Park Model Homes On The Rise: Insights from Experts

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park model homes exterior
An Athens Park Model with side entries and front end porch, shown during The Tunica Show in 2018.

Park Model Homes Are Trending In a BIG Way

Park Model Homes - Tiny Home Jamboree
From left, Dave Genin of Titan Factory Direct, and Dick Grymonprez of Athens Park Models, greet customers in the outdoor living space of a park model at the Tiny Home Jamboree during August 2018.

The recreational vehicle industry has been trending up in recent years, but a recent uptick in one of the “darlings” of the class, park model homes, seems to be outpacing all else.

Dick Grymonprez is the director of park model sales for Athens Park Model RVs, a Skyline Champion company.

“It’s unbelievable,” Grymonprez said about sales activity. “We had a little over 40 percent of U.S. shipments of park models last year, and this year we’re up to 42 percent through February. And we just had our best March shipments ever. We’re awaiting national numbers to see if we’re still ahead of the industry, but it’s looking good.

“We just had the single best month of park model sales we’ve ever had. It’s booming,” he said.

So, What Is a Park Model Home?

A park model home is built to the ANSI A119.5 RV code, which means it’s technically a vehicle. It’s built on a chassis and mounted on wheels. The anticipated use of the park model is as a seasonal home, or getaway. However, in the current housing climate, many park model RV owners are using their seasonal getaway as more of a permanent dwelling.

Features of a Park Model RV include:
  • 399 or fewer square feet of living space (Florida is 499 square feet)
  • Typically are set in lakeside, riverside or park settings
  • Towable on public byways
  • No mortgage available; personal, chattel or auto loans only
  • Requires registration, tags, and insurance
  • Retail from $20,000 to $140,000

The Market Remains Relatively Small, With More Buyers Anticipated

With the gaining interest and uptick in sales for park model homes, the market appears to be poised for growth.

Total U.S. park model sales in 2015 came in at $15 million. The 2019 projection is in excess of $75 million. Still, there are only 3,000 park models sold each year in the United States, Grymonprez said. Skyline Champion shipped 500 park models during 2018 to Texas, which is the biggest market.

Skyline Champion Corp. primarily sells manufactured homes, an industry that likely will ship more than 100,000 units this year. However, 13 of the company’s 37 manufacturing facilities nationwide have a regular schedule for park model construction. And added interest in the product certainly would mean a ramp-up in production.

“Our company, we’re really growing our park model business. We have a really good attitude about park models. One of the primary initiatives we’ve embraced is figuring out ways to build park models in our existing plants without reducing the production of manufactured housing,” Grymonprez said.

Park model homes - interior - Athens Park Model
Interior living space in a new Athens Park Model.

Who has created the demand for park model homes?

Investors and baby boomers are buying park model homes in droves.

David Eitrem is the vice president of marketing for Titan Factory Direct. The company is an industry leader in factory-built home sales and also has a dedicated site for park models. Titan is a retailer for the Athens Park Models from Skyline Champion.

Titan currently is receiving a spike in web hits and impressions, Eitrem said. However, Titan has yet to see a similar spike in leads for park model buyers. This likely is a combination of lag time between buyer research and point of sale, as well as an indication of very early consumer interest.

“You may see more people looking into park models because they’re planning vacations. Perhaps they’re looking into a place that offers park model RV rentals,” Eitrem said. “So there likely is a lot of activity in researching what a park model is.

“So, what we’re seeing likely are queries on general interest, and then there will be a smaller portion of that audience that’s showing a very early interest in buying a park model,” he said.

Park Model Homes Kitchen
Many park model homes come with a full kitchen in a downsized floor plan.

But, Eitrem said, park model sales for Titan have doubled each of the last two years.

“We don’t see a seasonal trend particular to park models,” Eitrem said. “About 50 percent of our sales come at the beginning of the year from investors who are filling in what they need in their parks. And they usually just call us, because they already know what they want.”

Eitrem said 85 percent of Titan’s individual park model buyers are at retirement age.

Baby Boomers nearing or in retirement may be a driving force in the park model home craze. But the individual Boomer buyers are in good company with younger consumers, who are expressing great interest in downsized homes. Or, perhaps, a seasonal getaway on the water.

What are the Younger Park Model Buyers Doing?

park model homes athens austin texas
Potential buyers look over the entryway and interior of a new Athens Park Model during the 2018 Tiny Home Jamboree in Austin, Texas.

“The younger buyers are seeing tiny homes on HGTV, and they’re really gaining interest because they see park model homes as something similar to tiny houses.”

There is a significant amount of confusion in the marketplace regarding the similarities and differences between tiny houses, mobile homes and park model RV’s.

But much of the interest amounts to buyer education, which is valuable for the entire market. Younger buyers may be less established than their counterparts to make the purchase, for now.

It takes good credit and 10 percent down to buy a park model, which carries an average sticker price of $60,000-plus.

Perhaps the younger customer has a limited credit history or lack of savings that could be put toward a large purchase. That younger buyer may contribute to the lag between web impressions and purchases. However, the younger buyer is the emerging consumer for park models and all variety of factory-built dwellings.

“Sometimes you have parents come in and buy a park model and put it in the backyard, kind of like a guest house or a granny pad,” Eitrem said. “For the actual younger buyer, it’s definitely more of a curiosity.”

Athens side entry park model homes

Park Model RV Customers Also Come from Other RV Segments

A lot of folks looking at fifth wheels are going to a park model on price alone, Eitrem said.

“I think one of the reasons park models are picking up, in general, is because of the increased quality,” Eitrem said. “The new park model RVs are coming with textured and taped walls, stainless appliances and other perks… this will definitely get people who are considering other options very interested in a park model. It’s basically like a luxury home, but smaller.”

Find Park Model Homes For Sale

Park Model Homes on MHVillageIf you’re looking to buy a park model home through MHVillage, follow the above link to our home models page. Choose the most convenient city and use the “Home Size” dropdown box to choose the smallest floor plans. The listings will give you a better understanding of floor plan configuration and pricing for new park model homes.