I remember my first drive through of one of my mobile home park investment communities with a commercial mortgage lender. The property was about a one-star in quality, but had great cash-flow. I wasn't sure what the bank's reaction would be approve my loan application on my down and dirty “family” mobile home investment community property.
As we drove out of the property, I nervously asked the lender “so what do you think?” His response: “Well, they seem to have a pride of ownership”. Thankfully, with the loan in hand, that term has grown to sum up what I feel is the most important in any community. Even a lower demographic property like mine can be redeemed and affirmed through “pride of ownership” and experience an increase in value.
So what is “pride of ownership”? To me, the answer is when all of my mobile home park tenants make the best of what they've got. They may not be rich, or have nice homes or cars, and their yard furniture may not be out of the Pier1 Imports, but they make the best of it. Park Tenants have clean, orderly yards, keep their homes painted and touched up, have all their skirting up and in line, and keep their yards mowed. These are all items that are earned with sweat equity – not dollars. Anyone can aspire to these things regardless of income. It's really a mindset.
So how do you get “pride of ownership” from your tenants?
Tenant Pride Of Ownership Program
Unfortunately, it's not the easy way of just asking them nicely and they'll do it. It takes a definite strategy to jump start and maintain a “pride of ownership” program. The first step is to clean up your own act. You cannot expect the park tenants to put in any effort when the community common areas are a shambles. Before you even ask the tenants to pitch in, you must:
* Make sure all common areas are adequately mowed
* Make sure all streets and curbs are professionally edged and cleared of any vegetation (using Round Up, etc.)
* Fix any fencing that is falling over or rusted and unsightly
* Trim and remove all dead branches and trees
* Install a new, professional quality entrance sign and other signage throughout
* Patch and repair all potholes in your roads and parking pads
Once you have set the tone, the next step is to send a letter to your tenants, telling them that, effective immediately, you are going to try to turn the mobile home community into a nice place to live. Explain what is expected of them, but keep it pretty basic – no big trash in yards, no non-running vehicles, 100% skirting installed, houses attractively painted, etc.
The third step is to have an all-community “trash day”. Rent a commercial roll-off dumpster, and send a note to all park tenants that you are going to have available a huge dumpster so that they can finally get rid of that old rusted swing set, etc. And explain to them that, by Sunday, if their yard is not clean, you are going to throw some of the stuff out yourself. Impress on them that this is a one-time only thing, and that it is in their best interest to take advantage of your hospitality. Hopefully, a ton of the trash in the yards will be gone by Monday.
Tenant Pride Of Ownership Program Enforcement
Starting Monday, you need to make a list of every house and yard that offends you or their mobile home park neighbors, and send a letter to each of these tenants stating what you want fixed. Give them only a week to comply, because they never will anyway. You are simply setting them up to get ready for some executive action.
Now comes the time that separates the successful Mobile Home Community operators from the failures. You can either spend the rest of your life threatening the tenants to do what you want, which never works anyway, or try a new approach. The new approach is to send them a letter stating that you are going to do the work yourself, and bill it back to them, to be spread out and paid over the next twelve months on their rent. For example, if total repairs on a certain lot are $1,200, then you will add $100 per month to their rent for the next year.
You won't to get this in writing, and don't expect to be able to collect payments through the courts. If you try and get it all neatly signed up, it will take months to accomplish just that step, if you can get it done at all. Think of it this way – if you made the necessary repairs normally, it would cost you 100% of the cost. Maybe you can get 50% of it back from the tenants. That's a lot better than the other option.
The expense you will incur is in one of three categories.
- The cost of repainting or touching up their home.
- The cost of fixing or replacing their skirting
- The cost of removing even more debris from their yard
Since you will probably have several of each, you can get an attractive “volume” deal from a contractor. I have found that you don't want to put in a lot of effort in getting input from the tenants, such as coordinating around their schedule. It is one of those times when “shoot first, ask questions later” seems to be the best course of action. Have the contractor speedily get everything done while the tenants are at work. If any of the park tenants complains, tell them that they have no right to say a word since they never bothered to lift a finger on their own.
Tenant Pride Of Ownership Program Rewards
Once you have kicked-off the “pride of ownership” program at your mobile home part property, keep the momentum going by sending a thank-you letter to the tenants, and celebrate their additional work by having a “yard of the month” program where the tenant wins a free gift. Stay vigilant so that the property never falls back into disrepair.
You can have tenants who have a pride of ownership. You just have to give them the first nudge. And then keep on nudging them all the way until you have the best Mobile Home Park Community your side of the world.