Mobile Home Park Investing

Mobile Home Park Investing – Cash Flow Drivers

Mobile home park investing offer investors the highest returns in real estate for the amount of risk taken.

Mobile Home Parks have two unique investment characteristics that differentiate them from apartment investments:

1. Mobile home park investments are residential subdivisions – investor owns the land and property infrastructure (streets, utility connections and common areas) and typically only leases the land to homeowners.

2. High tenant switching costs – it costs $5,000-$10,000 for a homeowner to move and reinstall their home into another community.

These two factors translate to:

  • Higher returns than apartment buildings
  • Recession Resistant Returns
  • Reduced Operating Costs
  • Demand / Supply Imbalance
  • Minimal Capital Expenses
  • Low Tenant Turnover
  • Tax benefits

Let’s go a bit deeper on some of this factors. Here are the most attractive characteristics of mobile home park investing:

Higher Return Than Apartment Buildings

Mobile home park investments tend to trade at a capitalization rates (net income divided by purchase price) anywhere from 1-3 percentage points higher than comparable quality multifamily assets.  The combination of the higher going-in cap rates with comparable financing terms provide significantly stronger cash-on-cash yields than currently available in multifamily.  For those investors that prioritize cash flow returns, mobile home park investing is likely to be an attractive option.

Recession Resistant Investments

Manufactured housing is arguably the most recession-resistant asset class in commercial real estate. Mobile home park investments have consistently outperformed other property types with higher returns AND lower volatility. That shouldn’t happen. You should get higher risk in exchange for higher possible returns. Mobile home parks are a statistical outlier in this regard.

The below graph shows the net operating income (NOI) growth since 2000 for various property types including manufactured housing (as well as Sun Communities – a manufactured housing REIT.

Notice the performance during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when every asset type except manufactured housing experienced income declines. SUN Communities has had positive operating income growth for 18 consecutive years (though two recessions). SUN’s major competitor – Equity Lifestyle Residential (owned by Sam Zell) has experienced positive income growth for every quarter for the last 20 years!

This is a good business.

Demand / Supply Imbalance

Demand for quality affordable housing often outstrips supply of mobile home park investment properties.  Affordable housing is in high demand from young families, middle-aged people in transition, and seniors on a fixed income.  Approximately 26% of American households earn $25,000 per year or less (1), which allows for roughly $500 per month in total housing costs.

The average apartment rent is over $1,000 per month and is smaller than a typical mobile home. Our mobile home park investments offer tenants a superior combination of quality and price than comparably-priced site-built homes or apartments in that area and provide families with a sense of community.

While demand for quality, affordable housing increases, the supply of mobile home parks is diminishing.  It is estimated that approximately 1% of mobile home parks are redeveloped every year into higher and “better” uses.  Furthermore, we do not expect any new mobile home park developments adding to supply as use restrictions and local economic environments have made it difficult to acquire appropriate zoning for new parks, thereby eliminating new competition for current mobile home park investments.

Reduced Operating Expenses

30-40% operating margin vs. ~50-60% for apartments. Mobile home park tenants own the home. Mobile home park investors own the land. There are no on-going home expenses for tenant owned homes. Land is much easier to maintain then the home. Land does not need much ongoing maintenance. The goals is to keep the grounds looking clean. 

An apartment building has 10 times as many items to maintain on an ongoing basis than a mobile home park investment. Appliances, windows, HVAC, building facade, building systems, gyms, pools, clubhouses, carpets, toilets, etc. Add these costs to the never-ending expenses relating to 40%+ tenant turnover and you can see why mobile home park investing generates excess cash flow relative to other real estate assets.

The value of roads, clubhouses and other common area improvements can be maintained with periodic capital expenditures averaging $125/site annually.

Low Tenant Turnover

Mobile home park tenants are “sticky”. Turnover is incredibly low as the tenants typically own their home and switching costs are high (expensive to move home and moving is a hassle and often damages homes). Sun communities states 6.6% of tenants resell their home and move out each year while a paltry 2.1% of their tenants leave the park each year (taking their home with them). Our personal experience suggests that 2% is even a bit high.

Compare that to annual apartment tenant turnover of 45-60% per year.

Tremendous Tax Benefits – Accelerated Depreciation

From an accounting perspective, the majority of a mobile home park investment’s value is comprised of land improvements (roads and utility lines), which can be depreciated at an accelerated schedule.  Mobile home park’s blended depreciation schedules typically average 17-19 years compared to apartments of 27.5 years and commercial properties of 39 years.  This unique tax feature often translates to tax free operating cash flows to the mobile home park investment owner. (3) This tax deference is further amplified by reinvesting dividends to compound returns.

Mobile home park investing is incredibly tax efficient. It’s not uncommon for a mobile home park investment to deliver double digit yearly cash flow returns largely tax free (until the property is sold).

Conclusion

We believe mobile home park investing offers high cash flow returns and are compelling, recession-resistant investments.

  1. Source: Sun Communities, Inc. Form 10-Q for March, 31, 2018.
  2. Source: U.S. Census Bureau. (2010).
  3. If the property every sold, the investor would be subject to 25% recapture taxes on the cash flow sheltered via depreciation.