“Brandon… you’re crazy!”
That’s the response I tend to get when I tell folks I’m looking to buy a mobile home park this year.
And I totally get it. A couple years ago, I would have said the same thing. But times have changed, and so has my opinion on mobile home parks.
You see, after the real estate crash nearly a decade ago, real estate investments were easy to make. Nearly every property was a good deal and great money could be made.
But that was yesterday.
Today- the real estate market is tough.
Single family homes are being scooped up by homeowners attempting to get their next home before interest rates rise. New investors are learning about the power of real estate investing and buying up most “nasty houses” as well as the small multifamily deals. And hedge funds and large institutional investors are grabbing all the larger apartment complexes at prices that simply don’t make sense to savvy real estate investors.
So real estate investors have a choice: they can sit out and wait for the next real estate crash or they can get creative and find opportunities in this current market. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sitting the next few years out, but I love the action too much to stop.
So I’m opting for option two: finding opportunities.
One such opportunity that has recently caught my attention is mobile home parks. And for clarification: no, I’m not talking about buying mobile homes. I’m talking about the entire park, where the residents own (or rent) homes and I lease out the land.
My interest was peaked after interviewing several mobile home park investors on The BiggerPockets Podcast, and later finding The Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast, hosted by Kevin Bupp and Charles Dehart of Mobile Home Park Academy. I realized that mobile home park investors were crushing it right now.
I had to dig in deeper!
So, why are mobile home parks one of the best investments left in America? I recently met up with Andrew Lanoie, Founder and CEO of Four Peaks Capital Partners (a Private Investment Group which allows qualified investors an opportunity to passively invest in this industry) and discussed with him the benefits of investing in mobile home parks.
After speaking with Lanoie, and doing many hours of research, here are seven powerful benefits to mobile home park investing.
1. Lower Cost Per Unit
When investing in large multifamily properties or single family homes ¬ the cost per unit is high.
But mobile home parks allow a person to jump in and acquire more units for less money. According to Lanoie, “MHPs offer the lowest cost investment per unit of any real estate asset class with potentially higher risk adjusted returns”.
Most park owners own the land, not the housing units themselves which means that the cost of the investment is typically going to be a lot less in comparison to the number of units owned.
You can easily expect to pay $100,000+ per home or apartment unit versus paying as little as $10,000 per lot in a mobile home park.
2. Lower cost for repairs and maintenance
One of the factors that makes me the most excited about mobile home parks is that I don’t have to work with contractors. To put it bluntly, I hate dealing with contractors. When you’re working on single family homes and multifamily properties, dealing with contractors is a daily hassle.
However, by not owning the actual homes that your tenants live in, it means that the mobile home owner is responsible for the maintenance, repairs, and updates for their residence, not the landlord. While the mobile home park owner is still going to need to account for the expenses of the upkeep for the park, it will most likely be significantly less than what they would pay for the upkeep of the homes.
3. Spread Out Risk
Because mobile home parks allow investment companies to acquire more units for each investor dollar (as discussed above), the risk for loss decreases. In other words: with more tenants, the risk is spread out more. For example, let’s say you own four single family houses, and one of the tenants forces you to evict them and you are left with $20,000 in expenses. Bummer. There goes five years of profit from your entire portfolio. While those kinds of situations are rare, they do happen.
However, when you own a large collection of units, the high cost of those freak occurrences are spread out across your entire portfolio.
4. The Demand is High
Due to numerous factors, the demand for mobile homes inside well-¬managed parks is ever increasing. According to Lanoie, new mobile home parks are not being developed due to government zoning, gentrification, and zoning changes.
However, while home prices are climbing to historic levels, incomes for many Americans are not rising. The need for affordable housing is only getting stronger.
Lastly, baby boomers on fixed incomes are retiring in record numbers creating a greater demand for affordable housing that will only continue to grow. According to Lanoie “10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day with an average social security benefit of just $1,294 per month. 75% of retirees have less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts, and the bottom 50% have zero measurable savings.”
More and more lower income Americans and retirees are looking to mobile homes as their chance of still being a homeowner.
5. Less Tenant Turnover
As a landlord of numerous single family and multifamily properties, I know that one of the largest expenses for a property owner is tenant turnover. Cleaning their unit, needing to track down a new tenant, and the lack of income during the vacancy can take thousands of dollars per unit out of the investor’s pocket each year.
But when a tenant owns their own home and simply leases the land turnover drops dramatically. According to Lanoie, “it can cost a tenant $5,000¬$7,000 to move their home out of a park and thus 98% of mobile homes will remain in the same location after the second year.
75% of owners expect to stay in their Mobile Homes for 5 years or longer, and a large percentage expect to never sell.”
This means that there is very little turnover and thus very little risk of losing tenants and going through the pain of finding new ones. When tenants choose to ‘vacate their homes,’ often the owner of the MHP may acquire a new asset that, with a few upgrades, can be sold to a new tenant. The penalty for moving also gives landlords increased leverage when it comes to raising lot rents.
6. “Mom and Pop”
Owners Many mobile home parks are simple “mom and pop” operations. While investors and corporations are starting to catch on to this lucrative industry, most are still small time enterprises. This is great news for potential mobile home park investors for a couple reasons.
One reason is that many of these owners are retired or will soon be entering retirement age and this makes them interested in cashing out of their business. So despite the fact that the demand is high, you can still currently find MHP owners who are interested in selling.
Secondly, many of these owners are not professional landlords. Often times these owners face difficulties in bringing new homes and new tenants into their parks. They also may not have been exemplary with operational standards and income potential. This gives you the ability to buy the parks at a reasonable rate and then upgrade them and/or improve management, thus increasing the current tenant experience and attracting new, stable, long-term tenants.
7. Less Competition
Mobile home park investing is the best kept secret in the real estate investment industry.
This is great for investors who are looking for a great deal and don’t want to compete with the flood of new investors, homeowners, and institutional investors fighting for scraps with traditional real estate investments.
What are the Downsides to Mobile Home Park Investing? As I’ve been venturing into this business, I’ve quickly discovered that mobile home parks are a different sort of animal from traditional multifamily investments. One of the constraints in the MHP sector is the small investor trying to invest directly without an established team or systems in place.
Even with the emergence of the Internet as a tool for research and acquisition opportunities, the manufactured housing community sector remains highly fragmented and inherently localized by nature.
This week, personally I’ve looked at several dozen mobile home parks but finding good data or even an accurate accounting of the parks’ income and expenses has proved incredibly challenging. According to Lanoie, “Opportunities persist for established companies like Four Peaks Capital Partners because they are equipped to identify areas of inefficiency.”
Established investors, like Lanoie who have experience and staff (Lanoie’s company has over 100 employees) possesses the ability to mine for and review opportunities not easily attainable to small investors. Additionally, investors like Lanoie align with local operators to gain knowledge in the marketplace, identify special situations and inefficiencies, and find hidden gems located in their target market. To overcome these difficulties, investors can either learn to navigate the industry themselves, or choose to passively invest with a team like Lanoie’s to obtain above average returns.
So should you invest in mobile home parks? For me – the answer is an obvious and definite “yes.” What about you?