For years, housing prices have taken a beating in Florida as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis, recession-induced job losses and record numbers of foreclosures.
But while prices for site-built homes and condominiums have fallen by 40% or more in many locations, prices for sites at some of Florida’s newer and higher-end RV parks and resorts have fallen by less than half that amount, according to a news release from several Florida developers.
In some cases, they haven’t fallen at all.
Jim Eyster, who recently developed Chassas Oaks RV Resort in Homosassa, said prices for sites at some of the more upscale RV resorts are holding their own partly as a result of the continuing shortage of high-quality RV parks and resorts that sell their sites in Florida.
“There was never a big building boom of RV sites during the heyday of the real estate boom,” Eyster said.
Bill Harvey, who developed Silver Palms RV Village in Okeechobee, also believes that the relative shortage of high quality RV resorts in sought-after destinations is helping to keep RV site prices steady. “I have seen little if any price reduction in RV resorts that have sites for under $75,000,” he said, adding, “Silver Palms has not lowered our prices at all over the past two years, and I do not intend to.”
While Florida continues to have an abundance of RV parks, more than half of them were built 30 or more years ago and cannot easily accommodate today’s larger, more luxurious RVs or the people who invest in them.
These larger RVs, many of which have slideout rooms, flat screen TVs, computers, stereos, microwave ovens and other household appliances, often require 50- to 100-amp utility connections, as well as larger campsites and wider roads, all of which are difficult for Florida’s older parks to provide, unless they make considerable investments in upgrades and renovations.
Meanwhile, changing government regulations are making it more costly to develop RV resorts in some areas of Florida, which translates into higher RV site costs.
Eyster has seen evidence of this first hand in Citrus County. Seven years ago, when he developed Nature Coast Landings in Crystal River, the county allowed him to build up to 12 RV sites per acre. The county now requires developers to build no more than five RV lots per acre.
“This means everybody gets more space,” Eyster said. “It also makes it more expensive to develop the property because the infrastructure costs remain the same and you aren’t able to spread the water, sewer and clubhouse costs over as many sites.”
David Gorin, a longtime campground industry consultant, added that RV resorts that sell their sites provide consumers with an affordable way to obtain country club-style amenities without the high maintenance fees that condo developments typically charge. RV site owners can also have the park rent out their sites when they’re not using them, so they can make money on their investments.
The insurance costs for RV sites are also lower than they are for site built homes and condos, since RV sites are less susceptible to hurricane damage than site-built homes or condos, Gorin said, noting that RV owners have the ability to move their vehicles before powerful storms arrive.
So with this information in mind, combined with the relative shortage of higher end RV parks and resorts that sell their sites, developers are less inclined to lower their prices.
Some RV resort developers also feel they have an obligation not to lower their prices because that could undercut investors who recently purchased sites from them.
“There’s still quite a bit of consumer interest in buying an RV site,” Gorin said, adding, “If you go to the Tampa RV Supershow in January, practically every park that sells its sites has a booth there.”
For more information regarding the price trends involving RV resort sites, contact Jim Eyster, Chassa Oaks RV Resort, Homosassa, (352) 212-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Bill Harvey, Silver Palms RV Village, (863) 467-5800 or email@example.com; or David Gorin at (703) 371-7467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mogens Hermansen is what you’d call a working Snow Bird.
He lives in Memphis, Tenn., but spends much of the winter enjoying the sunshine in southern Alabama.
But unlike most Snow Birds, Hermansen and his wife don’t have to worry about trying to reserve a site for their 45-foot Beaver motorhome. They own an RV site at Bella Terra RV Resort in Foley, Ala. (Learn about Bella Terra RV Resort in today’s Featured Video.)
“It’s our home away from home,” said Hermanson, 59, a full-time operations manager for a global packaging company.
In fact, their RV site at Bella Terra is not their only home away from home. The Hermansens also own a site at Traverse Bay RV Resort in Acme, Mich., where they like to enjoy the summer months.
The Hermansens are part of a growing number of RVers who are purchasing RV sites at upscale RV resorts across the country, according to a news release.
“This segment of the industry is generating increasing attention from consumers,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) in Larkspur, Colo.
While most campgrounds, RV parks and resorts rent their sites by the night, week or month, there are growing numbers of parks that have started selling their sites, particularly Sunbelt parks that cater to Snow Birds.
Nationally, more than 25,000 RV sites at nearly 200 RV parks and resorts are privately owned, according to David Gorin, a longtime campground industry consultant and principal of MacLean, Va.-based David Gorin & Associates.
That’s still a fraction of the market, when one considers that there are more than 8,000 private campgrounds and RV parks nationwide. But it is a significant trend, and an attractive investment option for working professionals, empty nesters and retirees who want to spend all or part of the winter in the Sunbelt, said Gorin, who also owns Holiday Cove RV Resort in Cortez, Fla., which offers RV sites for sale.
While prices for RV sites vary from roughly $50,000 to $250,000 or more, depending on the park’s location and amenities, the numbers make sense for Snow Birds who plan to spend extended periods of time in the Sunbelt.
“If someone comes down and spends $3,000 or $4,000 a year every winter in Florida, and let’s say they come down five years, they have already invested $20,000 in Florida,” said Eduard Mayer, president and CEO of Elite Resorts Management Inc., which has developed several RV resorts in Florida that sell their sites. On the other hand, many consumers do not want to commit themselves to a single location, which is why most people rent RV sites, Profaizer said.
Most RV resorts that sell their sites also set up rental pools, which enable RV site owners to generate income from their campsite when they’re away. The resorts take a percentage of the rental income to cover their management services.
The economics of modern RV resort development are also leading growing numbers of private park developers to build upscale resorts that sell their sites. “When you consider the cost of land in attractive locations, the cost of design, engineering, permitting and construction costs, it’s almost impossible to justify building a new park for a rental market only,” Gorin said.
And while the downturn in the economy has taken a toll on RV site sales, some RVers have found that they can purchase RV sites through their Individual Investment Accounts (IRAs) and 401K plans, said Tripp Keber, COO of Bella Terra Resort, which recently announced plans to begin building its second phase. “With the income that can be realized through our rental management program and the lot’s appreciation, this represents a great investment,” Keber said.
Many RV enthusiasts also like the upscale nature of RV parks and resorts that sell their sites as well as the convenience of owning their own site.
“The advantage of owning our own site is we can come and go as we please,” said Emile LaChance, an Ontario, Canada, resident who recently purchased a site at Silver Palms RV Village in Okeechobee, Fla. “If you’re renting a site,” he added, “you’ve got to be on a schedule.”
Looking to the future, Gorin said the concept of owning an RV site will continue to grow in popularity, especially in highly attractive vacation destinations and in resort locations within a two-hour drive of major cities. Gorin added that the development of new, upscale RV parks and resorts that sell their sites will also create a new supply of modern RV sites for the rental market.