The mobile home park has been around as a real estate sector for over half a century. However, it has remained in complete obscurity except for a few lucky investors and such heavyweights as Sam Zell. But 2017 is the year in which mobile home parks will finally be identified for the wonderful business models that they are, as well as the prime solution to the affordable housing crisis in America. And this attention is coming from a number of sources.
The U.S. government
After being ignored by the Federal Government for the past 50 years, that period of silence is ending. In 2016, Congress passed H.R. 3700, which will allow Section 8 vouchers to be used to buy mobile homes beginning in mid-2017. That’s a huge step, as there are roughly as many people in Section 8 apartments in the U.S. as there are in all of the mobile home parks in the U.S. combined. In addition, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have introduced new programs to finance mobile home parks that are more attractive than any other offering. Finally, there is talk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may start working on making it easier for first-time homebuyers to buy a mobile home, by taking a more active role in re-purchasing these loans. It’s a great year for the industry legislatively.
Although the media has for decades relegated the very concept of the mobile home park as something to ridicule – through such shows as COPS, Myrtle Manor and Trailer Park Boys – that attitude is shifting as a result of the very serious issue of housing those of lesser incomes. The affordable housing crisis in the U.S. is a huge news story, and the nation’s newspapers, magazines, television stations and on-line sources are beginning to look past those old stereotypes and see the bigger story: that mobile home parks allow people to be homeowners and have a nice yard and neighborhood for a fraction of the price of single-family and multi-family options.
Private investment groups
There were three $2 billion transactions in the mobile home park sector in 2016: 1) the sale of Carefree to SUN (a U.S. REIT) 2) the sale of Northstar to Brookfield (a Canadian REIT) and 3) the sale of YES to GIC (the sovereign nation fund of Singapore). Clearly, the mobile home park industry is poised for massive consolidation. The Carlyle Group – the largest private equity group in the U.S. – already owns over 3,000 lots and is buying more. These transactions give incredible credibility to the industry and helps it become more mainstream.
2017 is looking to be a pivotal year for the mobile home park industry. It already has the highest yields of any form of real estate, but it has long lacked respect. This year that missing element is coming into focus, and it’s an exciting time to be involved in the birth of a mainstream real estate investment arena. If you are not currently investing in mobile home parks, you should definitely investigate this opportunity before it’s too late.
Frank Rolfe has been a manufactured home community owner for almost two decades, and currently ranks as part of the 5th largest community owner in the United States, with more than 21,000 lots in 25 states in the Great Plains and Midwest. His books and courses on community acquisitions and management are the top-selling ones in the industry. To learn more about Frank’s views on the manufactured home community industry visit www.mobilehomeuniversity.com.