Strategies for Acquiring and Transforming Underperforming RV Parks

The allure of transforming a poorly managed RV park into a profitable venture is undeniable. Despite the potential for high returns, these projects are fraught with challenges and carry significantly more risk than their well-managed counterparts. Here's a comprehensive guide on navigating these waters successfully.

Reconstructing Expenses from the Foundation

A meticulous approach to understanding an RV park's financials begins with reconstructing its expenses. Acquire historical utility bills (water/sewer, electricity, gas) to forecast future costs accurately. For all other expenses, gather multiple bids to establish a realistic budget. It's crucial to perform this analysis independently of the seller's input to avoid omissions or inaccuracies—such as unaccounted labor for maintenance and management tasks performed by the owners themselves.

Navigating the Complexity of Revenue Assessment

Assessing an RV park's revenue potential is a more challenging endeavor. Start with the seller's revenue reports for the past three years and scrutinize their tax returns to identify discrepancies. Given the frequent mismatch between reported revenues and actual bank deposits, a thorough review of the latter is indispensable. A practical approach involves analyzing current occupancy rates and pricing to project annual revenue. This multifaceted analysis will guide you to a "safe" revenue estimate for pricing the acquisition.

The Safeguard of Seller Financing

In scenarios fraught with uncertainty, seller financing emerges as a vital safety net. It protects you from the ramifications of overestimated revenue projections without the burden of a personal guarantee associated with conventional bank loans. Exercise caution with sellers reluctant to offer financing, as it may indicate inflated revenue claims. Although appealing, warranties offer little solace once the transaction concludes, given the difficulty of enforcement.

The Reality of Seller Financing

The scarcity of bank loans for RV parks with questionable financials renders seller financing not just an option, but often the only feasible path. Banks typically shy away from investments lacking formal financial documentation, leaving seller financing as the default mechanism for facilitating these transactions.

Exploring Alternative Acquisition Strategies: The Master Lease

A master lease with an option to purchase presents a strategic alternative for acquiring RV parks with unstable or unproven revenue streams. This arrangement allows you to assume operational control at a predetermined rent, offering a practical period to validate the park's income potential before committing to purchase. This method is particularly suited for parks lacking a verifiable performance track record, providing a buffer to assess and implement operational improvements.

Conclusion: A Calculated Approach to Turnaround Opportunities

Investing in an underperforming RV park offers a unique opportunity to create value from "damaged goods." However, success in this endeavor requires a strategic, informed approach. By thoroughly vetting financials, negotiating protective terms, and considering innovative acquisition structures, you can significantly increase your chances of transforming a poorly managed RV park into a lucrative investment.

Frank Rolfe has been an active investor in RV parks for nearly two decades. As a result of his large collection of RV and mobile home parks, he has amassed a virtual reference book of knowledge on what makes for a successful RV park investment, as well as the potential pitfalls that destroy many investors.