MANATEE -- More mobile home parks in the Bradenton area are being sold and chances are, at least one of the new owners will be asking residents to move to make room for redevelopment.
That won't be good news for most. Months ago, Maureen Gregg saw the "for sale" sign go up at her park, W.T. Mobile Home Park. Sandwiched between retail and office buildings at 3708 Manatee Ave. W., the 2-acre park has 34 home sites. It's on the market for about $2.2 million and is being promoted as a possible site for a gas station or retail.
While the park doesn't have a buyer, yet, Gregg said she's been looking for months for another place to live. She pays $350 a month to rent her trailer and home site, far less than market-rate rentals costing at least twice as much elsewhere.
Nothing she's looked at comes close to that price.
"I'm just sort of stuck," Gregg said.
Florida home parks are popular buys among real estate investors. Several larger parks throughout Manatee County have sold over the past 18 months. But inventory on the market right now is smaller and generally located in busy commercial areas.
Listings include the W.T. Mobile Home Park and the 29-site Star Mobile Home Park on 41st Avenue East near DeSoto Square mall. Both are being marketed, in part, for their value as future commercial property.
Jim Schatz, a Bradenton-based Century 21 real estate agent who is listing the Star park for $550,000, said the property could be used in one of two ways. Built in the 1950s, the 1.47-acre park is now surrounded by retail and commercial properties. It is an affordable housing option, with lot rents between $270 and $310 a month. Most residents in the park own their homes.
Schatz said a new owner can earn an "absolutely phenomenal" income off rentals on a gross of $87,000 annually. Any buyer would also likely have an eye toward commercial use.
"It eventually will not be a park sometime in the future," Schatz said.
An example of this type of redevelopment occurred last year when the 2.6 acres of the Aloha Estates mobile home park were rezoned to allow a Wawa gas station to be built there. Three residents living in that part of the park were notified that they had to move.
The eventual redevelopment of the W.T. Mobile Home Park is almost a certainty. Lee DeLieto Jr., a real estate agent with Michael Saunders & Co. who has listed the property, said the asking price can only be justified with a different use.
"We were very transparent with the way we're marketing this," he said. "At a cost of nearly $2.2 million, you're not going to find an income level for an investor buying multifamily mobile homes."
The property is currently under contract, but the sale of the park is not yet final, DeLieto said.
If the park is slated for redevelopment, residents will receive eviction notices. According to the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Corp., a state-funded agency that financially assists displaced mobile home residents, the amount of notice varies. Residents who rent both a trailer and a lot in a Florida mobile home park are subject to the same one-month notice as any other renter.
Those who own their trailers are supposed to get six months' notice.
The corporation's assistant executive director said mobile home owners can receive one of four amounts of money to help them relocate. For owners who choose to abandon their homes, the relocation corporation pays $1,375 for a single-wide mobile home and $2,750 for a double. For those who want to move their homes elsewhere, the corporation pays $3,000 for a single wide and $6,000 for a double.
The assistant executive director said he and other staff members at the relocation corporation do not give out their full names because they are often the targets of resident anger when mobile home parks close.
Relocation is not an easy thing. Because rents in mobile home parks are lower than those for most apartments and single family homes, the parks constitute a type of affordable housing. Replacing that housing can be difficult.
The corporation advocates on behalf of park residents. Relocation fees are paid out of a several million dollar pool funded through trailer and trailer park registration fees. The agency handled about 25 cases last year in which a park or part of a park was closed for redevelopment.
As the majority of the homes at W.T. Mobile Home Park belong to the park's owners, few if any residents would be eligible for relocation assistance. To find affordable housing, many would have to turn to the county's various low-income agencies offering some housing assistance, such as Turning Point.
Turning Point's executive director, Adell Erozer, said her agency was last involved in relocating mobile home park residents about 10 years ago. Affordable housing for people in a similar situation now is nearly impossible to find.
"Historically that has made an impact on people who couldn't find a place to put their trailers," Erozer said.
Those looking for relocation assistance can contact the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Corp. at 888-862-7010.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.