JF1914: From House Flipping To Mobile Buying To Mobile Home Park Investing with Andrew Keel
Andrew is here to add some value that we don’t get a lot of on this show. We cover a lot of investing areas, but mobile home parks are not a common subject. That changes today and Joe and Andrew dive into his investing story and then get into specifics on a couple of mobile home park deals. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
Best Ever Tweet:
“When buying a mobile home park, due diligence is very, very important” – Andrew Keel
Andrew Keel Real Estate Background:
- Mobile home park investor since 2015
- Owns and operates 971 lots in 16 parks across 7 states
- Based in Orlando, FL
- Say hi to him at https://www.andrewkeel.com/ www.keelteam.com
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Andrew Keel. How are you doing, Andrew?
Andrew Keel: Good, thanks for having me on the show.
Joe Fairless: My pleasure, and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Andrew – he’s a mobile home park investor and has been one since 2015. He owns and operates 971 lots in 16 parks across seven states. He’s based in Orlando, Florida. With that being said, Andrew, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Andrew Keel: Yeah, definitely. I started out actually rehabbing and flipping houses down in the Orlando Florida area. I also was wholesaling… Eventually, through my marketing efforts, I came across a couple of mobile homes that were very cheap, and I didn’t really know what to do with them, because they didn’t have a deed. They were a lot different, because they were personal property, kind of like a vehicle; they have a title. So I ended up doing some research and on YouTube I found a guy by the name of Lonnie Scruggs, who wrote this book called Deals on Wheels, which I highly recommend, and I ended up reading. It just talks about buying mobile homes, and selling them on contract, and creating mailbox money.
I ended up buying about 19 of those individual mobile homes, selling them on contract, and then through the process I met a couple park owners. One of them told me the real wealth is built through owning the land, not the individual mobile homes. That was like a game-changer for myself, and I instantly just dove in — I went to Frank and Dave’s bootcamp, I went to another mobile home park specific investing bootcamp, and dove in. I was fortunate enough to have the wholesaling background, so I was cold-calling and sending letters at the same time to find motivated sellers. I ended up at the Frank and Dave bootcamp actually meeting some passive investors that wanted to invest in deals. We put some deals together; since then we’ve done five deals together with the guy that I actually met at the bootcamp, and I’ve brought on other JV partners since then, and other private equity partners from doing syndications and so forth.
So it’s been an awesome ride. We’re looking to continue buying properties, larger properties. We just closed a few months ago a five-part portfolio, and we have a couple under contract now, so… Just continuing to grow and acquire more affordable housing units.
Joe Fairless: Where is the five-park portfolio located?
Andrew Keel: That is in LaSalle County, Illinois. It’s about an hour and a half west of Chicago.
Joe Fairless: Tell us about that deal.
Andrew Keel: So that deal – it was a pocket listing through a broker. We ended up doing quite a lot of due diligence on it, and negotiations were very slow. From when we actually went under contract it was March or April, and then it ended up closing in December of 2018… So it was just a long, drawn-out process. The sellers really wanted to go through and vet everything through their attorney, so… It kind of dragged on a little bit, but thank goodness we did. We were able to get a decent concession from the seller after due diligence and doing some research.
I actually moved on-site February, March and April of this year, and through that process we bought and brought in 23 used mobile homes, along with 17 brand new mobile homes. Just a massive infill project, value-add to the max… And now our property is worth about double, so I’m really excited about that property.
Joe Fairless: You’ve given me so many things to ask questions about. Thank you for that. [laughs] Okay, a lot of due diligence you said was done on that… Will you elaborate?
Andrew Keel: Yes. When you’re looking at five parks versus just one, it’s very intensive, because you have to look at the utility infrastructure of each… When buying a mobile home park, due diligence is very, very important. Utility infrastructure specifically can make or break a deal. So some of the properties had private utilities, which means that they would have a well, or a septic that we would be required to maintain… So we did specific inspections through experts in plumbing and electrical in those private utilities to make sure that the infrastructure was intact and was going to last in the future… And if it did need repairs, what was the number that we needed, either as a concession from the seller, or that we would need to budget for to improve it moving forward.
Joe Fairless: Is it ideal to have public infrastructure?
Andrew Keel: 100%. If you can get city water, city sewer, that is the best type of park to buy.
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Andrew Keel: Some of our parks — just because they’re city water, city sewer doesn’t mean that that’s the end-all, because most of the parks are master-metered, meaning there’s just one bill that comes in from the local utility company that charges the park for all of their usage, usually for water and sewer… So then what a lot of park owners should do – if they haven’t already – is sub-meter; put individual meters on all of the homes, and then read those meters on a monthly basis and bill the tenants based off of their usage.
A lot of the mobile home park owners today are mom and pop owners, and they don’t have it sub-metered, and they just include the utilities with lot rent, so that’s a value-add component that we can add immediately when we buy these properties to increase the asset value.
Joe Fairless: So utility infrastructure was one thing that you did… And you said there five different parks. How far away are they?
Andrew Keel: They’re about 20 minutes apart from each other. Two of them are very close together… But they were a good distance apart, so when we would set out — when I was on location, I’d literally be hopping from park to park every day, and it made for long days.
Joe Fairless: What’s the smallest lot and what’s the biggest lot of the five?
Andrew Keel: The smallest one had 31 lots, and the largest had 78.
Joe Fairless: So what were some unique things that you came across from a due diligence standpoint that you wouldn’t normally come across if they were just all in one location?
Andrew Keel: That’s a great question. One of the items is — we’ll go back to the private utilities, because that’s where most of our headaches come from…
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Andrew Keel: One of the properties that was probably in the best city in terms of demand and size and employers – it had both private utilities; it had well and septic. So that just – for a lack of better terms – opens up a can of worms… Because you’re now charging people — we go in and sub-meter that park, because it wasn’t metered… So now we’re charging people for their water usage to basically cover our costs to run both the well and the septic… And the septic system was an aging system (we knew that going in), and we had three different excavations/septic expert companies come out and inspect this system… And one of them told us we had a 50/50 chance at surviving and lasting another 5-10 years, and then the other two said it was completely fine.
So with that information we had to make an educated decision on negotiating with the seller as to that septic system. We basically got the seller to guarantee the system for a period of 12 months, and if it failed during that 12 months, they agreed to pay a certain amount of money to help with either a new septic system we would have to install, or connecting the city sewer, which is by far the best bet.
Unfortunately enough, the septic system went bad in the spring, when we have the high water table… Luckily, we did have that guarantee–
Joe Fairless: Unfortunate for them, but really fortunate for you, I imagine…
Andrew Keel: It is, and we’re in process now, working with engineers to get it hooked up to city sewer, which is by far gonna be a way better situation… But yeah, that’s just the kind of stuff that we have to deal with. Actually, all of the other parks have public water and sewer, so that right there makes it a good deal. That was the only one that was kind of a headache.
Joe Fairless: How much does it cost to get it hooked up to public?
Andrew Keel: It really depends on the distance away from where the current main line is. In this situation it’s gonna cost roughly $200,000.
Joe Fairless: My eyes got really big. You can’t see me, but… [laughter]
Andrew Keel: Yeah, it’s a big ticket item.
Joe Fairless: How much did you buy the portfolio for?
Andrew Keel: We bought the portfolio for 3.2.
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Andrew Keel: It makes sense. Even if we would have paid that extra 200k, the purchase price made sense. We’re purchasing these at a 10%-11% cap, so the returns were there, it was just — mainly the project management of now having to oversee that is the painstaking process… But on the other end of this, the property will be worth maybe 8% or 9% because now it has that connection.
Joe Fairless: Right. And you mentioned earlier that you got concessions from the seller, so clearly that was one thing where you had that contingency… Anything else?
Andrew Keel: Some of the electrical… We always inspect the electrical in these parks, and a lot of these parks were built in the ’70s, so they have older electrical infrastructure… And a couple of the parks actually had electrical issues, that weren’t immediate — it wasn’t like “Oh my goodness, they don’t have power”, but they were rusted meterbanks and things like that, that needed to be addressed to help us out. So they agreed, they had an electrician that was going to take care of all of that before closing… And that unfortunately didn’t happen, so we had to put some money in escrow at closing and oversee that project to make sure that it got finished… Which it did, it just took a little bit longer than we would have liked.
Joe Fairless: And you moved on-site for three months… Tell us about that.
Andrew Keel: Yeah, my wife is by far — she’s fantastic.
Joe Fairless: Very understanding.
Andrew Keel: Very understanding, very flexible, and she gets what we’re building, so I’m so thankful to have her in my life. Her and my two-year-old daughter moved up to Ottawa, Illinois, and we rented a little Airbnb up there, a nice little spot… And they moved up with me, and I was working on the parks day in and day out.
The main thing – when we purchased the property, there was poor management in place. There was one manager overseeing all five parks, and it was kind of like chaos. Every day you would talk to her there was some new fire that she was putting out… So we ended up putting a new on-site manager at every property. That instantly gave us eyes and ears in each of the five properties, and helped with our communication of what was going on inside of those locations. That helped tremendously.
Joe Fairless: What are some benefits from a bottom line P&L standpoint that you saw as a result of being there for those three months?
Andrew Keel: Yeah, the toughest part in this business in terms of creating value is gonna be bringing in new homes and used homes, and also renovating existing homes that for whatever reason are not occupied, and in some sort of disrepair. Because unlike traditional multifamily and other asset classes, you can hire a general contractor that’s licensed, insured, and has been doing this and has a track record of doing these construction projects… However, when you’re renovating mobile homes and doing work on mobile homes you get a different quality contractor, and they require more babysitting, quite frankly. And with that, if you’re on site, you can save yourself money, compared to being a thousand miles away and trying to make a decision off of photos or walkthrough videos.
So we’ve been burned and learned from that experience, and found out that it’s just so important to be on-site. We saved thousands of dollars being able to point out, “Hey, you did replace the glass in this window, and you can send me a picture showing me you did that, but if I didn’t walk through after you did that, I wouldn’t have noticed all of the broken glass that’s now laying on the ground… Just laying there. You sent me a picture of the window and it looks good”, right? Normally, people would just send out a check. But since I can go now to that property, I can see the glass laying on the ground and making the property look worse. A little kid can come and cut themselves. So that’s the kind of stuff that we’ve found being on-site really helps us out with.
Joe Fairless: You’ve mentioned bringing in used homes and new homes are one of the hardest parts… Will you elaborate on what you’re talking about?
Andrew Keel: Sure. When you’re bringing in used homes – I’ll start there, because I started out, my background as a [unintelligible [00:13:54].22] helps me where I can access used homes very quickly. If you talk to anybody in the mobile home park space, they’ll tell you that used home inventory is very small, and they have trouble finding used homes to fill vacant lots. So with that, I actually find several used homes in a given week through different avenues, and I used technology to do so, and have different marketing tactics to be able to do that… So that’s a process in and of itself, to find the used homes.
Then you have to hire a transporter to go tear it down, put axles on it, put the hitch on it, get it moved into the park… And then you have to hire an installer to then block-level, tie down, put skirting on it, steps… And then you also have to get all the utilities hooked up – electrical, plumbing, gas if there is that… So it’s a multi-stage process, and as with any project management, there’s gonna be some time involved with that, and being on site is very helpful in that aspect.
Bringing in new homes – there’s HUD laws per each state with new homes, of how the site prep needs to be set up, meaning the lot… If we need to pour concrete down below the frost line – that’s something that needs to be done prior to the home even being brought in… There’s just different regulations that HUD requires for brand new homes, so making sure you have an experienced transporter and installer to install the homes is very important, otherwise you can have brand new homes just sitting there, not occupied because they haven’t passed inspection… And obviously, that’s just a waste of time and money.
So having all those things happen at once, in a period of three months, was a little ambitious, I’ll be honest. We’re still working on some of those projects, but overall occupancy and demand for these mobile homes is so off the chart that we’re definitely profitable, so that’s great.
Joe Fairless: What are some common reasons why homes don’t pass inspection?
Andrew Keel: Number one – this is for new homes – the grading of the ground has to be so that water doesn’t sit underneath of the homes. Even though there’s skirting around it, if water can sit under there, that’s a reason the inspector doesn’t like it. It can attract mosquitoes, attract moisture, which then would rot out the sub-floor… So you have to have proper grading, and you also have to have the concrete runners that meet the local code, which would depend on the depth of the frost line. In Illinois we had to go 48 inches deep with concrete runners, so that when it does freeze and thaw it’s not going to adjust the level of the home. So those are just a couple reasons…
Joe Fairless: What’s a project you’ve lost money on?
Andrew Keel: Projects I’ve lost money on…
Joe Fairless: Or maybe the most money. Let’s go with that – which ones have you lost the most money on.
Andrew Keel: Lost the most money on… We’ve been very fortunate in the mobile home park space where we’ve bought some off-market properties, so thank God we haven’t lost money in the mobile home park space… However, when I was a home flipper in Central Florida here I bought into a property, I paid too much for it, and I was able to sell and not make all of my money back. I think I lost about 4k-5k on that property… I paid too much for it going in, took a chance, and ended up losing a bit of money there. And you don’t account for the time that you lost as well, of getting that property ready.
So yeah, it was 4k, but really that was 3-4 months of work that also went into that, so it was quite a bit more than that.
Joe Fairless: How are you finding off-market mobile home parks?
Andrew Keel: We start out cold-calling…
Joe Fairless: How do you know who to cold-call?
Andrew Keel: Cold-calling – it’s pretty simple; you can type in “mobile home parks” into Google, into a certain search criteria, based on a certain area, and then you just basically call off of the Google Places numbers. A lot of the times you’ll reach managers, and you have to somehow strategically get them to present your information to the seller…
Joe Fairless: How do you do that?
Andrew Keel: I try to just build rapport with them, and kind of get them to like me, kind of prove that I’m not just joking around, or a joker-broker kind of thing… I try to build rapport, and then if they don’t wanna give out the owner’s information – which is ideal if they will – then I will sometimes mail a letter to the tax assessor address on file for the owner, after I talk to the manager. I mail them a letter to where they get their tax bill and say “Hey, I’m interested in buying the property. If you’re interested in selling, please give me a call. If not now, sometime in the future.” We’ve had success with that.
Joe Fairless: How do you transition the conversation when you call the mobile home park, from “Hi, my name is Andrew” to “What is the owner’s contact information, so I can reach out to him/her?”
Andrew Keel: Yeah, that’s a great question. Usually, when I call I try to downplay it and just say “Hey, this is Andrew. My wife Katie and I are interested in buying this mobile home park. We’re looking to get into the business and we like this area, and we like the size of this property. Would you be interested in selling?” And I ask the manager. I assume that they’re the owner.
Joe Fairless: Right, yeah.
Andrew Keel: And then they say “Oh, no, I’m not the owner. I’m the manager.” I say, “Oh, I apologize.” And then I just kind of talk in and say “Oh, well, how long have you been managing the park? What do you think about the business?” I just try to get them talking… And after a little while, they kind of elaborate and tell me about the owner a little bit, about how long they’ve owned it, if they own any other properties, what other business avenues they own, if local – because a lot of these parks are owned by local mom and pops that have other business ventures… One time they said “Oh yeah, he owns a car dealership, and this and that, but I can’t give you his phone number.” So I ended up calling the only car dealership and I got a hold of him… So there’s just ways to kind of get around.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, very resourceful. Your wholesaling days served you well, I imagine, in that regard.
Andrew Keel: They definitely did, yeah. You’ve gotta keep going deeper. The deeper you go, the more you’ll find.
Joe Fairless: Huh. Taking a step back, based on your experience, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?
Andrew Keel: My best real estate investing advice would be to go bigger faster, and to raise money faster. A lot of investors start out with their own money, and when they run out of money, they stop and they don’t look at continuing to acquire real estate. A good friend of mine – he has a nice little savings account, but he won’t put any of his money in deals… And he only raises money for all of the real estate that he purchases. There’s many different operators and ways of doing it, but I would just encourage people that your friends, family, potential investors out there – you’re doing them a disservice by not allowing them to invest with you, because the rate of return that they’re gonna get with you potentially could be a lot higher than any other program, or annuity, or CD that they could ever invest in.
Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Andrew Keel: Let’s do it.
Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Best ever way you manage properties in seven different states, in terms of a process? What’s a best ever process that you use?
Andrew Keel: I would say we use a software called Slack; it’s our messaging software. Every single on-site manager is in their own channel, based on that property… And instead of phone calls, we make the managers communicate with us through Slack. That way, everything is in a nice, concise, little blurb, instead of talking with managers. Sometimes you’ll find that you’ll be on the phone for an hour when you only needed 30 seconds to get an answer… So that’s one process that I’ve implemented that has worked tremendously for us.
Joe Fairless: What about the reverse of that, where if you just jump on a phone call and you can get through it in five minutes, versus going back and forth on chat for 15?
Andrew Keel: To be honest, usually what happens when we hop on the phone is we end up talking about her sister’s brother who got in a motorcycle accident, and broke his leg… You’d be surprised, man. The conversations go on and on and on. So in Slack, there’s nothing really very complex that we discuss. It’s “Hey, did lot 29 pay?” It’s more like a yes and no type of thing, so… We don’t really have a lot of back-and-forth, I guess is what I’m saying.
Joe Fairless: Fair enough. What’s the best ever deal you’ve done?
Andrew Keel: The best ever deal I’ve done… I was able to secure seller financing on a property that I won in Ohio, and was able to secure 75% loan-to-value, 5% fixed. We have a 20-year note… And the property, when we purchased it, had like 40 tenants. We’ve been able to increase that just by implementing some marketing and some other strategies. Now we have 64 tenants… So that’s my best ever deal.
Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back to the community?
Andrew Keel: Best ever way to give back to the community… I’m pretty active in church, so I give back through that. We also have an angel program my wife and I donate to for kids in the Dominican Republic.
Joe Fairless: Best ever way the listeners can learn more about what you’ve got going on?
Andrew Keel: Check out KeelTeam.com, my website. Always looking for new investors and partners. Even if you’re interested in the mobile home park business and you’d just like more information, I’d be happy to chat with you. You can go on my website and set up a free consult.
Joe Fairless: I enjoyed our conversation, I learned a lot… From ways new mobile homes wouldn’t pass inspections, or common things for why they don’t pass inspection – you talked about the grading of the ground – to getting your hands dirty and living in the area of something you closed on, and what you were doing to help the P&L statement… And then also the private versus public utilities and how much that could cost to actually connect into public… So – lots of stuff we talked about; I’m grateful that you were on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Andrew Keel: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me, Joe.Follow Me: