As I always say, if you’re doing this job right, you can’t live in your parks because you have so many. Instead, my park managers are my eyes and ears, my boots on the ground. I have a lot of parks—and a lot of managers to go with them. They’re worth their weight in gold because they handle the stuff I can’t—or am happy not to be bothered with.
There are two kinds of mobile park managers. You can either go with a corporate management company or you can hire someone yourself. In either case, the one thing you can’t do without is someone to live in the park and manage the property. Consider how much you can afford, but remember to balance it with how involved you want to be. This is definitely a case where the more you pay, the more you get to play.
A Park Manager Is Your First Line of Defense
Fifteen is my magic number. If you have 15 units, you need a manager on site—and you should be able to afford it. If you don’t have a park manager when your park is that big, mischief happens. Some tenants, if they know there’s no one in charge, start letting things slide. They might let garbage pile up outside their places or not keep their home and lot maintained. The less the manager is there, the more they slack off on following the rules. You can always tell the parks with absentee managers, because they’re trashed. Your manager doesn’t just act as your eyes and ears. They’re your deterrent.
It takes the right amount of authority to be a park manager. If you’re doing it yourself and you don’t have a strong personality, you’re going to run into problems. A park manager is the first line of defense in your park. They handle the tenants’ concerns and they deal with the inevitable troublemaker tenants. They’re going to be the ones dealing with the conflicts and they have to be able to enforce the rules. They’ll be handling finances and collecting rent.
It takes the right kind of person to be a park manager. That’s why you need to look in the right places when it comes time to hire someone.
From Residents to Retired Military: Where to Look for Your Manager
Hiring a park manager doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s less about the resume and more about the personality—they need a lot of experience and an equal measure of common sense. They’re going to have a lot of responsibilities, like approving or denying applicants and even conducting a majority of eviction procedures, when necessary. Doing all that isn’t easy. The park manager’s job can be rife with conflict, which means they need to be a people person and able to speak with authority. They’re also going to need good basic bookkeeping skills and the ability to stay organized.
My favorite kind of person for a park manager position is someone retired from the military. They tend to be dependable, organized, and looking for structure. On top of that, during their time in the service they pick up a lot of different skills, from handling maintenance tasks to responding to emergencies and doing security. These parks are pretty much small communities, and veterans have experience working in communities as well. But there’s only so many of them to go around. If you can’t get a prior service member looking for a retirement job, then the best place to look is in your park. Usually, I don’t have to go any further than that.
Every community has what I like to call a ‘mayor.’ They know everyone and they’ve been there forever. That’s the person I like to approach about taking on the job of park manager—they already know the community, your rules, and the park’s history. They know where the problems lie because they’ve seen them first hand. They’re not going to come in and stir the pot. I can hire a company to process rent checks, but I can’t hire them to confront a tenant who’s letting junk pile up in their yard.
The Gold Option: Third-Party Management
Now some people get into the mobile park business hoping for a turnkey operation and think managers are the best way to do this. That isn’t always the case. The park manager is your employee. That means you still need to be around to handle major issues. If you’re really looking for a turnkey operation, then the way to go is with third-party management.
Third-party management companies handle everything. If you want to put your park in their hands and go sail around the world, it’ll be safe. They aren’t just one individual but an entire business designed to run your property. They’re going to have their own sales teams, accounting departments, maintenance people, and legal consultants for anything your tenants or property needs.
So what’s the drawback? They’re expensive. The management company takes 5 to 6% off the gross, really cutting into your profits. The median income for a park manager is $24,000 per year—that’s about the same amount a third-party company would take if your park annually grossed $480,000. Balance the math out for yourself to see what’s best for you. Mainly, it can be summed up with three main pros and cons:
- Pro: They take the process of managing your property completely out of your hands.
- Con: They eat into your profits to do it.
- Pro: They manage everything from rent collection to eviction efficiently and on schedule.
- Con: They take a bit of the personality out of your park because of that efficiency, in that they may be less apt to work with tenants behind on rent or having problems with property maintenance.
- Pro: They offer freedom and flexibility for park owners who don’t want to be too hands on.
- Con: They might be too ‘hands off’ for park owners who like being involved in their communities.
Once you reach the magic number 15, you’re going to want a park manager. It’s up to you if you want to go third-party or hire a live-in overseer. Either way, know that you’re going to need boots on the ground. If you don’t want to live in your park to manage it, someone needs to—even third-party companies will have someone on site to handle tenant issues. If you can’t be there, someone else should be on your behalf.
Of course, your other option is to sell your park and use the proceeds from the sale to take that trip around the world. I’m an experienced park owner and operator who takes a hands-on approach to managing my parks. I can offer a fair price on your park and the promise that it’ll remain open for your residents to enjoy. Give me a call or shoot me an email for more information.