Category Archives: Communities

Rachel Hernandez is ‘going it alone’

‘Mobile Home Gurl’ finds her niche

In her own words, the woman known to some as “Mobile Home Gurl” is an entrepreneur, a dreamer, a thinker. A doer.

Rachel Hernandez, AKA “Mobile Home Gurl”, addresses the audience at a recent author’s seminar.

She started investing in real estate with single family homes, but her mind was captivated and heart captured when she immersed herself in the world of mobile home investment. And she’s taken quite a few of us on the ride with her, in her blog and in the book “Adventures in Mobile Homes” and others.

Rachel Hernandez, as she also is known, operates in the vicinity of San Antonio, Texas. She prefers to buy locally to regionally, and rather than looking for parks she has concentrated on purchasing individual mobile homes, and and more recently securing the land they sit on or a good parcel where they can be placed.

“I focus on the area first and then find the deals,” Hernandez said. “As an experienced investor, I’ve learned to find motivated sellers. Usually, I can tell over the phone whether a seller is motivated or not.”

Strategy

Most of the deals Hernandez pursues are unadvertised. She has an education and background in sales and marketing, and networking is among her greatest strengths. She leverages that capability and relies on her industry interactions and relationships to find opportunity.

Her first deal took about a year to complete, and she continues to take it relatively slow. She purchases one or two homes at a time, and puts her “sweat equity” into them.

“Usually, I get them up to apartment standards,” Hernandez said. “New carpet and paint at a minimum.” She fixes the leaks, fills any cracks or holes and gives a thorough cleaning. Then she offers the home on a rent-to-buy plan.

“Most people appreciate this hybrid as it’s not like a mortgage where you’re locked in, but at the same time you’re not just renting,” she said.

Her inventory is on the rise, to the point where she owns in quantity what would be a small mobile home community. She does receive regular offers to partner, but has resisted the urge to purchase an entire community outright. She remains on the lookout for land, and does work in communities buying both homes and pads, operating just on the fringe from that investor who looks to buy or infill on a larger scale.

Investing-in-mobile-homes

Meet the Challenge

And while she appreciates having all of the particular on paper, she mostly “follows her gut” when deciding what to pursue and what to leave alone.

“It’s more the person than the price. If the person I’m talking with on the phone does not seem trustworthy, or seems like they’re covering something up…  I back off immediately,” she said. “No matter how good the deal sounds, an untrustworthy seller is a deal breaker for me.”

Still, Hernandez has run into problems.

“I imagined buying a home, filling it and moving on to the next deal,” she said. “Though I did this for many years without many issues, I started taking back more homes as my inventory grew.”

A rent-to-own resident loses a job, goes through a divorce or wants to move closer to family, and sometimes the only solution is to reclaim the home and find someone new for it.

“I knew taking homes back was part of the business. But I didn’t plan on it being a large one,” Hernandez said. “So, I had to learn to work with contractors. There was no way I could fix up all these homes myself.”

Another difficulty has nothing to do with residents and everything to do with one of her favorite parts of the vocation… the prime location.

“Unfortunately, sometimes local ordinances may place more scrutiny on mobile home parks, as an asset class,” she said. “There’s still that mindset.”

The not-in-my-back-yard attitude, the general concern of reduced property values, and the perceived threat of residents who pay less tax than many for the same municipal services, often can be difficult issues to navigate when looking to obtain rezoning or a new use permit – regardless of the great need for more affordable housing.

All part of the journey, Hernandez said.

The take-back and fix-up strategy, as well as the municipal hurdles, have resulted in another of her books, this one entitled “Real Estate Investing Sucks: How to Deal with Change and Find Success as a Real Estate Investor”.

“I document my entire experience,” Hernandez said. “I persist. I know what I want and keep going. Success takes time.”

Marketing to the Retirement-Age Consumer

 

The marketing and advertising world is ever changing, and something we hear quite a bit is that you have to keep on top of the next generation, making sure everything is new, exciting and changing with the time.

While these are important factors, in our industry it’s also important to maintain and customize your advertising to the generations that are looking to retire!

Some key details about your community, your home, or the area your home is located can be ideal for a retirement-age buyer. Here are some items you want to be sure to include:

Is your community an “Age Restricted” community?

Some communities require their home owners to be 55+ in an effort to maintain an environment suitable for this demographic. This is important to add to your community listing and your home listing. It is also helpful to note if your community allows exceptions to this rule.

Does your community allow Pets?

Not only do you want to include in your advertisements if the community allows pets, but it is helpful to detail specific restrictions. Some allow cats but not dogs. Some allow cats and dogs but only certain breeds or dogs of a certain weight. All of these details are incredibly important since no one wants to leave behind their furry family member!

Is the home accessible?

Some homes have modifications added to allow more accessibility for an individual who has a disability. If your home or the community has any specific features that would be helpful or useful for someone in this position be sure and include this in the description.

What is the community like?

We all have our own idea of what our “perfect” retirement environment would be. Is your community on the waterfront with access to fishing, or walks through a wooded path? Or maybe your community is a social one with planned activities and a game room. Either way letting the buyer know what the atmosphere of the community provides can be essential.

What is the area like?

Similar to the including details about the community, accessibility to grocery stores, shopping malls, cultural events and other local attractions are great details to provide your buyer.

While these tips might sound simple to include, they can make the difference in turning that interested shopper into a buyer!

Nowhere to go but up

 

mobile-home-park-investing

Kevin Bupp will tell you he’s in a better place today than he was just three years ago.

That’s saying something for a guy who’s spent two decades in real estate successfully buying and capitalizing on single-family homes, commercial properties and apartment buildings.

There are worse fates.

And, Kevin wears a big smile and readily shares his joy about where he and his associates have landed.

Sunrise Capital Investors is in the value-add niche

“We’re still small fish in a medium sized pond, because the industry is still not as large as it could be,” said Bupp, a resident of Clearwater, Fla., and co-owner with Charles DeHart and Brian Spear of Sunrise Capital Investors. “Manufactured is all we focus on now.”

Bupp and his partners are seasoned investors who purchase and improve what most often are referred to as “mobile home parks”, though a true mobile home, by definition, hasn’t been manufactured in the U.S. since June 1976. Since then, and today, manufactured homes are stamped for quality by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Some of the communities Sunrise purchases have homes that pre-date the 1976 regulatory change, but most are small to mid-size communities with homes from the 1980s and ’90s, some newer.

Their investment targets represent a middle-market niche that larger investors and owners overlook, though less so in recent years.

2016 Real Estate Returns by Sector

 

 

 

 

 

Value-add Niche

“We’re really value add guys,” Bupp said. “We are really good at taking a community that is in distress, but in a good market, and taking out the bad elements, bringing in some improvements and making things work.”

It’s a niche that’s gaining stability and wider recognition all the time, largely because the ROI doesn’t lie.

“It took us a year to buy the first park, then it’s been one or two in those in between years,” Charles DeHart said. “In the last 18 months, we’ve purchased six parks.

“We have five more parks currently in contract (pending sale) that represent 430 spaces,” he said.

Sunrise has raised more than $2 million in cash during the last two years from the attraction of 10 dedicated outside investors, and they look to raise $3-5 million more to purchase another six parks – perhaps 800 land-lease spaces – during the next 12 months.

It’s not BIG business investing, but it’s been shown as a way to steadily grow wealth. And, if you ask the Sunrise partners and similar investors, it’s a way to improve affordable housing stock – for the metro area and for the park residents.

“We’re in a niche that allows us to earn a very reasonable return for our investors,” DeHart said. “And also provide quality housing for people who may be coming into home ownership for the first time in their lives or even in their family’s history.”

How it’s done

They don’t buy through a broker. Brokers typically want to work with higher volume investors, and also make sizable commissions. Rather, Bupp and DeHart delve into county records within a geographic area of interest. They find out where the communities are and who owns them. If they’re fortunate, they find a phone number for the owner.

After that, it’s sales 101; they make cold calls, employ heavy use of direct mail and sometimes put out bandit signs.

“We typically have five or six unique owners in the system at any given time, and check back with them three to four times per year,” DeHart said. “It’s not just finding the right seller, it’s about finding the right seller at the right time.”

Often, they’re in front of a prospective seller before the owner of a property realizes they’re in a good position to sell. So, checking back often is key to being in the right place at the right time.

They work some of the prospects themselves, but commonly put out a post to acquire a “trainee broker” who can visit communities of interest, take photos and notes, and possibly make an introduction to get talks underway. That trainee broker also learns how to access county records that are unavailable online, and does this on their own time and earns a commission when a sale is made.

In training these brokers, Sunrise is creating more than a strategy, more than a company brand. They’re helping to build an industry. Along those lines, the three operate Mobile Home Park Academy, which teaches others how to do what Sunrise does. Charles and Kevin host a podcast on the topic, and also are in the final throes of writing a book on mobile home park investing.

“We intend to be in the business for a long time. We really enjoy it, it’s lucrative and we appreciate being able to provide a critical affordable housing segment,” Bupp said. “We only buy stuff that makes sense. If we only buy one community in a year, that’s good with us. It will be the one we want to buy.”

What’s the Deal?

Big Investors Move to Find Best Deals Before Market Levels

Lakeway Mobile Estates,Bellingham, Wash.

From Bellingham, Wash. to Newnan, Ga., Jon Harrison scans the map for just the right patch of land. He talks to brokers, scours county records and relies on whatever information he can gain from inside sources.

All in the name of finding the prime manufactured home community.

Harrison isn’t looking for his retirement place. He’s not looking for the simple yet ideal coastal getaway for the family. He works for Inspire Communities, not the largest of the community owners, but certainly entrenched in the top quarter of the industry.

A former broker himself, Harrison is in acquisitions, and always is looking for the perfect mix of placement and amenities that can be a great home for 200 hundred residents or more – and no less important, a stellar portfolio addition for the company owners and investors.

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Community Investment, Acquisition (and the future)

community-investment-aquisition

You’ve heard the term “Investment Grade Property”. Increasingly, that label is being applied to entities in the manufactured housing sector.

Investment grade manufactured home communities are hot investment material in today’s market, and MHVillage will shed some light on some of the dynamics at play during the coming weeks.

A general surge in employment, rising home prices – particularly in sizable metro areas – and the largest demographic of aging Americans in our country’s history are all playing into the demand for affordable housing, which has investors of all types eyeing manufactured housing. From massive trusts to the niche investor, mobile home parks and manufactured home communities have become the apple of the eye for many.

Manufactured housing Real Estate Investment Trusts in the U.S. during 2016 posted a return of 28.5 percent, 9.7 percent better than apartment REITs and more than 15 points better than single-family home REITs during the same period.

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The Power of a “Sales Caption”

Are Your Sales Captions as Effective as They Could Be?

sales-captionMHVillage offers a space for a “Sales Caption” on Pro+ Sales Centers, Showcased Communities, Featured Home Listings and Premium Home Listings.

Each one of the above listing types will allow you to enter a sentence that will show above your listing. This is a space for you to offer something that is eye-catching, inviting and will get the customer to click on your add from the search result.

Often, I come across some Showcase Communities or Pro+ Sales Centers in an area that simply are not entering a Sales Caption at all. Then there are the Featured and Premium Listings sellers who enter a caption, but it’s not as effective as it could be.

Actual Sales Caption on MHVillage:

So, while “Best Value”, “Great Community” or “Beautiful New Home” as a sales caption sounds okay, it’s not really all that inviting or unique. Plus, you would be surprised how many times I have looked at a search result on our site and seen basically the same simple caption on all of the listings in an area.

Also: If you have one of the more expensive homes in the area, a sales caption can help you explain why. I mean, if your home is priced significantly higher than others in the area, there is probably good reason. However, browsers might skip the most expensive home – unless there is a caption line explaining why the home is more whether, it be on land, newly renovated, fully furnished or the like.

So how do you ensure you are getting the most out of your captions?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Research: You want your listings to stand out above the rest in your area. So, do a few searches on MHVillage in your area and make sure you aren’t using the same language another seller is using for their home.
  2. Unique Details: Try to find something unique about your ad that you can highlight in the caption. Here are some examples:
    • For a home, something like: “Fully furnished, renovated home, with open floor plan”
    • For a community: “Retirement Community with brand new waterfront homes available”
    • For your Company: “Family owned company, with previously owned homes and new homes in stock!”
  3. Current and Updated: One of the benefits of online advertising is you can update your information at any time. So if you have a sale or an incentive highlighted within the sales caption on a listing, be sure and keep that information updated and current.

This feature really can make the difference for your traffic on our site. It can be the detail that turns a shopper into a buyer!

And, if you you would like assistance updating your sales captions, please feel free to contact our customer service.

Save The Date: May 17th IMHA 2017 Conference in IL!

MHVillage is excited to speak at the

2017 Annual Conference & Membership Meeting!

May 17, 2017 in Rosemont, IL

  • Don’t miss this opportunity to have your company associated with this event, which will have:

    • Targeted and informative seminars
    • Networking opportunities
    • The latest products and services
    • Fun!
  • Meet decision makers in the Illinois MH Industry and display your products and services.

    Contact  IMHA for registration details.

Hope to see you there!

-MHVillage Team

 

Advertising Your Vacant Sites to Potential Residents

BY: DAWN HIGHHOUSE

First, I want to send a big MHVillage thank you to Chris in Sweetwater, TN. Chris writes: Awesome job MHVillage…..What a website! Keep up the great work! I have now sold at least 6 homes off this site, and am about to list 3 more! Congrats on your successful summer Chris!

Earlier this year, I spent a lot of time at our industry’s trade shows and conventions. One question I often heard was, “How do I advertise my vacant lots on your website?” MHVillage has two great tools for promoting your sites for refill. Read on for more details, then download our white paper, “Advertising Your Vacant Sites on MHVillage” to share with your community managers and sales team.

First, tell us you have available sites

Log into your account on MHVillage and click to edit your community’s information. In the Vacant Sites field, just tell us how many sites you have available. We will add that information to your community. Now your community will show in search results whenever buyers are looking for available sites.

Then, Promote your sites with a Showcased Community

Showcase your community, then click the Promote Vacant Sites check box. That will add eye catching sales text to your community on MHVillage, so buyers will see it right away!

Download the white paper below for more step by step instructions – and as always, let us know if you have any questions. We are always happy to help!

 

Click to download our White Paper on Vacant Site Advertising on MHVillage

Click to download our white paper on Vacant Site Advertising on MHVillage

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready for Vacation Home Shoppers?

BY: DAWN HIGHHOUSE
Park Place in Sebastian, Florida. I'm in Michigan as I write this and this photo makes me want to hop on a plane!

Park Place in Sebastian, Florida. This looks like heaven to a Michigander like me.

As the weather starts to get colder in the Norther climates, people start thinking about vacation properties. If you are located in a warm weather state, did you know that: 56% of vacation home buyers start their home search online and 93% of vacation home shoppers use the internet during their home search?*

In other words, well over half of the people who start thinking about vacation properties start their search by looking online, and almost all of them use the internet at sometime during their search! That’s why if you have manufactured homes in communities frequented by out-of-state (or out of country) vacationers, you need to have all your home listings online. Not only that, but you need to make sure that all your community data is up to date and looking it’s best.

Here are five quick tips to draw the attention of Vacation Shoppers:

  • Make sure all your inventory is online. Vacationers will have to travel to purchase a home, and they are going to be more likely to go to places where they can see as many options as possible in a single trip. Having more homes available makes you more attractive than your competitors.
  • Of course vacationers want different from things than year round residents. Make sure your community and your homes on MHVillage list rental and site leasing specials, promotions, special events, and other opportunities.
  • Have vacant sites in your community? Turn that into a selling point! Now is the time to include in your community description that buyers can purchase the perfect home and have it placed in the community of their dreams – yours!
  • Do a quick survey of your photos on MHVillage. If possible, get photos with blue skies and sunshine – something the Northern climates are starting to lack. Include photos of shuffleboard courts, pools, tennis courts, golf courses and anything else that would draw in people looking to relax and have a good time. Photos of landscaping showing flowers and palm trees are also winners.
  • Take a look at your Caption lines, do they have a call to action for vacation home buyers? There is a great article on how to write captions lines on this newsletter (Missed Marketing Opportunities – Caption Lines) take a look at that, and then craft Captions that draw folks from out-of-state. (Hint: Heated Pool, Resident Activities, and Beautiful Ocean Breezes)

If you have any questions about updating your community or home listings on MHVillage.com, please let us know. We are always happy to walk you through the site!

 

*Source: The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate

Attention Community Managers and Owners – Here is Something You Should Know!

BY: DAWN HIGHHOUSE

So, I have written before about the sheer numbers of people visiting MHVillage. Community managers – did you know that one of the first things they look at is your community?

Where do all these buyers come from?

This is a graph of the first page buyers see when they arrive at MHVillage.com. That blue wedge? A communities.

This is a graph of the first page buyers see when they arrive at MHVillage.com. That blue wedge? A community.

Let’s start with a common question. “How do buyers find MHVillage?” The answer is simple: they find us the same way you find something online: by using Google or other search engines. Of course, some come from word of mouth, direct advertising and other methods, but the majority find us simply by looking. We work hard to insure that MHVillage is among the top results of common searches in order to bring home buyers to our site to see your homes and communities.

People do different kinds of searches. Sometimes they are looking for homes for sale or rent in their city, state or zip code, but many times they are looking specifically for your community – and they come to MHVillage to find it. Although we hear every day about people who are relocating and using MHVillage to search for manufactured homes in other cities, most buyers are looking for homes that are fairly near to where they currently live. They probably already know something about the nearby communities and have a rough idea of where they might like to live. They are using our site to get more information and see what homes are available.

If they want to know about my community, why don’t they just stop into the office and ask me?

Think about the last time you bought a car. When you were thinking about buying, did you ever drive through a car dealership on Sunday when you knew it was closed? Did you ever research car models online and read the reviews? Shopping online is somewhat similar. Obviously MHVillage doesn’t have reviews, but we do offer buyers a ton of information that they want to know – some of which is essential, like pet policy information. Shopping online gives buyers a starting place… from the comfort of their own home.

Won’t they shop my own website?

Actual community photo on MHVillage. Yes, it is a Polaroid.

Actual community photo on MHVillage. Yes, it is a Polaroid.

Absolutely! Buyers shop online in a lot of different ways. That is why you should know exactly what they are seeing. Here’s a couple of tests – pretend you are a buyer. Do some searches on Google and look for your own community. Then take a look at the top sites that come up. Chances are, MHVillage is going to be one of those sites. Check all the sites – are they showing your community to its advantage?

I don’t like the way my community looks on MHVillage, can I change it?

Of course! In fact, here is a list of things you should fix right away:

  • Make sure the address is correct. Some communities have different mailing addresses from their physical location. Remember, you want buyers to find you – so make it easy on them.
  • Is your community Age Restricted? This is one of those essential pieces of information every community should have filled out on MHVillage.
  • Update how many vacant sites you have. This tells potential residents if you have spaces available for new homes.
  • Pet policy – if someone has a 200lb mastiff, is that okay? What if they have 5 cats? Let buyers know from the start if they are likely to be approved.
  • Update your community photos. Remember, the photos they see online leave an impression. You can add two photos of your community to MHVillage for free.
  • Add your email address. Having great information online is no good if they don’t have any way to contact you. MHVillage has an easy form buyers can use – but we need your email address on file to send them to you.
Another actual community on MHVillage in the same city as the one above. Which one would you want to live in?

Another actual community on MHVillage in the same city as the one above. Which one would you want to live in?

There is no cost to update any of these – and they can make a huge difference in how your community looks to online buyers.

If you are really looking to attract potential residents, we also offer “Showcasing.” A Showcased community will let you do all of the following:

  • Advertise your community’s features like planned social activities, fitness centers, shuffleboard courts and more.
  • Write a custom description of your community and all the nearby area has to offer.
  • Describe site leasing, financing or other promotional programs you offer.
  • Add a link to a virtual tour of your community.
  • Upload a brochure that buyers can download from MHVillage.
  • Add your phone number, so buyers can call you directly.
  • Upload as many photos of your community as you like – it is unlimited.
  • Add a link to your community’s website. We’ll send potential residents right to your site.

One other quick thing to note – to view basic communities on MHVillage, buyers need create an account and log in. With Showcased communities, they can see your information right away – with or without an account. (Cost to Showcase starts at $16.00 per month.)

Does all this really matter?

Numbers speak louder than words, so I will leave you with this. One of our top performing Florida communities was viewed on MHVillage.com 39,768 times in January alone – and received 520 leads from MHVillage. That is over 16 leads a day!

Yes, it matters.

Let us know if you would like help getting started. We are happy to help!

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