I don’t blame my skeptical friends from being carious. There are many out there without a dot of knowledge of the demands of the business that feel qualified to pass judgement on us. But I will say this:
What attracted me to the business? Pride in the product. That may sound crazy to someone who has not been in the business of providing housing to low income people so let me explain.
I used to own low income apartment communities that largely served immigrant families. I had one property that was on the edge of town and most families living there did field work. Some of the tenants were so low skilled that they signed the rental contract by making an X.
Life was a struggle for them and they could just never get ahead. One of the big reasons was the cost of housing. As a reporter, this may come as news to you, but landlords do not set the rents; the market does, and the market does not play favorites. To a large extent the market rents are just a matter of math. It cost so much to build a regular property, maintain a property, set aside for roof replacements as well as other depreciating assets, and manage the operations.
Plus there need to be a little left over for normal profits. What are normal profits? Enough to keep fools like us in the game but not so high as to attract wiser people like you from jumping in. For if profits do get unusually high, suddenly everyone who in normal times would never consider such a thing, bids up the prices to unhealthy levels; prices rise, profits plummet which often results in great wreckage. Witness the housing bubble of 2004-2006 and its burst.
Back to our low skilled, low income families.
The math just works out such that an apartment building just requires more wealth to buy/build and maintain then these poor people can produce for the fraction of it they consume while leaving them with enough to raise a family. I’ve seen it up close hundreds of time. After some time, they just could not make the rent. I was always finding myself facing the situation of having to kick out a family who had fallen behind on rent, which would result in me having to shell out thousand of dollars to get the apartment rent-able so I could start the process of failure over again. I had to collect rent in order to pay my bills, but so often the dollars just were not there. It’s a tough business.
Ah, but how different the math is with a mobile home park.
Once you separate the homes from the land there is magic in the numbers for both the owner of the park and the owners of the homes. Because mobile homes are factory built, the cost per square foot is a fraction regular construction. Take away the land and infrastructure cost and the price really falls. It is possible to purchase an older but reasonably okay home in a park for the price of a so so used car. Think about that. I sold those apartments above for $75,000 a unit. But right now I have a 3 bedroom mobile home, with new paint and new carpet, bigger then those 2 bedroom apartments I will sell to a family for $8,000. In a few years, once the family pays off the home, they will only have to pay lot rent of $220. They can make it on that, and I have a reasonably stable business.
And I am proud of my parks. Apartments lock many families into a lifetime of struggle. My parks offer families affordable home ownership. With home ownership and a little resourcefulness they can make of it what they wish. In an apartment there is nothing they can do to better their housing situation. But in a park, perhaps one summer they build a deck. Next summer the deck gets closed in. Its not hard to find new carpet remnants big enough to do one of the kids rooms for $60. I see it all the time. As I said, they can make of it what the wish, or not. It is their home. A home they can afford, a home that gives their lives stability and a home in which they can raise a family.