Closing deals in 55+ mobile home park communities is one of those things that is a niche on its own. A lot of people don’t really know how to actually work in those communities.
Trailer Cash Academy Coach Barry Grimes is one of the few people who has actually been able to go into those communities and build his entire business around them. And so he’s one of our experts in the 55+ communities niche.
Coach Barry has been with TCA since September of 2020. And he recently became a coach to help share the knowledge he’s acquired with the newer people joining the group. He runs his business with his wife Sharon and his 15 year old son Luke.
Barry’s goal is to build a business that they can step away from in 5 or 6 years and have it run by the rest of the people in his family. So in the process of building that a big part of their success has come from 55+ communities because 80% of the mobile home communities in Florida are 55+.
So in this blog we wanted to share with you some really specific tips about working with 55+ communities from our call with Coach Barry a few months ago.
Coach Barry’s gems on dealing with 55+
mobile home parks
We asked Barry to talk to us a little bit about the ins and outs of working in 55+ parks versus communities that are for all ages.
”There are a lot of similarities and differences that you want to take note off but for the most part, it’s the same process. It’s the same forms. It’s the same steps. All those things you have to do to close a deal in an all ages community you have to do in a 55+ community as well.
Some of the differences are in the marketing. We had to do a little bit of experimenting in marketing.
We still do the bandit signs. We still call when it’s ‘For Sale By Owners’. We still drive for dollars looking for deals.
But we found that print ads work very well in the 55+ communities. In particular these coupon books that are placed throughout town at restaurants, barber shops, hairdressers, doctor’s offices, just anywhere people are sitting around long enough to pick these things up and read. And inevitably they come across one of our ads.
It’s pretty simple. It says we buy mobile homes, we pay cash, and we get a lot of calls off of those.
We recently did a similar ad in one of the weekly newspapers that get delivered to people’s houses. You probably get some yourself. That thing had been out for only about 2 weeks when we got a call about a mobile home that was actually on land. We’ve got that thing going through closing right now
So that $30 a week ad is probably going to net us about $14,000 off of that. So I mean it does pay off. And actually just this morning I signed a contract for our first billboard. It’s like a huge bandit sign that’s going to be going out there June 1st.
So there’s all these different methods. You’ve got to just think of where your audience is going to be and try to get your business in front of them any way you can. And as often as you can.”
That’s an interesting tip for you guys right there. Print ads and traditional marketing methods work really well when it comes to attracting the buyers and sellers of 55+ communities. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be reached through digital marketing methods as well.
”Yeah, we get a lot of buyers from Facebook too. You’d be surprised. A lot of them are on Facebook.
So I would not neglect Facebook. The print ads are just an addition to your Facebook marketing because they gravitate towards those. But Facebook is where we get most of our buyers.
We initially started setting up some test ads that were geared towards the 55+ communities to just kinda pull those folks in. We looked at some different age brackets. We’ll cover this in a bit, but 55+ doesn’t always mean 55+.
So we tested out some different ages. We ran ads testing for single-wide, double-wide, bedrooms, Lot Rent, pets, amenities, and all kinds of different combinations to start building a buyers base.
And a lot buyers do see our advertising as well and will contact us, even though it says ‘We Buy’ there.”
One of the biggest issues, especially for newer investors, is speaking with park managers in 55+ communities and getting them to understand how we’re trying to actually help them. Barry had some thoughts on this, based on what’s worked in his favor when dealing with park managers in 55+ communities.
”Really, it’s a lot of the same things. Just leading with the value that we’re going to offer.
And I will say a lot of these park managers are more protective of the residents there because of their age and lots of different situations that they’re in. So they’re probably a little bit less trusting. You may not get there on your first or second visit, but you just gotta stay persistent. And again, just keep leading with the value that you’re going to bring.
If you’re wholesaling you don’t really have to get involved with the park manager. Just like in the all ages parks. But, whenever we can, we do try to build good relationships because they’re going to refer other folks to us.
We’ve helped 2 or 3 people that were facing eviction. We’ve helped buy the home from them and then turn it around pretty quickly. And that saves the park from having to go through a costly eviction process and saves the tenant from having their credit ruined. And it’s business for us.
We try to find as many of those situations as we can. And we do get calls from park managers. So just lead with the value, don’t give up. If they turn you away after your first visit, stay persistent, stay professional, and stay polite.
Even if that person’s not polite, you’ve got a business that you’re trying to run. You want to stay on point and that’s going to help build a good relationship with the park manager.”
“You’ve got to go in confident. You can’t go in shaky and timid. You’ve got to let them know that you know what you’re doing, to build that trust.
It might not happen on that very first visit, but you gotta listen to what they’re telling you. Understand that their rules are going to be a lot different from what you may see normally. And then you just keep reiterating that your goal is to provide value to this park.
Let them know ‘We’re going to get tenants that are age qualified, income qualified and credit qualified. We want to save you the hassle of having to do all of that. Our goal is to keep your Lot Rent flowing.’
We do have a brochure that kind of spells all of this out. We leave that behind so they can continue to read about how we work after we leave.
And we do follow up quite a bit. If we’re working with a resident that’s selling their property there we keep them up to date with what’s going on. We do as much of the paperwork as we can.
We get folks from out of town trying to move down to Florida quite a bit. So we usually take those applications and we’ll make it an E-form so they can do DocuSign or whatever, and they can get all of their paperwork processed up front.
So we just try to add a lot of value that doesn’t threaten them, but it helps save work and time, and it makes what we do a little bit more efficient than if they were trying to do it themselves.”
Earlier Barry mentioned that 55+ doesn’t always mean 55+ exactly. He talks about something called a 80/20 rule when it comes to dealing with 55+ park communities. We asked Barry to dive into that a bit more.
”Yeah. The 80/20 rule is really important when you work in 55+ communities.
This is basically age discrimination because they’re not allowing anyone less than the age of 55 to move in.
It was highly desired for retirement communities to be set up for seniors to be around people their own age and have things in common. So the government set up an exception to the fair housing act, which was called HOPA (housing for older persons act).
But what that basically did was it says that if 80% of the homes are occupied by at least one person that’s 55 then the other 20% of the homes can have younger folks in there.
And that is really up to the park. There’s no age requirements in HOPA. So we see quite a bit of variety. Typically it’s going to be 45 year olds.
If they’re meeting that 80/20, then you can get people 45 years old, if the park allows it. That opens up a whole new pool of buyers for you. We’ve had one or two parks that actually go down to 40 and one reverted all the way to 18.
But there’s usually no children. These are adult only communities. So you’ll need to be able to emphasize that in your marketing. And understanding that rule just helps you offer your properties to more people.”
That’s another gem right there. Armed with that information we’re basically able to expand our scope of opportunities and the scope of people we can serve.
But we asked Barry how we can actually figure out the percentage breakdown of occupants in the community. Do we just ask the park management directly?
”Well first you’re going to have to get the prospectus from the community management because they’re going to tell you about all their rules and regulations.
One of the requirements to get this exemption is they have to have a way to monitor what the percentages are on a pretty regular basis, at least quarterly.
And if I get an answer that they’re under 80%, I don’t always take it firsthand. And I’ll ask to see their last verification process, what those percentages were.
And if they don’t want to show it to me I let them know it’s public record. You can get a federal exemption. But I don’t have to do that very often.
Honestly, a lot of these communities can’t fill their parks with people that are all 55+. So most of the time are looking to get the younger crowd in there because they usually have more income and they’re able to qualify a little bit easier. So I don’t have too much trouble with that range.
Now I will say 55 is the minimum. Some communities can say they want all 55+, they don’t have to do the 80/20. This could even be 60 or 65, where 55 is the minimum. But most of the communities will at least go down to 45.”
“So if you can expand that age range, that’s always going to add to your pool of buyers.
You’ve got to get that prospectus. If you can’t get it from the park, try to get it from a tenant. We can order them from the state as well here and that’s going to have every rule in there.
There are some other kinds of secret exceptions that they don’t always publicize. One is for a disabled occupant. So if you have some type of disability, you may be able to qualify to get in there at a younger age. If you have a disabled child they’ll often allow that child to live there with people as well.
They also offer some exceptions for veterans. If you’re a certified caregiver, they’ll give you an exception for that.
If they’re a certified caregiver they don’t have to live with that person. They can get a house in that community on their own.
And then most of them have just a little sentence in small print at the bottom that says they reserve the right to basically allow anyone in here. So I always ask what exceptions they will make. And that opens it up more for us.”
So they could let anyone in if they really wanted to. It’s just about having that conversation with the community management and understanding what exceptions they make. They can make their own decisions because there’s no federal guidelines. It’s all park rules.
Closing advice and thoughts from Coach Barry
In general when you’re working in these communities, regardless of whether it’s all ages or 55+, you want to stay visible. Visibility is a tool to build credibility. And credibility helps establish good working relationships with buyers, sellers and park managers.
Barry says the car that they drive around the community has window decals. And invariably as they’re out there helping folks and working on deals they get other people calling them. People in the community begin to recognize them as professionals who understand the process of buying, selling or moving homes. And word of mouth spreads.
So Coach Barry gave us a ton of gems there. Before we got off the call with him we asked him for a few more pieces of advice when it comes to dealing with 55+ communities. What should our mindset be when we’re dealing with this niche?
”I think number one is just realizing there’s going to be a limited pool of buyers, so that can stop some folks in their tracks.
But the only reason they have 55+ communities is because there’s a lot of 55+ people in that area that want to live there.
So once we started looking at it like that we just started figuring out how to work in those communities. And a lot of the stuff that we shared today is what helped propel us in those areas.
Stay persistent. The park managers will still want to work with you because the bottom line is they want the folks in those homes that can pay, that fit their criteria and that are going to be good residents.”
So we hope you’ve taken some notes because there’s been a lot of great knowledge shared by Coach Barry on this particular niche in mobile home investing.
If you’re on the fence wondering if mobile home investing works, and how to do it, just remember that Coach Barry was able to build a 6 figure business just off of mobile home investing, with no prior experience. And he’s been doing it for about a year and a half or so.
One of the biggest aids in his success has been the Accelerator Program at Trailer Cash Academy.
“The TCA accelerator program is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Typically when you get into a training program, you’re just left on your own. You get some videos to watch.
But with this you’ve got access to an entire community with 6 coaches, 3 calls a week and questions answered in a private Facebook group. So there’s really just no reason why anyone couldn’t succeed in this business.
We knew nothing about mobile homes when we joined. And you can get up to speed pretty quickly. You can get active pretty quickly. You don’t need a ton of capital to get started.
We’ve got ways where you can buy without any money and start to build up some of your own capital before you really start buying and selling properties yourself.
Invest in yourself. There’s several ways to get into the training, and it definitely will pay off. I know mine paid off in my very first deal and it will for you too.
It’s just a matter of getting in, believing in yourself, making that commitment and we’re going to help you succeed.”
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