Interview with Jonathan Tuttle of Midwest Park Capital
Welcome back to the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast, hosted by Andrew Keel. On this episode of the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast, Andrew talks with Jonathan Tuttle of Midwest Park Capital. In this episode, Jonathan lends his thoughts and opinions on the following topics: his idea of the perfect mobile home park, private utilities versus public utilities, and what passive investors need to look out for when investing in the mobile home park asset class. Jonathan also shares the story of how he got into manufactured housing and details about Midwest Park Capital. Jonathan also shares insider information about the Mobile Home Wealth Academy that he founded.
Jonathan is the Head of Acquisitions at Midwest Park Capital, a brand new mobile home park investment fund based out of Chicago, Illinois. Jonathan has mobile home park ownership in his blood, he grew up in the business as his father owned communities in Illinois. Previously, he was Vice-President at Miller Chicago Real Estate, a leading commercial real estate brokerage firm based out of Chicago. Before that, Jonathan served as the President of the Midwest Division for Yale Realty & Capital Advisors.
Andrew Keel is the owner of Keel Team, LLC, a Top 100 Owner of Manufactured Housing Communities with over 1,500 lots under management. His team currently manages over 20 manufactured housing communities across ten states - AR, GA, IA, IL, IN, MN, NE, OH, PA and TN. His expertise is in turning around under-managed manufactured housing communities by utilizing proven systems to maximize the occupancy while reducing operating costs. He specializes in bringing in homes to fill vacant lots, implementing utility bill back programs, and improving overall management and operating efficiencies, all of which significantly boost the asset value and net operating income of the communities.
Andrew has been featured on some of the Top Podcasts in the manufactured housing space, click here to listen to his most recent interviews: https://www.keelteam.com/podcast-links. In order to successfully implement his management strategy Andrew's team usually moves on location during the first several months of ownership. Find out more about Andrew's story at AndrewKeel.com.
Would you like to see mobile home park Capex projects in progress? If so, follow us on Instagram: @passivemhpinvesting for photos and awesome videos from our recent mobile home park acquisitions.
00:18 - Welcome to the Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast
01:36 - Jonathan's journey into the world of manufactured housing
03:37 - The management of his father's parks
06:03 - Important things passive investors need to look out for when investing
08:49 - State issues with Illinois
09:34 - The perfect mobile home park for Jonathan
10:38 - Private utilities versus public utilities, and the types of deals Jonathan is
11:55 - Mobile Home Wealth Academy
15:47 - The long term plan with Midwest Park Capital
20:12 - Jonathan's current parks
21:26 - M Shapiro and third party property managers
23:41 - The type of parks Jonathan's fund is targeting
25:45 - The long term plan for Jonathan
26:28 - Getting a hold of Jonathan
27:34 - Final tip for passive investors
28:30 - Conclusion
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Links & Mentions from This Episode:
Wellings Capital: https://www.wellingscapital.com/
Keel Team's official website: https://www.keelteam.com/
Andrew Keel's official website: https://www.andrewkeel.com/
Andrew Keel LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewkeel
Andrew Keel Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PassiveMHPin...
Andrew Keel Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/passivemhpi...
Andrew: Welcome to The Passive Mobile Home Park Investing Podcast. This is your host, Andrew Keel, and today we have an amazing guest in Mr. Jonathan Tuttle of Midwest Park Capital.
Before we dive in, I want to ask you a real quick favor. Would you mind to please go over to iTunes and leave us a quick five-star review? I really appreciate your taking the time to do that. It helps us get more listeners, and means a lot. So thanks for taking the time to jump in and do that for me.
Let’s go ahead and dive in. Jonathan is the Head of Acquisitions at Midwest Park Capital, a new mobile home park investment fund based out of Chicago, Illinois. He has mobile home park ownership in his blood. Previously, he was Vice-President at Miller Chicago Real Estate, a leading commercial real estate brokerage firm based out of Chicago. Before that, Jonathan served as the President of the Midwest Division for Yale Realty & Capital Advisors. Jonathan, welcome to the show.
Jonathan: Thanks for having me on. I’m excited to be here. I actually listen to the show, so it’s cool to be on.
Andrew: I’m really excited to dive in today. I was hoping that you could start out by just sharing your story and tell the audience how you got into the wonderful business of manufactured housing.
Jonathan: Sure. My first real job was Bebe. It was a women’s clothing store. It’s commission-based, around 2005. I ended up being the number one seller for two or three years in a row. At the same time, my dad bought his first park in 2005.
My big aspiration at that time was just take a percentage of that, save that money, and get my first park. This is 2005–2007. You tell your friends about mobile home parks. This is pre-social media and the internet really blowing up. You tell people about mobile home parks, what are you talking about? People would just look at you. You still got a little bit, but it was just a really unusual thing for being young and working in a trendy store, and you talk about mobile home parks.
Fast-forward, I got my broker license after that and focused on manufactured housing. As you know, I like the fact that to buy them is just the way to go (I think). The broker you can make and the brokers out there do really, really well, but I want a retirement vehicle, that payments are always on time, the equity, plus the best part is the tax advantages.
That’s how I got started. My dad just went on and got a park. Because I ski on other different types of real estate, in real estate offices, he must know what he’s doing. It sounds weird, but after I saw how well he did under the last downturn—remember, it’s 2007–2009—the best of all of our estate sounds like this is where I need to go.
Andrew: That’s fantastic. Maybe you can share a little bit about 2008 and 2009. Maybe tell us a little bit about your dad’s parks because I’m sure you were involved in the management of those and oversight. Maybe you can tell us what happened in 2008 and 2009, what the tenants did, were they still employed or were there issues. If none, that’s great, but we like to hear the hairy stuff.
Jonathan: It’s not going to be too much hairy stuff. We can go talk about obviously what happened last year with Covid. It’s the same premise. I think The Washington Journal had an article last year, came out in January, and literally since the last housing crash 2007–2008 when mobile home parks were by far almost tech-like performance.
We were just passing. It was Midstate Illinois and the person we bought it from can raise the rents. When you acquire parks or anybody who’s looking to acquire parks, they haven’t raised the rents for a while. The first we went in, we raised rents to a decent level, beautified the park. Rules and regulations are one of the things we did, is just really make sure the quality of living and the scanners were there. We were able to raise the rents and build equity.
There weren’t really any problems. My dad was lucky enough. There’s a big operator about 20 minutes away, 500-something unipark. I think he owned the car dealership and apartment complex. He was like the small town owner based on everything. They just said, hey I’m putting on new units. Do you want these units? As long as you transport them out here, you’re licensed, you get them for free. [...] free. I just pay for the transportation.
That was a really lucky five. After I’ve seen all this, I’m like this is a niche I need to get into because I’ve always wanted to get into real estate just growing up in the business. When everyone else, all you see on TV is a housing crash, everyone’s having issues, and it’s so resilient because we haven’t had people to give you contacts with somebody.
One is a couple. They were making around $70,000–$75,000 at the time. One of them lost their job. They went down to $30,000. They lost their house, they couldn’t afford the payment, they got into ours—lot rent’s $200 at the time—they’re like, this is great. They were still there when we sold the park and said they were able to save all the money, they ended up getting the job back, but there’s no other place you can live for that type of rent. When I saw all these logic and the finances, I’m like, this is the next to be definitely.
Andrew: I couldn’t agree with you more. One thing a lot of our listeners are, are passive investors. Just limited partners and they come from the multifamily space or elsewhere. If you were talking to them, Jonathan, what would you tell them the most important things are that they need to look out for when investing into mobile home parks?
Jonathan: Great question. I like to say, even when people ask me, just talk to somebody that already owns, or invest in a fund, or invest in a partnership like you alluded to, because the first park is going to be more what we can expect. The advantages and disadvantages of parks is, typically a multifamily is around 50%, 55%, 60% operating expenses. A mobile home park is 35%, 40%, maybe 42%–44% for institutional quality.
That comes with some challenges. We have the park-owned homes and getting those lockers is one big challenge, depending on your market. Infill could be another challenge. Then there’s zoning. The big thing with zoning is legally nonconforming. Sometimes if it’s a smaller town, the old owner was friends with the city council, the city government, and sometimes these smaller towns, a new owner, you come in, you’re an investor, they might put some rules on you. They put some basically rules that are not legal, but they push it because they’re the small town bullies, basically.
So just basically know the zoning. Make sure the zoning will allow you to operate the park, allow you to change the setbacks and all this time you can’t bring in new homes. That’s probably one of the biggest things people look for is just the zoning, and obviously the due diligence of the park. Make sure the utilities, infrastructure, phase one.
Once you have that and you understand the niche, it’s just an incredible niche because no matter, we’re always about a third the price of a single family or half the price of a classy apartment. If you’re a classy operator, you’re going to be like, I might as well have the apartments and home parks, and now I control the market. I can control the rents, my cash flow, and sleep at night not to worry about the locations.
Andrew: Totally. May I ask what town that you guys own in Central Illinois?
Jonathan: Galesburg. The nice one in Galesburg, Illinois. One my mom is 10 minutes away, so they’re really close. It’s the nice one. It’s the nicest park. It’s a senior park, the Galesburg one.
Andrew: Those are great. I just asked because I own a couple of communities in Illinois. It’s been resilient, 95% of the tenants pay on time or maybe a few days late, but the extra 5% of tenants are the ones that make you work for it. In Illinois, that is one state that has been (in particular) not very friendly in terms of this whole eviction moratorium. I wonder if you guys have had any issues with the State of Illinois as well.
Jonathan: We’ve been fortunate. The senior parks demographic have their social security, so that’s [...]. The other park, we unfortunately had this young kid—he’s like early thirties or late twenties—actually passed away. He had a brain aneurysm. We thought he had Covid. The next day he went to the hospital, he had a Covid test, and he passed away. It was just so unfortunate. Usually, our biggest issue is somebody passing away. That’s our biggest competition. We haven’t had [...] occupancy. It’s pretty much (I would say) 97%–98%, basically, the entire time.
Andrew: That’s great. What does the perfect mobile home park look like in your eyes?
Jonathan: I think it’s going to be the Frank and Dave [...]. It’s going to be the 100,000 [...] home with a radius of 30 or 60 miles from a major city. All the basic utilities paid by the tenants. I think that’s the ideal play for everyone, but what we really look forward to right now is, obviously, everyone wants those deals.
What we look for is a three- or four-star. We feel that’s the opportunity. The one- or two-star obviously could do a lot if you really boots on the ground, really have an info strategy or if you have your transporter, you have that lined up. In the five-star, obvious you’re competing with the funds and the Wall Streets. We feel our angles of three- or four-stars just under the radar, where the market still has growth. That’s our ideal play. We feel that’s our best place to squeeze on there.
Andrew: And would you guys look at private utilities versus public utilities? What type of deals are you looking at now that differentiate you?
Jonathan: We look at both. Before, like I alluded to, everyone had to be city water, city sewer, that was mandatory, but if it’s been recently placed or if everything is basically through due diligence, you find out if it actually makes sense or not. Sometimes you might say sewer water but [...] parks just need to complete your utilities. Sometimes, that can be a really big issue.
Andrew: We’re in due diligence right now in a park. It has a septic system and city water. You just got to do your due diligence because little things that you might not think about, like how many trees are in the community and where those trees are located. You don’t think of it because the leach field’s working today, but when that oak tree doubles in size and now all those roots are into your leach field—you have to replace that—you’re going to need to have some cash ready because they’re going to be in a tight spot. Just interesting stuff to keep an eye out for.
Jonathan, I see the logo behind you. I want to bring this up. What can you tell us about the Mobile Home Wealth Academy?
Jonathan: I had this idea three or four years ago, like online courses and temp education. Now, we have the fund. Obviously, 80% of people aren’t accredited investors. The fund is for accredited investors doing different podcasts, a lot of marketing going out, and I’m like, what could be a solution to get people want to be involved—they’re not accredited investors—in the industry, to learn more about it.
I was like, let’s do something with mobile homes. It’s the easiest, cheapest form to get involved with, and eventually they may want to invest in the fund, and/or they want to get their own park, and/or they’re working with the small town owner and they say, hey we’ll do seller financing.
We basically have industry experts actually going on stage, some of them are on maybe recording, now it’s getting nice out, it’s getting warm, so show to remodel, how to position, and how to sell it on Facebook Marketplace and/or Craigslist. What I really got excited about because I heard of, are you familiar with click funnels?
Andrew: I am.
Jonathan: The number one, fastest growing course of all time and the fastest at 25 million, was the mobile home flipping course. I couldn’t believe it. So that validated the model; that’s new. There’s a couple of other courses and I’m like, I nearly provide more content, have the contracts, and I have all these industry experts come on, and then we have a private Facebook group.
We basically show people how to do it, and we’re using some of our own units. Case studies, like here we spent X on this. Here’s our marketing, here’s the ads I’m running on Facebook, here’s how to do it. It’s just a way to get people involved in the industry and just give them really high-level items, basically.
Andrew: That’s really cool. We had a guy, buyers and sellers from Chicago, actually, that mobile home elite investor [...] on the show, and that’s very similar to what he does. He has an educational program and he also started out flipping mobile homes. He seems to be doing really well.
Jonathan: The course model is good. The one thing about the course model is it’s evergreen, so you basically buy the Facebook traffic. You buy online traffic and you know how much it costs to acquire a customer and it’s set in stone. You could say, I spent X [...] to acquire a customer, this presents converts, and that’s your profit in between there. There’s no overhead, there’s no labor, it’s just algorithms finding the clients for you, basically.
Andrew: You said that the fastest-growing click funnel business right now is mobile home investing course?
Jonathan: Yeah. Isn’t that crazy? I was going to have this course before anybody because I was like, maybe I’ll do this before, and I was like nobody’s going to want to buy it. I thought nobody wanted to buy it. It was just so weird flipping mobile homes. I saw a couple of courses, I’m like well now the model’s verified and we know it’s still blue ocean enough because there still enough room for growth. In one course, we’re going to be four times cheaper, so with more [...], more everything, and a year guarantee. Everything is crazy.
I reach out to the person that built that funnel. I didn’t know they had a mobile home. I applied for it and when I got the call, actually we can’t take [...] mobile homes and I’m like, what? Then I found out why they have the number one course. I got this guy named Rudy. It’s Tyler [...] business partner for all of his funnels. He built one of my funnels and it’s literally incredible. It’s going to do really well.
Andrew: That’s fantastic. Best of luck to you with that endeavor. Tell us what’s your long-term plan with Midwest Park Capital? Maybe tell us where you’re at in the business cycle, how the operations are run and all of that, if you wouldn’t mind.
Jonathan: Sure. The fund is Midwest Park Capital, as you mentioned. We think there’s probably a five- or six-year run. We know the industry’s getting so consolidated, mom and pops are now finally selling, so now’s the time to at least get as much as I can, acquire as many parks as I can because podcast everyone knows about our niche now. It’s not like the good old boys just talking around the table and nobody knows about it. I think some of the old guys do that purposely.
If you look at everyone, anybody know about it, so they don’t like, we were talking about this, obviously [...] but some of the guys want to keep it to themselves, so we come in [...] really putting a positive spin on it, ensuring it’s a great investment for investors but at the same time providing a safe, quality, affordable housing. It’s the last frontier of affordable housing.
People like us were really inspired to really provide a quality place and make sure that the communities aren’t run down anymore. We’re going to be putting in capex. We’re going to fix the roads, trim the tree so they don’t fall down on the units, put in amenities, put in park equipment, keep the grass grounds clean not like the old stigmas like trailer trash that was because of the old people compare it like you look at the RV niche, everyone talks that they have RV shows all the time, like how great RV living is.
We’re the exact, same niche. We have an RV and mobile home hall of fame, but we don’t get that same press because some of the guys do a great job, and some of the guys kind of let it hang in, just let it dry. So we come in based upon the three- or four-star parks, then just put together a nice-sized fund.
We went smaller than some of the competitors. One of the reasons they went smaller was because other funds are raising $25–$30 million. The problem with that is you almost have to buy every opportunity and you don’t turn down somebody else. We can actually say, this still doesn’t make sense for our investors. We don’t have to just go out and buy every deal because $10 million buys $30 million. If they’re buying $30 million, they have to buy $90 million. Some parks that neither of us probably buy [...] they have to buy them to see if it works. That was the reason why we went with the $10 million.
Also, we just want to basically provide for accredited investors. We’re seeing a lot of doctors, we’re seeing a lot of private clinic owners that are our typical investor. Also, like you mentioned with the multifamily, we’re getting calls about the family. The biggest thing for them is just educating them like how this niche works; it’s different. Our industry is a good 10 or 15 years behind multifamily. When they say they want to see Excel spreadsheets, their owners have 40–50 years, they don’t even have a rent manager. They’re still collecting checks. They don’t have detailed spreadsheets, so we have to [...] with them. That’s how this niche is.
It’s literally the good old boys trying not to tell the public how good investment this was. They see that, even with old mobile home parks, a lot of times they don’t have websites. You know the owner doesn’t understand Facebook ads or Facebook Marketplace, so that’s our value-add. We’re going to bring in operations efficiencies, we’re going to market it better, we’re going to have better online presence. In addition to that, we’ll actually have different software like a rent manager, and actually have everything 21st century, [...] accountability [...]. That’s how we’re positioning it.
Basically, our ideal long-term strategy is to be one that will do three funds. The second, third fund we’re going to raise it up, so we’re probably going to add either RV. You’re the first I’m talking to about this, but RV or assisted living probably we could just raise more because we could get some big investors that [...] bigger checks. We only have $10 million, so we want to actually get some more of the bigger family offices [...] shout to us, so we actually have to have a higher fund for that.
The long term play I think up to three funds, $25–$30 million each the next two funds and kind of go from there. After we hit $150 million, the SEC we’ll have to hire a Chief Compliance Officer. It gets a lot more overhead, so we’re going to just play it by ear if we get that big.
Andrew: Great. Do you guys have any parks now in the fund, or do you have any set up to close?
Jonathan: Great question. We have a couple we’ve identified off market. Still the cap rate is we started right before the election. Actually, it’s probably the worst time to raise money before the craziest election we have. Now, we’re circling back to some of the initial people. We saw a lot of people are just all kind of like what’s going to happen when the new measures come in, on my taxes. We’re circling back with those people. We just got a couple of broker dealers hopping us, but we do have a couple identified.
The plus is I was a broker before. My friends [...] the name brokers, so they already know, like, and trust me. They sent [...] get the same type of deals. There are probably 200 or 300 buyers that get access to the best deals.
That’s another thing. If anybody, like in a multifamily, is trying to come in our space, they’re not signing those deals because you don’t own one, they don’t know if you’ll be able to close on it, plus we know what to look for. If a broker sends either us, we could say that doesn’t make sense. That might make sense for you, but we’ll ever tolerate it. We won’t actually put the property on a hold and be like, this due diligence doesn’t make sense. They back out. The broker’s not going to send you anything, so a lot of broker relationships. Plus, [...] being a broker, I also have a relationship with some big owners. I always have an opportunity to get some of those bigger parks just from personal one-on-one relationships.
Andrew: Definitely. Tell them about M Shapiro. I know you’re planning to use them as a third-party manager. That is, in and of itself, to me a little scary, handing off my baby to someone else. Maybe you can touch on that point a little bit.
Jonathan: I think for us, the reason we want to use them, we still need boots on the ground. Anybody who’s buying a park has to have boots on the ground. You literally have to go there, act like your grandma or mom is moving in there, talk to the residents, the day and night, talk to the local police, get a feel for the area, drive around the community, talk to some people to see what kind of sentiment is there.
Even when we’re acquiring parks, we’re literally going to be driving through. I used to drive to a couple of hundreds, drive a rental car, get in a regular t-shirt, my mom’s moving in here, how is this park? The first probably month were going to be boots on the ground. I think your story, you used to say you sleep in the parks regularly, like live in the parks?
Andrew: I used to. Now, my team does it for me, but I believe in that wholeheartedly that you need to be hands-on and you will 100%. I can say this with 100% certainty. If you are on-site you will save yourself money. There’s no doubt about it. I think that that is super important.
Jonathan: Yes, so like I said, the boots on the ground and be there the first month. I think M Shapiro brings in their own management systems. They have 33,000 or 34,000 last under management. They do a couple of funds, too. Everyone says really rave reviews and they have one of the biggest funds. I think the biggest park fund out there, too. They’ve got it dialed in, basically, but our component of it is managing them, going boots on the ground during our due diligence, then [...] at the first month, really getting a feel for the park.
There’s just the fact that we can do everything digitally. That’s great. We could do Zoom calls like this. I’ll be at the local hotel. That’s why I asked if you’re going to be there. I won’t be staying there; I’ve got allergies. Nothing wrong with them, but I like to give you a free breakfast this morning at the hotel.
Andrew: A freaking breakfast. That’s hilarious. What type of parks are you targeting? Are they a hundred lots or bigger? We touched on it briefly, but maybe you can repeat that if you wouldn’t mind.
Jonathan: For the scale of economics, 75–250. Once it’s over 15 million, I do have a couple of friends in Illinois and some of them [...] just from going to trade shows and all the conferences; there’s a couple that I have a relationship with. Maybe we might be the ones to acquire once they do sell, but those types of deal’s obviously private equity, Wall Street go for it. We feel our avenue is the 75–250 for the scale of economics.
Obviously, cap rates are getting compressed, but we feel the 4–15 million, 75–250. Our focal point is midwest, but we’ve also added in Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. Obviously growth markets where people are moving to, and we do have the rocky state. A lot of people like the Dakotas right, the Colorado, the City of Dupree. Colorado, the rents there are crazy. Just going from a couple of states over and compared us, Colorado’s crazy over there.
Those are our focal points and acquisition criteria. Obviously in our niche, it’s nice to acquire everything in a certain area, but a lot of times, if that owner, the next park that’s quality, is he going to sell or is he going to pass it down to his kids? That’s the biggest thing. Compared to multifamily, we could say every 10 years people are always selling 7–10 years multifamily. RX lots are people [...] 30–40 years, so you could say I just want to work only in one state but it’s so hard because there’s [...] 44,000 parks. We have to have it spread out a little bit farther.
Andrew: Total. You have to be opportunistic to an extent and be careful what you can manage. I think that’s what’s important and M Shapiro is making sure that you’re within their footprint.
Jonathan: They don’t want to go to California. Great point. They don’t want to go to California. I don’t think they do the upper East Coast. They don’t do that. They focus on non-core demographic areas.
Andrew: Cool. Last question for you. What’s the long-term plan? Is it buy-and-hold? Is it buy, fix-up, and sell? What’s the long-term plan for you guys?
Jonathan: The long term, get the three funds. Each one we apply hopefully sells to a private equity group. That’s the play. Obviously, lower compressed cap rate. Then on trial you scoop up another one or two, plus our family parks. I think we have a five- or six-year run, so I think this is the time.
Compression keeps coming. Obviously, there are better finance terms right now. It’s incredible, Fannie and Freddie. I think just acquire many now, keep a couple long-term, but I think that window of opportunity is shrinking and shrinking in terms of value and opportunity. I think really just being boots on the ground, and acquiring as many as possible in the next five years.
Andrew: Awesome. How can listeners get a hold of you if they like to do so?
Jonathan: Going back to the Mobile Home Wealth Academy, that’s not the funnel. That’s just the actual login page, but you could still request information. I don’t know when this comes out, but that will be launching the first week of April.
For anybody, if they’re multifamily investors or people looking to this space, Midwest Park Capital or midwestparkcapitalfund.com. The fund website is basically you can apply on there, then we have the actual PPM. It has basically the legal side of it. The other one—Midwest Park Capital—is more of a generic benefit in mobile home parks. Those are the two best ways to get a hold of me.
Andrew: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Jonathan. It was a pleasure having you. If you had to boil it down to one tip to give passive investors that are interested in this space, what would that one tip be?
Jonathan: Just consume all the content, listen to your podcast because there are different nuances for our niche. There are just such anomalies compared to other asset classes that don’t even make sense to outside investors. Just be willing to learn a little bit about our niche and understand. All the benefits come with the other trade-offs. Like I said, it’s not going to have the spreadsheets, they’ll be thorough. It’s not going to have the crazy marketing, but that gives you the opportunity to acquire.
Basically understand that our niche has more nuances and is about 10 years behind multifamily or even self storage, so just really do that due diligence, learn about the business, listen to your podcast, and that’s going to get you the foundation to move forward.
Andrew: Great. Thank you for that. That’s it for today, folks. Thank you so much for tuning in.
Jonathan: Thank you.