-buyer and up to 100% financing for renter-buyers of RVs. As a park owner, you can buy surplus mobile and modular houses, which you can purchase at the dealer price.
Become a dealer
When you become a dealer, you can buy new homes straight from the factory. This can save significant costs and opens up the possibility of selling some homes to outside buyers. You can also sell houses in your park at a discount to tenant-buyers and make a profit in the process.
Drive for dollars
You can drive (or have the staff drive) through other parks in the area to look for FSBO signs (for sale by the owner) in the windows of RVs. Then you can make a deal to buy the mobile home and bring it to your park. Plan to pay for the certificate in cash on site. If necessary, go to a trustee’s office to receive the money and sign the deed.
When other parks are closed, you can sometimes get their tenants to move to your park. You can potentially save moving costs (in bulk) and fill your empty spaces. Paying the moving costs is usually a big win for park owners (see the value formula above). In this example, 30 spaces results in a value of $ 1,250,000. That’s over $ 41,000 per lot. You can move the apartment, pay the tenant a “registration bonus” and still be ahead financially.
Craigslist and other websites
Many are surprised by the number of mobile homes that are listed on Craigslist. You can expect a colorful mix of old, refurbished and ready-to-move-in models and mobile homes that need a little love. Popular real estate marketplaces like Zillow also offer RVs for sale on their websites. Always reliable, Google is also a good place to start a search.
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) has always listed a few mobile homes for sale. To be able to access the MLS, you must be a real estate agent or broker. If you are not one, then you can easily work with a licensed broker or agent.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has contracts to pay RV manufacturers to build RVs for emergencies. Hurricanes and floods can displace many people, and the government often steps in to help. For example, Hurricane Katrina displaced over a million people in the Gulf region in 2005 and at least 114,000 households were relocated to FEMA supporters. After these emergencies, the government auctioned these homes at a steep discount, and they are usually not very old.
Some MPH owners are trying the “Lonnie’s Homes” strategy of being landlords (as mentioned above, this means buying and renting used RVs). While it can work for some people, it can be labor intensive and unprofitable. However, if this is for you, find someone with this strategy, make them an offer on their RV, move the houses to your park, and sell or finance the houses to new renters.
If an existing tenant wants to sell their home, you (or your property manager) can help them by adding a buyer on your waiting list. You can pre-screen buyers who have called or applied to find the right buyer. By being in the middle of the process, you can set the land rent based on the current market level. This prevents you from playing defense after the home seller informs him of his lower rent.
Targeted digital advertising
Geo-fencing is a way of targeting Facebook or Google ads to specific locations. Let’s be honest. Not every park is well managed or ethically managed. If a park has a lot of justifiably dissatisfied residents, you can apply geo-targeting and a move-in special to this park. You may have to pay to move and maybe even give a signature bonus, but as mentioned above, it could be worth it. There are MHP operators who pay a bonus of up to $ 15,000 that is designed as a deposit from college funds. This is a pretty cool way to get new and happy tenants.
Facebook marketplace and eBay
Facebook Marketplace is a treasure trove for all sorts of things, and it can’t hurt to search for mobile homes for sale there. eBay can also be another great resource.
There are still newspapers and of course they are online too. The renter population of RV parks is often older and they still advertise their RVs in the newspaper. Classified trade newspapers are also good sources.
RV park operators should keep in mind that one of the best ways to generate more income is to increase occupancy and add more RVs to your park. This post has given several ways to achieve this. The key is to have multiple sources to purchase RVs. If you look at the math and think being an MPH owner is the right choice for you, you may soon find that your business is delivering a high return on investment.