Mobile home parks are a very low management type of real estate. Unlike most other forms of real estate (apartments, self-storage, duplex, etc.) not much happens on a daily basis. This is because the “business” is renting small plots of land for people to put trailers. Nothing new ever happens with the land, and the tenant is responsible for just about everything except the water and sewer pipes, and potholes in the road.
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In fact, almost every tenant problem ends in explaining to them that they need to call 911 to resolve the petty issue between them and their neighbor. As long as the water and sewer is flowing, the roads are flat, the common areas are mowed, and the tenants are paying, there is not much for a mobile home park manager to do.
Obviously, the performance hurdle is not high in managing a mobile home park. But you still need to have a “warm body” that can take care of the minor items, and act as your eyes and ears at the property between visits. So how do you find someone?
The most important quality of a successful manager
I bet you’re thinking that it’s some certification or personality trait. But it’s not. It’s much more simple: the manager has to live in the mobile home park.
Living in a mobile home park is not something that you would voluntarily throw out at a job interview. But for this job, it is more essential than the “where do you see yourself in five years” question of most interviews. I have never had a manager who did not live in the mobile home park work out. And I don’t think they possibly could, if you think about it rationally.
There are no regular office hours
What derails normal real estate management in a mobile home park is that an office that’s open from 9 to 5 is the most inappropriate concept ever. If there is going to be a problem in a mobile home park, it’s always going to be any time other than 9 to 5 on Monday through Friday. Because nobody’s home then. And the real problems only occur when everyone is home. The sewer normally only backs up when you apply new water to a sewer clog. When nobody is home, there is no water usage. Further, the peak water usage occurs at about 7:30 am (getting ready for work and school) and 6:00 pm (washing off after a day of work). The same is true of the peak amount of pull on all the utilities. In some parks, you find master-metered electrical systems. When do they “brown out” or catch fire? Normally after work when everyone turns on their air-conditioning simultaneously. Even tenant disputes among themselves (which the park is not even going to get involved in, except to suggest calling 911) happen at night. And collections, if you give the manager that duty, will not work when everybody’s gone during the day.
So if you are trying to manage a park, 9 to 5 is the worst time to select for on-site management.
Walk a mile in their shoes
Most managers who do not live in mobile home parks have great difficulty understanding the mentality and choices of your customers. Due to this communications gap, many individuals who have successfully managed apartments or other properties have trouble replicating that success in a park.
For example, park residents are often different than those in other real estate niches. Much of what they store in and around their yard is part of their lifestyle and cultural adaptation. If you are to enforce the park rules, you have to know what is acceptable from what is not acceptable — and only someone who thinks like a park resident can discriminate from what is normal and what is abuse of the rules. Many managers from outside the park business have a long learning curve ahead, and in the interim, will create many problems for you by being overly tough on tenants — thus decreasing your rate of customer retention.
In addition, they will often “look down” on residents, and create problems just from their attitude and manner. An effective manager needs to understand the customer, and how to get the job done without offending them — an outsider just can’t.
So how do you find a manager in your own park?
First, drive through your park. Make a list of the nicest lots (it does not have to be just the newer homes) — ones that clearly show taste and pride of ownership. These are your top candidates. Now match that list to your collections list, and see if any of these folks pay on time every month. If they can’t manage their own affairs, they surely cannot manage yours.
Then send a letter to each of these residents describing the job and the amount you will pay — then see who contacts you. You want a manager with enough ambition and energy to make the first call, if you can find one. If none call, then you call them and see if they are interested.
From that pool, I have found that the most effective managers are home 24/7 – either stay-at-home housewives, or retired people. These two groups are also beneficial since they are not trying to make being a manager their “day job" — this will minimize your risk of embezzlement.
And guess the best office location?
That’s right. It’s in their house. If you follow the logic of the earlier statements, then the only appropriate office in the park is in your manager’s house. Once you have made this adjustment, you now have a manager who is on-duty 24/7. They don’t have to have any set office hours – everyone knows where to go with their problems.
And what do you do with the old park office? Put a sign on the door that says “I am out on property right now. Call my cell at (___) ___-_____”. It’s that easy.
And did I mention the fact that you now have no more park office telephone, electrical or gas charges? In many cases, that alone will pay for the manager.
There are many ways to manage a park. But there is only one way to succeed in hiring a manager. And that is from within. If you want to find a winning manager in your park, look no farther than your rent roll.