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Florida RV Site Prices Resilient Despite Recession

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

For years, housing prices have taken a beating in Florida as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis, recession-induced job losses and record numbers of foreclosures.

But while prices for site-built homes and condominiums have fallen by 40 percent or more in many locations, prices for sites at some of Florida’s newer and higher end RV parks and resorts have fallen by less than half that amount.

In some cases, they haven’t fallen at all.

Jim Eyster, who recently developed Chassa Oaks RV Resort in Homosassa, said prices for sites at some of the more upscale RV resorts are holding their own partly as a result of the continuing shortage of high-quality RV parks and resorts that sell their sites in Florida.

“There was never a big building boom of RV sites during the heyday of the real estate boom,” Eyster said.

Bill Harvey, who developed Silver Palms RV Village in Okeechobee, also believes that the relative shortage of high quality RV resorts in sought after destinations is helping to keep RV site prices steady. “I have seen little if any price reduction in RV resorts that have sites for under $75,000,” he said, adding, “Silver Palms has not lowered our prices at all over the past two years, and I do not intend to.”

While Florida continues to have an abundance of RV parks, more than half of them were built 30 or more years ago and cannot easily accommodate today’s larger, more luxurious RVs or the people who invest in them.

These larger RVs, many of which have slideout rooms, flat screen TVs, computers, stereos, microwave ovens and other household appliances, often require 50 to 100 amp utility connections, as well as larger campsites and wider roads, all of which are difficult for Florida’s older parks to provide, unless they make considerable investments in upgrades and renovations.

Meanwhile, changing government regulations are making it more costly to develop RV resorts in some areas of Florida, which translates into higher RV site costs.

Eyster has seen evidence of this first hand in Citrus County. Seven years ago, when he developed Nature Coast Landings in Crystal River, the county allowed him to build up to 12 RV sites per acre. The county now requires developers to build no more than 5 RV lots per acre.

“This means everybody gets more space,” Eyster said. “It also makes it more expensive to develop the property because the infrastructure costs remain the same and you aren’t able to spread the water, sewer and clubhouse costs over as many sites.”

David Gorin, a longtime campground industry consultant, added that RV resorts that sell their sites provide consumers with an affordable way to obtain country club style amenities without the high maintenance fees that condo developments typically charge. RV site owners can also have the park rent out their sites when they’re not using them, so they can make money on their investments.

The insurance costs for RV sites are also lower than they are for site built homes and condos, since RV sites are less susceptible to hurricane damage than site built homes or condos, Gorin said, noting that RV owners have the ability to move their vehicles before powerful storms arrive.

So with this information in mind, combined with the relative shortage of higher end RV parks and resorts that sell their sites, developers are less inclined to lower their prices.

Some RV resort developers also feel they have an obligation not to lower their prices because that could undercut investors who recently purchased sites from them.

“There’s still quite a bit of consumer interest in buying an RV site,” Gorin said, adding, “If you go to the Tampa RV Supershow in January, practically every park that sells its sites has a booth there.”

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