Rv Park Owners group - Getting Started

Discussion in 'Park Management' started by Tim Thiemann, Oct 30, 2018.

  1. Tim Thiemann

    Tim Thiemann
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    Hi all, my fiancé and I are starting to look into opening an Rv Park/Resort. We have been traveling and rving full time for the past year and have stayed at more than 60 Rv parks in 18 states. Realizing almost all of them have been full capacity or close to it anyway. We own and operate a sizable business now and the thought of owning and running an Rv park seems awesome.

    We plan on attending the ARVC conference in Oklahoma City which is a group of Rv park owners that share ideas and collaborate together. Is there any other groups that we should look into?

    We like the idea of buying one already going and then rehab it, make it better, drive traffic, but we really want it in a certain area near a lot of attractions where the land is fairly priced and there are no rv parks around(area is sort of picked out already). The ground is not zoned commercial so we will run into some hurdles along the way. Plan on 20-40 acres and start with 10 sites right away, fill them up, then build another 10, up to 100-150 sites. Any advice on rezoning? Starting a Rv park? Construction cost? Would love to chat with some people that are in the game.
     
  2. Texasrvers

    Texasrvers
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  3. newkcmoedoe

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    Picking the brains of ARVC attendees is a good start. In my opinion, 10 sites is not big enough to gain traction to develop an actual business. You will have to amortize the costs of advertising, insurance, labor, basic infrastructure, land costs etc. against any potential income from 10 sites. A 10 site RV park will be an annoyance to your life in the best case scenario and likely a near bottomless money pit.
    Any guest you get at a 10 site RV park is not going to be a future guest when the park grows to a size that actually makes a profit. Almost by definition, a guest at a 10 site park is not looking for amenities, not looking for the social aspect of a larger park and will be looking for a very low price. If that is what you offer, that will be the reviews and reputation that follow the park as you expand and change, so those reviews and that reputation will be an impairment rather than an asset to the business in the future.
    The best advice I have about rezoning and permitting is to have very thick skin, the patience of a saint and a big bank account (you will likely need to provide professional engineering plans, environmental studies, impact studies etc.). You also need to be prepared to be vilified by the neighbors since nobody wants a trailer park in their back yard and that is exactly how the general public views RV parks.
    As for the costs involved, the average construction costs per site runs from around $7000 to over $15,000 for full hookups, gravel roads and pads. Those guesstimates would not include land and whatever is needed for the actual septic system. Be aware that it is becoming increasingly rare that a basic septic tank and drain field is acceptable. If you are required to use a more sophisticated system the costs can soar to over a half million dollars for the waste system alone. On top of that you will need a restroom and shower building and an office at a minimum. Even the minutiae will add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Picnic tables, trash cans, perimeter fencing, landscaping, signage, cleaning supplies, bathroom supplies, lawn care equipment, office supplies and a thousand other things you don't even know you need will have to be in place before you make dollar 1.
     
  4. Trails End RV Park

    Trails End RV Park
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    Hi Tim,

    My wife and I recently purchased an RV park in Florida that needed a great deal of work. Three year later we finally opened for business (just three weeks ago). We have learned a lot along the way, and still learning. The ARVC conference we attend in Florida was a great help to us. If we can help you in anyway feel free to reach out. Good luck!

    -Mike
     
  5. docj

    docj
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    IMO that's an odd way to describe how an RV park works. If you are expecting your sites to "fill up" it sounds as if you primarily are focused on long-term residents, not travelers. That's a valid "subset" of the RV business, but not necessarily the most common business model..

    If you do go to the ARVC show in OKC tomorrow, you are welcome to stop by the RVParkReviews booth to meet a few of us who will be staffing it.

    Joel (AKA docj)
     
  6. docj

    docj
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    We've been to some very popular parks that don't have any restrooms or showers. The parks are restricted to self-contained RVs which is the majority of them.

    I agree with your basic assumptions about customers of small RV parks, but there are plenty of RVers who aren't looking for amenities or "social aspects" of RV parks regardless of how big they are. We'd be thrilled to be able to count on a reasonably sized, landscaped site with some degree of privacy. We don't expect the park to provide our entertainment or social life. I understand those are important things for some people, but IMO you can have a successful park without spending a lot of effort on those aspects of RV life.
     
  7. newkcmoedoe

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    I agree, it sounds odd and is much harder in practice than it is in theory. While it is very counter intuitive, it is much easier to have high occupancy percentage when you have more sites rather than less. You need a certain amount of sites to be able to achieve a critical mass. With too few sites you have to turn away people who might be staying a week or two because you have all your sites booked for one of those days. Filling with long term residents creates all sorts of issues. The biggest being those residents will be governed under tenant/landlord laws rather than guest/innkeeper laws. Under tenant laws things like site keeping requirements, quiet hours, occupancy restrictions, additional vehicle rules, visitor rules, pet rules and countless other rules RV parks have are unenforceable. Evictions are no longer a matter of telling them to leave, but rather will require a court order and often a sheriff's deputy. When it comes to evicting a qualified mobile home (which a long term staying RV may very well be defined as depending upon the state statutes) even non payment of rent may not be reason enough to evict since many states have determined that a sited mobile home owned by the tenant incurs excessive expenses in removing that mobile home from the rental lot thus raising the threshold for eviction. From industry experience I can tell you I would be doing a whole lot of homework before entering into even one long term rental situation.
     
  8. newkcmoedoe

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    My point was they were apparently planning to build out a park over time, and I assume they will be adding amenities over time and as the park changes, the customers will change. The good and bad of review sites such as this is they create a permanent record of customer impressions. That is good if the park isn't changing, but bad if the park does change. For example, a review that states the park is very small, very inexpensive and a great no frills location to get away from the crowds will likely be a detriment should they expand from 10 sites to 100. The people looking for private, no frills and cheap will likely be disappointed when that is no longer the case, and those looking for amenities and the social aspect of a larger park may pass it by due to that older, but accurate at the time, review.

    With a 10 site park it is likely that there will only be two or three sites occupied on many nights. I know many RV'ers would find that uncomfortable. I know we have passed up many parks that were nearly empty, either because they give off a Deliverance type vibe, or we just assume there is something wrong because there is no one there. The feel of a 50 site park 30% full is just different than a 10 site park filled at the same percentage.
    As for having no restrooms or showers, those parks are eliminating some one third of all RVers right off the top. That would be adding yet another hurdle to developing a viable business. Not saying it can't be done, but they would be down to an awful thin slice of the RVing pie if all they took were long term stay RVers who are looking for privacy and seclusion and don't want any amenities, not even a campground restroom or shower house.
     
    #8 newkcmoedoe, Nov 6, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  9. docj

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    I'm not sure on what you base this assumption. Except for the smallest of trailers most RV's I'm familiar with have toilets and showers. We had both in our pop-up >25 years ago and in our Roadtrek. Yes, I do understand that quite a few RVers prefer not to use their own bathrooms, but that's their choice. They could use parks without those facilities if they wanted to use their RVs the way they were designed to be used.
     
  10. newkcmoedoe

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    You are right, if people prefer not to use their own bathrooms it is their choice. However, by making that choice they are no longer a potential customers for a park that does not have campground restrooms and showers. With nearly two decades of experience owning RV parks I feel pretty confident in my educated guess that around one out of three RVers do require campground to have restrooms and showers when making a decision where to stay. It is no different than all the other services RV parks offer. Not everyone needs Wifi, Cable TV, water hookups, Sewer hookups, electricity etc. Having those amenities does not preclude anyone who does not want them from staying, but not having them does .
     
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  11. mdcamping

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    We are in the one out of three, Our shower on our 20' TT is just to small and not practical so we use it for storage. Remember one campground we wanted to stay at that while at a camping show a few yrs ago, campground was straight full hooks ups with no showers/bathrooms, turned out to be a deal breaker for us.

    In a few yrs hoping to own a "real RV" and this will no longer be a concern. :cool:

    Mike
     
  12. Texasrvers

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    It is not a deal breaker for us if the park does not have showers because we have our own. However, if a park has showers, and they are very clean, and attractive, and roomy, we use them.
     
    #12 Texasrvers, Nov 9, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  13. leaf peeper

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    I agree - especially if we're on a W/E only site. Rather conserve my tank capacity - especially because I like nice looooong showers.

    Lori-
     
  14. Rollin Ollens

    Rollin Ollens
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    Like Joel, we use our own facilities but we always check out what the park has to offer.

    And speaking of what some parks have to offer is, to say the least, disappointing. If you are going to add facilities, please don't cheap out. On our trip south this year we have encountered two parks that use SHOWER CURTAINS for privy stall privacy!! Come on! There is no way to lock a shower curtain thus no guarantee of privacy. I don't care what the additional cost would be for a proper lockable door would be but if I had to use a facility like that I would not stay at the park. The same for shower stalls. Lockable doors and plenty of hooks. We are so glad that we have a unit with a usable bathroom/shower. Our two cents.

    Darrell & Jerry
     
  15. newkcmoedoe

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    Thanks!! Yet another reason/example of why if you are going to go into a business you need to enter it with both feet. Having an unrealistic budget and trying to save money by cutting corners will earn you a lot of bad will. It is why most businesses fail within the first couple of years. They are underfunded and that lack of funding is a factor leading to failure to provide the level of service required for the business to thrive. Should you pass through that area again, the fact the park chose a $5.00 shower curtain that needs to be replaced regularly instead of an upfront investment of a few hundred dollars for an actual functioning door is likely to mean you will look for another park rather than become repeat visitor.
     
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