Voyage Investing is a real estate investing company located in Raleigh, NC. Owners Amanda and Jonathan Cruise bring investors together to purchase mobile home parks through a structure called a real estate syndication. In their model, Amanda and Jonathan do the leg work to find, analyze, inspect, purchase, turn around and manage mobile home parks. Every day people invest money into their syndication opportunities by using savings or retirement funds. This allows individuals to diversify from the stock market and to get all the benefits of real estate investing such as cash flow and tax depreciation all without the headaches that can come with real estate investing such as leaking toilets or tenants calling with an emergency on a holiday. The company got its roots in 2018. Surprisingly, the world of mobile home parks can be a roller coaster. Amanda documents this on Instagram.
From Gender Reveal to Mobile Home Parks
As with many small business owners, Amanda was happy working for a company for many years until one day a light bulb turned on. Right when she was returning from maternity leave at her job, she had an overwhelming feeling that she could build a more fulfilled life with less hours spent in an office. She was determined to start her own business & kicked off a business selling gender reveal products. The business was starting to take off when she started getting reports of the products being unsafe. Not willing to take the risk, and already dabbling in real estate, Amanda made the tough decision to shut down the gender reveal business to focus solely on real estate.
They bought their first duplex in 2018, which was a light renovation. The scariest part was the mold on all of the floorboards once the flooring was removed. Luckily, for an experienced contractor this is easy to overcome. They got tenants in both duplex units and were ready for their next investment. A second renovation started on a small house in Youngsville, NC. It was a charming house with a soon-to-be failing septic system. The couple learned a ton about septic systems through the failure of the Youngsville system. They didn’t know it at the time, but this septic system knowledge would really come in handy in their future with mobile home parks.
After the second house renovation, Amanda and Jonathan started buying and flipping individual mobile homes in the summer of 2019. In doing so, they purchased homes from people who urgently needed to sell them. Then they found families who were looking to purchase a home. Amanda and Jonathan set up arrangements for the families to pay Amanda and Jonathan over time, just like a bank mortgage on a home. The main difference is unlike mortgages on stick-built homes, financing of pre-owned mobile homes is very difficult to come by. This arrangement where Amanda and Jonathan became the bank was a huge win-win because Amanda and Jonathan got great interest payments on the loans for the mobile homes and families were able to buy the first home a bank would never have financed for them. After a few of these experiences, they fell in love with mobile homes and had found their real estate niche!
By late 2019 they were cold calling owners of mobile home parks and found Mrs. Byrd who had built a 50 lot mobile home park in Western North Carolina with her husband in the late 1980s and who had managed it ever since. She was tired, widowed, and ready to retire. Amanda and Jonathan worked with Mrs. Byrd for months to purchase the park and ended up closing in early April 2020 – right in the heart of the covid lockdowns. It was an absolutely terrifying time for the couple to buy a huge real estate investment. After all, people were being laid off left and right. Would the tenants be able to pay the rent? After an excruciating analysis of the deal, they made the decision to move forward and purchase the park. It was one of the best decisions they have ever made.
Through a well-thought-out business plan and many hours spent in the park over the next year and a half, Amanda and Jonathan were able to increase the revenue of their park and fix several infrastructure issues as well as clean up the park. In doing so, the park with an initial purchase price of $590k was worth over $1 million. With the proof of concept complete, the owners were on their way to buying more parks in North Carolina with similar structures and similar turnaround plans. Voyage Investing had arrived. Their next project was a small mobile home park in Hickory, North Carolina that had vacant lots. It was a great project for them to learn how to bring in homes to vacant lots, a critical skill in mobile home parks that isn’t simple to pull off but that can bring huge value to parks. They are currently in the final stages of due diligence for their third mobile home park, also located in North Carolina. The new park is 28 lots and very close to the first 50 lot park they owned. With the advantage of scale by using the same manager and installing water submeters to bring down the water costs for the park as well as cleaning up the park and fixing its infrastructure, this park will be a great addition to their portfolio. They are always on the hunt for their next deal.
The Deal Funnel Dilemma
Even the best real estate plans can’t be executed without assets to purchase. It’s currently a very tough environment for finding real estate deals for a few reasons. With the economy has performed well for a decade, many Americans have more money in their retirement accounts and savings accounts than ever before. Interest rates also remain historically low. The combination of these two factors makes real estate investing attractive and many individuals are jumping into real estate investing who never had previously. This is drastically raising the competition for each deal and of course, that can drive up the sales price for an asset. To combat this, Jonathan and Amanda have hired virtual assistants to scout parks for them and do the cold calling to park owners. They also mail owners of mobile home parks to ensure they are getting the first word on deals before any would-be seller puts their property on the open market. Amanda said “being the only person to know about a park that might be sold is an amazing advantage. It allows you to negotiate a fair price that’s a win-win for the seller and for the buyer. It also helps ensure the price doesn’t get massively inflated like can happen on the open market.”
Huge Growth Opportunities Ahead
The mobile home park space has massively attractive qualities right now. It serves low-income families, which is in very high demand. Return on investment with mobile home parks is also generally better than with more popular real estate niches such as apartment complexes. Mobile home parks additionally provide many opportunities to improve their value because many parks are still owned by the families who created them decades ago and those parks typically aren’t run like true businesses to maximize their value. Voyage Investing is starting to scout RV parks in addition to mobile home parks. The RV market has skyrocketed with the pandemic as well as several other favorable trends such as millennials being a huge driver in RV sales. RV parks tend to have even higher returns on investment than mobile home parks and much less competition. Very few parks are owned by large institutional real estate investors, which means there is a great opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to acquire RV parks on favorable terms. Voyage Investing is primed for huge growth in both mobile home parks and RV parks in 2022.
Prioritizing Thinking Time
Amanda was asked for her top business advice, which she said is to maintain mental clarity. To achieve this, Amanda prioritizes silent thinking time. “Going to the gym or going on walks with no music and just allowing myself to think is the best way I work through problems and gain confidence in moving the business in the right direction”. The other thing she does is set goals that scare her. Setting goals that she doesn’t yet know how to achieve keeps things exciting for her. To learn more about Voyage Investing and mobile home park investing in general, follow amanda on Instragram @investingwithamanda.