Newbie At Owning An Rv Park...hopefully.

Discussion in 'Park Management' started by rbnrbn, Sep 2, 2014.

  1. rbnrbn

    rbnrbn
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    My husband and I are not RVers (although I camped with my grandparents when I was young) but for some odd reason we have always wanted to own an RV park . We know nothing about owning an RV park. Are we nuts? Please if we can get any info that would be helpful we would appreciate it. Any websites to go to, pros and cons of owning an RV park etc. The land we are looking at has a 60 acre lake but it is located right on an interstate. Is this good or bad (being right on the interstate)? The lake actually is between the roadway and where the campsites will be. We live an hour from the land so i am assuming we will need a full-time manager onsite?? How hard is it to find someone willing to put in those hours needed? Does someone need to be on site 24 hours? We are shooting for a more quiet environment (you know... how camping should be) and not the RV park with all the activities of hayrack rides, face painting etc. Is that bad? We want more space between the campers for privacy yet have a commons area for gathering if people want to socialize. What are the things people want most when camping besides the usual clean bathrooms, friendly staff etc. I can't wait to hear everyones opinions and suggestions. Thanks so much!
     
  2. pianotuna

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    Hi,

    Go to your local financial institution. Draft a business plan with their help. If they would not loan you the funds to open--you probably should not proceed.
     
  3. Fitzjohnfan

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    I have never owned or worked at a park, so I can't speak from experience, but here is my 2 cents worth:

    #1 do you know how to run a business, keep books, have a business plan (as stated above), etc. Its easy to look at a campground and think, "this will be fun", then you realize it's a business that can take your time 24/7/365 days.

    Another BIG red flag is that you have never owned/used an RV. You probably don't know which is the. "Right" side of the camping site to have the hookups placed, which sites in the park are big rig friendly, why RVs need to be level, and how level is level, etc. If you have never experianced the RV lifestyle, how can you relate to your customers. Its not a show stopper, but it will make running the business more difficult.

    That stuff being said, I'll answer some of your questions.

    The management does not have to be onsite 24 hours, but it is very helpful when you have rowdy guests, or even so n done who runs their generator all night. Try to at least get a workcamper to stay onsite(maybe for free) to be the late night go to person if there is a problem.

    Since you want to keep things quiet, that will probably be fine, but ask yourself why someone would stay at your park. Some will stay full time and some will stay for the lake and the camping experience, but are there other activities in the area to see? If you are in the middle of nowhere, you may need to offer some activities to attract people to stay.
     
  4. dalsgal

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    I would suggest that you start camping before you do anything. Go to different parks and see how they look, talk to people there and ask them about their experiences there and also talk to the owners/manager about what they see as good points and bad points about working,or owning, a campground.

    The campground we manage is one like you describe. We are quiet, with no fancy amenities. We do have a pool and we offer free WiFi. We live onsite and do everything that gets done here. We get one day off but must always have the phone with us even if we go away. The new owners can't afford to hire anyone else to help us so it is all up to us. We stay for a couple of reasons but the main thing is that we enjoy what we do. There is a lot more to keeping a park going than just offering sites and keeping it looking nice. If you do purchase the place you would need to have water, sewer and electric installed, make sure the sites are level and easy to get into and out of. The insurance for a park is high. You need to have a bathhouse, laundry and most people want a rec hall (we don't). Today's RV's are much larger than when you camped with your grandparents and you need to make each site long enough for RV's that can be over 40 feet long, plus their tow car.

    From experience you should always have someone onsite 24/7 to cover emergencies that might occur and to watch out for campers that don't think quiet time applies to them.

    Unless you are a destination campground you will make most of your money by RV'ers that work in your area and will be there long term. You need strong rules for them to make sure they don't make your park look trashy. We have quite a few "permanent" campers here but, if you came here you would not be able to tell which ones they are because we insist they don't junk up their spots.

    You will need to have plenty of money to support the park for quite some time. Don't expect to start raking in the cash because it does take time to get your name out and there will likely be times when you have almost no one there and you are still paying for utilities, your workers, insurance and your loans. There will be lots of money flowing out and not much return for quite some time.

    Right now it's early morning here and I can't think of all the other things I would tell you but I know there are more things to be prepared for.
     
  5. rbnrbn

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    Thank you so much for all your time and help. Just to give you a little more info, we have a contractor that is an RVer and he is the one making all the decisions on the construction, layout etc. The land we are thinking of buying was privately owned (used only for family) and already has 12 hook-ups, a pavilion with storm shelter and showers so some things are already taken care of in that department. The things that worry me are: Do RVers want to camp right next to an interstate? And do they need a lot of things to do while on a campsite? There are not many trees right now as most of it is a cornfield so any type of "hiking" would be around the lake on the road. We figured we would rent paddle boats, fishing gear, kayaks, bikes, golf carts etc. What else is there that we need to have for people to do to be happy? This land is located about 40 min from a large city (Omaha). Is that too far for people to drive for things to do? As I said, this is located right on an interstate so that alone is pretty good advertising. What other ways are there to advertise?
     
  6. Luvtheroad

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    For some campers, being right by the interstate is the kiss of death. If I'm going to be staying somewhere for a few days while sightseeing in the area, I want somewhere I can sit out and enjoy nature on my days off from sightseeing, not hear traffic.

    For others (the one-nighters who just want a place to get off the highway, get a night's sleep and head on their way in the morning), the allure of pulling off, driving a few hundred feet and pulling into a park is what they're looking for. For those, you would need sites long enough to pull thru without unhooking. They're not interested in going shopping, seeing the sights or driving around.
    They can live with traffic noise for the one night they'll be there.

    Then you have your "permanent" or "seasonal" residents. They want it both ways.....quick access to the highway to get to their jobs or shopping, but also pleasant surroundings for their "home".

    You're not going to please everyone, so you'll need to decide the primary group you're aiming at and go from there.
     
  7. hypogi

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    Please visit campgroundsforsale.com and sign up for one of Darrell's seminars. It's well worth the time and money and it will push you off the fence. Either you'll know for sure that you want to own an RV park or you'll realize that it wasn't such a hot idea after all. Darrell and his crew will help you find the perfect park for your personality and desired lifestyle. Plus you'll be able to talk to other campground owners and get a feel for what it is truly like owning one. Good luck!
     
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  8. RTA

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    Personally, I would not look for a campsite next to the freeway unless it was late at night and I am tired of driving or I was just using the CG as a 1 night stopover.
    As far as staying there, it really doesn't look like that there is much appeal to stay. If I am going to hike, I really would prefer a more natural setting rather than a walk on a road around the lake. Paddle boats? Mmmmmm not a big attraction for adults or kids I'm afraid.

    Unless there are fish in the lake, forget renting out fishing gear. Same with the golf carts. Is there a golf course nearby? Most folks who bike bring their own. Kayak rental ....maybe a go.

    I wouldn't drive for 40 minutes to get to Omaha. If I wanted to see the sights of the city plus any nearby attractions, I'd prefer something a bit closer --like 20-30 minutes away. But I'm not a fan of cities so I am biased in that respect.

    I realize I am not sounding overly encouraging but from what you have described as some of the features of a possible CG, I somehow think that you might have to rethink what you are thinking.
    Best of luck, BTW - it's both a risk and a challenge and I commend you for even thinking about trying it.
     
  9. Florida Native

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    A big question about the location is what is there to do. Many RV'er like to stay at a park for several days and see the sights via their towed vehicle. What is there to do in the way of historical, adventure, touristy, ETC? We had one of our coldest nights ever in Nebraska (14 degrees) and it taught us not to camp when it get real cold. That would cut out many months from your season. It is a big step. We were in the lodging business for 10 years and it can be confining. I once worked 61 straight days. Most of your guests will be nice, but some will not. You have to be able to accept that fact and deal with it. They are going to do some really stupid things like run over your equipment. The will lie about reservations and not show up. After 10 years, I remember the bad ones easily. I once had a guy argue with me for 15 minutes. I finally relented. The next day, he bought a $475,000 house for cash. People will test your will. It is different when you own it and it can easily be taken persona. You should start renting an RV every weekend and get a feel for it. If you still want to do it, you might consider getting some physiological help. I didn't see you age either. To make this work, you have to build a business and sell it for a lots more than you have in it. It will not make a lot of money yearly, but when you sell it, you can make some money, If you are getting near retirement age, it might be too late. Good Luck.
     
  10. kcmoedoe

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    Depending on the lake's configuration, a 60 acre lake between you and the interstate would be a reasonable buffer from the highway, especially if you plant some trees. As others have pointed out, you need a detailed business plan before deciding to move forward. A successful park is probably going to need a minimum of 40 or 50 sites unless there is some great drawing card that will allow you to get a premium rate per site. Twelve sites isn't really attractive at any level. They won't generate much income on a daily basis, It doesn't create a park or resort feel. It won't support a store, a laundry or any other additional income streams.
    The renting of paddle boats, fishing tackle and the like is just going to be a waste of time unless, again, there is some over-riding great reason to have those attractions. If it is just a farm pond full of snakes, turtles and small fish, a dock would suffice to allow people to fish and most camping people will have their own equipment. Maybe stock the store with a few Snoopy spin cast rods and some worms for sale. That will satisfy the travelers who stop by on a whim with children.
    Be sure you have your permits, licenses and utilities planned, approved and available. Won't be a good thing to build this park and find out can't get adequate electrical power without bringing in 5 miles of additional lines at your expense (have seen it happen, commercial power is WAY different from residential). Zoning is probably going to be an issue and be sure to check out the requirements for a commercial enterprise's septic system. In most locales a simple drain field and holding tanks is no longer adequate.
    As someone who has reviewed and underwritten loans on many RV Parks, I wouldn't be interested in a financing one where the owner was not going to be the operator and had never had a park before. A new park is even a bigger risk, since there is no financial history and no real way to determine if it will succeed or fail. This plan is even a bit more worrisome since there is no real draw, be it a big attraction, a substantial town, or even a big crossroad. If you have a bunch of money to throw at this project and can either wait a substantial time for it to turn into a positive cash flow operation or you can just take the hit if it doesn't pan out, it might be worth taking a shot. I wouldn't, however, put money I might need soon, or risk debt I couldn't repay, into such a speculative endeavor. I would much rather go looking for an operating, profitable park to buy if owning an RV park is truly a dream.
     
  11. rbnrbn

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    I so appreciate everyones input. Although I will have to say you are scaring us out of it! ha I do have a question. Most of you are telling me campers like things to do, activities etc, yet what do people do when they pull up to a site with just a lake or river? I know people who camp and just play in the water, play games and just sit around and chat. Is that type of camping gone for the majority now? This type of camping is what we were hoping for but if that doesn't please the majority, this is probably not a good idea. We are in our 50s and nearing retirement and were hoping this would be enjoyable for retirement but it sounds like it is not much of a retirement if people want the owners there running it 24/7. We are not doing it to make a significant income but we also do not want it to fail either. How hard is it to find a person that is willing to manage an RV park and work those kind of hours? We have a couple of sites in our state that are just a flat piece of land with a shower house and playground equipment and they are always packed. One of them is literally right on the interstate too. Is there was a website where we could ask RVers if this type of campsite would appeal to them???
     
  12. kcmoedoe

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    QUOTE(rbnrbn @ Sep 4 2014, 01:42 PM) [snapback]38165[/snapback]

    I so appreciate everyones input. Although I will have to say you are scaring us out of it! ha I do have a question. Most of you are telling me campers like things to do, activities etc, yet what do people do when they pull up to a site with just a lake or river? I know people who camp and just play in the water, play games and just sit around and chat. Is that type of camping gone for the majority now? This type of camping is what we were hoping for but if that doesn't please the majority, this is probably not a good idea. We are in our 50s and nearing retirement and were hoping this would be enjoyable for retirement but it sounds like it is not much of a retirement if people want the owners there running it 24/7. We are not doing it to make a significant income but we also do not want it to fail either. How hard is it to find a person that is willing to manage an RV park and work those kind of hours? We have a couple of sites in our state that are just a flat piece of land with a shower house and playground equipment and they are always packed. One of them is literally right on the interstate too. Is there was a website where we could ask RVers if this type of campsite would appeal to them???


    That type of camping does exist, but those types of parks generally have a lot of potential activities, people just don't engage in them all. If the lake offered fantastic fishing, great scenic views and was convenient to something, your chances of success would be better. But if it is just out in a Nebraska corn field, not so much. If all you are drawing are people who want to get away from the city for a few days you are going to be somewhat busy on the weekends and not so much during the week, because most people want to do something while on vacation. That would leave you with occupancy two days a week for maybe 20 weeks. 40 days to make an income isn't going to be very profitable.
    As for another website, www.rv.net has an extensive forum section where you would get much more feedback. But be sure to define your park clearly. It really isn't on a lake (in the sense that a major lake has marinas, boating, swimming beaches and multiple thousands of acres of water) or along a river ( the Missouri is a river, a small drainage that seasonally dries up is not). Like it or not, most successful parks need a hook, a major draw, something that will bring in people, not just please the few that stumble upon it. If you want valuable feedback, you need to clearly explain what you expect to have and don't try and sugar coat it, because it you do you are going to get responses that won't be accurate. If it is going to be 20 sites in a field to start with, tell people that is what it is going to be. Unfavorable feedback is a lot cheaper than unfavorable business results.
    As for workers, why would someone manage an RV park and not get paid? Any park is going to require maintenance and upkeep. You can, possibly find work campers for those type assignments, provided the work to value equation is in line (the more desirable the location, the more work you can get for providing a site). Expecting 20 or 30 hours a week in exchange for a site on a desirable oceanfront location is reasonable, expecting the same in the middle of a corn field, not so much. But the actual management of the park should almost assuredly be an employee, who is paid. Turning the entire management of a business over to unpaid volunteers is a checkmark in the wrong side of a good business plan ledger.
     
  13. pianotuna

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    Hi,

    There is no way I'd work 20 hours per week for a free campsite.
     
  14. docj

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    QUOTE(pianotuna @ Sep 4 2014, 05:01 PM) [snapback]38167[/snapback]

    Hi,

    There is no way I'd work 20 hours per week for a free campsite.



    We like to volunteer at federal and state facilities. This spring we worked 32 hours a week (combined) at a national historic site. We don't mind doing this in exchange for a campsite. To each his own.
     
  15. rbnrbn

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    Ooops. I think I was misunderstood. I wouldn't expect anyone to manage an RV park for free or even for just a spot. I was just wondering how hard is it to FIND someone good to manage an RV park working the many hours it takes (for a salary of course). I am sure it takes a special person for that job and probably not easy to find.

    I do agree that we are definitely limiting our customers with just a 60 acre lake (even though it is stocked for great fishing) next to an interstate with only cornfields around us. We were hoping to also have little cabins to draw those without RVs. I am guessing from all the very appreciated feedback I have received here, this is probably not for us in Nebraska.

    Thank you all so much for your time. :(
     
  16. NYDutch

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    All may not be lost. There are a number of campgrounds located along the Interstates that have few activities and few attractions nearby. What they do have, is excellent accessibility and hookup facilities, along with good WiFi and cable service that they promote to RV overnighters on their way from here to there. I think Ft Chiswell RV Park near Max Meadows, VA is a good example of that. They are very conveniently located just off I-81 near the junction with I-77. By 11:00 AM every day, the park is nearly deserted, but around 3:00 PM it starts filling up again. The park is well maintained and open year round. I believe they do have some work campers on staff, but I don't know what the arrangement is financially with them. If the Interstate where your property is located is a heavily traveled RV route, that type of an operation may be a viable option for you.
     
  17. Happy Camper X2

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    Was reading this the other day. Each campground has a different level of activities. If there is an exit at or near where the campground is then it might work but if just the highway then people will have an issue with noise. As for not being there yourself, the better campgrounds are the ones that owners run and live at. That is my opinion. We talk all the time about selling everything and buying a campground but it always comes to benefits and us not being able to camp anymore. Good luck.
     
  18. kcmoedoe

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    QUOTE(pianotuna @ Sep 4 2014, 03:01 PM) [snapback]38167[/snapback]

    Hi,

    There is no way I'd work 20 hours per week for a free campsite.


    There are many parks in desirable locations where the month rate is in excess of $1500 per month. That would mean those 20 hours per week would be at $20/hr or more. Not the stuff of the penthouse corner office, but not bad for non skilled labor.
     
  19. RVRVRV

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    Owning an RV. park is rewarding. You most likely will not get rich doing it. You can make a living if you are willing to work really hard and become a jack of all trades. You must have great people skills or you will fail and this gos for staff as well.

    Be ready to cancel plans and return from vacations when things go wrong and the person in charge cannot fix the problem. There are many good hosts/ work campers out there but it is sometimes a challenge to find one when you need one. Many are truly not up for the job.

    Living at the park is what will make a park work as an absentee owner you greatly increase your chances of failure.

    On the upside, the Baby Boomers will be retiring for many years to come. With many of them planning to RV. So in that aspect things look good. But fuel prices can dictate how many will travel at any given time. Who knows what will happen if fuel hits $6-7 or 8 dollars a gallon.

    Good luck in your plans.
     
  20. pianotuna

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    Hi kcdoedoe,

    Not near Des Moines there aren't. Actually that makes this person's plan a little more viable.

    QUOTE(kcmoedoe @ Sep 7 2014, 07:46 PM) [snapback]38227[/snapback]

    There are many parks in desirable locations where the month rate is in excess of $1500 per month. That would mean those 20 hours per week would be at $20/hr or more. Not the stuff of the penthouse corner office, but not bad for non skilled labor.
     

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