Buying first Mobile home park... tips please?

8 Replies

Hello all,

My wife and I are working on a deal to purchase a mobile home park. There are 15 mobiles and 12 "RV" spots ( which look pretty trashy). We own a couple single family props right now but really intrigued by Brandon to purchase mobile home parks.

What should we look out for, ask, do or whatever?

Thanks you all in advance!

Find out if the homes are owned by the park or individuals. The ideal mobile home park scenario is where the occupants own the trailers and you own the property so they're paying rent for the parking space.

Most parks provide water, sewer, trash and public area lighting. You will typically need an onsite person. Find out what these costs are.

If there's abandoned homes, expect it to cost you money to make them go away.

Is there a market in that area where people would want to bring in new mobiles?

If the sewer isn't public (provided by the municipality) then find out what type and capacity septic system there is and what kind of servicing it requires.

Go to the municipality the park is in and ask some questions. ie, "I'm thinking of buying the so and so mobile park, anything I should know?"

@Jeff And Lexie Bodenmuller  the variables in MH/RV parks are too numerous to dive into every detail, so you might consider spending the money to take a course that walks through all the variables before you jump in. However, I will share a general perspective from someone who has owned over a thousand MH/RV spaces.   

Our approach to due diligence begins with determining if the value of the park is in line with the seller's price expectations. Again, to properly value a park requires a fairly deep understanding of how they will operate, given all the potential variables. Some of those variables are the size of the park, number of vacant spaces, number of POHs, number of vacant POHs, number of MH spaces, number of RV spaces, the park amenities, the age of the park, underground infrastructure age and condition, park location, size of the market, value of SFRs in the market, city water or well, city sewer or septic, other utility sources and whether or not they are direct billed, deferred maintenance, cost of management, and more. I won't dive into that evaluation here, since this is about due diligence, but just keep in mind every park is unique and without understanding all the variables, it's possible to misinterpret the value of the park.

With that said, if you determine the value is there, then it's time to start due diligence. To highlight the basics of DD, we like to break those up into 4 areas: financials, initial walkthrough, compliance, and paid inspections/services. If you are seeking to keep the initial out of pocket expenses low, begin with the items that require just your time, but not money. Get familiar with the financials to determine how the park is currently running, and then do an initial walkthrough so you know what you have. If everything is still a go at that point, spend time on the compliance to make sure there are no deal killers. After that, you will need to spend money on the inspections, surveys, environmental, etc.

Financials - Review of the financials can be tricky, particularly if the current owner has not kept the books correctly. But the goal here is to underwrite how you would expect the park to operate and see if that lines up with what the seller is demonstrating. This is where you can begin to see where there are operational inefficiencies, cost overruns, or areas where income can be improved. Sometimes you can do this prior to opening escrow, but there are cases where a seller will not deliver financials until you commit and put up EMD.

Initial Walkthrough - Confirm the number of spaces, the general condition of the utilities at each space, the status of the home on each space (POH, TOH, vacant, RV, etc.) and the condition of the rest of the park and amenities (roads, clubhouse, office, pool, etc). We also like to sit down with the current manager and go through everything related to how they are running the park (collecting rent, problem tenants, sales of homes, marketing efforts, recurring maintenance items, problem areas in the park infrastructure, etc)

Compliance - this includes everything related to city, county, and state compliance to continue to run the property as a park. That includes zoning, (including a zoning letter to confirm legal use) building, permits, sales tax, licensing, etc. In addition to that, we like to check with the police, fire, insurance, sex offender status, and anything that might affect the operations of the park. The goal is to avoid surprises, understand what challenges may be present, and what impact the results of inspections may have on our future operations of the park.

Inspections - If all of the above checks out, now it's time to start spending money on paid services. Inspections should include electrical, plumbing, and septic/sewer contractors (to address the underground infrastructure) but also can include pool, home inspections, asphalt, and more, depending on the park and what the sale includes. The main goal here is to always work with contractors who are familiar with parks. That is not always easy to find, but trust me, it is worth making 50 calls to find the right contractors who work in the park arena and understand them. When you meet with the contractors, make sure to have them help you understand what you have, what will be required to repair and maintain what you have, and what you should be budgeting for future capital improvements, if needed. A survey and phase 1 will likely be required if you are getting debt, and smart to get those done either way just for peace of mind, but those will cost money as well.

Congruent with the due diligence items above, we are also putting together the strategy for the park, performing our rent survey, running our market demand study, and creating the budget for the project.

All the best,

Jack

Environmental Issues:

1. is drinking water provided by on-site water wells. If so, verify water complies with drinking water standards

2. If property serviced by septic systems, confirm they are properly functioning and permitted

3. If individual homes have above ground storage tanks, verify that the tanks have not leaked. Property owner would be responsible even if used exclusively by the tenant.