BUYING RV PROPERTY
RV Lots are available in great variety. As with other pages in this site we discuss only RV
property you can own. What follows is a review of things you might consider before the purchase of a
campsite or RV lot.
You found an area you plan to enjoy and a park that fits your budget, but what else might you
consider as you make a site selection? Consider carefully, for unlike picking a spot for your next vacation,
you will visit this site often or for extended periods. It is difficult to separate site selection from park
choice, since many characteristics may apply to every site in a park, but many parks segregate "pet lots"
for example, so there can be big differences. Let's look at those differences and some general criteria
which might send you looking for another park.
Your RV needs electric, water and sewer hookups to function. Older parks provided 120V
30A for your RV and sometimes an extra 15 or 20 A duplex outlet. If your RV operates from this power
and you have no plans for a larger rig, this is fine. The extra duplex outlet provides an outside plug-in or
basic power for a shed. If only the 30A outlet is provided, investigate upgrading costs because you have
no power for anything but your RV. Similarly, if your rig needs 220V 50A and it is not on site investigate
now as extensive electrical work may be required. Newer parks are typically providing 220V 100A service
to power both RVs and support facilities. Power available may be different from site to site in the same
park because of past owner upgrades.
Know where your water is coming from; county, city, or park wells in some cases. You can rely on a tax backed source to
provide your water. Wells can be problematic but,
on the other hand, generally provide water at much lower cost. Find out about operating
history. Have there been dry spells? What of water quality? Will the latest park expansion overtax the
supply? Is the pressure good? Talk to folks that have been in the park for awhile.
Remember a whole-house charcoal filter is an inexpensive addition at the hose
bib. Sewer systems are the most expensive of utilities to upgrade or repair and they are receiving increasing
attention from environmentalists and bureaucrats everywhere. If you have county or
city sewer, your cost
for this service is probably high and going higher, but you can rely on "others" to keep it running. A septic tank shared with
a few other sites is probably your lowest cost and, assuming proper size installation, best sewer solution. Be
careful if you hear about frequent pump outs. This can mean an inadequate
capacity system or drain field
troubles. Look into this in detail. If your park has a "package plant", your own little
"treatment plant" just like a city, that is fine. If the park has been operating for awhile this system has been tested and maintained to
meet strict codes. These plants require periodic maintenance, pump replacement, etc, that should be
provided for in the budget. There are other types of systems. Ask questions! Be careful. Remember, you
will be required to pay to repair or upgrade a polluting or dysfunctional system...
I favor a local septic tank because sewage is disposed without a long distance
move (pumping & pipe), the system is
passive, maintenance is straight forward, there is a minimum amount of excavation and street
repair if servicing, the
initial cost is low and it works safely and reliably for many, many, years. It
is the sewer system that requires the lowest skills to service and maintain even
if there is some pumping or lift stations.
A master metered electrical service will provide the lowest cost power from an
Master metered means the "park" (condo, association, etc) pays for power at the
transformer and sub-meters each lot. This arrangement avoids the high (and
going higher) monthly charge for service billing from an electric utility
company for each owner-meter. Savings of ten to thirty dollars a month
is common and even more, when bills for zero electric use when you are not on
your lot, that are all "service charges", are considered.
Internet access has become increasingly important. If no WIFI service is available, consider setting
up your own DSL or Cable modem with a router "access point" and
possibly share costs with your neighbor(s). If no DSL, Cable services or cell air card services
are possible, satellite
may be your only option. I suggest a careful investigation of Internet
availability, cost and connection quality. This could impact lot value or
ability to sell looking to the future.
Around The Site
Where do we park? This is not a foolish question! If your prospective site can park
a Greyhound Bus with 30' slides fine, but most sites are rather small. Any site
should be able to normally park two cars (small trucks) and your RV. It's easy to fall in love with the "big
oak tree site" without actually measuring. Many parks require setbacks from property lines. You do know
exactly where the property lines are, don't you? I strongly recommend a survey or a "pronouncement"
from the board to confirm just where your lot lines are and the size of the lot. Once this is known, will
your RV, slides and all, fit nicely clearing that tall power box or the 3' high water pipe?
Are the utilities placed where you can connect within a reasonable distance? After you locate
your RV, will you be left with a large enough parking area? Will the spot that you have selected for the
shed (or gazebo, auxiliary building, deck, patio, etc...) meet board rules? Don't forget to look at drainage! Will this lot
flood, or have standing water after a rain? Are there signs of flowing water or
erosion? Ask around the park if in doubt. Even if it usually rains when most are gone, someone will know.
Ask about soil conditions...
It is important with most RV lots to really study how you will place your RV,
how you will back it in place and all else you plan. As time has passed, many RV
parks have been very lax about improvements placed at the edge of the road
making backing in or out very difficult. Look for drains, signs, landscape timbers, etc. I suggest a scale plan !! Many RV parks are (were) poorly surveyed,
designed at a time of small RVs, or have operated from
historical placement rather than legal boundaries. What you find on a plat may or may not be what is
found on the ground, especially in older RV parks. Since we are discussing purchase, an error on the
side of caution is in order. In addition, if you are getting title insurance, a survey will probably be required
anyway. You may need elevation data too if you are considering a park model or any permanent
structure on the property. That can be done as part of the survey, but you must ask for it.
Like any other real estate, select a property that stands out from others; offers something
different. Price can be that difference, but other features are more important. They could be,
that big oak,
the view, the size, a lot abutting a beautiful common space, privacy, water front, pets allowed, hill side, or
improvements next door. Analyze your selection. Should you spend a bit more, or less, to set your
selection apart from others? When the time comes to sell, your choice may not yield a large price
increase, but at least should get attention and a prompt sale when compared to others. If
you find yourself considering the least expensive lot, that's been offered for awhile,
make sure you really understand why your choice was not sold long ago.
All things being equal, "pet lots" in pet restricted RV parks have increased in value and demand
much more than others. Rigid boards unwilling to support rules changes, assure restricted supply in such
parks. Pet lots have proven a good investment! All things being
equal always select the larger site. This is definitely an area where bigger is
better. Many early deluxe parks offered "everything" but space!
Don't be fooled by fancy landscaping. RVs are much bigger than when 70's and
80's parks were designed. In general, lot width is critical and determines the
degree of privacy and use you can enjoy.
Over The Fence
If you are considering an outside perimeter lot, find out what is happening to the
property that surrounds your chosen RV park. If the owner or sales folks don't help with this, visit the
county or city zoning and planning departments. (These days this visit can
usually be done online)
Ask what is "in the works" for these properties and what current zoning permits. Common sense planning
suggests that some obnoxious land use will not be permitted next door, but the RV park may be the new
project in the area and an obnoxious use may have been zoned that way for 50 years.
Remember that RV parks are typically developed in outlying areas that can end up "in the way of
progress". As such, natural surroundings may give way to tract homes or other
intense land uses. This can have
a major impact on your park and the value of your lot. Look over the fence.
If you have decided on a new RV park, pick your lot well, as you might have an opportunity to
profit right along side the developer. How? RV parks, like housing tracts, are divided into phases
(sections) to give a manageable and affordable number of lots to finish and sell at one time. The size of a
phase is typically tied to sales projections and lender requirements. When you review a new park look for
dead end streets and other signs of more development to come. Ask about future
phases. You may get
little cooperation as sales folks are told to focus and sell ONLY what they have today. See if you can discover if
current owners will receive an opportunity to purchase in future phases at significant
discount. This is
often done as existing owners are a good source for new sales. It can be a profit opportunity too, as
prices, phase to phase, almost always increase as the park is established. Some locations have
experienced 50% plus increases in value over a year or two. These increases can be realized not only
from the sale of your original purchase, but a discounted purchase in a later
The text above dates from before 2007 at a time when our economy was chugging right
along and virtually all real property was appreciating..
Not so today. CAUTION is your watchword in a new RV park. Be sure you understand
the sales history, projections and financing picture.
Look To The Future
Like it or not, the number of park models in a park, if permitted, generally increases with
time. If you see lots of park models, consider space for a park model. Think about your future buyer. Look
around. If the typical park model is 40' long and 12' wide with another 12' room on the side you will need
at least 24' x 40' and that does not count an air conditioner. It may be that when it is time for you to sell,
that will be your (only) market. Is there room? Similarly, if your modest 25' travel trailer just fits the lot,
you may be severely limiting who can buy your lot one day.
If your RV park is under the landing pattern of an airport, all sites are going to get
noise. Fortunately, most noise sources are local. Many parks are on a main road. Traffic will be
noticeable near the road. In the back of the park you will not hear traffic. Water system pumps, trash
dumpsters, swimming pool, and sports fields can contribute to noise. Power meter installations,
transformers, and power poles can be visually distracting and hurt resale. Look around carefully, and if
you normally only visit on weekends, try to visit during the week. A look "over the fence" can be important here too.
The place next door may come alive during the week. Does the trail to the forest run right next to your
favorite lot? Are 6AM hikers going to bother you? Be aware. Have you overlooked something others
might consider a nuisance?
We visited improvements in and around the site but a last word of caution is warranted! When you pick
your lot and plan your improvements you will usually have to satisfy two groups to get permission to proceed; the
county or city and the board or the board's designee (architectural committee, etc). You can expect
reasonable treatment from the county or city. Their regulations will be carefully spelled out and are
probably a part of some national code that includes good health and safety standards. Condo
(HOA, POA, etc) rules are a
completely different matter and may well defy all reason and logic. They may also be unevenly applied. If
you have any sense that your planned improvements may run afoul of your Board or some
committee, consider making MAKE WRITTEN APPROVAL A CONDITION OF PURCHASE. Actions by these groups are
notoriously slow, often capricious, and almost always unpredictable. Despite all
the "glad handing" you may initially experience from these groups, you
will likely discover something very different, when it is time to get a
permit to build.
Remember that the "development rules" were handed down from the developer, and they were his
ideas from the time the project started. He may have had no experience with RVs ! His attorney might
have drawn them up, lifting the content from who knows where? Often the park
over time becomes quite different from what the
developer started. What usually happens is that from Board to Board, incremental changes
are made to "fix" problems as they arise. Slowly a "camel" is created. This explains quirky restrictions that have no
basis in reason or need. This also explains support for such rules from "the
old timers" who were made to
follow them, and demand that, "..by golly", you should too! One can not be
too careful in gauging what will actually be allowed A look around
together with a historical narrative, pointing out earlier and later improvements, can be very instructive!
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