Mobile Home RV Park Resorts: A Special Servicer’s Nightmare?

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Background

Annually between the months of November through April, Arizona experiences a major inux of retired winter visitors, the majority of which take up residence in the Mesa and Apache Junction areas. As an economical alternative to hotel and apartment rentals, a large portion of these visitors reside in “55+” Mobile Home RV (MHRV) Resort Parks in these areas. Most require that all residents are 55 or older, retired and with no children living on-site.

Attracted by the Arizona weather, major league baseball, Native American casinos and a local community that welcomes and caters to their needs, winter visitors or “snowbirds” typically drive their own recreational vehicle (RV) rigs across country to park and rent an RV space or y-in to rent an existing mobile home at a MHRV Resort Park.

Though price is always a major factor with any senior citizen buying decision, the social activity aspect of these Parks is just as important as the monthly rental price. Through the years, competition for these annual winter visitors has grown fierce, requiring MHRV Resort Parks to offer more amenities and on-site services to attract these seasonal residents.

The days of MHRV Resort Parks offering merely bingo, shuffleboard and a pool area are long gone as almost all newer Parks commonly have such amenities as activity centers, tennis courts, convenience stores and health clinics. Coupled with these changes, the on-site MHRV Resort Park manager’s role has also evolved. Today the Resort Park manager needs to juggle numerous tasks including acting as an on-site concierge responsible for scheduling sightseeing tours, coordinating local transportation and organizing both on and o site community activities.

Although Mobile Home RV (MHRV) Resort Parks are certainly not at the forefront of the commercial real estate industry, in today’s economy there are currently more and more special servicers facing the challenge of handling this asset type. Because MHRV Resort Parks typically rent to retired tenants with limited financial means, the potential is high for the property to turn into a shoddy low-income retirement trailer park. To avoid this situation, careful operational management, market knowledge and target marketing are needed.

On-Site Resident Managers: The Key to Success

The key to success or failure of any MHRV Resort Park is the on-site resident manager. In the Mesa, Arizona, market in particular, the necessity of dealing with not only normal Park operations, but also the seasonal influx of winter visitors and their special needs requires a well-trained and customer-service-oriented manager.

MHRV Resort Park on-site managers should be focused on three key operational issues:

  • Property tours and unit rentals
  • Tenant complaint resolution
  • Customer service, customer service, customer service

In addition, operating under a team approach with strong administrative support from the main office along with oversight administration, supplemental on-site assistance as needed, timely communication and consistent reinforcement keep on-site resident managers motivated, focused and productive. The Importance of Seasonal Operations

Any well managed MHRV Resort Park, regardless of location, should experience its best occupancy and income during the key seasonal months of November through April. During this time of year, it is of paramount importance for the Park to look its best and operate at top efficiency with on-site staff placing high emphasis on customer service and satisfaction to ensure the park gets reservation bookings for the following year.

Any capital improvements and deferred maintenance should be performed during o season months coupled with marketing efforts to rent unit vacancies left by departing winter visitors. However, in most RV Resort Parks there are generally a percentage of full-time owner occupied mobile homes as well. It is important to keep in mind that depending on the specific Park and where it is located, allowing for certain rental types to exist should be carefully monitored during o season rental months in order to maximize a Park’s fiscal performance.

Typical rental types within Parks are as follows:

  • Park-owned Recreational RV & Mobile Home unit rentals
  • Park-owned and operated mobile home rentals
  • Third party owned mobile home rentals on Park-owned rental units
  • Reserved Park-owned rental units for winter visitors

Careful pre-screening of year around tenants is vital to insure they integrate with the seasonal residents and do not detract from the park’s appearance or operations. Additionally, limiting the number of third party owned mobile home park rentals is standard practice in the industry so as not to dilute the overall Park occupancy. Third party RV rentals are generally not allowed.

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