What the Heck is a Mobile Home Park Anyway?
There is a lot of talk these days about mobile home parks. But what are they? Are they a good investment?
According to dictionary.com, a mobile park is a “large caravan that is parked in one particular place and used as permanent living accommodation.” It may sound a bit strange to some but mobile homes are quite popular. In fact, these days, it is becoming a very desirable investment class.
Let's dig in and find out what exactly makes up a mobile home park.
What Is a Mobile Home Park?
A mobile home park is a piece of land that houses multiple mobile homes. The land is usually owned by an individual or group of people who acts as landlords and lets residents ‘rent’ space.
Mobile home parks, also known as trailer parks, trailer courts, mobile home communities, and manufactured home communities, provide residents with not just space but also basic amenities such as water, electricity, community rooms, garbage removal, and sewer.
In this article, we’ll look at mobile home parks in detail highlighting the factors to consider when investing in a mobile home park.
Consider mobile home parks as a mini city. Just like traditional homes, mobile homes are also built on land, which has to be first developed to meet the demand of the residents.
The land may be owned by a company, an individual, or a group of people. Since one mobile home park houses several mobile homes, the land is usually pretty large. Plus, some may even feature parks and community center.
The kind of amenities a mobile home park can offer largely depends on the size of the land available. Plus, development is also needed as one has to build roads and ensure sewage, water, gas, etc., is taken care of.
In most cases, the land is usually zoned for mobile home parks. However, you will find many mobile home parks built on land that was zoned for other purposes. But since the parks have been built for so long, it’s now grandfathered in.
This may not sound like much of an issue to you, but it may lead to problems in the future, especially if the park is ever sold. When trying to move homes into the park there may also be regulations as to what age the homes may be or what condition they can be in as required by the city.
Hence, make sure you do thorough due diligence when investing in a mobile home park. Zoning is a big reason why you don’t see a lot of mobile home parks being built today - cities and most municipalities don’t allow for it. In fact, most cities are no more zoning for mobile homes.
However, some, such as Portland, appear to be in favor of mobile home parks. Portland recently passed an ordinance preventing redevelopment of mobile home parks in an attempt to protect them. This will make it difficult for park owners to redevelop parks as condos or apartments. This is a move to preserve more affordable housing, but may have negative consequences for the land owners.
There are over 3,000 mobile homes in Portland mobile home parks. Residents define these parks as tight, well-knit communities. However, states or cities supporting mobile home parks is a rare occurrence as most governments appear to be in the favor of removing mobile home park communities.
Still, they offer a good investment opportunity as the homes can provide a regular stream of income. You only need to find the right location.
Homes can range from very old – built as early as the 1960s – to very new, with all the modern design and amenities.
Homes have evolved a great deal from when they were first built. Some of the earliest mobile homes put in parks were essentially trailers that were pulled by cars.
These then evolved into permanent trailers of sorts, mainly to provide accommodation to soldiers coming back from World War II. There was suddenly a housing shortage and these mobile homes provided an affordable housing opportunity to those in need.
Over the course of the next couple of decades the homes continued to improve, but remained relatively the same. They were single wide homes still set on the wheels and were pulled into parks. They were made into permanent housing structures with some even having a second floor.
In 1976, the US Congress passed a national Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act that provided strict codes and regulations into how mobile homes were built.
It was a way for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to regulate the industry and ensure that the homes were safe to live in.
A few years later, in 1980, Congress also approved changing the term from “mobile home” to “manufactured home”. Although it is still common to refer to these as mobile homes – most of the homes you will find in parks are not going anywhere.
Homes range from 1 bedroom single wide “park models” to 4 bedrooms 2 bath double wides and everything in between.
Older homes especially are made from cheaper materials and usually have aluminum single pane windows. Their sidings can be anything from aluminum to vinyl to T 1-11.
Homes that were built prior to the Construction and Safety Act are of much poorer quality and will be easy to identify as they have a flat or curved roof. Homes built after 1976 typically have a pitched roof and are of higher quality.
Homes are usually set onto concrete pads or huge blocks for support with utility lines connected underneath. The home is then covered with a plastic material called “skirting” to hide the gap between the home and the ground. This space is similar to the crawl space of a home.
Finally once the home is set and the skirting is installed, a staircase and/or deck is usually attached to allow easily access to the home.
Before you can move homes onto land and call it a mobile home park you need a few things. This ranges from basic components such as roads to parking pads. The infrastructure can be simple or well developed. For example, some parks may have covered parking pads with a shade and some may not.
Here’s more information on some other necessities:
Electricity: Each home has its own electricity line that may be carried underground or above the ground with the help of electric poles. Electric meters are typically installed in the back of the homes and most of them are billed directly from the county/city electric to the resident. However, in some rare cases, the electricity can be master metered to the owner of the park who then has to bill the tenants according to their electricity consumption.
Gas: This works quite like electricity and the lines are carried to the homes.
Water: Water is usually provided by the city or county water system. However, in some cases, the park may use its own private well water system that is provided and maintained by the owner of the land. It’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure the water is clean and available. The water hookup is usually under the home and you will never see where the water supply connects to the home.
Sewer: Sewer lines are also under the home and connect to the park’s underground sewer system. The system may be public or private, usually depending on the park’s location. Many parks use lagoons, which are basically ponds full of poop. However, they don’t really look gross or stink. The more popular option is a waste water treatment plant. This is essentially a mini version of a sewage treatment center only on the private property, which has to be maintained and operated by the owner. You need licenses to maintain and operate lagoons and treatment plants. Plus, they can be expensive as well. This is why there’s a third option, septic tanks. Ideally each home has its own tank, but you may also find multiple homes connected to one tank or all of the homes connected to a single tank.
Pay attention to these factors when choosing a mobile home park as they may impact your overall experience. While privately handled water, sewage system may be good, it’s a huge responsibility so be sure you’re ready to take it in your hands.
As mentioned earlier, mobile home parks are basically full-blown communities. They may offer a lot of amenities and additional features including:
Apartments: Some mobile home parks may have small apartment buildings along with mobile homes.
Storage Facilities: It’s a nice feature to have as most mobile homes do not have a lot of space. These storage facilities can be a savior in such times. Plus, some may even provide storage for big items such as boats and RVs.
Storm Shelters: They are designed to protect homeowners and tenants from harsh weather condition including storms. Storm shelters are very common in the mid-west as tornadoes are a regular occurrence there. They are usually in the form of underground bunkers
Entertainment Avenues: Some nicely built housing communities may offer pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, and game areas for residents to enjoy.
There may be some more amenities based on the location. You should look for a mobile home park based on your requirements.
You may come across senior parks, designed exclusively for seniors and only people over a certain age can live in them.
These parks usually have a lot of double wide homes and sidewalks. They operate slightly differently and children are usually not allowed in them.
Mobile home parks are undoubtedly a good choice if you’re looking for an affordable housing option. You only need to find the right location with the right amenities and you’ll be good.
They’re peaceful, quiet communities with a sense of belonging. Plus, mobile home parks also provide a fantastic investment option. To learn more about why manufactured home communities are such a great investment reach out to me to start a conversation.