There are a variety of ways in which you can “own” your RV real estate. Many are identical to how you might “own” a single family home. Several reflect the cleverness of the RV park developer working with legal counsel.  Reviewed below are common forms of ownership and some of their characteristics, listed in approximate order of popularity. Concerned about costs.. go here !

About the only method we have yet to see is a “time share RV park” and you can imagine that will come one day in a highly sought after resort location like the Florida Keys or Newport Beach.  Have you seen one ?

Like a residential condo, the individual owner assumes responsibility for his pro-rata share of the common property and improvements and receives a deed for his legally described “Lot”. Established maintenance fees must be paid or the owned unit will be forfeited. The details of responsibility and limits of ownership are carefully spelled out in the condo documents and should be read carefully and understood. Condos become self governing when most of the Lots are sold. A small condo campground might be run as an all volunteer affair, while large resort style condos are managed day to day by paid staff. Both are ultimately governed by an elected Board of directors. Variations on the basic condo structure include, common ownership of all real estate, whereby what is individually owned is a legal description of a location you may occupy (air space). Another utilizes two deeds, one for the subdivided (technically condo lot) lot and the second for an undivided interest in all common property. Condominiums differ some depending upon the State in which they are located. Budget handling, maintenance projections and condo reserves can be treated quite differently and receive different levels of governmental oversight depending on the State. There is a trend for State regulations to get more and more into details of condominium operation. Regulation is ever growing and has spawned a cottage industry advising Boards, etc. where condos abound.

The lack of adequate cash reserves to meet maintenance and upkeep requirements is probably the biggest failing found in condominiums. As directors are elected short term, long term replacement expenses, and unpleasant issues are often not addressed. This can lead to large assessments that might have been avoided through timely additions to reserves. The size of the condominium probably impacts the operations and maintenance more than any other single factor. Large campgrounds yield big budgets which makes possible smoother and more professional operation. All volunteer campgrounds often enjoy a strong bond between owners not found in campgrounds with hundreds and hundreds of lots and numerous employees. Increasing State intrusion and regulations are not making RV condominiums better.

Often used to refer to million dollar New York high rise apartments, co-op is also found in campgrounds! Unlike a condo, in a co-op you do not own real estate, but rather a share of stock together with a (proprietary) lease for occupancy. The campgrounds’ real estate is owned by the corporation that issues the stock you own. This collective form of ownership is just like owning stock in GE, except for the added lease which specifies your right to occupy a particular location or "lot" during the time you own the stock.

In practice this structure is much easier for a park developer to put in place and it avoids much of the burdensome permitting process and regulations that governments place on condominiums. The co-op is the preferred legal structure when tenants have the opportunity to purchase and convert a rental RV park (mobile home too) to individual ownership. Advantages include, a single large corporate loan to effect the purchase, that can continue with mixed rental and ownership operations, and avoidance of strict regulations impossible to meet for older parks that would attempt (going condo) subdivision. A change to co-op is not a change in form, like a subdivision (a condominium is sort of a subdivision, too), but is simply a change in ownership. Conceptually simple, a park is purchased by a corporation that just happens to have all it’s shareholders participating on the land, from the owner that has been renting the RV sites. Since the park was in legal operation, it’s park use permitted, it continues operations unchanged as a co-op. Some times a co-op structure is the only way a private RV park can exist given the local regulations. Suspect local government hostility toward RVs, when you find a newly constructed co-op RV park, because most likely subdivision (new condo) for RV use is not permitted ! It can be difficult in some locations to obtain financing for a co-op. While this may not be a problem for you, consider your resale position and investigate your lending market. A final note. Many co-ops have never been properly surveyed and documented since expensive engineering requirements, like those for condos, are not mandated. If you are co-op shopping, look at lot boundaries, etc, very carefully. Even a simple survey may be a big problem if the co-op was never surveyed (mapped) in the first place!

Fee Simple
Fee simple means that you have a straight forward deed to a property without ties to any common involvement other than that required by law, taxes, war, etc., for all property in the County, Township, Parish, Town or City. You simply own the real estate, or real property, without legal communal entanglement. The use of an RV on fee simple land, not a part of an RV park , will be a matter of compliance with local zoning requirements and “deed restrictions”. Deed restrictions are found in documents recorded by a prior owner that places limits on what can and can not be done with the property. These restrictions will have an expiration date, and usually date from the time the land was last subdivided. “CCRs” and “restricted property” are but two of a variety of terms used to describe recorded property use restrictions. There are other restrictions indirectly affecting your use of property such as easements and mineral rights clauses. Familiarize yourself with the real estate customs and norms in the area where you have interest in owning. The County Courthouse is a good place to start !

Fee simple real estate for RVs will likely be found in two circumstances; where a subdivision was specifically created that is permissive to RVs, and where zoning codes do not restrict RV use on the property. The RV friendly subdivision is increasing in popularity as developers appeal to high end RVers wanting an RV home that will include a port or other improvements that run from a simple porch to a five bedroom luxury home. Unrestricted property where RVs can be used is normally found in more rural Counties that have not yet succumbed to endless urban regulation. Property of this type is disappearing fast as Counties are pushed by environmental groups, State agencies, and ever expanding local bureaucrats, to restrict and control uses of private property via Master Plans and total County zoning. I encourage great care when dealing with these properties. We RVers are especially susceptible to unpleasant surprises as we are prone to bring our real estate experience from one State to another, making incorrect assumptions ! Do your homework with great care.

Both the condo and co-op bring with them the inherent structure, the mechanism, for common governance. When real estate is held “fee simple” a restriction may be recorded that requires the owner to participate in an “association” of fellow property owners. This mandatory participation usually includes enforcement provisions and requires monetary support of the “association”.

Associations are usually much more narrowly defined in purpose than condos and co-ops, limiting activities for example, to security and street maintenance, rather than open ended lifestyle activities, etc. Associations are commonly found in gated communities where restricted access makes street ownership necessary. Monetary support for street maintenance, street replacement and security is commonly required. 

In recent years legislation for POA's is finding favor. Moving away from the more lightly regulated HOA, "property" owners association seems to feature more detailed Condo style regulation. It is thought that this approach does not disturb existing HOAs yet provides a more regulated, adoptable, framework that deals with specifics of property, rather than the more general non profit corporate environment, usually applied.

This Old House
As both local and County government regulators successfully put in place more and more limitations on places where (when) you may occupy your RV (Tiny House too) it becomes increasingly difficult to find a suitable location in many areas. Starting in 2014 and continuing to date we have received a number of comments suggesting that one easy and economic way to acquire a place for your RV is to purchase an old mobile home or run down single family home located on a property outside of the city.

The rational for this is simple. All Utilities are in. This is a homestead or private home or single family home, with all the rights and privileges under law. It likely will include a garage or storage facility of some kind. The property is larger and not in a regulated subdivision; pets and parking no problem! A typical story is that the property is purchased, hookups for the RV are added, the place is cleaned up and made presentable outside. From there wide divergence.

Some simply use the “house” for storage; no attempt to rehab, while others make the place at least partially inhabitable. In general the “public story” is that “they are improving” (even if not) and “of course, they are living” in the house (mobile.. what ever was there). Such a location makes a perfect “home base” for travel and presents a variety of options to the future, especially if you finally decide you really like the area. I should add that the freedom from HOAs, Condo Boards, close neighbors and the like, was almost universally mentioned. Of course, in selecting such a property use caution and do your homework. It was a surprise to me, upon a casual “look”, just how many of properties like this are around !

Long Term Lease
What we are considering here, is a lease that is paid for with a one time fixed payment at the time of execution. From the perspective of a 55 year old retiree, a 99 year lease is forever and so the long term lease is included here. It, of course, is not a form of true ownership but in practice it can be very similar. In this sense the subject real estate lease is like a sale except for the restrictions contained in the lease and the eventual end of the lease at which time the lessee has nothing. It is difficult to generalize about leases. Each one can be structured in a different manner. It is fair to point out that simple ownership brings many limits and restrictions too, so in some cases there would be little difference in practice..

Under the right circumstances a long term lease can work to the benefit of all parties. Prior recorded restrictions discouraging sale may push an owner toward long term leases. In complex holdings of large parcels long term leases may work as an effective way to realize income while keeping the whole in tact over a long time horizon. A prospective lessee, in reviewing a lease should be careful about maintenance increases over time, right to sub let or transfer clauses that make “resale” impossible or out of your control, cost of living adjustments, and other items structured to protect the lessor at the expense of the lessee. Keep in mind that a long term lease may be of great value to the original lessee but if the lessor has the right to change the terms of the lease when you wish to sell, the period remaining may effectively be worthless. In other words, you will have nothing of value to sell. Generally, the only long term lease that maintains any value over time is one that stays as structured, even after a change in lessee. In other words, a successor lessee is treated in the same way as the first lessee. Get legal help in reviewing leases.  This is definitely "buyer beware" country !  These documents are usually drafted to benefit only the lessor.

UDI    (Un Divided Interest)
The UDI is a way to achieve “membership” style camping without the risk of developer flight because the “members” own the real property ! Each owner ( member) that purchases (joins) receives a deed . The deed represents, for example, a 1:1000 undivided interest in the total property. The deed is recorded in county public records just like any other real estate deed. What is owned is an “Un Divided Interest”, that is, you do not have title to a specific campsite or lot, but rather, a fractional ownership of the whole property plus a right of use. That use is typically two weeks camping per month and unlimited day use. Facilities can include not only campsites but cabins, boats, horses and other. In our example, the entire park is exclusively owned by 1000 people who each have a deeded interest. Owners (members) pay regular dues or maintenance costs necessary to the parks continued operation.

With the rise and fall of membership campgrounds, the RV community developed a healthy skepticism for developer owned parks that could simply close leaving “paid members”  with worthless paper. Like many health clubs modeled on the same system, membership RV parks failed and closed nationwide.

 The benefits derived from a UDI are related to the amount of use. If you never visit, it is expensive indeed, but a UDI can be a wonderful value for those who use the facilities. Some UDIs allow extended stays with multiple ownerships. Others permit you to store your rig for additional fees. UDIs provide the opportunity for the most economic camping normally available.... and you are a voting owner too! Ownership deeds being resold are often inexpensive and some parks are worth much more that the market price total of all outstanding deeds.  Probably no other structure places more importance on management than the UDI. Casual involvement, low cost, intermittent use and lack of knowledgeable or professional oversite of management, can easily combine to foster damaging business practices and lead to the messy failure of the UDI .  Study financials carefully !

The Backyard
Not really a form of ownership, still no list would be complete without a consideration of “the back yard”. We’ve all seen RVs camped in the side yard, awning extended and signs of life all around. Just as the “granny” apartment is taking ahold in some locations permitting an addition to a single family home for “granny”, so the RV parked in the yard is accepted in some communities.

If your child happens to own in such a location, or if you can purchase a home and rent the house for income, you may have the perfect spot to spend time each year and store your stuff. This can be the place where you maintain contact with old friends and family before you take off again. Such real estate can be a good investment and provide that home base for your travels. Don’t overlook this RV real estate if your community, or that of one of you relatives, or a location where you always wanted to be, looks favorably upon RVs. The addition of a fence here, a cover there, some judicious planting and planning may be all it takes. It is important to remember that "home ownership" is generally accorded a great deal of flexibility, even in strict neighborhoods. If you own it, your status is accomplished! Common sense in shielding and selecting a more spacious property removes the RV from casual consciousness and observation. Most code enforcement operates on a complaint / response basis and has more issues than they can keep up with. Know your neighbors and make sure they are aware and happy with your plans. They will always know what you are doing ! If they are happy and you don’t abuse your situation, odds are you can come and go without problems in many locations, even those less than receptive to RVs.


Owner financed lot for sale

private campgrounds feature many activities - golf car parade

private campgrounds feature many activities - golf car parade

 fulltimers in motorhome on rv property

 fulltimers in motorhome on rv property

rv owner lot in the morning sun