Space is a tricky thing in the mobile home park business. Allow too much per tenant and you’re leaving rent money on the table. Put in too many tenants and they’ll be packed in like sardines. So, how many mobile homes should you put on an acre? The question gets even trickier when you’ve got a diverse community with a lot of different home sizes. Hitting the right number can mean the difference between making a good income with your park or barely getting by.
Being a mobile home park owner is always going to be a balancing act. When you’re not balancing budgets, you’re balancing tenants’ needs, park responsibilities, and your personal life. You can add balancing the size of your spaces to that list, too.
Deciding How Many Mobile Homes to Put on an Acre
Now, generally I’d say ten homes per acre is ideal. If you’re fitting in ten spaces per acre, you’re making decent money and your tenants have room to roam. However, it’s not as simple as looking at generic numbers. For example, an acre makes up about 43,500 feet. That means all your tenants have 4,350 feet of space.
Now, say you have an older couple living in a single-wide mobile home that’s about 1000 feet. That couple, who may have physical limitations, probably doesn’t want to push a mower around a 3,350 foot lot. Meanwhile, you’ve got a neighbor next door with two kids, living in a 2,500 foot double wide home. As far as outdoor space goes, they’ve got a driveway and not much else. So they’re crammed in there—and those kids have no room to run around.
So it’s not enough to say, ‘Hey, I have this many acres, let’s break the space up evenly.” Instead, consider the needs of your tenants. You also have to think about the location and age of your park.
Listening to Demand in Setting Spaces
As a general rule of thumb, the newer your park and the more rural it is, the less densely populated your park will likely be. If you’re in an urban area of Oregon and thus in high demand, then you have more wiggle room both in renting spaces and raising rent in your mobile home park each year. If a lot of your residents have been with you for years, then a lot of that area growth happened well after your park residents moved in. Here’s a few things you should consider when you’re deciding the size of your lots:
- The age of the home: Mobile home size trends often determine the size of the lot. A park filled with mobile home models popular in the big 80s and after will need more space. Models from the 60s through the 70s, when America was tightening its belt, won’t need as much space. Heck, doublewides didn’t even exist in ‘65! In Oregon, you can only get mobile park tenants to update homes in disrepair; you can’t make someone move a home just because it’s old. That means you can’t reduce your space for those homes, either.
- Location, location, location: You get rewarded for being smart with your location. If you have a park right outside of Salem or Portland, you can afford to be stingy with your land. You might even be able to make it up to 16 homes an acre. People living right outside of metro areas aren’t worried about how much land they own. They just want to park their home in a place that has a reasonable commute to their work. If you’re the best deal in town within 10 miles of a metro area, you’ll never be empty, no matter how small your spaces.
- Rural people expect more: If your park is in a rural area, people are going to expect more space. It’s not just a matter of lower demand. It’s also in the mindset; people pick rural areas because they like their privacy and don’t want to deal with big-city life. In a rural area, you’re better off with sticking at around 10 homes per acre.
Keep the ten-per-acre idea in mind, but don’t be afraid to fiddle with it based on the home size or even the year of the home. Today’s homes are bigger and they demand more space. Older homes tend to take up less room and can be a great option for older folks who don’t want to maintain a lot of space.
Calculating the Ideal Lot Size for Mobile Homes
You only buy your mobile home park land once, but you can rent it over and over again. That’s why mobile home parks work. If you already have all your spaces filled, then there’s not much you can do about a park that you’ve laid out wrong. But once you’ve had a few vacancies, don’t be afraid to reconsider property lines. If you’re in an area that’s in high demand, it won’t hurt to try to manipulate those lines yourself by putting homes on them.
For example, say you have two empty lots, both with empty homes from 1978 and each space takes up 2000 feet. This is where you can turn costly home abandonment in your mobile home park into profits. You could clear out both those abandoned homes and rent the space to someone who has a brand new double wide that’s going to take up the space for both lots. Or, you could renovate those older models and get two new renters. If you’re a smart mobile home park owner, you’re always going to err on the side that gives you more rent.
Now if you feel like you’ve gotten behind the curve in setting your property lines, or you don’t think you can fill your park, it might be time to consider getting out of the mobile home parks business. In that, I can help. I buy parks and run them and will pay you based on your park’s potential. For more information, give me a call or shoot me an email.