How Much Will It Cost Me?
If you are buying a place you
can spend from about $5,000 to over $200,000. If you are
renting, you can spend from about $1600 a month to over
$2,000 per month. The price ranges are a reflection of the
unit itself (see: the Park
Model Trailers section) and the park.
(see: the About RV Resort
Also, rental prices can be quite
different depending on which months you are
renting. January to March is the peak season and generally the
higher rents. Some good bargains can be had during other winter
should be noted that a lot of rentals only end up being
rented for 3 months of the year. (Everyone wants Jan-Mar) The
annual overhead is often more than the annual revenue.
Until you have some idea what
appeals to you your costs are hard to estimate. But ...
... it is Affordable !!!
Any option, whether renting or
buying, is more affordable than most alternatives you will
find for spending winter time in a RESORT. And the parks are
Buying a Lifestyle - Not Just a Park Model
We keep referring to the
lifestyle throughout the site. That is because it is exactly that.
It is a lifestyle more than a piece of property.
As with other decisions
regarding your lifestyle there are choices to make when
considering taking up residence in an RV Resort Park. You do need
to browse around the site to see what is available and how that
fits with what your interests are.
Begin with the assumption that
you are buying a lifestyle. No different than reviewing
information on a vacation. You begin with your
interests to decide where to go before checking out the
rates for accomodation. This is really no
Of course your budget is
important and that needs to be part of any decision. So once you
have a good idea what parks and situations appeal to you then you
can look at some listings and see what you can afford.
Choices and More Choices
Just like any real
estate marketplace the options are wide-
ranging and will depend on some key factors and
Renting a park
model for the season or part of the season
Buying a park
model on a rented lot in a privately owned park
Buying into a resident-owned
park and owning a share in the park
Buying a new unit
model age, condition, and ammenities
facilities, activities, services, and security
Location including location
within the park
The park model owners
we talk to have quite a range of opinions
regarding the best way to approach this lifestyle. From renting
every year to investing in a resident-owned park.
Some say they do not want
any long-term commitments at this stage of life. Others feel
they can only relax if they have the security of
ownership ... 'never have rented and never will'.
Renting year after year
is not that common. The uncertainty of not knowing where
you will be next year is not too comforting. But renting first
before buying is common. Trying it out by renting
is often how people 'get sold' on the lifestyle
the investment can be so modest (when buying a unit and
renting the lot) there are some who feel they hardly have
much to lose if values drop. Even then any loss is hardly
more than some people spend on a single vacation.
And ... don't forget the option of a New
a variety of options where it may make sense to actually
buy a brand new unit ... exactly how you want it. And
there are circumstances where it can be more affordable
than you may think.
For example ... there are many parks
that have some very old units for sale. Some are almost at
giveaway prices. They no longer have much appeal / value ... but
... because they are old they happen to be in the most
prime locations in the park ... first there at one time.
You can buy that old unit ... securing that very
desireable location ... and place a new unit on the site. In some
cases you may be able to benefit from a nice shed and other
infrastructure such as a very usable awning and other outside
Even in resident owned parks
there are opportunities to buy some very desireable lots that
are designed for parking RVs but have a nice outside
setup in place including sheds with washer/dryer and
awnings etc. But even in the resident owned parks you will
see older park models (complete with lot) that are not priced
much higher than an open lot. Again ... being older they tend to
be in the (early) most desireable
Also ... something of note for those
preferring larger units. We have seen some parks beginning to
allow/accomodate larger units in their parks. That means you can
benefit from that park lifestyle while having that extra bedroom
for whern the kids visit.
Each Park is
it's own 'Miniature Marketplace'
While reviewing park model listings and sales we notice
quite a difference in prices from park to park. similar units
would be priced as much as double from one park to the
next one down the street. Its like they were in
What tends to
happen is that each park is almost its own marketplace. If
there are a lot of units for sale in that park then prices
are lower. If few for sale then prices are higher.
What tends to happen is that each park is almost its own
marketplace. This happens because of the limitation and expense of
moving a unit from one park to another. And of course some parks
are just more popular than others ... supply and demand at
The Current Market
The combination of recession, depressed real
estate market, bad winters up north ... and the higher
value of the Canadian dollar ... all played a part in the RV
Resort Park marketplace in recent years. But things have
In the past two years the
weather 'up north' had played a huge role in creating more
interest (incentive) to head south. This past winter
up north was one of the worst and longest in memory.
As a result we are seeing more interest for heading
In recent years the American
economy and Arizona housing market have been recovering and
the Canadian dollar has taken a dive.
It's that Canadian dollar that
causes some concern. Canadians represent as much as 30% of the
market in many parks. With the dollar hitting a low of about 70
cents (from a high of $1.05 in recent years) it results in
some altered decision making. Some decide to sell
and profit from that dollar change. Some decide to rent
instead of buy ... a 'wait and see'. And some decide to stay
north of the border.
A couple years ago we had a large web host in SK
do a survey of snowbird interest. Of the
1300 respondents (with snowbirds in the family) 50% are
changing their plans as a result of the lower dollar.
But ... there is an
upside. The improved American economy has resulted
in more interest ... at least on our sites ... in the Arizona
winter. That traffic helped make up for a leveling off in our
number of Canadian website visitors.
Also .. for the past few years
100s of Canadians took advantage of the depressed home market in
Arizona (and their high dollar at the time) to buy houses and
condos in Arizona. But ... as the home/condo deals get
harder to find it is reasonable to expect a shift to the
more affordable parks. 'Affordability' is huge for
many snowbirds ... especially those on smaller fixed incomes.
Also ... older Canadians have
experienced many ups and downs in the Canadian dollar. (It tends
to follow oil prices) When it drops there is a huge reaction and
less spending out of country. But ... after a while they get used
to it and pay far less attention. And ... of course oil prices can
change quickly and the dollar will probably follow.
There may still be a bit of
'wait and see' happening by some but that could change quickly. It
is a bit of a 'market transition' period.
But snowbirds are usually not going to wait
long at this stage of life. So ... some may still
decide to rent instead of buy this year. But once
they experience a park they will get attached and not
want to move. They will then buy in that
The 'Baby Boomers' are Coming!!!
It is defineately 'baby
boomer' retirement time. And that group of new retirees
are somewhat different than the older generation. They come out
of homes maybe twice the size as that of the
older retirees. They generally have more money to
spend/invest. And ... yes ... many are more likely attracted
to the higher end condos and homes.
But ... care
should be taken when generalizing about this group. Average means
may be better but there is also a huge number of 'boomers'
of more modest resources who will opt for the more
affordable lifestyle. The baby boomer generation is simply
a disproportionately large age group and they are still
as diverse as any other age group. Although that diversity
has some different interests.
A recent report done on
interests of baby boomers found that the number one
activity interest is hiking. Some of the hobby crafts are
lower but golfing is high. The trend is worth
watching by the parks and hopefully they will respond accordingly.
'Easterners' ... some new
Another thing we have
noticed (from the emails we get) is some
interest from 'easterners' in coming to
Arizona instead of their traditional Florida winter time. While
not a large number it does raise the question
of 'why'. It may just be part of the total influx, but
it is worth watching.
This may not be anything new to
the experienced park operators, but to us it is. In the 9
years since starting the website we have noticed an increase
in the percentage of easterners inquiring about
this lifestyle. The numbers are small but does seem to be
What we get are comments about
the concern over hurricanes; the difference in prices; less
bugs; the need for dry climate (for health reasons); and just
general 'want to try something different'.
Small but worth
This Market is Different
The marketplace for park model
trailers in RV Resort Parks is 'different' than the traditional
real estate market. The owners are far less likely to face
financial problems than the general working population
and to most of them this is not their primary/permanent home.
They are also not faced with
mortgage problems and potential foreclosures. In most cases the
motivation to sell their unit has little to do with 'needing the
money'. Often the decision to sell is simply health
As a result ... prices do not
tend to follow the traditional housing market. It is unique to
this segment of society.
are now Less Affordable
and 'Be Careful'
You may be attracted to that
nice house or condo ... you have spent your whole life buying and
upgrading to a larger and nicer home. But be careful, the deal may
not be what it appears ... and ... in addition to missing
out on the 'lifestyle' ... you need to consider issues
like security and a lot more driving.
The real estate market in the
Phoenix area has been through considerable turmoil with
bargains everywhere. But that is now changing as the market
Some may still want that larger
home ... But be careful. The alternatives to the
RV parks seldom offer the security and lifestyle available in
the parks. There are a few horror stories involving short
sales and properties with hidden problems.
was about to finalize a condo purchase when I learned
that the building was
actually on 'leased' land. The 25-year lease was about
to expire and the new lease rate was wide open for a huge
increase. Had never heard of that before."
'Gated' community may not
mean 'guarded'. That condo may be a great deal but remember you
are not there for at least half the year. And you are
looking for a lifestyle not just a building. Few
condo complexes offer the lifestyle available in the RV parks.
One advantage of the RV Resort
market is that it tends to be far more stable. While impacted
for sure it is not subject to the same dramatic swings.
Again ... the market is different.
the 'Time to Buy'?
The demographics of
snowbirds means there is always a certain turnover of
units so you will see many buying options available. And the
somewhat 'flatening' in the market (see: above) has resulted in
additional units on the market. Of course that
does present some opportunity for good
deals. (We have witnessed some of those)
In our opinion ...
if you like the lifestyle then at least shop around for
buying options. Renting year after year can be a lot of
to Canadians ... remember this is no longer
about investment in your home that may pay off in a few years. It
is about the lifestyle. If that dollar were to
take a quick jump you will see demand for park models go up and
that means higher prices. But you are now about to enjoy that
retirement. Don't make that decision on what may happen in a few
There are a lot of discussions among newer park residents about
what makes the most sense when it comes to renting or buying.
Everyone seems to have a different point of view and it really
comes down to personal circumstances.
Some will suggest that if you can buy a reasonable trailer on a
rented lot for around $15,000 then why rent. How much do you stand
to lose? Others suggest that renting gives you that opportunity to
see if you like it before you invest anything more long term.
From those long time residents we have spoken to it seems most
started off either renting a trailer or coming in an RV or
similar. The one common theme is that they all ended up buying
sooner or later. It is rare to find long time visitors who
Renting a Park Model
Renting a park model can certainly provide you with a
good opportunity to 'try it out' to see whether you like
the lifestyle and the park. It also allows you an affordable way
to spend as little as one month in the park in the sunny
south if you are not yet able to commit for the whole winter
Even though you are only renting you should give some
consideration to whether the park is one you may later consider as
a more permanent location. It is easy to become part of that park
community and not want to change park locations should you later
decide to buy your own trailer.
The unit itself is actually less important than the
park where it is located. Of course you want a clean and
comfortable trailer but you are experiencing a lifestyle not just
renting a place to sleep. Look at the park website and make sure
it has the facilities, amenities, and activities that suit your
interests and lifestyle.
This is also a good time to compare the differences between
privately-owned parks and resident-owned parks (see: private vs. resident-owned parks
section). If you feel you would prefer a resident-owned
park (should you later decide to buy) then you should focus your
rental search to those parks.
The wide range of rental prices of course generally
reflects the quality of both the park and the trailer. They are
also affected by location in the park. Those on the outside
backing maybe busy streets will be less costly than those closer
in and in easy proximity of central facilities. When you browse
the park sites you will easily see the differences.
The average cost of a rental in a quality park is probably in
the area of $1500 per month. (Although a good trailer in a
good size park can be found for as little as $1000 to $1400 a
month). In addition to your rent you may have some utility costs
including whatever telephone, television, and internet services
The term of the rental will probably impact the monthly cost. A
shorter term can cost you more (per month) than taking the place
for the whole season. The month(s) being rented can also affect
way to 'try it out'
Renting for the most popular months will often cost more. That
tends to be the January to March period. Some good deals can be
found if you are willing to rent in the months of April,
November, or December. Some rentals will be as much as 30 to 50
percent lower in those months.
Try November/December/April. If you
only have limited time (not quite retired yet) you may
want to give the off-season a try. Some parks even offer rentals
in the off-season for as little as two weeks. They realize you
will get sold on the lifestyle and their parks.
Buying and Renting the lot in a
Privately Owned Park
That wide range of prices for buying a trailer in a park is all
for good reason.
The lowest price of (say) $5,000 probably puts you into a very
old trailer and possibly one that is smaller in size, has only
propane heat and cooking, and may lack outdoor amenities. And of
course it can be in poor repair but not necessarily. It can still
be quite a comfortable unit and serve as an alternative to
The high end units are quite luxurious, will have more space
and a lot of amenities, and would be located in a park where you
are also buying the lot and your share of the park ownership.
(see: private vs. resident-owned parks).
If you are going into a privately owned park and renting the
lot then you can get quite a nice unit with nice amenities for
around $15-20,000. And then there are the annual costs to pay.
The following is a general guide only intended to give you
some idea of annualized costs.
Owned unit on a Rented Lot
$25,000 park model in an average privately owned park)
Lot Rental (including misc. park fees)
Utilities and misc
*In addition to the above costs you will need to add
whatever upkeep and financing costs apply to your situation and
trailer condition. Also, any telephone, internet, and cable TV
services you decide to purchase.
It is far more likely that your trailer will depreciate rather
than appreciate like a house or other property. That can vary a
lot but generally the trailers do in fact depreciate. (Also check
the comments about trailer age under 'watch out for the rules'
section in About RV Resort
Buying in a Resident-Owned
The alternative of buying into a resident-owned park will make
the original investment considerably more but will also provide
more opportunity for hedging against inflation and somewhat reduce
annualized costs. (see: Private vs. Resident-Owned Parks).
If you browse the resident-owned park websites you can get an
idea of the prices for trailers and lots. Prices range quite
widely but an average investment can range from maybe $50,000 to
$100,000 and some actually near $200,000 and over. An average
may be around $80,000.
It is important to remember that you are buying into the whole
park, not just the trailer and the lot. (In fact legally you do
not actually own the lot but rather a percentage of the whole
park). The price variance in the resident-owned parks is impacted
by your share in the asset value and financial strength of the
whole park. As a result there can be quite a difference in the
prices from park to park. Very much like buying into a condo
The following estimate is for comparison purposes
only. Every park and situation is somewhat different.
Owned unit in a Resident-Owned Park.
Annual park HOA (condo) fees
Total Direct Cost*
*In addition to the above costs you will need to add
whatever upkeep and financing costs apply to your situation and
trailer condition. Also, any telephone, internet, and cable TV
services you decide to purchase. Values of the property and park
shares may appreciate rather than depreciate.
Over the past 10-20 years the investments in these parks have
generally produced good returns. But current economic conditions
are hard to assess relative to these parks. So far they have not
been impacted in the same way as the other real estate but they
are also not immune. As alternatives to park model trailers become
more affordable it is understandable that will impact these units.
Private vs Resident-Owned
The differences in privately-owned parks and resident-owned
parks can be compared to renting an apartment vs. buying the
apartment (condo). The resident-owned parks are just that ...
'condo type' ownership of the park which includes your lot.
One real advantage expressed by some owners in resident-owned
parks is that they do not have to put up with poor park
management. Of course there are some park managers/owners who are
better than others but there can also be some condo boards that
are better than others.
The important thing is to make sure you understand the
differences and then choose based on your own preferences.
Those who are shopping for the first time are often reluctant
to make the larger investment of buying into a resident-owned park
so will tend to 'try out' the lifestyle by renting their lot in a
private park and only risking the price of the trailer.
But once they settle on a park and become a part of the
community they may tend to stay in that same park. Even if they
regret (later) not buying into a resident-owned park it is now
tough to move and start again.
If you think you would prefer a resident-owned park, but are
not ready to make the investment, then you should consider just
renting the trailer in your chosen park to see what it is like.
The number one issue is budget. There is a considerable
difference in the 'original' investment required to buy
into a resident-owned park rather than renting a lot in a private
park. (see: how much will it cost me section) The difference
of buying at (say) $15,000 compared to (maybe) $100,000 or more is
understandably a huge impediment to choosing a resident-owned
But there is also a budget
advantage. As you are not paying rent your annual operating
costs are lower. You will be assessed a form of 'condo fee' but
that is less than you would pay when renting your trailer lot in a
And you can feel comfort in knowing that any monthly fee
increases are based on actual cost increases and less subject to
inflationary market/supply forces.
The 'Security' Advantages of
There are two 'primary'
advantages of resident-owned parks. They both relate to the
security that is important to many retirees.
- Security of Investment
Many people strongly prefer owning their properties, whether it
is their house or condo 'back home' or their winter residence.
Buying your own lot and your share (in the park ownership) can
be a good hedge against future potential inflation.
At the time of retirement most seniors want the comfort of
knowing what their costs 'are going to be'. Those living on
primarily fixed incomes do not want to get hit by inflationary
pressures in later years.
Despite the current downturn in real estate prices the
properties in resident-owned parks have not been subject to the
same negative impact. Over time, the property values in
resident-owned parks has risen. There is no reason to believe
that this will change over the next few years.
Of course economic forces will affect all properties and all
properties are subject to swings in the marketplace. But the huge
baby boomer market that may soon impact all retirement facilities
could easily drive up prices in the fairly near future.
- Security in Participation
As a shareholder in a resident-owned park you have both the
right and the opportunity to participate in the decision-making
While some people may prefer not to participate, there is
comfort in knowing that you do have that right and (maybe most
important) that those making the decisions are residents just
The decisions being made are intended to be in the best
interests of the park residents. Budgets, facilities, rules,
activities, and all operating procedures are managed by an elected
While you may not like some of the decisions that are taken, at
least you have an opportunity for input.
There can be other risks associated with renting in a private
park compared to investing in the owner parks.
Although rare, it 'has happened' where a private owner decides
to sell the property for some new major development. In that case
all the trailer owners have a problem. The cost to move to another
park is one issue but also the age of the trailer may even prevent
A private park can also be sold to new owners who decide to
change the rules, rents, or other things impacting the residents.
But market forces are also at play and any owner is wise to
provide good customer service if they want to be successful in the