What do billionaires Warren Buffet and Sam Zell have in common? Both owe part of their fortune to the trailer industry in the United States. Buffet owns Clayton Homes, the US’s biggest mobile home manufacturer, and 21st Mortgage Corporation and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Company, the two largest mobile home lenders. Zell owns Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), the largest mobile park owner in the US with over 140,000 trailer parks.
But even without owning huge companies, other people are becoming trailer park millionaires. By investing their money in run-down trailer parks and following some established guidelines, they end up with a much higher return-on-investment than through traditional real estate investments. If you’ve had a good round playing online slots and are looking to invest some money, this could be for you.
Trailer park tenants are usually people who cannot find housing elsewhere due to various reasons such as poverty, criminal records, poor credit scores, and substance abuse. When a new owner takes over, he may make some renovations and as a result, up the rent. Some tenants own their own trailer but rent a plot in a park, and if rent goes up, they may not be able to afford to move. In such cases they either sell their trailer to the park owner for a low price or even exchange the trailer for the end of their rental contract. Other tenants rent the trailers as well and even if rent goes up, they stay because of their problems finding other housing.
Some people argue that this idea of a new owner coming in and cranking up rents is immoral and takes advantage of people who already have problems making ends meet. But other argue that buying trailer parks is a great business idea that also helps out the whole community. It keeps people with bad records from being homeless and on the streets while also helping those better off by keeping all “those people” safely tucked away in one spot.
Trailer Park Management Companies
Business is so good, that companies teaching out to manage a trailer park are starting to pop up across the country. One example is Mobile Home Park Academy, run by Kevin Bupp and Charles Dehart. They even have their own podcast entitled The Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast that has over 100 episodes out on iTunes. They began their company after the 2008 recession when they discovered that the market had low competition and would bring in at least 20% cash on cash returns, no matter what happens with the economy.
Another trailer park multimillionaire is Frank Rolfe, the founder of Mobile Home University and fifth largest owner of mobile home parks in the US. He even runs bootcamps across the country to teach potential new investors how to get in the industry and show them examples of what to do.
Why Investing In Trailer Parks Is A Good Idea
There are some real benefits in investing in trailer parks rather than other types of real estate. They have a lower cost per unit, particularly since the price paid is per lot instead of per trailer on the lot. They also have lower costs for repairs and maintenance, since the owner of each trailer has to pay for its upkeep.
The demand is quite high for these low-cost housing options as incomes are going down and people are without savings. When it comes to retirees and other people living on benefits, they are even less likely to be able to avoid apartments or houses. Similarly, the turnover in trailer parks is rather low, both as a result of limited options and due to the high costs related to moving the homes out.
The opportunities to invest remain interesting as “mom and pop” owners are moving into retirement and therefore looking for someone to sell to. As these small owners are not usually professional landlords, a new owner can buy at a reasonable rate, make improvements, and increase the tenant experience – and often attract new ones. And even with the field getting more publicity, it still has a lot less competition that other real estate investment opportunities.