It only takes one good-sized flood to turn a mobile home park in Washington into a permanent swamp. That’s the case I saw with a Puyallup park, when a flood of the river turned a 160-space park into a 35 in a matter of weeks. While it happens rarely, there are events that can make your Washington park a total loss.
Now, sometimes, restoring the park is an option. You might be able to fix the ground to make it livable again. The question is, after something like this, should you even bother? Don’t let your feelings cloud your common sense. Sometimes the financially bright thing to do is write off the loss.
What Makes Your Washington Park A Total Loss?
I’ve heard it said that you can’t have too much of a good thing, but after 20 years as a park owner, I don’t find that to be true. Water’s a good example of that. If your park is in a total loss situation, in that it costs more to repair than its worth in value, water was most likely the culprit. A Washington total loss usually happens after one of the following:
- Floods: Floods cause the most damage and affect the most people nationwide. Most total losses come from water, in that the park got so waterlogged, the ground turned unstable. Floods also lead to other events like mudslides.
- Mudslides: These usually come after either heavy rains or following a rapid thaw. Add that to a park on a slope and you could run into this situation. In some cases, properties get entirely buried and nothing is salvageable.
- Hurricanes: Hurricanes bring water plus wind which can make your park unlivable, and in the worst cases, move homes straight up off the ground. While bad ones like that don’t happen often, all it takes is one.
- Earthquakes: Here’s a scary fact. Earthquakes occur nearly every single day of the week in Washington. Sure, you can’t feel them, but they’re there. Washington’s seismic land shifts are a big liability for mobile park owners. Washington has the second highest risk of earthquakes, beaten only by California. While you might be in a position of advantage being a low lying mobile home park, there’s always the risk of damage to your land.
We have some risky weather in Washington, and that weather can damage your land. As all your money is in your land, one of these events can permanently shut down your park. If you get hit by bad weather, you’ll have some decisions to make. Mainly, you’re going to have to look at if your park is worth restoring.
The Cost Of Restoration
On the upside, the likelihood of a total wipeout in the mobile parks business is rare. As you’re just dealing with land, and relatively low-cost homes, it’s possible to get up and operating faster. We had one situation in a park where we were about to lose some land due to ground instability. We brought in an engineer and he came up with a fast plan. As mobile homes aren’t affixed to the ground, we were able to move the homes, fix the land and put them back on. But in that case, it was because our ongoing operating costs would make up the difference eventually. There are three things you need to consider when something like that happens:
- What’s insurance going to pay? Liability insurance for mobile home park owners is essential, as is property damage insurance. You’ll probably find out your park is a total loss from your insurance company. They’ll determine the cost to repair the land is more than the property is worth. And their offer isn’t going to be great. It’s insurance, so they’re not in the business of giving money away. Most likely, their offer will barely let you break even.
- How long until you break even? You’ll need to consider how long your park will take to be at full capacity again, followed by how many months of operation it will take to cover the cost of the repair. If you can’t make it up in a year, then it’s most likely time to shut down.
- Can you save the park by cutting the size? In the case of the Puyallup park, they reduced the overall size by a third. The owner put his attention into maintaining that third, with the hope of expanding back out eventually. When some of the land went to seed, he diversified again and put RVs in there. The park isn’t as big as it once was, but it’s still operational.
The benefit of your mobile home park is in its mobility. If a house has a cracked foundation, it’s done. If the land under a mobile home goes unstable, you can fix it. While most total losses come from cases of natural disasters, some are preventable. There are a few basic measures you can use to prevent big problems during bad weather.
Protecting Your Park in Washington
As water does the most damage, it stands to reason that’s the area you need to watch in your park. Make sure your drainage system is working well. Ensure tenants aren’t flushing things they shouldn’t and know how to prepare in a storm. If you’re seeing hurricane or flood warnings, get the word out about tie-downs and other measures that keep tenants’ homes from moving.
If you live in an area with evacuation routes or preplanned shelters, have that info available in your office. Let tenants know where to go when the worst happens. Preserving your tenant’s safety is your number one priority in that situation.
If the worst has already happened, and you have a park that might get shut down, I might be able to help. If any part of your park is operational, I may be willing to take it on. Give me a call or shoot me an email to get a quote.