Jul 9 2010, 07:40 PM
New to this forum and really don't go RV camping but we are considering buying an RV--probably a 5th wheel/5er--to use when my husband going into retirement soon. We considered getting second home in cooler summer area (we are in DFW TX) but have two pets that we don't want to fly/drive for lengthy periods....the summer heat is really getting to my husband who loves to play golf...
But while we were doing some research on RVs--we also noticed that RV parks/campgrounds might be a viable investment...my sister is very active person---in her early 60s--loves the outdoors and capable of doing lots of the types of maintenance/chores that goes along with an RV park...she is currently teaching in a Catholic school in San Antonio TX and living on farm land north of town...but she is very discouraged about her job---and some other aspects of her living situation. She has always been single--almost took her final vows as a nun at one point--is personable and gets along well with wide variety of people..
She would be pretty good candidate to manage it for us and then probably give park renters some options to work for rent...
So I thought people who RV and camp at sites across the country might be a good forum for pros and cons about buying an RV park and what features a good/desireable park would have.
And what type of RV park would make a bad bargain...
I wonder if any of you have enough background with RV travel that you have seen parks change hands over time--if you are seeing more RV parks having trouble during this economy--
if--as I have read--the camping/RV trade is really growing since people think it is less expensive and because many people really want to get "back to nature" and enjoy the outdoors when they have free time.
Does it matter if a camp has a major affiliation like KOA or is it more important to have updated capabilities like WiFi and/or cable-----pull through slots that can take pull-out bays--
the 50 amp electrical--
Do you have to have facilities like a restaurant/grocery store/mini-golf and swimming pool--or does it depend on the location of the park itself--
the more remote the location the more those become assets to getting/keeping RVers---
It is more attractive to have a smaller site with larger spaces vs one than can handle larger numbers and maybe host big traveling groups?
What parts of the country make RVing really a 3 season possibility vs year round?
Is security a big issue as far as thefts from RVs or issues with alcohol or fighting--or does it just depend on the individual location at any given time
I would not want to put my sister into a spot where she would have to deal with confrontation all the time
especially since some of these parks are outside city limits and have limited law enforcement around probably...
(as I said--no real experience with RV parks--so maybe I am over-reacting about that)
Any good books about this or sites with good info I would appreciate knowing about.
We have a good CPA that does taxes for my husband's business but I imagine there are factors about doing an assessment/evaluation of a business like this that are unique...
I guess I am surprised that some of the RV parks I have seen advertised are fairly inexpensive--considering the land they come with and how much infrastructure there might be---which makes me think they are likely not going to be very profitable...
does anyone know if there is a rule of thumb about profitability wihtout doing an audit of the books
or what the major expenses would be in running a park---
I assume the top three would be taxes, insurance, and water/energy costs--or maybe salary for the manager on site befor the enery costs...
Has anyone stayed at an RV park that made use of solar technology or wind turbines for some energy generation?
Hope this does not come across as too pie in the sky--
just starting to gather some info...
Appreciate any info you care to share--
Jul 10 2010, 08:35 AM
Welcome to the forum. We are lucky in that we have several here who either own or manage CGs and will be able to offer you some first hand advice.
IMO, however non-first hand though it may be, this is a poor time for such an adventure. The RV market certainly is still low, although may be coming back slightly. Travelling in the west as I do, there are far fewer RVs on the road this year than I've ever seen. The CGs are far less full than ever before, even though they generally keep their prices as high as ever rather than reducing them in order to get more business., which may or may not even exist.
Until the economy returns - if it ever does - this is not something I personally would consider or recommend. We had considered doing the same thing in the past during better times but dismissed it when considering how much work - and money - was involved. We decided that after retirement "work" had to be considered a four letter word!
If you choose to move ahead, good luck and I hope you have success and enjoy yourselves.
Jul 10 2010, 10:38 AM
There is another thread running called "KOA vs Private (to Buy)" that will answer a number of your questions. My first concern is how handy is your sister at fixing things like plumbing, electricity, sewer, Wifi, cable TV etc.? If she cannot do some of these tasks, your expenses will quickly spiral upward if you need to hire a professional everytime there is a problem with these systems. RV parks are not get rich quick schemes, or even get rich fairly fast schemes. They are great businesses in that they generate consistent income and are very recession resisistant. They are great businesses because they do not rely on the skills of one worker. They also can change hands and not miss a beat, because the owner has very little to do with the day to day traffic. Business will improve or decline only if the new owner does better or worse in advertising, customer service, daily operations etc. If you are serious about buying a park, take a campground ownership class first. There you will learn the basics about park expenses, valuations, operations, pitfalls, expectations etc. The one run by Darrell Hess and associates is excellent and there are others. Then, before you buy a park, hire a campground consultant to help you with the numbers and logistics. Again there are several, I would recommend Homer Staves consulting for one. Remember, anytime you invest in a business and have someone else run it (relatives included) you are setting yourself up for a fall. Even the best relative will do things you, the investor, will find annoying. Hopefully, an attempt to help out your sister will not turn into an event that will alienate you all forever.
Jul 10 2010, 02:42 PM
I manage a campground right now. We are more of an overnight/permanent site place. My suggestion would be to try out camping in different locations to see what you like and don't like about CG's. Also, unless you have lots of extra cash I would hold off. You should not expect to have a CG that will immediately start paying for itself. When we were hired as managers (not camp hosts) the place had a waiting list because of lots of construction in our area. When that particular job finished up we went down to almost empty. The owners still have our salary other overhead costs to pay but with much less income available. Much of the work we do here is actually not something in our job description but we treat the place as if it was ours. If someone were to be paid for all we do, and all that has to be done, it would cost them at least double our very small salary. We work 6 days a week and are on call 24/7. It is hard to find someone that will work for a small salary with long hours and to still make a profit.
Jul 14 2010, 03:09 PM
I wouldn't buy this year if you have next to no prior management experience with campgrounds. Get yourself acclimated in the industry by visiting a few campgrounds first and see what you like & don't like about the properties. The basic rule is to find a well-maintained park in a destination location (i.e. multiple local attractions off-property) that has a solid existing customer-base. If you want to make money, you'll find an RV park that has at least some larger sites with 50 amp electric for bigger rigs, with everything else being at least 30 amp. Wi-Fi is a must-have if it's not already there.
Managing an RV park is a lot more work than what you will expect. 6-7 days and 80+ hour workweeks are the norm. Finding a good manager is crucial - it will make or break your park. You should know up-front that it takes deep pockets to renovate and properly market any RV park. Operational costs have skyrocketed for RV parks in the last 10 years, hence all the whining on here about how much RV parks charge.
Just to give you an idea, the minimum you'll need to spend on advertising is $10,000 per year.
RV parks don't appreciate much unless they are either lakefront/waterfront, or there's been significant upgrades invested and you have built up a high occupancy rate. Don't expect to own one for 3 years and make much money on it without putting a lot of work and $$$ into it.
Message me if you'd like more info.
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