3 Red Flags Concerning Mobile Home Parks To Consider Before Investing

4 min read
John Fedro

John Fedro has been actively investing in individual mobile homes since 2002 and in parks since 2016. Additionally, he’s been assisting other mobile home investors since 2006.

Experience
Investing since 2002, John started in real estate accidentally with a four-bedroom mobile home inside of a pre-existing mobile home park. Over the next 11 months, John added 10 more mobile homes to his cash-flowing portfolio. Since these early years, John has gone on to help 150+ sellers and buyers sell their unwanted mobile homes and obtain a safe and affordable manufactured home of their own.

Years later, John keeps to what has been successful—buying, fixing, renting, and reselling affordable housing known as mobile homes. Like almost every long-term investor, he’s made more mistakes than he can count. John discusses many of them on his blog and YouTube channel, where he shares his stories, experiences, lessons, and some of the experiences of other successful mobile home investors that he’s helped.

John has written over 300 articles concerning mobile homes and mobile home investing for the BiggerPockets Blog. He has also been a featured podcast guest on BiggerPockets and other prominent real estate podcasts, authored a highly-rated book aimed at increasing the happiness/satisfaction of average real estate investors, and spoken to national and international audiences concerning the opportunities and practicality of successfully investing in mobile homes.

John now spends his time actively investing in individual mobile homes and acquiring parks. He focuses on enjoying his time and partnering with other investors around the country to grow their own local mobile home cash-flowing portfolios and reputations.

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If the headline of this article is confusing allow me to clear up the issue now. This article is designed to help provide the newbie mobile home investor with some foresight to notice some not-too-common red flags that you will find while investing in individual mobile homes inside of pre-existing mobile home communities.

The three red flags below have all been costly mistakes that I have made myself over the past decade investing in these homes.  Some of these mistakes I am still living with now as some homes are still located in these less-than-ideal parks.

After reading the list below please keep these items in the very back of your mind in the event you find yourself looking at purchasing a mobile home inside one of these types of communities.

1.) A Large Number of Empty Pads/Lots

Imagine you are driving through an established mobile home community you have never been through before. You notice that approximately 25% or more of the existing pads are vacant and without mobile homes on them.

This could be for a number of reasons.

A. Transitional Period: This mobile home park could just have kicked out a majority of the less desirable owners and/or homes in the park, thereby cleaning up the quality of the park. This happens when new management or ownership takes control of a loosely operated park. After asking the manager about the issue she confirms this is the reason. If this is the case there is little to be concerned about. It is a good question to inquire how they plan to fill these empty pads however no red flags are raised here.

B. Poor Ownership and/or Management: Another reason there could be a healthy amount of empty mobile home pads is due to homeowners moving their mobile homes out of the park. I have only seen this twice. The community residents logically and almost unanimously despise the park manager and/or owner to an extent the mobile home residents are willing to pay to have their mobile homes moved out of a park they have lived in for years. If a park manager is too strict, bossy, demanding, or the park owner is too negligent or greedy with regards to raising lot rent prices you could have a mass exodus in a community.  If you get this impression from a resident or park manager strongly reconsider a long-term relationship within this park. This is a red flag.

2.) Too Strict of an Application Process

Screening buyers and residents for past evictions, credit worthiness, criminal history, sexual predator status, income, employment, etc is all within a park’s rights as landlords and without question should be performed as due diligence by any investor allowing strangers into their properties. When dealing with mobile homes inside a mobile home community it is important to note that each park owner may dictate within reason who lives within their walls. This screening criteria will translate into who you can resell your investment mobile home to.

In the beginning of my career I invested in a mobile home community that required a minimum credit beacon score of 700 to be approved to live in the park. This is an insanely high beacon score for everyone to reach in a mobile home park. The community also required a 4 page application that detailed employment verification for the past 4 years, past housing, references, bank information, automobile information, etc. Much of this information is standard and will be asked for when applying to almost any mobile home park. However the high credit score, 4 page application, and $75 application fee per adult made this investment home terribly difficult to resell.

The mobile home spoke for itself and was a beautiful investment purchased for a nominal price. I had no shortage of potential buyers wanting the home. The trouble came after the potential buyers left my investment and headed to the park. Once finding out about the high criteria and high application fee the park demanded few ever followed through with an application. After 2 month of holding the home I began offering to pay for “verbally-qualified” buyers to run their applications. I paid for 6 application fees before a family of 2 was approve for the park. I took a discount on the home when I resold it, collected my profits and have never done business in this park again.

Important to note was that I met a number of other sellers that were having the same complaint about selling their homes. I could have purchased more homes within that park for a true discount however the hassle and time would have not been worth the immediate savings.

3.) Snippy or Unfriendly Park Manager

Park managers are average people just like you and me. In addition they often times have thankless jobs and give much of themselves to the local community. I say this completely serious because the majority of mobile home park managers want nothing more than to do a good job and to bring up the lives of the residents in their community.

If you meet a park manager most of the time they will be as pleasant and helpful as an old friend. However sometimes park managers wake up on the wrong sides of the bed, this happens to the best of us and can lead to a less than desirable first impression. When meeting a park manager for the first time be aware that you are screening this person just as you screen an investment home or seller. You will be forming a relationship with this park representative and it is important you both like each other.

Without meeting the manager a few times it is difficult to say whether or not he or she is always happy, rude, greedy, bossy, etc. Instead plan to interact with the park manager at least 3 times before you purchase a mobile home within their community.

Conclusion

In conclusion there are many moving parts to every decision that goes into whether or not you should invest in any income producing property. When a mobile home is located in a mobile home community this only adds to the variable of factors to consider. If you have further specific or general questions do not hesitate to reach out and ask them below.

Photo: Sweet Evie