On this episode of The Mobile Home Park Lawyer, Ferd talks about 17 amenities that can make your mobile home park stand above the rest. Enjoy!
“In our businesses, the name of the game is happy, satisfied, paying customers. You need to attract them but you also need to retain them, and you do that by providing value, and giving them a nice place to call home, a true community.”
0:00 – Intro
2:09 – 1) Add a community center
3:44 – 2) Add a playground
3:44 – 3) Be pet friendly
4:58 – 4) Add a grilling and seating area
6:00 – 5) Buy horseshoes for the community
6:44 – 6) Add pickleball courts
7:11 – 7) Add a bocce ball court
7:33 – 8) Add a swimming pool
7:57 – 9) As an alternative to a pool, add a splash pad/park
8:43 – 10) Add a laundromat
9:33 – 11) Add bulk cable and internet
11:58 – 12) Add a gated community
12:10 – 13) Add water features
12:29 – 14) Do some landscaping
12:47 – 15) add some flowers fencing and signage
13:55 – 16) Put in some sports facilities
15:05 – 17) Hire office, maintenance and management staff
Welcome back mobile home park nation. Here again today, with another episode of The Mobile Home Park Lawyer Podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about amenities that will help you attract residents. Obviously, in our businesses, the name of the game is happy, satisfied paying customers. So, in order to get there, what do you need to do for your customers? Well, you need to attract them by a number of things, including price, but you also need to have, you want to keep them and retain them. And you do that by providing value, giving them a nice place to call home, a true community.
And there are pros and cons to additional amenities to your park, the obvious con is you’ve got to pay for it. Now, the pros is the residents get the benefit of it. But there’s other pros and cons. You need to look at things like risk of, you know, an insurance claim. You know, for example, at a playground, it’s one we’re going to go through. Kids could fall off the playground. You’re going to want to, you know, a warning sign, a liability waiver, if you will. And I’ve got a copy that I can send you, I’ll send you an email and I’ll get you a copy of the verbiage that we use on our playground signs to kind of protect us from liability. So, you’re going to want to talk to your specific insurance provider as well for some of these things. Some of them probably not going to matter, you know, adding flowers and that could not be a concern. Putting in a pool, big concern. You should make sure that you have proper insurance.
But in the end, the goal is to provide a safe, joyful environment for your residents. And that’ll keep them happy and keep them coming back month after month after month. So, I’m going to jump into them. I’ve identified 17 amenities to help correct residents to your Mobile home park. These are in no particular order, but I’ll give it a couple opinions as far as pros and cons.
First up is a community center. Community center could be as simple as a little room for people to hang out, you know, read a book, etc. I’ve seen community centers that have, you know, arcades that have pool tables, ping pong tables, you know, eating areas. Sometimes the office is attached to these. Sometimes there’s other ancillary things like the pool and played around attached to them. But community center, you know, you’re probably not going to see them is in your lower tier parks or your small, you know, 10 to 30 lot parks, but you’ll definitely see them in your parks for 200 lots. So, a community center would be a great amenity to have.
The second amenity I’m talking about here is a playground. Playground, you get as cheap as a thousand bucks, I would recommend more like a $3,000 lifetime playground. If you’ve got a big community or if you’ve got a lot of kids that you want to track and young families, then you may want to just splurge for something a little bigger. You know, 10, 15,000 playground. Obviously, that’s expensive. I just became pretty fortunate myself in my hometown. The school district closed down a bunch of schools. And one of the guys that bought the abandoned schools is converting them into senior housing. He had no need for the playground. So, I was able to buy three commercial playground sets about 50 grand a piece. I was able to buy three of them for 10 grand. So that was, that was a good find by my dad. And we had to, you know, we had to take them down, repaint them, transport them to three different cities and then install them. So, we were all in for probably $8,000 or $9,000 a pop, but we’ve got a heavy duty, large playground. It’s been a nice amenity, really kind of going above and beyond for a residence there.
Number three, you can be pet friendly and you got to talk to insurance, and some people don’t like dogs at all and their parks. But if you let people have dogs, you know, you’re going to be ahead of the competition. At least from an attraction standpoint. We’ve even built dog parks in some of our communities. You know, there’s little fenced-in areas where the dogs can run. In the communities where we do allow dogs, we have real strict rules, that one, we have to have pet insurance covering us as an additional insured and that with the liability amount of at least $300,000. It costs about $2 a month on top of renter’s insurance. So, it’s very inexpensive, but it’s massively beneficial to me as the landlord to protect me. And then the next rule we have is your dog can never be left outside alone, meaning not definitely not running around and not even staked up. The dog must either be A, in your house, B, attached to a leash with an adult human’s hand at the end of the leash or, C, in the dog park. And if you have a dog that’s aggressive or has any sort of other problems, it’s a one-strike policy and we’re going to get rid of the dog. But they discussed a scary issue, if a dog eats a five-year-old or something you’re going to be, it’s going to ruin your weekend for sure. Luckily, thank God I never had that happen.
Number four grilling and seating area. I’ve got one of these right by the dog park and it’s just picnic benches. You know, I buy some old grills. Like you see girls on the side of the road, you take an old propane grill and that the tank doesn’t work and just turn converted into a charcoal grill. Those can get kicked around and knocked over by kids. So, the better option would be to buy the heavy-duty grill, a charcoal grill that is cemented into the ground. This is kind of a common amenity at RV parks. I think it’s becoming more popular in mobile home parks. It seems to get pretty good use. The downside of that is sometimes it creates a place for teenagers to loiter. And, you know, if there’s kids in my community, that’s not a big deal to me, but depending on where you’re located, I’m at one park on a busy street and I don’t want a bunch of neighborhood kids hanging out smoking cigarettes and, you know, just getting, you know, collected after dark and all that kind of stuff as well. So that’s why I got rid of some fire pits too. And I don’t have that on my list as an amenity, but fire pits are, people like them, but I don’t want to provide a community fire pit because it creates just an area to hang out in the dark that I don’t really want to attract.
Number five is horseshoes, and this is a pretty inexpensive, you know, game for people. The downside of horseshoes, it depends on your community. You know, you’ve got a, you know, an object to projectiles just leaving there on the ground for somebody to throw. So, associated with horseshoes things like, you know, bags or corn hole, you know, Frisbee golf, those sorts of items can be thrown. Obviously, a Frisbee is not going to cause damage to the horseshoe. So, pros and cons to that, but very inexpensive, just, I’ve done it with like a cornhole game and stuff. People say, okay, you’re at least you care a little bit. And then some free games. Those sorts of things are hard to maintain, frankly, because kids just, they just disappear, know they get broken and horseshoes go missing and all that kind of stuff, but pretty inexpensive amenity.
A new one that is really popular here in Kansas City is pickleball. I don’t know if you’ve ever played pickleball, but it’s kind of like a mix between ping pong and tennis, has been really popular. I’ve even seen some apartment complexes, tear out their old tennis courts and put in pickleball courts with seating areas. So that’s kind of where I get some of the ideas too is, you know, the MH industry’s been a little behind on an apartment industry as far as amenities and design and some of these things. So, we can catch up and just kind of steal some of their ideas.
The next one is a bocce court, bocce ball, I don’t know if you’ve ever played that it’s like a small bowling ball and you throw them and then you throw the little balls and golf ball and you throw the bocce balls and you try to land closer to the golf ball. It’s basically an excuse to sit there and drink beer with your buddies and pretend you’re athletic. But it gets kind of fun. I’ve got a bocce set. I got a little bag of it in my garage. We get it out and play sometimes.
Number eight is a swimming pool, and everybody knows the swimming pool is, obviously this is a potential liability risk, a massive expense. I do not currently have any swimming pools and I don’t intend to put any in personally, the big parks, that the big institutional guys own that are 200, 300 lots that I think this is kind of expected to have an amenity like this, a newer, cheaper option, a number nine would be a splash pad or, you know, kind of a splash park. My kids and I go to one of these near our home. It’s not in my community, but it’s a city park and it’s basically the little water fountains and, you know, flowing water and it’s softer land. So, it’s safer so to speak than concrete. Probably less liability for sure. Less expensive. You still got the water expense. You still have an installation expense. I’ve been trying to get budgets on one of these. I’ve heard they’re around 25 to 50 grand to put in. So not inexpensive. I’ve not put one in myself. I’ve been thinking about it, which is why I’m getting some bids, but it’s a pretty nice amenity to add to your community.
Number 10 is a laundry mat. These are, I don’t see these very often anymore. I’ve had some parks that have laundromats, but they’re the old original laundromats back when the, you know, the trailers were eight and 10 and 12-feet wide, and they didn’t have room for a washer dryer. All the new mobile homes have washer, dryer, hookups, at least. So, you see the laundromats going away. Some peoples love these because they’re a cash cow. And you know, they don’t report the taxable income of the coins and stuff. The downside of a laundromat to me is, it creates an attractive place to hang out or potentially a place of risk. You know, if I was a young woman, I wouldn’t want to be in the laundromat building doing laundry at 10 o’clock at night, and anybody can just come in and be there with me. So, if put one of these in, I definitely would recommend security cameras and, or limited hours or limited access.
Number 11 is bulk cable and internet. This is a lot of people do this. I’ll tell you honestly, it’s, it’s pretty hard to get negotiate bulk cable internet unless you’ve got a big portfolio. I was trying to do it for a couple of hundred lots. And it was probably at one time in the same kind of trade area. And they just laughed at me. Like you’re not big enough. And I went through work telecoms, a big company that does this, and they’re like, we can’t get you in on your own. We got to piggyback you on another contract. We’ve got another 10,000-unit contract going in. Well, one of the challenges was being big enough, in a certain trade area, two was making it worth it from brain damage and an expense. You know, the goal here is a park owner would be, Hey, your tenants are spending $150 a month. For example, on cable and internet, you sign either an exclusive or non-exclusive agreement with, you know, called spectrum cable internet. And they give you bulk pricing and say, $50 a month. You then provide that as an amenity to your residents, say hey, free cable internet. But by the way, lot rent just went up $51 or $149. And you can make some extra money, but also it gives you some savings for your residents. I’ll tell you I got a client that did this, and he hated it because now you’re basically the utility provider. And if you have problems with your internet and stuff, the tenants can call you, sometimes we would give an exclusive agreement, you now have, you’re taking away HBO, or you’re taking away Comcast or something else from somebody. So, they get pissy at you. So that could be a challenge. The other challenge that I had a park that I was in, it was like 50% occupied at the time. And I had to pay the rate per month for every lot, including the vacant lots. So, I didn’t want to do that until I got to like 75% occupancy. It was kind of like my breakeven point. And once I got to that, I could see, I still didn’t make sense for some of these other negative reasons. I have not actually done cable on it. I’ve come close two or three times, and I just, it’s never been, I never got over the hump with it. I know there’s a lot of big players do it, but the last time I did it, just because that [11:10 inaudible] it didn’t make sense from a size perspective. Another benefit of it for the landlord is they will give you a per door fee upfront, you know, maybe a hundred dollars a door. So, I had a park there’s like 93 units. I was, you know, there’s $9,300 bucks right out of the gate. That would have been pretty cool, but there was an obligation to pay on an ongoing basis.
Number 12 is a gated community. I think it brings us to, this would be more common in a very high end, you know, perhaps a seniors-only, or perhaps a coastal community where it’s actually gated entry.
Number 13 is water features. These could be as obvious as small as a little water fountain to as big as, there’s a park near me that has a massive Lake with a gazebo island in the middle with a big water fountain. I mean, it’s a hundred thousand dollars plus feature. So, but those sorts of things make people feel like they’re in a real neighborhood, right?
And the same thing with landscaping. Number 14 is like, make this place nice. You can do landscaping for, you know, $1, probably not one, but you could do a hundred dollars or a hundred thousand dollars, but it adds, it adds some, you know, ambiance and some nice touch to your community. We typically plant rose bushes. The next item, number 15, kind of covers these flowers, fencing, signage. We typically paint the white picket fence in all the corners of our parks and then kind of an entry gate. And then we plant two Rose bushes in front of each one. So, you may have 60 Rose bushes. So not inexpensive, you’re paying 15 bucks a pop for them, but it’s well worth it in my opinion because if rose bushes make it the first six months, we’d like to use knockout roses that grow three, four feet tall. If they make it the first six months, which basically means you water them once every couple of days beginning, then once a week, then they’ll last forever. For the most part, then I’ve got knocking roses in front of my house. They’re 15 years old and they still look great and you got to trim them up once a year, but not really that big a deal.
Signage. We usually put an entry sign at the front and back of the park. You can do this as low as 1,500 bucks. Really. You could do a lower than that, but we usually spend about 1500 bucks, put a rock wall around it, put some bushes and stuff in front of some mulch color, you know, put our Facebook logo and our name of the community. Maybe identify the school district or some other nice amenity. So, signage is definitely an inexpensive way to improve the core of your park.
Number 16, the sports facilities. This would be, you know, perhaps a geographic base, but I mean, you want to put in a basketball court, a tennis court, at some places have golf courses believe it or not. There’s one of my hometown has got a nine-hole golf course, put in soccer goals. I’m going to look into putting some soccer goals in the spring. Basketball and I mean, really all of these, I think I would, whether or not I’d put them, spend the money on these would be depending on one, do you have enough youth that want to use it, two, does the location attract more people than you want? So, if you’ve got a park that’s off by itself, like I’ve got one that I was looking at putting kind of some soccer goals in that’s off by itself. And it’s like on a state highway. There’s no walk-up traffic. So, I’m not worried about loitering or other neighbor kids. I’ve got another park that’s on a really busy street. If I put a basketball hoop in there, I’d have 50 kids skipping class playing basketball every day. And I don’t want that. So, I’m not, I’m definitely not going to put a basketball cord there. That’s a case by case basis on the sports facilities. I see them once in a while, and they’re not that common in my opinion, but I don’t know if it’s 1% or 5%, but definitely not a third of all mobile home parks have a basketball court.
Number 1,7 office maintenance and management staff. Is that an amenity? Yes and no. I consider an amenity because like some of my parks is very, they’re very low maintenance and very low staff, but that’s just because they’re stable, because there’s no Park owned homes or cause they’re small. Got some other parks where you have full-time maintenance and full-time management and that’s a big plus. And that’s one of the things that we noticed when we buy a park because there’s often a ton of deferred maintenance and the last guy didn’t do anything. So, the first couple of months managers bombarded with the last guy said he’d fixed this, last guy said he fixed this and they never did. So, having that level of touch customer service and presence is really something that tenants appreciate.
And from a chaos perspective, we typically now have a phone number as a grasshopper line and ours is 1833-MHP Rent. You can call it if you want to just to see how that works, just say, this is a test or something so that my team doesn’t waste their time calling you back. But when you can call that number and say, click one for management maintenance, click two for leasing, click three for headquarters. And that option three is really an opportunity for the residents to report something about the managers. So, if the manager is the problem, they tell the manager, manager is not going to tell me. So, they can go over managers head by calling headquarters, that almost never happens. Anybody hits number three, but if they do it’s generally because, you know, Hey, I already called maintenance and the guy didn’t show up or something. But anyway, that’s, I think that’s a nice touch to have that grasshopper line. It’s pretty inexpensive. I think it’s like $38 a month and it would go straight to voicemail, gives you a transcription and a recording.
So those are my 17 amenities to help attract your MHP residents. As you all well know, you know, attracting and retaining residents is definitely one of the key components of mobile home park ownership. Till next time.