How Much Will It Cost Me?
(Also see the section on Renting vs Buying)
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 Parks section)
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 months.
NOTE: It 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 RESORTS!
You 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 different.
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 choices.
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
Park model age, condition, and ammenities
Park 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.
Because 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 Park Model
There are 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 infrastructure.
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 locations.
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 different cities.
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 play.
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 changed.
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 south.
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 park.
The 'Baby Boomers' ... and now 'Gen Xers' are Coming!!!
It is defineately 'baby boomer' retirement time. And the younger of that group ... and now some 'Gen Xers' .. 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. That group is starting to present a challenge to us as they write looking for (maybe) 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms ... etc.
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 interest?
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 growing.
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 watching.
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 related.
As a result ... prices do not tend to follow the traditional housing market. It is unique to this segment of society.
Alternatives 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 steadily recovers.
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.
"I 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.
Is it 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 hassle.
And ... 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 years.