This is for the newbies out there who are thinking about getting into the park business by buying a rundown operation and fixing it up. No, Frank and Dave, I’m not dissing the business. I’m simply pointing out an aspect of this industry that I’ve never heard anyone specifically address.
I fell hook, line, and sinker for the old MHU line about buying a fixer-upper park and turning it around. Suffice it to say that Jerry Springer could have filled his show for many weeks with the human garbage that lived here. Changing the physical look of the park turned out to be the easy part. Bringing in better homes, screening every applicant and not lowering my standards, EXTENSIVE (beyond belief) landscaping, rule enforcement, website, etc., all quickly changed the way the place looked. That was straightforward and just a function of time, money, and more work than anything I have ever done.
The biggest challenge of all turned out to be changing the reputation of the place. No-one ever talked (or talks) about this aspect of running a community. My park was known far and wide as THE place to get your drugs or where you could live when no-one else would have you. All completely true yet the owner made a ton of money off the place. Slum lording is profitable and if that’s your modus operandi, you will probably make a lot of money. I’ve been into this project just shy of 5 years and only within the last few months are people calling me and saying they’ve heard good things about Wheat Hill. 5 YEARS! I have to admit my calls for this time of the year are higher than they have ever been and the quality of the callers is pretty good.
Unless you have incredible management skills (some people do), turning a bad park around and changing its reputation is a hands-on proposition. My $.02 but I’ll go toe-to-toe with anyone on this as long as we’re talking about similar standards. You CAN get your park to the point where prospects come into it already having either a neutral or favorable idea about the place and that’s the point I find myself at right now. Just keep in mind that it’s going to take a very long time to do it and is something that defies any sort of quick solution.
To end on a positive note, after going through this process, I find that not a whole lot bothers me anymore. I’ve been through probably the worst that can happen to a landlord and have survived (not prospered, mind you). I’m now looking for jobs outside the US - primarily in the Middle East. Just applied to work in Iraq and the thought of being in a war zone doesn’t bother me in the least whereas 5 years ago I would have scoffed at the idea. See what the mh business can do for you:-)