Maximizing use of empty space - playgrounds, picnic areas, and more

We just put in a swingset, and we are about to put in an arbor/trellis for shade and a playhouse. Note that this is a lower-end affordable-housing type park. We also built in picnic tables (the benches are connected to the legs and it is all embedded in the ground). The cost was minimal. The benefit to the community cannot be measured but making it a nicer place to live will pay off in the long run in decreased turnover, lower cap rate, and general goodwill.

I would like to point out that as a landlord, you have a social obligation to do more than squeeze every possible dollar out of the tenants into your own pocket.

You should discuss with your insurance agent but the additional liability cost is minimal.

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Thanks Brandon!

Who did you order all of the equipment from? Did the company who sold it to you handle setup and install, or did it deliver a package that you had a contractor put together?

Did you install a soft base for the swingset and playhouse? If so what material did you chose?

I think it’s reasonable if a park owner chooses to be focused on profit maximization. I think providing a good product and cost conscious upgrades is likely good and profitable business though, even if the benefits from upgrades can’t be easily measured or quantified.

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The stuff came from Walmart and Costco. It was shipped in parts and we had our staff put it together. There is nothing special on the ground but it’s grass.

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I’m actually running into that right now on a new park we contracted on. My first sense was to get rid of it. However, insurance didn’t seem to be a big deal, I do have some children in the park, in addition, I need to raise rents and also charge back all the utilities. So I didn’t think it was cool that I was raising their rents and then begin to take things away from them. I have a small laundromat in there as well that is pretty much a wash but I will also keep that for now.

If you can not think of something to put there that will increase your income the only thing you should put in empty spaces is grass.

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My favorite way to fill empty space is by adding storage.
I have several extra parking spaces I charge $25.00 per month for each. We spent a few grand paving 4 spots and they were rented out right away. We put little signs on them
“this spot is reserved for space XX”.

Another thing I have done is put storage sheds and rented those out. I like the TuFF shed style, my guys can bang one out for about $800.00. I rent those out for $50 bucks a months.

I also have storage lots at 2 of my parks. This is by far the cheapest and easiest. We rent out a 8 x 40 foot space for $50.00 per month. They can put whatever they want in the area. One guy went out and bought a Conex box, one guy has a motorhome… you get the idea.

Just make sure you get the proper insurance on the sheds and a garage keepers policy on the RV/storage lots. The parking spaces should be covered under your normal policy.

I easily make $2-3,000 more each month from this.

AW

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This is some interesting stuff.
(1) How much does it cost to pave 4 spots? $10k? -> 100 per month. You now have to maintain these.

(2) You say you rent out storage lots, $50 for 8x40’ --> this is just plain (flat-ish?) land that you rent by the square foot, for non-residential use, irrespective of any zoning, for tenant to put whatever they want there? Assuming a grid efficiently laid out, that comes to ~7-8 cents a foot or ~3k per ~60-per acre density (monthly income). How much demand is there for this?

(3) That $800 is materials only, right? How many man-hours does it take? Tuff Shed, I like this one (see below top). How much to bang this out? This might be a good test of new hire’s work ability – if they can build one of these they can rehab MH. Cost estimate? $2000 (retails for more surely). I see the simple barn-style shed retails for about $3200. If this rents for $50 per month and costs 50% to maintain, that’s $25 per month NOI for ~$3200 invested which is 9.4% return, not bad. (Or cheaper if you can do it cheap on your watch).

This one looks snappy too.

Parker-Stain-SmartSide

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Speaking of self-storage, does anybody have any experience with portable storage units in their park?

(e.g. Boxwell, PODs or Cubeit)

How would they compare to Tuff Shed in terms pricing and ROI?

  1. I paved the spots while we were paving the Roads. I do not know the exact cost but I estimate $3.00 per sqft. 36’ x 15’ = about $1600.00. We get them sealed when we seal the roads. It’s been a ten years now and I love the extra $100.00 per month. EZ Money.

  2. I have a large RV storage lot. So it’s just dirt. I mostly get tenants. I’m in CA and we have a By Right zoning for RV/vehicle storage in the park. Demand depends on Location. Storage is a premium out here in CA. A local RV storage facility is charging $150/mo and has a 2 year wait list. https://www.santeelakes.com/rv-storage/
    (side note: another great idea is to put up PV over the RV storage. see link)

  3. Yes $800 for materials only. The first one is a pain, but once you get them down my guys can bang one out in 2 days. So figure 2 guys for 2 days, Max $400 in labor. I figured each one costs me $1200.00. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/400257485612338913/
    ZERO maintenance. You rent it out as a whole, not just the inside. They are responsible for Roofs etc.

The pictures you posted are way too fancy. I just do a basic set up.

Here’s a picture of what we got (“pergola”) just to make things a little nicer in the empty space. I think it cost around $1500. The vines should eventually climb the structure to make shade (this is West Texas).

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Properly kept and constructed playground equipment do not pose substantial additional liability risk. In fact, we have some data that shows that they decrease overall park operations liability as they pull kids off the streets and into designated play areas.

Here’s some suggestions if you do add a playground:

  1. Use well constructed / commercial strength equipment. The personal use / light family use equipment will break more often and cause more additional risk;
  2. Have a soft surface under all playground equipment - sand, wood chips… This is really a must; and
  3. Have play at your own risk signs posted

Most insurance companies charge an additional premium of about $250/year for MHC’s with playgrounds. You should never live with / accept a playground exclusion on your park insurance policy.

Kurt

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Great info Kurt, thanks!

Any advice on doing routine maintenance beyond having our maintenance contractor follow a safety checklist and look over the equipment for anything showing serious wear and tear?

I’m a bit surprised by having the signs posted to play at your own risk. Does that actually provide additional liability protection in certain cases should an injury occur?

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I asked my boss, the owner, about having a playground and he said no, because of the insurance/liability. He said they can have their own play sets behind their homes. Plus, that makes more work for the mowers, and if you have sand, CATS WILL use it as a giant litter box.
Our thoughts were to turn the extra lots (and rv lots) into dry camping spots, as we’re at our limit with the water to homes/persons ratio.

I just wanted to bump this post and get some opinions on seemingly crazy idea: blocking off a portion of road to make more green space for a playground, grills, and trellis. I would only consider this if it doesnt greatly impact parking or traffic flow, which i dont think it will. (We dont have much green space as its a pretty dense park)

Yes, it may sound crazy at first, but this is a park under contract where our strategy is bringing in new homes and I want to create value for them, as well as the existing residents as we bill back water and sewer right off the bat and increase rent in the future.

I think Brandon was spot on when he wrote that its our social obligation to do more than squeeze every penny out of this, but I think a strong case can be made that as we provide a greater sense of community through these things, it improve retention and even allows for rent increases.

Any ideas or things that i might have not have considered would be helpful as i have never heard mention of this (and maybe for good reason).

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I’m not a great source for maintenance of swing set information. However, a newer one shouldn’t require much - just repairs when anything is broken. The best ones have parts that are hard to break.

“Do this at your own risk” signs aren’t a bad idea, but generally have very limited to no legal value. The old cafe that has a sign “enter at your own risk” isn’t accomplishing much legally. They still have an obligation to have a reasonably safe place.

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Joel E,
I caution you against changing the road configuration. We used to own the Truckee MHP in Truckee CA (http://www.donnercreekmobilehomepark.com/ ) Looks like they changed the name.

Anyhow, a few years back a subsequent owner called us to ask about the roads were configured while we owned the park. Apparently, sometime after we sold it an owner closed off a section of the park roads. Well some poor little kid got hit by a car. [https://www.sierrasun.com/opinion/finding-solutions-and-solace-in-tragic-death//]

The park owner got sued over the road changes.

If you make any changes to the road ways get it approved by the Local Enforcement Agency.

AW

Very tragic, indeed. Thanks for the input. That’s something that I probably wouldn’t think would be as big of an issue as it actually is.

Thanks again.

Hey Noel,
Creating a sense of community with green space areas is something we really like. We are looking at unusable lots (too small or some with drainage issues) and converting to resting spaces or rain gardens (need to do more studies on this).

At one of our parks, there was a large detention pond that was totally fenced in and an eyesore. Our idea was to make this an amenity that people would be proud of.

Here are some photos of Phase 1 - a walking path with bridges around it. It officially opened today and we have received very positive feedback. Future work is to create some picnic spaces with BBG grills.

lil%20library

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Thanks for the post Howard and great job on the pond restoration!

I would love to hear more on the picnic spaces and BBQ grills sometime and how the community response was on them.

Wow Howard, that looks great and the bridge really takes it to the next level! Betcha your residents are already enjoying scenic strolls around the community pond!