“Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.”
– Isaiah 5:20,
New International Version (NIV),
per Bible Gateway.
As thousands of daily readers have come to know, every part of the headline will be dealt with systematically, one step at a time. But in this case, not in that headline sequence.
The vast majority of Americans say they believe in God. If by God they mean the Creator of all that exists, Who established the laws of gravity, physics, a legal and moral code, then questions of what is good or evil ought to arise. The Jewish Scriptures – a.k.a. the Christian Old Testament – says that Moses came down from Mount Sinai with Ten Commandments. The Christian New Testament says Jesus summed up those ten into two, without diminishing the 10 at all. Those two commandments were to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
What passes for education and information in America today is often, but not always, agenda driven.
As a disclosure, we have an agenda too. We believe in quality, affordable manufactured homes. We believe that it is the most proven affordable housing solution now known in the U.S. We believe in free enterprise. We believe in best practices that are ethical, more fun, yields happy customers, and is also profitable. We believe that manufactured housing is one of the most amazing opportunities found in our nation today. We believe that customers can be honestly served, can profit or benefit, while businesses can make an honest profit doing so.
There is, in a phrase, the opportunity for mutual victories for businesses and consumers, vs. the win-lose mentality of some. We believe that most people want to do things the right way, but that some have and do things the wrong way. There are also some who have simply become confused and/or have lost their way.
Nevertheless, despite the opportunity, the demonstrably good points about manufactured homes and manufactured home living done well, manufactured homes are misunderstood. We aim to correct that misunderstanding in a manner that honors God and neighbor.
Despite billions in annual revenues, manufactured homes are widely misunderstood. Why? Despite hundreds of billions in potential revenue, manufactured homes and communities are widely misunderstood. How can that be?
Who benefits from that reality?
Once the evidence and money trails are examined with an open mind, the answer becomes logically simple and clear. Some like the status quo, despite what they might say, because they have found a way to benefit from things as they are. There are those who have learned to profit from the industry while keeping the industry’s new home production vastly underperforming.
A few people with deep pockets are demonstrably keeping the industry underperforming and misunderstood – through a combination of action and inaction – doing so in a fashion that has caused tens of thousands of honest businesses to suffer. Those victims of the consolidators building their unethical moats include retailers, communities, producers, suppliers, lenders, and others. That in turn hurts workers, residents, and potential manufactured homeowners. It hurts renters, taxpayers, and government.
The many suffer due to the few. The many suffer in part because they don’t understand what is occurring.
God speaking through the prophet said: “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:6, New International Version (NIV), per Bible Gateway.
The status quo demonstrably harms tens of millions of Americans. But to some, that is less important than widening their wallets and deepening their Moats, in often clever but nevertheless unethical and at times possibly illegal ways.
From firsthand experience, this writer has learned the hard way that some can look you in the eyes, smile, lie to your face, all while being charming and convincing.
As an MHI member told us this week:
- “…Some of the worst offenders are current MHI members. Others, are former students of various get rich in the MH business schools.”
Another message from an MHI connected professional said this
- “I am just doing my gig while listening and observing.”
Listening and observing make perfect sense, because that is how clarity is found. MHProNews periodically stress that there are good people in business, or that may be working for problematic organizations and nonprofits. Each person, each organization, in fairness should have the principle of wheat and chaff applied to them.
Information and education ought to go hand in hand. Ideally, they ought to bring clarity and truth. Misinformation is the opposite of education.
So called ‘education’ or information that violates the law or the commandments are a contradiction to the biblical admonition not to call good evil and evil good.
Additional disclosures. Like millions of businesses, we aim to profit from what we do, and have profited for many years. It should be self-evident that we profit, and just because some don’t understand how, that doesn’t change the obvious reality that people in business for over a decade must be doing something right. Some ‘don’t get it,’ but we earn our keep and then some by providing honest services that promote ethical ways to profitably advance at the local level despite a largely broken system. Some of the better-known honest accomplishments in our industry in recent years have demonstrably been done with our professional involvement. There are dozens and dozens who have publicly said so.
- We believe the profit potential is higher by doing things the correct way than by doing things the wrong way.
- We believe that ‘manufactured homes done right’ could be good for tens of millions of more Americans.
- That makes manufactured housing among one of the highest upside potential businesses in the U.S. today.
MHProNews and our related operations may be taking what some think is a difficult path. It is what it is.
But if the manufactured home industry’s white hat operators and professionals don’t work promptly to make fundamental changes that exposes the immoral ‘black hat’ brands, then regulators and lawmakers will step in. Senator Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers are already in the process of doing so.
When new laws regulating manufactured housing get passed, guess who is likely to benefit from that process? Here is the obvious answer. It will be those who have the most or key lawmakers in their pockets. Isn’t that what occurred with Dodd-Frank? Didn’t big lenders get bigger since Dodd-Frank, while smaller lenders often got forced out or consolidated?
Those who manipulate information have set up their own echo chamber. The Arlington, VA based Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) – based on evidence and years of problematic behavior – is arguably part of that echo chamber system.
MHI leaders yesterday would not answer one simple question.
Why doesn’t MHI apply that demonstrably correct principle stated by Tim Williams?
Let’s let that question hang for now, but don’t forget it.
For thousands of regular daily readers on MHProNews from firms and investors of all sizes, here is a teaser of what is ahead.
The pattern of activity by the so-called Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their adherents has been well documented and established in the past few years. The powers that be are happy to spin their own narrative that conveniently ignores key evidence. They are unlikely to stop, until circumstances force them to do so. Readers can look at what they say and do, look at our research, reports, fact-checks, and analysis, and with some common sense, sort out where the truth happens to be.
Frank Rolfe and Sean of the Dead
Before diving into “Sean of the Dead” and Frank Rolfe’s recent tele-call interview with him for Mobile Home University (MHU), here is the lens MHProNews suggests readers use.
First, given years of purported market manipulation, ask yourself this question. Why are so many manufactured home communities that were long successful – often for decades – why in more recent years have they fallen on hard times?
- What role has weaponizing the image of manufactured homes and communities played in that process?
- Who has benefited from weaponizing the image of manufactured homes and communities?
- Who has been harmed?
- At what cost has this occurred to thousands of honorable industry professionals?
- How many residents and would be manufactured home customers ha exclamation been harmed or lost?
Next, the principle of wheat and chaff must in fairness be applied. There are good, bad and problematic ideas in what follows. MHProNews is not endorsing it by quoting it at length. In fact, one could make the case that if what they said is true – not mere hype or hyperbole – that several laws are arguably being violated.
It is entirely possible that ‘Frank and Dave’ began what they are doing with the purest of motives and did so honestly. That said, one question ought to be: where are they in the legal and moral spectrum today?
We do not doubt that they are profitable. But could they be even more profitable without taking advantage of people?
With that tee up, here is their MHU tele-call transcript. There are obvious typos in it. We get typos too, so that is not a tag, it is only to say that if a phrase seems a bit off, it may be because there was a typo in the transcript of the call. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of professionals and investors heard this conversation live.
A brief closing commentary and links will follow. The header was designed by MHProNews, and the picture is of Frank Rolfe. As regular readers know, we don’t agree for professional and pragmatic reasons with their use of terminology.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MOBILE HOME PARK OWNER, “SEAN OF THE DEAD”
There’s only one Sean of the Dead – the guy that buys mobile home parks that are completely dead and brings them back to life. Unpaid property taxes, embezzling seller, massive vacancy, utility disasters – all no problem for Sean. His deals are legendary for low up-front investment and huge rates of return. We’ve been trying to get him on a Lecture Series event for years, and now we’ve finally succeeded.
Hear how Sean has bought four parks over the past six years doing what he does best: selecting properties that are a total disaster, buying them for a penny on the dollar, and then bringing them back to life. We know you’ll learn an enormous amount from this interview!
If you want to learn skills that Sean used to succeed with his parks, attend our Mobile Home Park Investor’s Boot Camp. You’ll learn how to identify, evaluate, negotiate, perform due diligence on, finance, turn-around and operate mobile home parks. The course is taught by Frank Rolfe who, with his partner Dave Reynolds, is one of the largest owners of mobile home parks in the U.S…
Transcript Of Our Interview With Mobile Home Park Owner, Sean
Frank Rolfe: Welcome to another Mobile Home University lecture series event. This is Frank Rolfe, and I’m very excited. This is one we’ve been trying to do for a long time. Today we’ll be discussing mobile home park industry with a fellow we know affectionately as Sean of the Dead.
Frank Rolfe: Now, why we call him Sean of the Dead is we take pride in buying old and dying mobile home parks and bringing those back to life, but Sean has made a mastery of buying dead mobile home parks and bringing those back to life. So, where we buy stuff that’s in distress, he buys stuff that’s so far gone that you have to get out the old electrical paddles to shock it back to life. And so, we thought this would be very interesting for people. We have a lot of people who ask us how can they get into the industry without a lot of money. Well, one of the key ways is how Sean has done it by just buying things for a penny on the dollar, and Sean are you here with us?
Sean B: I am, Frank. Thanks for the great introduction.
Frank Rolfe: Well Sean, we’re glad to have you. So, let me ask you some basics here. First off, how did you even think about mobile home parks as something to invest in? How did that weirdo idea ever come to you?
Sean B: I started with single family housing in my early 20s, and I was doing pretty good. I’d buy one a year, pay it off, buy another one. Pretty plain and simple, but I built a nice portfolio doing that, and I was happy with that. Well, I have bird dogs that would find houses, and they’d bring houses to me to purchase. They’d get a commission off them. This one bird dog, he kept telling me he had a mobile home park for me to look at, and I did not want to look at it at all. Had no interest. He must’ve asked me four or five times. I actually finally said, “Quit talking about this, I’m not interested at all.”
Sean B: So one night he came and he picked me up, and he drove me through the mobile home park. I was looking at some of the numbers, and this particular park was a 46 space park, and the owner was claiming there was only 15 or 20 people living there. So, I drove back through on my own at night and started counting lights on and cars in front of the places and find out the number was substantially higher. And I started digging into it a little bit and just got a little bit hungry and interested to see what was going on.
Sean B: Well, low and behold, I basically find out that this park was owned by a family. One of the kid was running the park. The other three were out of state. The one that was running the park, he was basically stealing money from the other ones, telling them the park wasn’t making any money. He wasn’t paying the taxes, on, and on, and on. So, I went down, and I called him on it. The numbers are what they are, but basically I took their asking price, and I told him, I said, “Here’s the deal, here’s my offer. I need you to accept it or tomorrow I’m going to have to let your three siblings know how much money this park brings in,” and I was able to get the park signed over that way.
Sean B: So, I ended up purchasing the park, and that was my first little go around at it. I started buying every mobile home on Craigslist that I could, made friends with the mobile home park mover, which seems to be some of the lazier people on Earth, at least around here because it’s hard to get them to do anything for you, and filled the park up and turned it around. It went pretty well.
Frank Rolfe: Give me an idea of, not to the dollar but just ballpark, so how much did you buy this park for? Just ballpark.
Sean B: Around 130,000 into it when we purchased it.
Frank Rolfe: Gotcha. Gotcha, okay. All right, so you did that deal, and how has that worked out?
Sean B: It worked out good. I did that for probably six months to a year on my own, and that’s honestly I started digging in trying to educate myself on mobile home parks because all I got from the local real estate groups is they told me to run. They said they’re a nightmare. Once you buy them the city comes down on you, you lose all your grandfathering. They told me all kind of things.
Sean B: And luckily enough, that’s back when I first heard about you guys, Frank. You were having a class in Ohio. I think it was in Columbus, and I tell you what, that was worth its weight in gold. Because I’m generally a pretty cheap guy, and I don’t like spending money. I got your ticket and I went, and I tell you what, the education I got there and just having you as a friend and a contact has just been great ever since.
Frank Rolfe: Tell us, let’s just go out from there. So, you get the first park, come to boot camp, and then what do you do? Tell us about the second park, like how you found it and how that worked.
Sean B: Well honestly, after I went to boot camp, I had to go back to the first park and do everything over again because I pretty much did everything wrong and was really setting myself up for some disaster. Everything from the way I had my leases and the way I was renting mobile homes to how I was charging for master metered utilities. So, like I said, then I went back, and I went back and tweaked the park and put it back together again, and things went pretty well.
Sean B: From there, I pretty much, I looked at some more parks for a while and never really jumped on anything. I bought a little one down the street. It’s like a 30 space park, and it’s a dead park. It’s really on the project list still. It just has a couple homes in it. From there, I guess I just didn’t find any parks for a year or so, and then I bought another one real close to home. It’s either a 28 or 32 space park, and this one’s more of a country setting, and this one I give a lot of credit just to listening in your class and where it comes to building relationships because this park, it screamed loser. Everybody that looked at it, they didn’t like it, but this really ended up turning into a cash cow.
Sean B: I looked at the park when it first came up for sale, and I think they had it listed for about 600,000, and I watched it come down over a couple years. It was down to, I think they were asking 200,000, maybe 150, and I really checked out the park at that point, looked at it, and the bottom line was there was 130,000 in back taxes on the park, and they were trying to get out of that and put some money in their pockets. The husband and died about 10 years prior. They quit paying the taxes at that point. They pocketed all the money. They let the park just really go down the tubes.
Sean B: I got a relationship with the son. He was a couple years older than me, and then that worked right into the mother that was the overseer. After building that relationship which as you know takes many steps, and lots of time, and lots of listening, and lots of shutting up and listening, and trying not to fall asleep or have your eyes roll in the back of your head, but bottom line is I got the park for back taxes. I paid the $130,000. I listened to her need. Her need was she was getting older, and she was afraid she was going to die and leave all this problem for her son. So, I listened to her problem just like I’ve heard you teach, and I focused on the problem. She wasn’t looking for money. She was looking to get out of the park, and I gave her that solution, and she jumped on it so fast you wouldn’t even believe it. I barely had time to get the title search done. We closed on the house, or closed on the park, and it’s been a nice investment.
Sean B: I’m slowly working that one up, but to build more on that particular story and the power of these relationships, you just never know who you’re dealing with. So, after I bought this park off of her and have such a strong relationship with her and her son, I very gingerly would ask questions because they’re very private people, and I was very cautious on what I asked and didn’t want to step on any toes and lots of breakfasts and all that stuff. So, finally she told me, she said, “Hey, I have 25 properties left,” and I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “I have 25 properties that I need to get rid of, and that will be it. I won’t have anything else left.” And I thought, wow, okay.
Sean B: So, I looked at these properties, and there was some single family houses. They’re mostly mobile homes on single parcels. Couple have two mobile homes on one parcel. Couple have three mobile homes on one parcel. It’s the majority of this dead little down, first couple streets of it. Same relationship, we worked on this. This was about a year and a half after we closed on the first park. I got all the houses for free. All the mobile homes, the houses that she had, the other 25, I just did a quick claim deed. I wrote a $7,500 check. This time what I did, I didn’t pay off the taxes, I just assumed the back taxes. Again, all she wanted was the houses out of her name, all the properties out of her name. I took all the properties.
Sean B: Honestly, I still owe the back taxes because I’ve been just using the tax office as the bank and negotiating a little bit to try to get some of the penalties down since I’m helping to revitalize an old town that’s really dead. It’s been a good thing. The relationship’s really helped. So, just that right there I got a park and all those parcels with all those mobile homes. I mean, I’m still not into that for $200,000, so it’s a good thing.
Frank Rolfe: So, just for the people who are trying to figure this out Sean, because your deals are always so insane. So you bought all the homes and the land for $7,500 plus the assumption of back taxes, correct?
Sean B: Yes, 7,500. What the 7,500 was is I try to not to do things too stupidly, and I don’t always do great due diligence, but what I did do this time, I think I paid $125 per parcel to basically do a check on the title just to make sure there weren’t any liens over and above or different from the back taxes because obviously the taxes had been liened. They hadn’t been paid in 10 plus years.
Sean B: So that $7,500 was to have the attorney do all the paperwork and do the title searches, the minimal title searches, and close. And at that point, out of the houses some were rented. Some were just full of stuff, but there were some rented and they were producing almost $4,000 a month at closing where I paid the 7,500 so-
Frank Rolfe: How many do you have occupied to be at 4,000?
Sean B: Well at 4,000 there was three single family stick build houses that were rented, and as far as mobiles, there was the whole front row. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven … There was probably eight or nine of the mobiles that were rented out, and some were rented, some were just lot rent. It was a total mess, but to walk into this deal, and after we closed the owners went around with me, the previous owners went around with me to collect rent because they would just knock on the door and collect rent in hand. That was a great way to start out the first month and darn near get half my money back, and you know where it goes from there.
Frank Rolfe: So, and just to clarify, so basically you were already at 4,000 with less than half the homes occupied?
Sean B: Oh yes, yes. Yeah, and we’re putting somebody in one of those homes every other month. I’m really having a hard time finding workers at all right now. I’m very sadly, I’m using my kids’ friends from school, 15 and 16 year olds.
Frank Rolfe: Oh, shoot.
Sean B: These 30 year old guys that have any skills, I can’t get them to want to work. Haven’t had much luck with them lately. We’ve been turning over probably three or four properties a month as far as having new tenants come in. So, we’re just playing catch up, and we have a lot of work ahead of us.
Frank Rolfe: So, Sean, let’s go back to the deal from which that one sprang, that park you bought from 130,000, what do you think the net income is on that park? The park before you bought the miniature town. Just ballpark.
Sean B: That park when I bought it, I think her lot rents were at two and a quarter, and there was less than 10 homes occupied at that point, and three of them weren’t paying. So, I mean there was very little money coming in, just a couple thousand a month.
Frank Rolfe: And where are you at today? What’s your average today?
Sean B: I think today we’re probably to where we have around 12, and like I said, we just go one at time. And unforunately because my crews are so small, we’ll have them working in a park and they’ll be halfway done with a trailer, and we’ll have an emergency somewhere else and we don’t get back to that park for a month or two. So, I’m just having some workforce problems right now.
Frank Rolfe: Gotcha. Okay, well Sean, tell people, how do you spot the Sean of the Dead deals? What do you look for that excites you that there might be a deal here? What raw materials are you always on the hunt for? Is it just cheap price or-
Sean B: Honestly, yeah I don’t want to pay any kind of market price just for an income. I mean, because I’m still very physically active, and I’m very involved. So, I’m not just buying these for passive income. I’m buying them for entertainment in a lot of ways. Once I got my eye on the mobile home parks it’s not really that hard to find them once you make relationships with the mobile home mover. He pretty much tells you where all of them are. He can give you the phone numbers of the owners, where you find Bertha with her phone number from 1950 where you can’t find her in the Yellow Pages or anything else, and next thing you know you’re starting the action on another deal. I only look for parks owned by mom-and-pop. So, if I see a park and I pull up and say, hey, I’ll ask some basic questions just to get a conversation started, but the bottom line is if it’s not a mom-and-pop park I really don’t even follow up anymore. I would only go with the mom-and-pop parks because they just seem to be such easy pickings if it’s where you want it to be.
Frank Rolfe: And Sean, so obviously you’re looking for low cost, and you’re looking for to some degree sense of urgency in the part of the seller, mom-and-pop. You do do private utilities, correct?
Sean B: You know what, I do both. Both ways I have utilities. No, well I mean, always public utilities, but I do master-metered and individually metered. So, the master-metered doesn’t totally scare me because my first park had master meter electric and water. So once you get it, you’re kind of stuck with it. It really, to me it didn’t seem to be worthwhile … Well, the utility companies didn’t want to come in. So, I bought my own meters, and I read my meters every month. And I have a little program, throw them right into the iPad and it does the calculations, add it right onto their lot rent, and bill it.
Frank Rolfe: And how do you manage these? Do you have managers at each one, or self-manage, or what are you doing on that?
Sean B: Yeah, you know what, currently I am, I do have managers at each park. Once again, always with what I’ve learned going to the boot camps, and I’ve been to multiple by the way, too. I think I’ve been to three or four. You’re always looking for your next manager. I have one girl that’s been with me for five years, and she’s great, and she’s wonderful, but boy, I’d just love to find somebody with some ambition that wants to do something new and easier. She’s good with writing out the bills the same way she has for the last five years. So, I’m just looking to move ahead and move on if I can find somebody that has a little bit of ambition and a different direction.
Frank Rolfe: All right, and then how much time a week do you spend managing the existing ones? Not buying new ones but managing the existing?
Sean B: As far a managing, I wouldn’t even say three or four hours a week. I usually drive through each park at least once a week. Maybe I’ll show a home or meet a tenant that’s already seen a home. I do micromanage them a little bit and just kind of snoop around, but as far as the management of the park there’s just really nothing to it. Honestly, in addition to driving through each park once a week, I actually will hangout in each park usually one evening a week, and I have my little groups, and I’ll go around from trailer to trailer and say hi to people on a Friday or Saturday night. To me, it’s entertainment. They all tell on each other. So I find out the deal, who’s living where when they shouldn’t be, who won the lottery, who got a bigger check from the government, whatever it is. You get to find out all the skinny, and like I said, it’s entertainment. I actually just really love it.
Frank Rolfe: What would you consider the best deal you’ve done so far? What’s your best Sean of the Dead deal today, do you think?
Sean B: You know what, I hold them all equal because I won’t buy anything that’s bad. My criteria’s always the same. I would hold it equally the same with all of them. I can’t really separate any of them because they all have great aspects, and they all have downfalls.
Frank Rolfe: There’s not one certain one that you’d say, “This is my favorite one of all time.”
Sean B: No. You know what, I love them. I wouldn’t sell any of them for any amount. I’ve had some of these people come through and actually throw me some fairly, very close numbers to when you use the formula or even at that number, and I actually, I won’t even take them into consideration. I’m just kind of a hoarder of real estate. I always have been. I don’t sell anything, and to me it’s just an enjoyment to drive around to the different houses, different parks and talk to the people to be honest with you.
Frank Rolfe: Gotcha. Okay, and how did you finance these? Because obviously when you’re buying stuff that’s so dead it’s hard to get a bank to do it. Are any of these financed by banks, or how have you done this so far?
Sean B: No, you know what, I’ve always been pretty cheap, and even when I bought my first house I did finance it with a bank, but I paid it off in a year in a half. I bought my first at 23 and a half. I think I took out a loan for 35 grand, and I paid it off for my 25th birthday. I got rid of banks really early. I don’t like inspectors. I don’t like rules. I don’t like people getting in my business. So, for me, and I’m a very frugal person. I don’t spend money where it’s not needed at all. So, basically I am an amazing saver, and I will save up and buy it and just pay cash.
Frank Rolfe: Okay, and let’s talk for a minute about the key lessons you’ve learned so far from the various parks that you’ve purchased. You have what, basically four parks, correct?
Sean B: Yes.
Frank Rolfe: Okay, so … What are some of the key things that you’re like, “Yeah, this is a key truth of owning a mobile home park,” like what are some of the revelations you’ve had?
Sean B: It’s so many different things. I don’t know, I guess one of the things is I’ve become really good friends with all the DEA agents. I actually have at least four local DEA, you know, Drug Enforcement Agency agents, on my cell phone that I can call at any time. We have great relationships. I let them know who’s coming and who’s going. They see my videotapes. Whenever I need to get somebody out of there, obviously if they’re doing something wrong, they give a lot of attention to it. I encourage all the residents to let me know if anything starts going on, anybody opens up a pharmacy in the park, that sort of thing, and they generally do fairly quickly, and we’re able to nab it right away. I mean, we’ve had multiple arrests in all my properties, and like I said, they’re generally all called on by me. I just work very closely with the Drug Enforcement Agency which just blows my mind.
Sean B: As far as townships, I really haven’t had any problem with the townships. I think they hope that you’re going to buy it and tear it down, tear the park down and do something else. But I go in, to make the township happy, I’ll clean the park up, put skirting around the front of the trailers where you can see it. We’ll paint the fronts of them, whatever’s visible. We replace the decks and the steps and make everything look nice from the outside. Replace broken windows, that sort of thing, just real quick, just to make the park look nice, and usually once they see that little bit of improvement I really don’t get hassled too much at all.
Sean B: Recently, I had a new code enforcement officer tell me he was going to start inspecting my trailers for rentals, and I explained to him that I don’t rent them. And I said, as soon as he shows me where he’s able to inspect a motor vehicle he can go in them, and he wasn’t even aware that they had titles and they weren’t deeded. So, a lot of time it’s just a matter of trying to use some common sense and staying on the right side of everybody.
Frank Rolfe: Well, Sean, let me ask you this. Going forward, are there more Sean of the Dead deals out there to be had? Are you going to keep buying more parks, or what are your thoughts?
Sean B: Yeah, I probably have three that I’m working on currently. To me, it’s not a fast process at all. I go in, I just try to make contact, tell them who I am. A lot of times, because I have some of the parks already, and all the mom-and-pops seems to know each other even if they’re a hundred miles a way. Which is, I’m not buying a park any further than a hundred miles a way from me. I like to drive by and look at it too much. They all seem to know each other, so when I find another mom-and-pop that are still around, generally I can tell them, “Hey, I bought this park from these people,” and there’s already a connection right there. I try to get a connection. I tell them how I think it’s so sad that the family didn’t keep it and keep the park going, but I want to buy your park just like I bough their park, and I want to turn it around and keep the name going and let people know that this park’s been here for 60 and 70 years. Like I said, you get that connection with the people, and once you get them talking it’s hard to ever lose them really.
Frank Rolfe: And Sean, have you ever met another Sean of the Dead person? Are you the only one out there because you’re the only one that Brandon and I know. Have you ever come across somebody else who’s doing the same things that you are, or are you as unique as you seem?
Sean B: Yeah, you know, I have one guy that I haven’t met personally, but he calls me pretty regularly, and he’s only about an hour or two away. I’m almost hoping he makes it to the Pittsburgh boot camp. He sounds very strangely like me to where I almost don’t want to meet him. But yeah, he just picked up a, I think a 25 space park, and he calls me once or twice a week and he’ll ask me questions. And I sent him my leases and everything. I just found it’s way easier just to help people out. It always comes back to you. So yeah, this guy’s doing the same thing. He has some other things going on too, but he’s liking the mobile homes. He’s liking the mobile home parks. There’s no competition in my opinion. Yeah, so I guess there’s probably not too many that like them as dead as I do, but I do like them that way.
Frank Rolfe: And, for those future Sean of the Deads out there listening in, what words of wisdom would you have for them as far how to get into the business, or if they should get into the business, and that type of thing?
Sean B: I think it’s an amazing business. I wish I would’ve gone into it when I was in my 20s and never bought a stick build house ever because of the plain and simple fact in my eyes, Frank, is that you can buy a 50 space mobile home park and if you have the thing up and running at a nice high occupancy and you find different income streams within the park, I don’t see any reason a park of a size like 50 can’t clear you 12, 15 thousand a month. And for most people, I think 12 or 15 thousand dollars a month is a good income, and I think most people only need one park. If I wasn’t so, I don’t know, I hate to say greedy but at least bored and enjoyed doing this, one would be great for me financially. But I love doing it, and I just like buying more and more and just keep things going.
Frank Rolfe: And Sean, what do you so see as far as the future of the industry? Do you see anything changing like 10, 20 years from now, 50 years from now, or do you think the portable housing will always.
Sean B: I think that maybe there’s going to be something even better that comes off then the deal you have now where you can buy the homes, and they fill up your park. I picture like a more affordable mobile home being made. Whether it’s made out of all recyclables or something, something that’s just going to be absurdly cheap that you’re going to be able to buy, fill up parks. I really think that somebody’s designing something down the line that will be even cheaper than buying some of these mobiles you can buy now and things that’ll even last longer. That’s kind of my hope. I don’t ever plan on selling any of my properties, and I am in the process of training my sons that are 15 and 16 of taking them over, and really it’s my hope that they have them forever too. I don’t see any reason to get rid of them.
Frank Rolfe: You thinking maybe 3D printed houses in the future, something like that or what?
Sean B: I don’t know, maybe not 3D printed, but like I said, almost like an alternate material, something that just could drive the cost down so substanially you wouldn’t even believe it. If you’d get like a 14×60 or 70 for like five grand. That’s what I’m picturing. Like I said, something that’s all recycled, something that’s maybe a second use material. I don’t know, I think people are very creative out there, and I think once the right person gets ahold of it that something else will pop up.
Frank Rolfe: Do you have any recycled materials or trash, try the storage containers or something like that maybe, some day?
Sean B: I like the storage containers a lot. I traveled down to Central and South America, and I’ve actually seen where they have them stacked eight high. They used them as apartment buildings for immigrant labor down in Panama and Costa Rica. I really thought about trying some of that up here, but the purchase price of those, I think there’s going to be a better alternative choice. But, I mean, I like the shipping containers, but I just think something else is going to come off that’s even better.
Frank Rolfe: Yeah, I agree with you. In fact, you know the guy, Tony Hsieh, the guy in Vegas who sold Zappos and lives in his mobile home park, he tried containers. He couldn’t make them work, least in Vegas they were too hot. So, probably.
Sean B: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Frank Rolfe: So, your deals are so unique, such an art form, how do you source these? There’s no brokers in these are there?
Sean B: No. No, I-
Frank Rolfe: find these, like how do you find them?
Sean B: Actually, the first one was listed MLS, so they did get a commission. The second one that was Sheriff sale, so there was no commission there. The third one, there was an agent. He ended up getting, I want to say it was a flat $10,000 fee I had to pay to get rid of him. He was a real pain in my butt, but he had it tied up to where I was afraid if I tried to wait out his contract that they might foreclose on the park. So, I decided to lose the $10,000 to a real estate agent rather than chance losing the park to a Sheriff sale and then missing out on it.
Frank Rolfe: What have you learned since so many of your deals are contingent on unpaid property tax, what have you learned about negotiating with property tax authorities? Can you negotiate with them, or what are some tricks you’ve learned about those people?
Sean B: I’m having a hard time negotiating with them. Everybody else seems to be very helpful like sewage companies and things like that. In fact, that little town that I bought, they just waived 15,000 in back sewage for me because they saw that I’m fixing up the town and putting some money into it, and they’re trying to support me which is nice. The back taxes, I’m having a really tough time negotiating them. You’ll get somebody on the line that’ll tell you they’re going to help you, and you’ll follow them along, and I really haven’t had a lot of luck. I think they’re afraid of setting a precedent of forgiving the back taxes under normal circumstances because they don’t want to be inundated and all these people coming with back taxes. I guess it’s just still something I’m working on, but I’m not going to quit working on it. What was the second part of that question, Frank?
Frank Rolfe: Well, no. That was the question. See, we’ve had the exact same experience. For some bizarre reason, well for example, if you go to the taxing authority and they’ve got 7,000 unpaid tax on a single wide that’s from the 70s, and you tell them, “Well, there’s no way I’ll pay 7,000, but I’ll pay 1,000 or 2,000 even. Otherwise, I’m going to demolish it.” They’ll tell you, “Well, I can’t do that. You’ll have to wait till the auction, but you can probably buy it at the auction for 500 bucks.” Then, of course, the problem is you can’t wait till the auction so you just end up demolishing. It seems to be not a very sensible way that they do business. I didn’t know if you’d had any better luck than we’ve had.
Sean B: Well, you know what, I guess when I was speaking of that, Frank, I was speaking on the property itself. So, I mean the actual land itself I haven’t had any luck on. Now, as far as here in Pennsylvania, I’ve had amazing luck because all I have to do, I show the state, and there’s a form we fill out. I show the state proof that I paid tax on the land and that the old owner has abandoned the home for 30 days or more, and it costs me maybe $120, maybe $200. I really don’t even know what it costs, but the notary fills out all the paperwork, sends it in, I get an abandoned title that has either my personal name or the park name on it, and then I take that title down to the assessment office, and even though it’s the exact same trailer siting on, they have sub-parcels inside my.
Sean B: So, I own one parcel which is the park, but whenever you pull it up on their map, each individual home has its own parcel also that’s above ground, if you can picture that, just like the mobile home. And the bottom line is, once I show them the abandoned title, that I have a new title and I’m going to fix it up, they just flat out erase the old lot and block number and give me a new lot and block number which comes back $0 owed. So, I’ve had an amazing time doing that.
Frank Rolfe: As usual Sean, that’s amazing. So, all right, well, let me ask you this, Sean. Obviously, people are listening, and they’re saying, “Wow, everything Sean of the Dead does is amazing.” Without giving out any personal information on you at all, if anyone has any questions and they email them into us, could you answer them perhaps someday if we forward them to you?
Sean B: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
Frank Rolfe: Yeah, one thing I think you’ll find with Sean and with most people in the industry, correct me if I’m wrong, Sean, but we look at this kind of like a comradery, kind of like a club. Like bunch of guys that do hot rods or something and as long as questions are like relevant and you’re genuine, most people would have no problem responding. I see where, Sean, you wouldn’t either. So someone says, “Hey Sean, I got a park kind of like yours. I’m trying to figure out what to do,” would you be okay with answering things like that?
Sean B: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I really do, I get those calls quite often. I really don’t understand how these people get my number because I do stay pretty much off the grid. You can’t find me on Facebook or none of those things. I’m not smart enough to use a computer. That’s why I have to buy mobile homes, but it’s just amazing how the information goes out there. But yeah, people call me all the time, and I’m happy to help out.
Sean B: Here’s something I want to share with you, Frank. Here’s a home run that just happened to me maybe two months ago. And I love auctions, building material auctions, because I love buying my carpet squares. I can’t even tell you how many thousands of square feet of carpet squares I have because I can send out a guy in his little Chevrolet hatchback with carpet squares, and he can carpet a whole mobile home where typically you have to send two guys out in a pickup trick, and they get around the corner and take all the corners off your mobile homes. So, we do carpet squares.
Sean B: But anyway, with saying that, so I go to the auction, and I buy a lot of these things. One of the best home runs of 2019 for me, I went to an auction, and I started looking at these boxes, and I thought, “Boy, that name really looks familiar,” and it was Style Crest. And I found where Style Crest gets rid of all their excess materials. So, Style Crest, as you and I know, are mobile home part suppliers I guess is how I would describe them, and I bought the literal, and I’ve heard you buy a tractor trailer load of skirting before. I bought it too, but I think I was at $5 a box of skirting.
Frank Rolfe: Oh my gosh, that’s insane.
Sean B: I mean I bought, I have hundreds of boxes. I can’t even tell you how much. It’s all white skirting. It’s all the second or third step up, to where it doesn’t fall apart after one weed whacking. Just amazing. I bough a handful of furnaces, heat cape. I was so happy to find this auction. Make sure I gave the auctioneer – Yeah. I gave the auctioneer my phone number, and I said, “Please call me the next time Style Crest sends anything here because I’ll buy it all.”
Frank Rolfe: Yeah, I hear you, Sean. Well, again, that’s a great way to wrap it up with another Sean of the Dead home run, but again, we know a lot of park owners. Granted I talk to thousands of park owners, but there is only one Sean of the Dead. So, Sean, I’m glad we were finally able to get you on here because again, you are unique rarity. I don’t know anyone in America who buys the stuff as inexpensively as you do. I don’t know anyone who is as brave as you are to tackle projects that most people would recoil from or run from. So, my hat is definitely off to you and that amazing stuff you do of bringing literally dead properties back to life extremely lucratively. So, it’s really truly amazing, and knowing you.
Sean B: All right. Yeah, thank you, Frank. That really makes me feel good just hearing that, and it almost surprises me. I can’t imagine buying a park that’s all together and making money. It would be kind of boring.
Frank Rolfe: There you go. You’re exactly right on that. Definitely right on that. Well, again Sean, we’re really glad to have you here on this MHU Lecture Series event, and I know people learned a ton. And I’m sure many people are blown away by what you do, and the kind of prices you get, and they’re right to be blown away, but it does give an element of promise for people who are looking to buy parks without putting a lot of money out, or in this case, without even using bank debt.
Frank Rolfe: And Sean, you definitely are the poster child for people trying to get in the business, in a way. And actually, it’s also from a social side, very positive for America that you buy these properties, and I’ve seen them because we’ve walked them at boot camp, but stuff that is just dead as a doorknob and you bring it back and make it a nice place to live again. So, I know a lot of people are very happy with what you do as well. So, again, we really appreciate you being here. Hope everyone enjoyed this, and thanks again, Sean, and we’ll back again soon.
Sean B: Thank you, Frank.
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Until someone understands the industry’s realities as they are, not as one might wish them to be, but practical reality – there is a risk that those who have been rising in recent years could themselves fall into the same traps that caused a prior generation of manufactured housing success stories to vanish like a vapor in the night.
The head-fakes and rope-a-dope scenarios in manufactured housing are numerous. In order to avoid them, one needs knowledge. Ethics and knowledge can help white hat investors and business owners advance, despite what has been occurring.
Learn more from the linked reports, further below. Done right, manufactured homes can be highly profitable without feeling the need to take a shower, drink, or drugs after doing an honest day’s work. But care must arguably be taken to avoid the traps, pitfalls, and swindles that a relative few but potent players have set in place.
“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…” said God, as quoted in Hosea 4:6. As a closing note, we’ve worked with agnostics and people from a variety of faith backgrounds from coast to coast and border to border. God gives free will, which we respect. Free will is the reason that good and evil co-exist. But God encourages the good, and discourages the evil. That’s the example to follow.
Stay tuned for what’s coming next, because profitable solutions to what ails our industry are around the bend.
Finally, this analysis should not be construed as some condemnation of damnation on anyone or group. God will sort that out, not you or me. God will judge, while we mortals must be discerning. That’s what much of Scripture teaches. When we goof, we can amend and move on. An honest dollar can be earned in manufactured housing, and the industry could be bigger with far more money being earned by doing it the right way. Who says? A former MHI president, among others, suggested as much.
Time is the stuff that life is made of, said Ben Franklin. Knowledge is potential power. Nothing is changed until it is challenged.
As a closing announcement, please check out my updated professional page, at this link here. Feedback on the above is welcome.
That’s a wrap on today’s edition of manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, fact-checks, and commentary. See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them. Third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned the Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma. He has earned multiple awards in manufactured housing and in history. He’s a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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