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How to Buy a Mobile Home Park: Beginner's Guide

The manufactured housing industry is known for its affordability and strong investment appeal. As housing affordability continues to be a global issue, the idea of starting a mobile home park might seem like an attractive opportunity for steady income and low overhead. 


“These communities are not just affordable housing solutions; they represent a strategic investment in a growing sector known for its resilience and profitability. In fact, between 2004 and 2018, operating income from mobile home parks rose by 87%, demonstrating their stability even through economic downturns like the 2008 Great Recession” (Forbes). 

However, starting a new park from scratch involves navigating complex zoning laws and development challenges that can be daunting and time-consuming. Due to strict regulations and the limited approval for new developments, buying an existing manufactured housing community offers a more accessible and quicker path to profitability for the new owner.


This guide will walk you through the steps on how to buy a mobile home park. Tailored for property managers, community managers, regional managers, and investors eager to enter this niche market, we will explore the strategic advantages of purchasing over building from the ground up. 


Table of Contents

 


Understanding the Basics of Manufactured Housing Communities 

If you're considering entering the manufactured housing market, it's essential to understand what constitutes a manufactured housing community and the various types that exist. This knowledge is crucial, particularly if you're planning to buy an existing park or exploring the investment potential in this sector. 


What is a Manufactured Housing Community? 

A manufactured housing community, also known as a mobile home park, is a designated residential area where individuals have the opportunity to place their manufactured homes on rented plots. Often, the community owner may offer homes for sale or rent in addition to leasing the land.


These communities not only provide essential land space, but also feature comprehensive infrastructure including roads, utilities, and communal facilities such as clubhouses and recreational areas, creating a cohesive living environment.  


Types of Manufactured Housing Communities 

Understanding the different types of manufactured housing communities is vital for any investor looking into how to purchase a mobile home park. These communities cater to a diverse range of residents and preferences, broadly categorized into: 


  • All-Age Communities: These parks welcome residents of all ages, making them ideal for families and individuals looking for affordable, community-oriented living. 

  • 55+ Communities: Exclusively for adults aged 55 and older, these communities offer amenities tailored to the lifestyle needs of seniors. 

  • Hybrid Communities: Combining elements of traditional mobile home parks with spaces for RVs and other types of accommodations, hybrid communities appeal to a broader demographic, including seasonal residents and those seeking more transient lifestyles. 


Each type of community is designed to meet specific needs and preferences, providing various amenities and services that enhance the living experience. For investors aiming to purchase a mobile home park, understanding these distinctions is crucial in making informed decisions that align with your investment goals and meet the needs of your target demographic. 



Planning Where to Buy Your Mobile Home Park 


Evaluating Your Goals and Objectives 

Before venturing into the world of manufactured housing, it's essential to clarify your investment goals. Whether you're seeking a steady cash flow, long-term equity growth, or a mix of both, these objectives will direct your decisions about which community to purchase.


Understanding your goals helps you determine the type of community that best fits your business model. Each community demographic will influence the features and amenities you'll need to focus on in an existing park. If you're exploring how to buy a mobile home park, recognizing these objectives early on can simplify many of the complexities associated with your investment. 


Choosing a Location for your Manufactured Housing Community 

Selecting the right location is crucial for the success of purchasing a mobile home park.

Here are key factors to consider when evaluating potential parks: 


  • Local Demand: Look for parks in areas with high demand for manufactured housing, which typically ensures lower vacancy rates. 

  • Job Market: Opt for locations with strong local employment opportunities that can attract and retain residents. 

  • Population Growth: Areas with growing populations offer potential for increased demand over time. 

  • Accessibility: Choose parks with easy access to major roads, public transportation, and amenities like shopping and medical services. 

  • Environmental Assessments: Ensure the land is suitable for residential use and free of environmental hazards. 

Zoning Laws and Legal Considerations for MH Communities 

Understanding zoning laws is crucial, especially when considering where to buy a mobile home park. While these laws are a critical factor in new park development, they also play a significant role when acquiring an existing park. Know the local regulations governing the parks you consider purchasing, including how land can be used, park density, and the types of homes allowed. Existing parks typically have these aspects firmly established, which can provide a smoother transition and less regulatory hassle for new owners. 


“Due to stringent zoning laws, the number of new mobile home parks is significantly restricted, which creates an advantageous environment for acquiring an existing park. This supply limitation is a key factor to consider as it directly impacts the potential growth and profitability of your investment” (Forbes).


Given the complexity of zoning laws and other legal considerations, it is strongly advised to seek guidance from a legal expert who specializes in real estate or specifically in manufactured housing. Consulting with an attorney can provide valuable insights, help navigate potential legal challenges, and ensure that all aspects of your investment comply with local regulations. 

 

Reviewing Infrastructure and Development 

Evaluating the infrastructure is crucial when considering purchasing a mobile home park: 


  • Utilities: Check the capacity and condition of water, sewage, electrical, and gas systems. 

  • Roads: Evaluate the need for road repairs or expansions. 

  • Common Areas: Consider the maintenance or need for additional amenities, recreational facilities, and other common areas. 

  • Lots: Determine if lot sizes meet current standards and whether the community layout would allow for adjustments. 


Detailing Budget and Initial Investment 

Understanding both the initial investment and ongoing operational costs is crucial when planning on how to buy a mobile home park:

 

  • Acquisition Cost: The purchase price of the community. 

  • Property Taxes: The annual taxes assessed on the property. 

  • Property Insurance: The various types of insurance needed for the property. 

  • Permits and Legal Fees: Costs associated with transferring ownership and any legal consultations. 

  • Infrastructure Upgrades: Future capital improvement costs for updating or improving utilities, roads, and common areas. 

  • Utilities: The monthly utility charges to the community and if applicable the recovery from residents 

  • Employees: Monthly wages to run the community. 

  • Marketing: Expenses to promote the park under new management. 

  • Ongoing Maintenance: Recurring costs for maintaining the park. 


Funding sources can range from traditional bank loans and real estate investment trusts (REITs) to private investors and personal funds. Effective financial planning is crucial to cover initial costs and ensure sustainable operations. 


By thoroughly planning each aspect of the location and setup of your manufactured housing community, you set a solid foundation for success. This strategic approach not only meets immediate needs but also positions your park for growth in the manufactured housing community. 



Step-by-Step: How to Purchase a Mobile Home Park 


Financing 

Securing the right financing is a crucial step when buying an existing community. Understanding the different financing options available is essential to making an informed decision: 


  • Loan to Value (LTV) Ratios: Typically, lenders offer a loan to value ratio of 60-80% for mobile home parks, meaning you'll need to provide 20-40% of the property's price as a down payment.  

  • Financing Options: Traditional bank loans are one possible option, but you might also consider options like seller financing or other creative solutions.  

  • Private Equity: For larger investments or when traditional financing isn’t enough, private equity can fill the gap. This involves selling equity stakes in the property to private investors. 


Understanding the nuances of each financing type and choosing the right one can significantly impact the affordability and profitability of your investment. 


Investment Stability and Resident Longevity 

When acquiring an existing manufactured housing community, one of the primary benefits is the stability and predictability of the revenue stream. Residents in manufactured housing communities often stay for extended periods, which greatly enhances investment stability.


“It is not uncommon for residents to reside in the same park for an average of 15 years. Furthermore, when residents own their homes, they tend to stay put longer. Over 90% of mobile homes are never moved once they are installed, primarily due to the high costs associated with moving a home, which can be approximately $6,000. This long-term residency offers investors a stable and predictable revenue stream, which is a significant advantage in the real estate investment landscape” (Forbes).


Due Diligence and Evaluation 

Thorough due diligence is essential to ensure you’re making a wise investment.


Here’s how to evaluate an existing manufactured housing community: 


Assessing Community Value

  • Cap Rates: Look at the capitalization rate, which helps gauge the return on investment based on the income the property can generate. 

  • Market Comparison: Compare prices and conditions of similar mobile home parks in the area. 

Infrastructure Inspection

  • Utilities: Check the condition of the water, sewage, electrical, and gas systems. Ensure compliance with current regulations. 

  • Roads and Common Areas: Evaluate the maintenance status of internal roads, lighting, and communal facilities. 


Financial Records Review

  • Profit and Loss Statements: Review at least the past 2-3 years of financials to understand the park's profitability. 

  • Occupancy Rates: High occupancy rates indicate a stable and potentially profitable investment. 

  • Rent Roll: Examine the rent roll for current rent levels, lease terms, and resident turnover. 


This due diligence will help you identify any potential issues that could affect your return on investment (ROI) and help in negotiating a fair purchase price. Buying a mobile home park is a big decision that requires careful and informed planning, particularly in the unique market of manufactured housing communities.


Exploring how to purchase a mobile home park is an extensive and overwhelming process to navigate alone; learn from trusted industry veterans like ManageAmerica, who will help guide you down a path to success. 

 


Implementing Effective Management Strategies for Manufactured Housing

 

Operational Strategies for Success 

Acquiring your first mobile home park is just the beginning. Effective management is crucial for ensuring the smooth operation and growth of your manufactured housing community. Manufactured has unique needs and regulations, different than other asset classes like multi-family.


Here's how to optimize operations post-acquisition: 


Key Roles

  • Community Manager: Serves as the on-site leader for both management and residents, addressing daily operations and any arising issues. 

  • Maintenance Team: Ensures the upkeep of grounds and facilities, maintaining an appealing and functional environment. 

  • Accounting Staff: Manages financials, ensuring efficient rent collection and budgeting to maintain the financial health of the community. 


Resident Retention and Attraction

  • Effective Marketing: Employ a mix of digital and traditional marketing strategies to attract new residents. 

  • Community Events: Foster a sense of community through regular social events, enhancing resident satisfaction and engagement. 

  • Responsive Management: Increase resident retention by resolving issues quickly and maintaining open lines of communication. 


Community Engagement

  • Feedback Mechanisms: Regular surveys and meetings to gather and act upon resident feedback, adapting services to meet their needs. 

  • Enhancement Projects: Invest in community improvements to keep the property attractive and competitive, based on resident input and emerging trends. 


Importance of Property Management Software 

In managing a manufactured housing community, the right tools can make a significant difference. Property management software plays a critical role in running a successful community. Choosing a property management software tailoring to the manufactured housing industry will be essential for: 

  • Operational Efficiency: Property management software automates and streamlines daily tasks, drastically reducing errors and saving employees’ time. This includes automating processes like resident screening, which ensures potential residents meet the park's criteria efficiently. 

  • Utility Management: An advanced property management system can also manage utility billing and usage. This not only ensures accurate and fair billing, but can also help in monitoring and managing the consumption of utilities. Be sure to choose a high-end utility billing partner that will re-certify rates every month. 

  • Electronic Payment Processing: With the integration of electronic payment systems, residents can pay their rent and utilities online. This convenience enhances the resident experience, reduces late payments, and simplifies financial transactions for management. 

  • Financial Management: These systems enhance the accuracy of billing and financial reporting, aiding property managers in maintaining cash flow and profitability. 

  • Resident Satisfaction: By providing tools for better communication and service delivery, such as maintenance request tracking and community announcements, these software systems improve overall resident relations and retention. 


Given these benefits, selecting the right property management software is vital. While there are many options available, ManageAmerica offers tailored solutions that not only meet the needs manufactured housing owners/operators but is also equipped to scale with the growth of your community.


Starting with a robust platform like ManageAmerica sets a solid foundation, and as your needs evolve, its comprehensive features continue to support your community's expansion and success. 



Final Thoughts on Purchasing Your Manufactured Housing Community 

Purchasing a mobile home park is a promising venture in the realm of manufactured housing, offering a unique blend of business opportunity and community building. From understanding the different types of manufactured housing communities to selecting the perfect location, navigating zoning authority rules, and setting up efficient management practices with the right tools, each step plays a crucial role in the success of your investment. 


While this guide serves as a starting point, it's important to conduct your own thorough research before making any commitments. Each step toward buying a mobile home park involves complex decisions and significant financial commitments. It is crucial to gather detailed information and seek expert advice tailored to your specific situation. 


As you navigate buying a mobile home park, and you begin to consider the finer aspects of managing your manufactured housing community, remember the importance of partnering with a high-end property management system tailoring to the manufactured housing industry. 


We encourage you to reach out to ManageAmerica, which offers comprehensive solutions designed to ensure your community operates smoothly and grows sustainably. Remember, the right property management software is a crucial component in running a thriving manufactured housing community that stands the test of time. 

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