Ultimate Guide to Buying a Campground
This is the ultimate guide to buying a campground for most folks, living at their job can sound like a nightmare, but the opportunity to live in nature at a campground is a dream for a lot of people. The steps it takes to find, research, and buy a campground can be confusing.
In this ultimate guide to buying a campground, we will walk you through how to identify the type of campground you want, build your team, and make sure your finances are all in order.
How to Buy an RV Park Campground
Step 1: Identify The Type of Park You Want
The first step to buying a campground is to identify what you’re looking for.
The ultimate guide to buying a campground has some of the questions that you need to ask yourself are:
Location, Location, Location!
This is often the most important part of picking a park because you can make a lot of improvements, but you can’t move the location of the park.
- What tourist attractions are in the area?
- How many visitors does the area receive each year?
- What is the population and average salary?
Type of Campers
There are 3 main types of campground customers, each who come with pros and cons. Usually, the longer they stay the less you charge, but this also requires less work on your end.
- Full Time – These are people who live at your park as their main residence.
- Seasonal – These are campers who like purchasing a spot for the year so they can park their travel trailer for frequent weekend trips.
- Short Term – The most common campground customer is the short term renter who usually stays 1 – 14 nights at a location.
Size of the Campground
Campgrounds come in all shapes and sizes, the ultimate guide to buying a campground has the pros and cons for all. From only a couple of RV spots or cabins to mega parks that have hundreds of spots. The bigger the campground the more employees and work it can be to manage it.
- How many spots do you want to manage?
- Do you want to have employees?
Step 2: Organize Your Finances
We can’t forget this is a business, so you want to make sure it will be profitable for you as the owner. You don’t want to overspend on buying a park and not make enough money a year to live or maintain the park.
If you are buying a business and not the usual single-family home, the financing can be a bit more tricky. Since new businesses can struggle to get off the ground, bankers often want to see other income sources and assets in case the campground is not as profitable as you hope it is.
- Do you have enough for a down payment?
- Do you have money to help fix any problems?
- How much do you want to make a year?
Step 3: Build Your Team
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to buying an RV park. If you are seriously considering buying a campground, making sure you have the right people around you can make the process a lot less stressful and smooth.
Of course for each of these positions, you want to make sure the person you are working with has experience in campground transactions.
- Real Estate Agent – With their experience, they help you find and vet potential campgrounds. They also help with navigating paperwork and common problems to look out for.
- Banker – If you are planning on taking out a loan for your campground, getting pre-approved from a lender is vital. A lot of campground transactions fall apart when it comes to financing.
- Inspector – Depending on the property, you may have several different inspections that need to be done. You want to make sure you check the power, septic, and water systems, along with the buildings.
Step 4: How To Get Financing
Since financing can be where a lot of campground deals fall apart, we wanted to create a section to help you where to get funding and how to speed it up.
There are two main routes of financing for a campground which is owner financing & the traditional bank financing.
Seller Owner Financing
The seller becomes the lender by extending enough credit to the buyer to cover the purchase price of the campground, minus any down payment. Then, the buyer makes regular payments until the amount is paid in full.
- Easier to get approval if both sides agree on terms
- Could be better terms for buyers
- Ability to buy a park when traditional mortgage may not be available
For most folks, traditional bank financing is the route that is needed to acquire a campground. Since this is considered a business venture, and therefore, riskier to a bank, the bank is going to make sure that you can pay back the loan even if the campground is not as profitable as you anticipated.
- Good down payment (20% – 30%)
- Campgrounds current profitability & occupancy rates
- Revenue not dependant on the campground
Campground Financing Resources
There are actually financial lenders that specialize in loaning for campgrounds. Here are a couple of resources to find potential lenders in your area.
Step 5: Start Looking For Campgrounds
Now that you have defined your ideal park, organized your finances, and built your team, it is time to start the fun part of looking for campgrounds to buy.
Luckily, there are a lot of websites that you can use to find what is available on the market.
Step 6: Get To Know Their Campground
Once you’ve found a campground that you’re interested in, it’s time to reach out and start learning about their business. Every park is different, so go back to the list of what you want and make sure this park checks most of them.
Some of the common things to know are:
- Their last 3 years of tax returns and P&L
- Their typical occupancy rates per season
- Maintenance needs from restrooms to actual sites
Understand Their Finances
Once you get access to the finances, with the ultimate guide to buying a campground you will get a much better understanding of how the park makes money. Is it from seasonal lots, boat storage, selling in the store, or maybe it’s the restaurant on the premises?
Be ready for people not having very good books! It can be a lot of work running a campground and people do not always keep good financial records.
Warning: Some campground sellers will say that they actually make more money than what they report on their tax returns because of campers who pay in cash. Be careful of this because it is hard for you to prove and it shows they are dishonest. So just to be safe always go off of the revenue from tax returns.
Understand Their Tenants
Really do your research here. In the ultimate guide to buying a campground, we have seen situations where a park in the middle of nowhere West Texas is pulling in a good amount of money for three years, but that is only because there are a couple of oil pipelines being worked on and those contract workers will be packing up their travel trailers and leaving in a couple of months. Once those workers leave, it will be really difficult to attract new tenants to stay with you. So make sure you understand the area and the potential people who will be occupying your campground.
How Can You Improve The Campground
- Use ads to get more campers
- Improve bookings with campground reservation software
- Bad online reviews? Take steps to improve your online reputation
- Repair the bathrooms so they don’t stink & people want to use them
Step 7: Make Your Offer
Once you have finally found your campground, it is time to make them an offer. Some additional questions for consideration are:
- Can the owner stay on for X months to help in the transition?
- What are the usernames and passwords for the website, social media accounts, and other online assets?
Enjoy The Good Life!
Follow these steps in the ultimate guide to buying a campground and you will be well on your way to finding and owning a campground. When you are a campground owner, we will be here to help! Let us know in the comments if you have any specific questions about buying an RV park or Campground.
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