Today with real estate prices so high, most young families are struggling to pay the mortgage on one home, and can’t begin to take on the burden of a second. But a vacation home may still be within reach.
Park models are the answer for many families, according to William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association, whose members build park models.
Park model cottages and cabins aren’t big—by law the category is restricted to 400 square feet or less—but placed in the right location, a park model can give a family an affordable weekend or vacation spot they can return to and enjoy year after year.
Because of the growing interest in the subject, we are devoting a good part of this month’s issue to park models.
Garpow said there are two notable trends in the park model industry: an influx of younger buyers and an upward movement in the average price paid. The demand for upgrades like solid wood cabinets, electric fireplaces and hardwood flooring has pushed the average purchase price from under $28,000 a decade ago to nearly $40,000 today.
Still, park models are a bargain compared with site-built vacation homes and condos, even when you add in the cost of buying or leasing a campsite at an RV resort.
Even though more young families are buying park models, industry surveys show that most buyers are older and retired or nearing retirement. Garpow said the typical buyer is a fairly affluent 60-year-old homeowner.
While final figures are still being compiled, Garpow said he believes that 2005 will enter the record books as the best year ever for park models. He said some manufacturers built park models for sale to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house victims of Hurricane Katrina, so it is taking time to separate out those sales from other sales to give an accurate picture of how the industry fared last year. But Garpow said the industry is poised for a strong 2006.
There are dozens of park model manufacturers, and lots of floor plans and styles to choose from. In this month’s issue, we present descriptions and photos of some of the current offerings by leading manufacturers.
And to explore park models further, we invite you to share the experiences of our columnist Sharlene Minshall. Charlie, as she is called, bought a park model recently to replace her fifth wheel at the Arizona RV resort where she spends the winter. Intending to spend more time in Arizona, Charlie thought a park model would give her more room. You can find out how the purchase turned out by reading her column and accompanying story.
Charlie and another regular contributor, Marti French, are typical of buyers who acquire park models for seasonal use. Charlie spends a lot of the year traveling in an RV, and Marti wrote a recent story about how she and her husband divide time among a home in Colorado, a park model in Arizona, and an RV on the road.
Some people have two park models, with, for example, one in the Southwest, where they spend the winter, and one in the Pacific Northwest, where they spend the summer. Garpow said he even knows one man who owns three park models in different parts of the country. “That’s my kind of person,” said Garpow.
If all of this park model information still leaves you with questions, you might consult the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association’s website at www.rptia.com. The site has been updated with new databases that enable users to search by state for park model dealers and for campgrounds and resorts that accept park models. These listings are far from complete at this point, Garpow said, and he is asking dealers and RV park owners to check the listings and submit any additions or corrections. When we checked recently, the site didn’t list any RV resorts in Oregon and Washington that accept park models, but anyone who reads this magazine regularly knows there are a number of them, including such regular advertisers as Lost Lake Resort and Vista Del Lago in Washington and Whaleshead Beach Resort in Oregon.
Compiling a nationwide list of all the park model dealers and all the campgrounds and resorts that take park models is an enormous task, so it is understandable that it will take awhile to assemble. Dealers and resort owners can speed the process by sending information to RPTIA by e-mail at info@rptia or by fax at (770) 251-0025.