In this episode of The MHP Broker’s Tips and Tricks podcast, Maxwell Baker, president of The Mobile Home Park Broker, interviewed Frank Rolfe, a Top 10 Community owner and co-founder of the highly respected CRE University.
This and every Tips and Tricks podcast episode are brought to you by The MHP Broker’s’ proprietary Community Price Maximizer. Use this four-step system to get the highest price possible for your mobile home park or RV community when you sell it through The MHP Broker. Guaranteed. Ask Max for details.
Here Are the Show Highlights:
Reach out to Max to learn more about trends in the mobile home park industry and find out how to sell your property for the best possible price. Just drop Max a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 678-932-0200.
Power Quotes on This Episode:
“(CREUniversity is) the best educational platform…for mobile home park investing.” (Max, 00:22)
“So I plan out my day in advance, trying to utilize every minute of the day for the maximum amount of productivity.” (Frank, 3:02)
“I’m a huge list-maker, planner guy.” (Frank, 4:29)
“I’m still pretty much on plan with my 1980 plan, even though it’s like 42 years ago, but yeah, I’m a big believer that you can’t really get anywhere in life unless you plan a lot.” (Frank, 4:49)
“…we have found over the years that if I have a park that is not working, probably I need to change out the manager because, you know, we typically only have in any given property one employee, the manager. That’s our quarterback, running back, wide receiver, the whole team.” (Frank, 6:12)
“…as long as you think, ‘okay, what would a lender do with this property?’ it’s hard to go wrong.” (Frank, 7:29)
“Another aha moment is that America, although it’s all one nation, it’s more like 50 European countries, every state is so insanely different in everything…” (Frank, 8:26)
“Things that work in some states don’t work in others.” (Frank, 8:36)
“…the risk and reward is, the risk (of continued growth in the industry) is it’s very scary, very serious business. So there’s nothing wrong with staying small.” (Frank, 14:19)
“The key is just your quality of life. And if you (have) one park, and you’re happy, then stay with one…” (Frank, 14:58)
“So in other words, people need to be thinking, ‘how do we build a cheaper (mobile) home?’” (Frank, 22:13)
Hello and welcome to the mobile home park broker’s tips and tricks. This is the podcast where we talk about mobile home park investing, because that’s what we’ve been involved in for the last decade. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Here’s your host, Maxwell Baker.
00:22 Maxwell Baker
Hey y’all welcome to another beautiful episode of the mobile home park brokers tips and tricks podcast. Today, I have the honor of talking to the top 10 Community owner nationwide. His name is Frank Rolfe, before we get started, this episode, as always, is brought to you by the community price Maximizer. It is our proprietary system that will guarantee you a higher price when you exclusively list your community with us, four step process, guaranteed highest price, give us a call 678-932-0200 but back to the star of the podcast, Frank Rolfe. Thank you for joining me, I was surprised that you actually agreed to come on to my podcast, it’s always great to talk to you. You’ve got really quite the history for me personally, because I’ve been following you for well over 10 years. If you guys don’t know Frank Rolfe, he is the owner of CRE university that I have taken three times I believe, we’ve taken the at home course and two of the in person courses of how to invest in mobile home communities, the best educational platform out there for mobile home park investing. He is also partners with Dave Reynolds on over 200 communities and 25 different states. And they have roughly about 300 employees. So, Frank, thanks for joining me.
01:51 Frank Rolfe
Thanks for inviting me, Max.
01:52 Maxwell Baker
Yeah. So just to jump right into it, Frank, some of the topics I’d like to go over with you are kind of what the life of a top 10 Community owner is like, I would love to just kind of hear about your daily routine, you know, Monday to Friday, or if you work every day of the week or work one day a week. I just like to hear and I’m sure everybody likes to hear about how methodical you are if you are methodical and typically if you’re the kind of ambitious person that you are, you like consistency and just do the same things pretty regularly. So that way, it’s easier to run the business. But yeah, I just I wanted to really dissect kind of like what your daily routine is as a community owner.
02:33 Frank Rolfe
Well, my daily routine starts with planning the day before. So every day, the day before I take a legal pad because I’m a low tech pen and paper guy…
02:42 Maxwell Baker
02:43 Frank Rolfe
…and I title it today and then the day of the week that it is and then I have things I have to do. I call that trip and I underline that under trip and then I have another section called calls. Trip is either high priority items or trips, things that I need to go do and then the calls are all the important calls for the day.
03:02 Maxwell Baker
03:02 Frank Rolfe
So I try and think through my day, I keep also a day timer, which gives me my schedule for each day. Even though I also have Google Calendar, I still like old fashioned things. So I plan out my day in advance, trying to utilize every minute of the day for the maximum amount of productivity. As far as what the items are on that list to do every day, it just depends on what we got going on. You know, in the olden days, my very first park I self-managed it. Then as I grew I went from self-managing that park. I still officed out of a park, but I had managers in each park. So for the longest time, for years, I officed out of a park, today I office, basically out of my house or car using a laptop like everybody does anymore. So my day is kind of free form. I do a lot of driving between properties. I do a lot of phoning the people, write reports, emails, things like that, it’s very, very freeform. It’s not like it was in the olden days. So I can’t really give you an ‘Oh yeah, you know, I do this activity for this many minutes each day. I don’t’. The only thing that I consistently do every day is plan the day before. Now when I get to Friday, I plan the weekend. But I have a Saturday and Sunday in one lump on one sheet. And then every other day of the week each day has its own sheet.
04:19 Maxwell Baker
Nice. So like, each day has its own respective sheet and do you do like a monthly kind of thing or quarterly or an annual kind of planning? Or is it kind of like week to week?
04:29 Frank Rolfe
Well, Max I mean, personally I like; I’m a huge list maker, planner guy. It gives me a feeling of security, when I plan decades into the future…
04:41 Maxwell Baker
04:42 Frank Rolfe
I have ring bound notebooks of my plans into the future. In fact, I’ve looked at some of them I’ve had as early as 1980.
04:48 Maxwell Baker
04:49 Frank Rolfe
While I’m still pretty much on plan with my 1980 plan, even though it’s like 42 years ago, but yeah, I’m a big believer that you can’t really get anywhere in life unless you plan a lot. So I have a lot of plans but I don’t refer back to those big plans. My five, my 10 year, my lifetime plans, I only look at those maybe once a month. I like to look at those, in fact, when I’m driving because it keeps me interested…
05:10 Maxwell Baker
05:11 Frank Rolfe
…but my daily plan is on a legal pad and I have one for every day. At the end of that day, I normally keep them but just for reference, I put them in a drawer. When the drawer gets too thick with them, then I put them in a storage locker bin.
05:25 Maxwell Baker
05:26 Frank Rolfe
But that’s what I do.
05:27 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, that’s funny, because I respect the discipline of keeping all that papers around, I think I’d run out of room. (Laughs)
05:34 Frank Rolfe
You know, I was 61 Max, I don’t know what your age is.
05:39 Maxwell Baker
05:40 Frank Rolfe
But for people from my age group, you know, we all grew up on pen and paper and Xerox machines, and it’s too late for me to feel comfortable with technology and that stuff.
05:47 Maxwell Baker
No, I feel you, I want you, I mean, if it’s working for you, no reason to break a system, right?
05:51 Frank Rolfe
05:53 Maxwell Baker
On the path of being a top 10 owner nationwide, what are your top five? If you could think of them right now of ‘aha’ moments that are like, you know, what, if I would have known this, when I started, probably would have been a better position. Now, I’m not saying you’re not in a good position,
06:10 Frank Rolfe
06:11 Maxwell Baker
But just your top five?
06:12 Frank Rolfe
Well, top five items. Number one is an old adage, a mom and pop told me years ago, which is it’s easier to change people than to change people, we have found over the years that if I have a park that is not working, probably I need to change out the manager because, you know, we typically only have in any given property one employee, the manager, that’s our quarterback, running back, wide receiver, the whole team. If they’re not any good, it may be that they’re good in a lot of things but just not good in everything that we need. If it’s not performing, you’re better off just making a quick change. Right? So we’ve had properties that you know, we’re not getting anything sold, for example and then we change the managers and suddenly get everything sold. So what that tells us is should have changed the manager sooner.
06:57 Maxwell Baker
06:57 Frank Rolfe
A lot of the owners, lot of people they hold on to managers too long, who are not performing. I mean, you don’t see it in pro football right, you know, people can literally just have a couple of bad games and, and they’re out. I’ve noticed just as an industry trend, people tend to hold on to managers way too long. I think it’s partly as people just are, they don’t like to have to train new people. Then just as humans, we don’t like getting rid of people. It’s depressing, but that’s one thing is you got to force yourself to make changes in people rapidly. So I think that would be an important aha moment.
07:29 Maxwell Baker
07:29 Frank Rolfe
Another important aha moment is you got to think like a lender. If you’re always thinking like a lender, you never get in trouble. You can always get banking; you always have liquidity. So, you want the kind of parks that banks like to make loans on and when you do things with the park, you want to be just like a bank would walk which means no Park owned homes. You know, high pride of ownership, a little bit better locations perhaps, paved roads, but as long as you think okay, what would a lender do with this property, it’s hard to go wrong.
07:56 Maxwell Baker
07:57 Frank Rolfe
Third item is, you know, if someone wants to venture and get larger as we have done over the years with large reg D 506 funds, it becomes a very, very serious business because people are entrusting their money to you. It’s one thing when you’re when you’re using your money, it’s a whole another thing when you use other people’s money. Some people have this wrong impression the pressure is lesser when it’s other people’s money.
08:19 Maxwell Baker
08:20 Frank Rolfe
It isn’t actually true. Reverse, the pressure is much greater when it’s other people’s money.
08:25 Maxwell Baker
08:26 Frank Rolfe
Another aha moment is that America, although it’s all one nation, it’s more like 50 European countries, every state is so insanely different in everything…
08:35 Maxwell Baker
08:36 Frank Rolfe
…with the way they look, the way that people act, the way they pay, rules, just the general appearance of the properties is so different between Wisconsin and Oklahoma and New Mexico and South Carolina. It’s like we’re not really one nation. We’re just basically; Europe can do the same thing. They could just call it the United Countries of Europe, kind of the same framework. Things that work in some states, don’t work in others.
09:04 Maxwell Baker
09:04 Frank Rolfe
Right. So, you can say, ah, well, I’ve got a master of the park business because I own a park in South Carolina is doing great. Well, you buy it by a park in Wisconsin to do the same thing you’re doing in South Carolina may not work at all. Yeah, you just have to acknowledge it’s a big country. But final ‘aha’ would be the importance of moderation because particularly when it comes to such items as selling homes off, you don’t really know what’s going to happen till you start bringing the homes in. Even now that homes are $70-80,000 There’s some states you can still sell homes all day long at $70 and $80,000. Right?
09:37 Maxwell Baker
09:37 Frank Rolfe
Like you know, in Nebraska, for example, for some reason people in Nebraska are just rich enough to qualify and the house is just expensive enough to make you want to buy an $80,000 singlewide but I can’t sell an $80,000 single wide probably in Arkansas.
09:50 Maxwell Baker
09:50 Frank Rolfe
09:51 Maxwell Baker
09:52 Frank Rolfe
So I guess those would be my top five.
09:54 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, it’s interesting. You said going back to the, I think was number four. I think he gave me six but I’m sure everybody’s happy.
10:01 Frank Rolfe
I lost count Max, I’m sorry
10:03 Maxwell Baker
(Laughs) It’s alright. They were all amazing, but the one that kind of stuck out to me was the different cultures, depending on where you are in the country. You know, as a broker, the people from Northeast Midwest, West Coast, even Texas, and in the south, all negotiate very differently…
10:23 Frank Rolfe
10:23 Maxwell Baker
…when it comes to buying communities and selling communities. It’s interesting because I thought everywhere you go, and it’s funny that it runs parallel with what you’re saying, anywhere you would go people negotiate very similarly, but it’s like night and day difference.
10:41 Frank Rolfe
You know, when I drive across America, I’m a huge barbecue lover it’s my favorite type of food, right? My two favorite foods are basically barbecue and Mexican food and that’s all I would eat if it wasn’t so calorically disastrous to eat just that…
10:55 Maxwell Baker
10:55 Frank Rolfe
…right and when you eat barbecue and you drive across America, they call it barbecue. But culturally, it’s a completely different barbecue every state I go to right?
11:06 Maxwell Baker
11:06 Frank Rolfe
You got to get barbecue in Alabama, they put brown gravy, and they call that barbecue sauce. Then you get a whole different kind when you get to Kansas City, and everything is different, the beans are different, the coleslaw is different. It is just that we are just such a huge country, right? You go to Europe; I’ve been to Europe four times and each country is about the size or smaller than one of our US states…
11:31 Maxwell Baker
11:31 Frank Rolfe
…where there’s just this massive piece of real estate. That’s so culturally divergent, it always just blows my mind. So I’m fully aware that something that works in one state that we’re in, may have absolutely no chance of success in another and you got to just embrace that cultural divide.
11:49 Maxwell Baker
11:50 Frank Rolfe
Just say, okay, you know, and then when you’re looking at property for examples, you probably know and when you get up into Wisconsin, Western Michigan, Northern Michigan, pride of ownership in parks goes up exponentially. That’s because in those parts of America, there is no stigma to the mobile home park. So, you know, people who literally moved from stick build to Mobile Home Park upon retirement and they don’t think anything bad about it. Like nobody says they will, um, trailer trash, you live in a trailer. They just tell people to say, where do you live? Oh, I live at 18 Robinwood Lane or whatever. They don’t think twice about it. They’re not ashamed.
12:24 Maxwell Baker
12:24 Frank Rolfe
As a result, you get these customers and they’re out there mowing and landscaping and carports and frickin everything and they’re driving nicer cars. You know, and yet, they’re not making a whole lot more money. It’s a cultural difference between parks and the north and the south and the east and the west. You just have to understand what you’re getting into.
12:44 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, I would agree with that. I understand. Like, if you got here in Georgia, you mentioned anywhere in Atlanta that you live in a mobile home people are, oh, really, you live in a trailer or? I mean, here in the south, it’s not the same. I was also going to piggyback and say even the manufactured housing associations state to state are very different culturally.
13:04 Frank Rolfe
Yep, you’re exactly correct.
13:05 Maxwell Baker
I’ve been noticing that more and more. But anyways, moving on to the next question I’ve got here is the risk and reward of raising money to buy deals; you kind of mentioned that in the ‘aha’. But I wanted to see if you could dissected a little bit more
13:20 Frank Rolfe
Sure, well, you know what happens with any one of the mobile home park businesses, you typically buy a park. And normally, when you buy that park, you buy that park with your own money. And then at some point, whether the first part, second, third, fourth, fifth, at some point, you’re going to exhaust your money. When you exhaust your money, you can either stop buying more properties, or you can find new sources of capital. So many people, what they’ll do is they’ll buy a couple properties, and then they’ll get a financial partner. And they’ll buy a few more. But at some point, you may get to the limit of the financial partner, they may say, No, I don’t want to put more money into mobile home parks, let’s just stick with what we got to then cross that divide today, what people do is they do reg D 506, is that’s the most normal format.
14:00 Maxwell Baker
14:01 Frank Rolfe
The risk of it is if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you grow very big, you’ll have a very bad ending, right? Be completely beyond your control. As we just mentioned, when you’re using other people’s money, it’s a whole lot more serious an affair than when it’s your money, right?
14:18 Maxwell Baker
14:19 Frank Rolfe
So just for when people you know, to do that the risk and reward is, the risk is it’s very scary, very serious business. So there’s nothing wrong with staying small.
14:28 Maxwell Baker
14:29 Frank Rolfe
Right? People call up all the time, and they say, Hey, I got you know, I got four great parks. But what do you think about me like opening a fund so I can buy some more? And the answer is, I don’t know that that’s smart for you. It all goes back to your quality of life. That’s the key.
14:42 Maxwell Baker
14:44 Frank Rolfe
Need a good quality of life? Well, then screw getting bigger why you getting bigger? Some people feel like they gotta get bigger because there’s some everyone’s like looking down on them. So like, from a societal perspective, if they’re not huge, but then you gotta say it’s like, who’s judging you on that?
14:58 Maxwell Baker
14:58 Frank Rolfe
Right. It’s like the ultimate key Keep it up with the Joneses mobile home park style, like so who said you have to be at 10 That’s why even drives me nuts. Like on the intro, he said top 10 owner, we never had a desire to be a top 10. Owner, top 50 I mean, for the longest time, I think it was 62nd largest, I don’t get arrested or I don’t even look at the list. The key is just your quality of life. And if you got one park, and you’re happy, then stay with one then I man I mean…
15:23 Maxwell Baker
15:23 Frank Rolfe
…the good things in life are not financial, they’re relationship oriented, health. You screw that up, you got nothing. So I don’t think the book is that important to quite honest with you.
15:35 Maxwell Baker
What made you want to get to that size? Was it just kind of organically happened?
15:39 Frank Rolfe
Yeah, it organically happened. You know, the industry has gone through a transformation. Anyone who’s been in it since the 90s as I have, you’ve seen the transformation, right? I mean that in the 1990s these things were a joke. If you could get a loan…
15:54 Maxwell Baker
15:54 Frank Rolfe
…is because you have a heck of a good BS because the minute you walk into a bank and pitch mobile home park, they’d be already tuning you out. They weren’t even taking notes anymore, right? They’re trying to be kind nod, look at their watch figure out, you know what point they can get you out of their office and not have you feel like you slided them. So, we felt like we were riding the wave of the birth of the industry, right? Because it has changed that dramatically over all this time. You know, so I guess we thought we were in just the right place at the right time history will show whether we were or were not. But at the same time, I would never in a million years recommend that everyone try and grow big. I’d say for many people stay small.
16:32 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, I mean, there’s just way more variables, you got a lot more white glove, and I have witnessed people try to grow really fast and end up going to jail.
16:44 Frank Rolfe
Yeah, the problem is that, just because you have one good deal, doesn’t mean necessarily your rocket scientist, right?
16:51 Maxwell Baker
16:51 Frank Rolfe
A lot of these guys take one deal, maybe just a ton of Lucky deal. Or they just happen to pop in. And they found the deal from mom and pop and the guys died of cancer and he says, I’ll tell you for half a million and it was worth a million and a half. But don’t let that convince you that you’re a genius. There was a guy back when I had my billboard company back in Dallas, this guy owned an intersection. I wouldn’t tell the intersection because then people forgot who it was. But he had a very prominent intersection in Dallas, and he and he owned it because his grandfather farmed it. And then he died. He left it to his dad and the dad died left it to him. When you inherit the main intersection of a highway and a major secondary, you can’t go wrong. He had no debt. So, he starts developing this thing and he puts in shopping centers and he puts in apartments. He can do no wrong why, ‘cause he inherited what happened to be probably the best located farm in Texas. But then what the idiot did was after he developed it, he decided he was a genius. He didn’t think to himself Oh, yeah, it’s because my granddad farmed this in 1885 and he then proceeded to lose all of his money. He went out and did a whole bunch of disastrous developments, because he thought he was a super genius. Of course, he was surrounded by yes, men at that point that were trying to tell him yes, yes, you are a super genius and then he lost everything.
18:08 Maxwell Baker
18:08 Frank Rolfe
You know, you just have to like realistically reassess yourself. One thing I try to do every night is I try and like, think to myself, like who are the important people in my life so far, just to give a fair assessment of what’s going on…
18:22 Maxwell Baker
18:23 Frank Rolfe
You know, strengths and weaknesses and say, don’t get in trouble.
18:25 Maxwell Baker
I’m always talking about ego and what not. I always say ego’s a hell of a drug because you tap into it, you just want to keep going, and keep doing and keep feeding and it just keeps growing. Like you’ve got to be real self-aware of kind of what your goals and ambitions are. Do it for the right reasons, not just to keep inflating the ego. But anyways, moving on to the next question here that I had, this was one that you’ve probably talked about substantially, but where do you see the mobile home park industry in the next five to 10 years?
18:57 Frank Rolfe
Mobile home park industry next five to ten years, much higher rents, there’s gonna have to be a crisis in the new home manufacturing side, because you’re not gonna be able to sell $80,000 single wide, nationwide.
19:11 Maxwell Baker
19:11 Frank Rolfe
So that has to be addressed. Someone has to fix that or vacant parks in areas that cannot support expensive home prices will no longer be desirable. You’re going to see a cycle. You’re seeing it right now you’re gonna see interest rates go up, interest rates go down. Right now, you know, with today’s announcement rates are going up. But no one knows how that will translate because no one knows if they have any confidence in that being a new the new norm, or just a quick public relations stunt. We’ve seen that before when they raise the rate then immediately cave back on it. But I think overall, if you look at the industry, if you were to graph the industry, the industry has been going pretty much a vertical ascent. I mean, the last time things were bad was the channel crisis. Right? So that was 1998,1999 and 2000. That era…
19:56 Maxwell Baker
19:56 Frank Rolfe
…as the channel crisis, the industry has been incredibly fortunate on all the mega trends right? It’s like we’re maybe a lot more lucky than smart. Just on the right side of it all, I mean, the nation’s going down the drain at the speed of light…
20:10 Maxwell Baker
20:10 Frank Rolfe
…and as it does the affordable housing demand goes through the roof. Park owners we just luck out and we just ride the crest of that wave. But I see nothing but good things into the future. be quite honest with you. I don’t I don’t have any negative thoughts on mobile home parks, for the nation? Totally. I think nation is screwed. But I think the park owners are in pretty good position.
20:30 Maxwell Baker
20:31 Frank Rolfe
Yeah, except for the fact that you know, and I guess you’re down in Georgia. I mean, you know, in parts of America, where the rents are not $ 4, 5 or 600 a month, someone’s got to come up with the product to fill those vacant lots, people need the affordable housing desperately. But you know, not that long ago and Max and now you’re at the shows, remember when they had the three two’s for $19995?
20:52 Maxwell Baker
Yeah. I do. I do.
20:53 Frank Rolfe
At the Louisville show and all that. So let’s bring that stuff back. Let’s cut the nonsense thinking that you can stick an $80,000 singlewide Joe Average Park and make that have that have a happy ending? I don’t know if they have to change the way they’re manufactured. I don’t know if they have to change the size. I don’t know how they’re going to do it. But they gotta they gotta get a handle on that. I did not in any way appreciate or support this phenomenon over the last two years with these new mobile home manufacturing prices going through the roof.
21:21 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, I’ve been seeing it, more and more park owners and they’re like, Yeah, got it in here for $60,000. I was like what?
21:28 Frank Rolfe
21:29 Maxwell Baker
I’ve seen this and not all communities are the same. I’ll go into an area in, there’ll be a couple of people, I won’t be mentioning names, obviously, but this person had put in all these brand new mobile homes. The area wasn’t I mean, it was a good area here in the south but it wasn’t like, main on main downtown, you know, primary market and they sat empty for years. He put a used home out there for like 30% of what he was selling the new ones and that thing was gone within days. It’s just you see these a lot of people buying brand new homes, and they’re like, if we build it, they will come but some areas just can’t sustain the new model home. You can only put in use Homes, I mean, I’m sure you’ve been exposed to that.
22:13 Frank Rolfe
Yeah, absolutely correct. So in other words, people need to be thinking, how do we build a cheaper home? Not how do we take cheaper homes and make them more expensive? Some wild people lost track of what the heck the industry is about? because the manufacturers, they’re looking at margins, right? They build seven floors a day…
22:31 Maxwell Baker
22:32 Frank Rolfe
…they would obviously much rather make a $20,000 home than $2000 home.
22:36 Maxwell Baker
22:36 Frank Rolfe
But at some point, we have to have an equilibrium where there’s somebody producing a product that can sell in a lot of markets, where you cannot sell those expensive single wides.
22:45 Maxwell Baker
I was gonna ask, it’s not one of the questions, but it’s very similar about the tiny home industry and kind of where you see that going in the next five to ten years.
22:54 Frank Rolfe
You know tiny homes are cool, but the ones that are cool, don’t have HUD seals on them. And the ones that have HUD seals on them aren’t cool. So they either have to figure out how to make a cool tiny home with the HUD seal or they’re gonna have to relax this whole HUD seal thing on tiny homes because it reminds me a lot of Uber ride with Uber came out. Austin was Austin FOB Uber, I think when Uber came out, and they said no, no, you don’t have a taxi cab franchise. Remember this whole deal, they ran Uber out of business in Austin of all places. They thought it was a violation of the taxi laws. Then they gave into the public is like prohibition right? Now, it probably wouldn’t be weird if people didn’t drink, but Gosh, darn it, people don’t want to drink and next thing you knew they had to handle, let them do it. And so obviously, if you are, if you’re a single person, or if you’re a couple, I think a tiny home would be very awkward with kids. I know I see it on TV, but I just can’t, can’t fathom that.
23:48 Maxwell Baker
It’d be tough.
23:49 Frank Rolfe
It’d be tough. Okay, not for everybody, that’s for sure. But there’s a lot of individuals and couples that would love having a tiny home in an area and they could then go out and experience life and use them all the money they’re saving on something else that they’d rather do than paying the mortgage, property tax and all the rest of it. So I think the demand is very much there for it. But once again, the industry has not figured out how to harness it.
24:14 Maxwell Baker
24:15 Frank Rolfe
So if someone came to me while you put a tiny home in one of our parks, I have to say, I’m sorry, you can’t. I wish you could. I love the idea. But you know, city says I gotta have a seal on it or you can’t come in.
24:25 Maxwell baker
24:26 Frank Rolfe
So something’s got to give. It’s got to give I mean, Hunt talks all the time about trying to promote affordable housing of course they really don’t do any of it normally.
24:33 Maxwell Baker
23:34 Frank Rolfe
So this one issue. I think we could all agree on that the risk of somebody bringing in a, you know, a tiny home into a park without the HUD seal whose world is gonna get harmed by that. We wouldn’t what are we really concerned about on that? Give me a break what the roofs gonna fall in now? I don’t think so.
24:49 Maxwell Baker
24:49 Frank Rolfe
You see the things. They build them on TV. I mean…
24:52 Maxwell baker
24:53 Frank Rolfe
There’s some things out there that HUD and the government need to relax in tiny homes is one of those topics.
24:57 Maxwell Baker
I’ve been seeing more and more in some of these resort-y style like in the mountains on the coast, in the inner cities where you see these mobile home communities that are like little wonder breads that are super tiny. It’s like the perfect situation where you go into those inner-city mobile home communities. It’s filled with those 60s and 70s Junkers and then swap them out with tiny homes. It sounds like it would make sense.
25:22 Frank Rolfe
Yeah, in what, in certain locations – it’s not everywhere. But if you have a mobile home park, it’s all to kind of run down and really nice location and you were to go in, it’s basically scrape it – the all or nothing, you pretty much have to get rid of all of your old junker-oonies and repopulate with brand new tiny homes. They’re all have that kind of 50s Mid Century Modern Jive to it.
25:45 Maxwell Baker
25:46 Frank Rolfe
Yeah. When you have people who just line up to buy them. Yeah, he probably would. I mean, and in America, where single family homes average, what, $300,000-400,000. If you could provide a tiny home in there for 50 grand, or even higher. You’d have a lot of people who would do that.
26:01 Maxwell Baker
26:02 Frank Rolfe
The danger you’d have is unpopulating your park to do it. That’s kind of a risky, risky deal. But I’ve had parks before where I toyed with it. This was an idea that came up back in the 90s. When they brought out remember the two story mobile homes when they first brought those out.
26:15 Maxwell Baker
Yeah those were so cool.
26:16 Frank Rolfe
They had a product for high density parks. There was a two story garage on the bottom house on the top. And I looked at a pie in a little 20 Something space Park in Grapevine, Texas, and a super deluxe luxury market. And I thought you know what, I could just get all those little 70s and 60s trailers in here out of here. I would need almost no infrastructure change. I can start bringing those in back then you could buy them for about 50 I could probably have sold them for 80,000 made like 30,000 lot profits still on the parks still charge lot rent.
26:50 Maxwell Baker
26:51 Frank Rolfe
I think you will start seeing that because mobile home parks the big value when you buy one is you’re buying a permit.
26:56 Maxwell Baker
26:57 Frank Rolfe
You’re basically a parking lot. You have a permit to be a parking lot. And there’s better things to the park in those spaces then mobile homes, quite frankly, right. I mean, I don’t think the product is the best they can possibly be not even close. Tiny Homes are definitely a step in the right direction.
27:11 Maxwell Baker
27:12 Frank Rolfe
So, I don’t know what awaits, let’s see how it plays out?
27:14 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, I’m interested to see it because it’s starting to, I’m seeing it more and more on this side of the table. Just people asking and people inquiring about it. So anyways, moving on to the next question. I’m asking this question, because I’ve seen more and more people, not just mobile home community educational platform, but like RVs and self-storage and it’s always been my theory that if you create, like a platform of education, people will come to you. They’ll never invest in anything, and then they’ll invest in your fund to help you buy more deals.
27:49 Frank Rolfe
27:50 Maxwell Baker
That was the main reason why I was asking is, I wanted to see your opinion about creating the Syria University platform, because like, you’re the Juggernaut when it comes to education on the mobile home park stuff, man. I mean, nobody’s created and spent as much time energy and money educating. I mean, I’m successful, because of all the education you do, like, I’d say a good 50% of the clients that I work with, have all taken your course. So, I just was curious on the benefits that you’ve seen. Operating CRE University.
28:22 Frank Rolfe
Yeah, what we started doing, and people don’t realize how wacky things were. But back in the 90s, the early 2000s, there was absolutely no information flow on the industry whatsoever.
28:36 Maxwell Baker
28:36 Frank Rolfe
There was nothing. In fact, I have a copy of each of the only two books in existence. One is the 1970s tiny paperback, it’s called like, mobile home parks or something and then there’s 1951 or 1955, How to Develop and Operate a Mobile Home Park. There was nothing current, and where the whole MHU thing came from was I was speaking at an event. Back in those days, it was called Mobile Home Millions is the only industry event that exists. It’s called Mobile Home Millions. So, it was a promo event and it was filled with people who were obviously trying to promote selling junk. And then you had a whole lot of people who were who were just curious what the industry was, and there’s a whole lot of bad information.
29:17 Maxwell Baker
29:18 Frank Rolfe
I mean, if you listen to the speakers, it would be people just trying to hock everything from Ginsu knives with a mobile home park logo on…
29:26 Maxwell Baker
29:26 Frank Rolfe
…and who knows why. Dave and I just ended up eating at a Subway sandwich shop. I was like, hey, can I sit with you? And so we’re just like, he’s I was and I said, Man, this contents terrible. And Dave was like, yeah, this is absolute crap. These people who are listening to this, they’re getting their heads filled with some of the worst information of all time. So we decided that we would start bringing out factual information and put it on Mobile Home Park Store, because Dave had the website ‘Mobile Home Park Store’ that would that was it’s very basic beginnings and they then over time, we found that people actually had interest in the information. We learned that we kind of liked writing and that I liked speaking, Dave doesn’t like to speak that much. It just basically completely organically grew.
30:11 Maxwell Baker
30:12 Frank Rolfe
Then, you know, if you look at the stats, 30% of everyone in the top 100 went to our boot camp at some point. Right? So it’s like we’ve had a huge impact on the industry, but the original intent was just to give what we thought, if the industry had some, like professional information, maybe it could be elevated.
30:31 Maxwell Baker
30:31 Frank Rolfe
I think we did elevate it some, ‘cause see, I’ve had a lot of conduit lenders, a lot of banks, a lot of appraisers that went through the boot camp over time. It obviously has some impact on them, right? I mean, just to hear like, oh, wow, there’s actually science behind this, I thought this thing was a joke. They had to have somebody go out there and probably make a loan that they would not have made or appraised a park for more than they would have before. Then of course, fast forward to recent times, I have through default become the figurehead of the evil landlord in the media, right? So, in modern times, you know, I have this bizarre personality, because I, you know, I’m liked by people in the industry, and then hated by people in the media, and only because I’m the only one who will talk to them. That’s the deal I’ll say every time, you know, doesn’t matter whether there’s a New York Times article, or the recent thing on VICE News, or whatever. I’m the only one masochistic and dumb enough to answer the call when people call and have questions on how mobile home parks work, because our industry associations, they won’t do it. They all say no comment, don’t respond, you can’t make the industry, take it to the next level, if you won’t talk about it. I mean, who ever heard of such a thing he mentioned someone calling Ford Motor Company, I want to talk to you about electronic vehicles. No comment. It’s just and I hired to be that guy that is, you know, the face of new woke evil as far as the evils of landlord that just kind of now here at this point, the movie what has become so you know, we teach you about the industry spread that spread the size of the industry and then also, part of the time I get calls from people in the media, some of the articles are good.
32:06 Maxwell Baker
32:06 Frank Rolfe
Right. Like the New York Times article a while back was good. I’ve had some other good ones, then some of them are bad, but I’m the only one who will talk to people.
32:12 Maxwell Baker
I’ve been approached a few times and they all want like, details and names of people. I’m like, I just I’ll talk about generalities but when they start asking for names, I’m like, I’m not interested in doing that because I had VICE do it once and then there was a group out of Chicago that wanted to do like a whole, you know, that show that was like Myrtle Manor or whatever it was in Charleston.
32:38 Frank Rolfe
Yeah I do. Yep, Myrtle Manor, sure.
32:41 Maxwell Baker
They wanted to do something similar with the brokerage game and kind of what we see a day in, day out, I gave them some golden nuggets for them to get excited about, but they sent me a video camera and wanted me to record, you know, conversations and all that.
32:54 Frank Rolfe
You can’t even do that, that’s not even legal that they’d even do that. Right.
32:57 Maxwell Baker
That’s what I was saying. I was like, I don’t think this is gonna work and my wife was like, absolutely not. I do not want to be in limelight with you. No, so I, I’m with you, man, I’m grateful that you have led the run and have taken all the arrows in the back good and bad because you’ve expanded the ability of what this industry can become. To segue into what’s happening right now was Sam Zell purchasing mobile home village and DataComp for $43 million. I think the quote that one of the articles that your people wrote was that he’s investing in the macro side of the business.
33:41 Frank Rolfe
Yes, he’s investing in the in the basic infrastructure of the industry and again, he has selfish motives in that, right, because the more you can make the industry mainstream, the better the value of the Land Lease Community.
33:51 Maxwell Baker
Yes. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and I just saw that.
33:55 Frank Rolfe
I just wanted to throw this out, Max, is that you know, yeah, you look at how different it worked for the self-storage industry, right? Yeah, they did such a much more masterful job than mobile home parks ever did. There are newer asset class, they’re much more widely accepted, right. Everyone thinks that self-storage is just institutional grade. Yet you can get magazines out in the 70s, where they call it right in the articles goofy.
34:20 Maxwell Baker
34:20 Frank Rolfe
This new goofy investment thing. But they had public storage, right? Public Storage owns kind of at the top three guys, I think own 25% of all storage in United States.
34:32 Maxwell Baker
34:33 Frank Rolfe
Of course, public storage is by far the majority of that. So, Sam Zell to me is kind of public storage, right? He’s like giving it respectability. I can’t even imagine the industry without Zell.
34:44 Maxwell Baker
34:45 Frank Rolfe
Michelle had not got into the industry out of which to even have an industry at this point is still gonna be like the 90s probably, you know, my hat’s off to Zell. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, you could do no wrong. I wish he would buy up everything, because the more he is involved, the more it elevates things that other people look at that and go well, Zell’s is doing it must be good.
35:04 Maxwell Baker
35:05 Frank Rolfe
So if Zell buys Data Comps, Zell buys MH Village that sends a signal to other real estate asset sectors that ‘Oh wow’ mobile home parks. They’re not dumb, because Zell’s buying it up he’s not dumb, therefore it must be pretty good.
35:16 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, no, totally.
35:17 Frank Rolfe
So, I think it was good news.
35:19 Maxwell Baker
Yeah and then the last question I’ve got here, any books that you’re reading right now would love to hear kind of what you’re reading
35:26 Frank Rolfe
Man, I read all kinds of stuff, Max. I read an endless plethora of business and war biographies.
35:34 Maxwell baker
35:34 Frank Rolfe
I literally just move from one to the next is sometimes I just go through and find certain chapters I like and I read those and I move to the next book.
35:41 Maxwell Baker
35:42 Frank Rolfe
So I typically at any moment have probably 10 books open in a stack with bookmarks in them.
35:47 Maxwell Baker
35:47 Frank Rolfe
Because I float around in them, okay?
35:49 Maxwell Baker
35:50 Frank Rolfe
No, one of the books I’ve read. Just give me some top books for people to read. One book is the book written by Sam Zell, ‘Am I being too subtle?’
35:58 Maxwell Baker
That’s a great book.
35:58 Frank Rolfe
If you don’t have that book. That thing’s What 20 bucks on Amazon. Best deal of all time, maybe even cheaper on I don’t know, Etsy, or eBay or something. That’s a great book.
36:08 Maxwell Baker
36:08 Frank Rolfe
My all-time favorite book is the man who bought the Waldorf story of Conrad Hilton, you can’t get the stupid book. It’s out of print book, you can sometimes find it on like antique book dealers, nearly impossible to ever get a copy. But again, another great book. There’s another book out there that I love but I don’t know how you get a copy. It’s called ‘Dave’s way’ he has a story of Wendy’s he had some awesome observations on managers that will completely translate from Wendy’s managers to mobile home park managers and just his whole life story is fascinating. I love it. I think you can learn from almost anything you read. I’ll go to end antique stores, estate sales, garage sales, and I’m the guy that comes in and buys like the books.
36:49 Maxwell Baker
36:49 Frank Rolfe
So, I’ll probably buy 10 or 20 books, $1 book, and then stick them to just I can tell if the books any good or not within that first chapter, not any good than I basically give to the library. And then the good ones I put on the shelf and that shelf contains probably at this point, I don’t know what probably 500 to 1000 volumes.
37:07 Maxwell Baker
37:08 Frank Rolfe
Those are my good ones. I think that any investor they should read everything you can every book, every magazine, if you can’t come away with one good idea from something, maybe you’re not a good reader or something like that.
37:19 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, you heard it here, first guys and girls think horizontally when you’re reading. I mean, he just literally just said that about just reading. Anyways, Frank, I’m grateful for your time. I know you’re a busy guy. I appreciate the time here to talking about really just the current events and kind of like your background and what you’re seeing in the industry. Do you have any closing thoughts or anything before we sign off?
37:42 Frank Rolfe
Well, you know, just number one, I appreciate you doing this because again, the more people who talk about the industry, better the industry will be because it needs to be talked about.
37:53 Maxwell Baker
37:54 Frank Rolfe
Right and the industry, it doesn’t have very much self confidence as an industry. So if you were saying what’s probably with mobile home parks, well, you know, people who own mobile home parks, they always are kind of shy to talk about what they do, and how the things work. It does a disservice to everybody.
38:12 Maxwell Baker
38:13 Frank Rolfe
Right. I mean, here in my small town in Missouri, the guys and other mobile home parks, people don’t even know who they are because they don’t want to talk about it is like they consider it embarrassing or something. We gotta get a break out of that rut. Park Owners need to have a lot more self-confidence. You got to learn to not be ashamed and afraid and you know if the market rents at $400 a year and you’re at $200, well raise your rent.
38:32 Maxwell Baker
38:32 Frank Rolfe
Right, have a little more belief in yourself, belief in the industry. So I think, you know, each and every podcast, article, everything helps the industry out, because it helps make it more mainstream, because that’s its problem is it’s so far behind the eight ball of every other sector. It’s sad, and it’s and it’s kind of breaking out of it now right now, now that you get these big private equity groups of people moving into they’re going to give a little more pizzazz oh and confidence. But yeah, we are one of the great public relations catastrophes of American industry in the mobile home parks
39:07 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, I don’t agree with that.
39:08 Frank Rolfe
Good god we’re switched. It’s such a terrible job. So, we’re going to have to really ramp it up to catch up to everybody else.
39:14 Maxwell Baker
Yeah. Well, Frank, thanks again and as always, y’all this episode is brought to you by the community price Maximizer. It is our proprietary system that will guarantee you a higher price when you exclusively list your community with us, four step program, data centered. We got great people here on our team. Frank Rolfe, everybody. Thanks man, for joining us, giving you a little virtual hug here. Thanks for signing on. We appreciate everybody listening. Let’s keep moving forward.
Frank Rolfe is the co-owner of the 6th largest mobile home parks business in the United States. He is also co-owner of Mobile Home University. His business model and the business model he teaches have been criticized as being unethical. Others praise him for fixing up mobile home parks.