Seniors Buying Upscale Park Trailers to Spend Retirement in Vacation Spots

Park Model News: Seniors Buying Upscale Park Trailers to Spend Retirement in Vacation Spots

June 7, 2008 - For many seniors, retirement means downsizing to a smaller home, and perhaps even moving to a less desirable location to save money. Others, however, have found an affordable way to live in some of the most sought after destinations in the country. Some retirees even have winter and summer homes.

Alleene and Dominic Pedicone sold their Wisconsin home and bought a recreational park trailer or "park model," which they use during the summer months at Yukon Trails Camping, an RV resort in Lyndon Station, Wis., near The Dells. And the Pedicones still had plenty of money left over to purchase a manufactured home in Florida, which they use during the winter months.

"It's worked out very well for us," said Alleene, 65, a retired secretary. "You couldn't get an apartment for what we pay. And we're in very pretty locations."

While most people have never heard of recreational park trailers or "park models," they are gradually being discovered by senior citizens, who collectively have purchased nearly 80,000 of these units during the past 10 years, said William Garpow, executive director of the RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) in Newnan, Ga.

Garpow attributes the park model's allure not only to its price, but to its aesthetic appeal.

Unlike manufactured homes, “park models" are 400-square foot movable resort cottages that are designed exclusively for part-time recreational use. Typically upscale in appearance, they often include hardwood floors, bay windows and lofts as well as cherry, oak or maple cabinetry. They also are very affordable, with prices starting in the $30,000 range.

“These recreational park trailers look more like cottages than trailers, even though they are really trailers,” says Jeff Crider of the RVIA.

“But since nobody likes to use the ‘T’ word, they call them ‘park models’ instead. They're technically classified as recreational vehicles, but they're too big to tow. They are actually quite cute, which explains why seniors are willing to live part-time in these units.”

And because park models are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they can be set up on leased sites in campgrounds and RV parks and used as weekend retreats or seasonal vacation dwellings.

That's precisely what's happening at Yukon Trails Camping and at many of its sister RV resorts, which are owned and operated by Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., a Chicago-based company whose parks collectively have roughly 7,000 park models.

The same concept is being promoted by Queensbury, N.Y.-based Morgan RV Resorts, which owns and operates parks throughout the Eastern United States, including Peters Pond RV Resort in Sandwich, on Cape Cod.

Both ELS and Morgan RV Resorts specialize in leasing park model sites in locations many people could not otherwise afford.

"It's beautiful here," said Marion Steinbrenner, a retired teacher who sold her house on Cape Cod and used some of the proceeds to purchase a $40,000 park model at Peters Pond as well as a permanent RV site in North Fort Myers, Fla., where she keeps a fifth wheel for use during the winter months.

Steinbrenner said this approach has made sense for her financially because it enabled her to retain some of her equity for other uses during her retirement years while still enabling her to keep her living expenses to a minimum.

Steinbrenner said monthly lease fee for park model site at Peters Pond range from $3,000 to $6,000 per year, and include all utilities except for telephone service and propane.

Park model owners at Yukon Trails in Wisconsin, for their part, pay about $1,900 per year in lease and utility fees, not including electricity and heating.

“Some seniors buy two park models and keep one up north and another in the Sunbelt. But most seniors who like these units just have one for part-time use. They spend the rest of their time in another type of RV or manufactured or site built home,” adds Crider.

"We think these units offer the most affordable vacation option in the country," said Garpow of RVIA, adding, "If your retirement dollars are finite, this is a way to stretch them."

Both ELS and Morgan RV Resorts specialize in leasing park model sites in locations many people could not otherwise afford.

"It's beautiful here," said Marion Steinbrenner, a retired teacher who sold her house on Cape Cod and used some of the proceeds to purchase a $40,000 park model at Peters Pond as well as a permanent RV site in North Fort Myers, Fla., where she keeps a fifth wheel for use during the winter months.

Steinbrenner said this approach has made sense for her financially because it enabled her to retain some of her equity for other uses during her retirement years while still enabling her to keep her living expenses to a minimum.

Steinbrenner said monthly lease fee for park model site at Peters Pond range from $3,000 to $6,000 per year, and include all utilities except for telephone service and propane.

Park model owners at Yukon Trails in Wisconsin, for their part, pay about $1,900 per year in lease and utility fees, not including electricity and heating.

“Some seniors buy two park models and keep one up north and another in the Sunbelt. But most seniors who like these units just have one for part-time use. They spend the rest of their time in another type of RV or manufactured or site built home,” adds Crider.

"We think these units offer the most affordable vacation option in the country," said Garpow of RVIA, adding, "If your retirement dollars are finite, this is a way to stretch them."

source