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This page I wrote for my old rv website before developing the Vanabode as the best travel vehicle for cheap easy long term road trips. People still like big rv's despite the much greater cost and trouble to operate, so here's what I know about them.

RV Real Estate

RV real estate covers the good and bad of owning your own rv lot, dangers, bylaws and state rules. RV real estate is most commonly known as rv lots or motorhome condo communities or developments. Many like the one I used to stay at in Florida called Salt Springs in Ocala start out as company owned rv parks. Then later the company meets with state smart lawyers and converts each lot to REAL PROPERTY. So now you can buy the lot and have the same rights on it that you would have to build a house in a typical housing development except now you are using it to put your rv on.

Of course with any "community" there are hundreds of issues to deal with concerning what is commonly known as condominium laws or cc&r's. They include issues like whether you can park two RVs on one lot, how loud can your music be, can you have an open fire, how many cars can park on your lot when people come to visit, how old can you rv be, can it be ugly, can the awning stay out 7 days a week when you are not present, must your sewer line be of a certain kind and sealed, how long and tall can your rig be, etc.

RV park developers work with attorneys to develop sensible plans and bylaws to mostly interest the retired full-time RVer. And believe me when you see the stack of papers you get to look over before buying you may be astonished. They try to cover every conceivable situation and as you know with rvers there are a huge number of issues that need to be covered.

If I were buying a lot again I would start NOT with the paperwork but instead with a SERIOUS lengthy drive through the property followed by purposeful interviews with any current owners that you can strike up a conversation with on the premises. Go up to anyone in the clubhouse, common areas, pools, or sitting on their property and say "hello I am so and so and we are considering the purchase of a lot here" Then ASK the following:
1) What do you think about this development?
2) What are the best things you like about it?
3) What do you like the least here?
4) How long have you been here?
5) Are there other places we should consider before buying?
6) Have the maintenance fees increased much over the years?
7) Have you ever felt unsafe or seen any crime?
8) How are the values holding up?

You want to get a good idea of how real people on the ground in the situation that you will soon be in are feeling. If 4 out 5 people you ask say that the swimming pools are NEVER open due to problems and swimming is the biggest interest you have then obviously you don't want to BUY here.

The second best strategy for checking a place out before hand is to rent a lot from one of the existing owners for a week to a month and LIVE there. Experience everything yourself. Interview other residents while there and you will know most of what you need. Then you can more closely read the condominium or community governing documents to decide if there are restrictions you cannot live without. Or if the restrictions allow for activity you do not approve of.

Do not confuse buying an rv lot for which you get a deed with a campground co-op. They are NOT the same thing. Within a coop you own a share of stock which gives you the right to occupy the premises but you do not own the RV real estate. You do not commonly pay taxes on it nor can you usually get financing. Coop's are nice though because many times they are cheaper. A company or nonprofit organization owns the campground and lots in it and issues you the right to occupy a particular lot during the time you own the stock. Campground for Sale offers the prospective buyer a list of things to consider.

The co-op structure seeks to avoid the cost and headache of writing and enforcing condominium regulations. This makes it much easier for a park developer to put in place without local government agency approval. Some government agencies will not allow private rv lot ownership and will not issue permits or deeds so this is a way around it. You don't actually OWN it but you control it for say 99 years so it may work just fine for you. You can SELL your share of stock and thereby transfer ownership and get your money out when you want.

When you buy the lot in the campground it is similar to owning a residential condo. You will receive a deed, pay taxes and receive mail at your address. You can get a mortgage or loan and tax deductions if this is your primary residence. As an owner you are now responsible for your share of the common property by paying a monthly or annual fee. An important thing to remember is usually when most of the lots are sold the community is then run by an association and the developer or campground owner leaves. Your elected Board of Directors then becomes the muscle. Maintenance, cash reserves, budgets, vendor approval, etc. are governed by state laws and your developments bylaws.

You will usually find governing associations in restricted and gated communities including rv developments. This is mandatory as with out some authority there would be shear chaos. They will collect fees to pay staff, cover expenses and pay vendors for common area maintenance and repairs. Associations always require mandatory participation, if you don't pay and follow the rules you can legally be removed from the property and ownership taken.

Undivided Interest (UDI) is a membership form of RV real estate. Each member is an owner and owns a deed which covers an interest in the total campground. You don't get a title to a specific campground lot but you have a fraction of ownership of the total campground including the right to use it. Some RVers use this method to HIDE some of their wealth from debtors or relatives. UDI ownership can be cheap compared to ownership and control by other methods.

Some people prefer to keep their house and rent it out. Then they sign an agreement with the tenant that they will be back from time to time and will be occupying a portion of the property setup for housing the motorhome. This allows for more control for the rv owner and less rent for the tenant who is usually charged less for comparable homes for giving up some of the yard or common area and privacy. There are quite a few options for owning your own piece of RV real estate.


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