When we bought the Boiling Springs Resort, it came with some “seasonal” campers. They had had sweetheart deals with the previous owners, or so we were told. It sounded reasonable to have a base income almost guaranteed every month. We don’t offer seasonal camping any longer because of the problems it created. But if you’re determined to do it at your campground, here’s a few camp life-lessons we learned the hard way.
Long Term RV Parking Problems and Tips
Manage and Anticipate Issues from Existing Long Term Client
The previous owners have plenty of time to get stories straight with their local friends and set them up a sweet deal with the new guys.
The people we bought the resort from had done that, claiming to have charged a monthly fee that equaled eight nights’ rent out of thirty nights’ use. Not enough to pay for the electricity the RVs consumed, and also preventing the sites being rented for the other three weeks of time.
There was an understanding that the campers would stay on the weekends, and shut off their utilities during the week.
As the summer wore on, the campers arrived earlier in the week, stayed over the regular weekend and into the next week. By the hottest part of the summer, most were there full-time, sucking down air conditioning at camp and saving on their electric bill at home. One guy sneaked in a deep freeze he left on all the time.
These are all problems that you have to anticipate when taking over a resort. The best way to solve this is to not issue any discount and list officially, what is expected from these existing long term rv parking clients.
Park-Owner Tip: Install metered pedestals and bill electric usage separately.
Long Term RV Customers Spend Little in Store
Aside from the loss of additional rents on the seasonal sites, there were losses in other revenue streams on which campground owners depend. At that time, before our campground was destroyed in the historically terrible flood of 2017, we had a little general store.
Stores are expensive to run. Licensing for items like beer and cigarettes is onerous both in fees and labor—it takes time to account for sales and sales taxes. Merchants invest hundreds of dollars in the necessary permits before even stocking the inventory.
The inventory itself has a limited shelf life. Anything with a sell by date stamped on it poses a significant risk of a total loss on the investment. Many such items require refrigeration, and impose ongoing costs such as electricity to run the machine, maintain the machine, and track inventory, even if vendors offer the machines free with an exclusive agreement to sell their products. Such exclusive agreements can put merchants on the wrong side of the taste-test divide and limit sales.
Short-Term Campers Shop, Long-Term Campers Don’t
Short-term campers want the convenience of an on-campus store, but long-term campers stock up at discount warehouse stores. They also bring stuff from home, for example, firewood. Transporting firewood around to different places is prohibited almost everywhere, but people sneak it in. And with it, pests and blights that damage the trees and vegetation at the camp, destroying the value of the main selling feature—a picturesque natural setting. Remediation costs can be imposing. The big warehouse stores came up with a solution.
Park-Owner Tip: Create a membership fee to encourage store sales and mitigate lost revenue.
Long-Term Campers Uses More Camp Utilities
Because long-term campers are basically setting up a summer home, they have guests that may not be your guests. They place a demand on camp utilities, and may sneak into the pool without paying any camp fees, or even signing the pool log required by some local health codes.
Besides the presumption of girdling nearby trees with clotheslines, long-termers may abuse their privileges in other ways. Instead of availing themselves of the campground’s services, say if you’re a river outfitter who rents boats, they will bring their own boats, and run their own floats, taking up time and space at the boat ramp and making your paying customers wait. And probably asking to borrow associated equipment instead of renting it from you, and hoping you’ll forget that they have it.
Park-Owner Tip: Storage space costs extra. Charge for it.
Long-Term Campers Needs to Know It’s Just Business
Guests staying over a long period of time place social pressure on the campground owners. Familiar faces get to seeming like friends’ faces. Soon enough they’ll start to impose on your hospitality. Maybe this month they’re a little behind on the rent schedule and need an extra week to pay it. Next month, they’ll be a little short on money.
Remember they are your customers, not your friends, and this is a business relationship, not a social one. Define that relationship at the beginning, in a written agreement, and stick to it. Like any other type of landlord, you’ll need to spell out the consequences of breaking the rules, and enforce those rules without mercy. It will make you feel better about having their RV towed.
Park-Owner Tip: Contract law attorneys through online services often charge by the quarter-hour, and that makes them affordable.
Okay, long-term campers aren’t all bad.
Military service personnel travel around quite a bit, and career-long members living off base may be stationed nearby for too long to rent a room, not long enough to rent home, or settling down and shopping for a house. Cutting them a deal is a nice way to thank them for their service.
Not All Long Term RV Parking Campers Are Bad
Really, any prospective home-buyer looking to lay down roots nearby will be on their best behavior, and they don’t want to suddenly wreck their credit scores with missed or late payments. Plus, they’re nearby after they buy, and may return often.
There’s a quite a few nomadic construction workers who make great guests. Union members, like IBEW electrical workers, for example, have established credentials and reliable incomes, but even independent contractors who travel often will have enough of a stake to pay the first month in advance, and on time subsequently until their job is done. They often use cash, saving you merchant fees on credit card payments. And since they have to move on to their next job, they don’t overstay their welcome.
Full-time RVers can be good, too. Usually retirees, and therefore older people, they tend to be very friendly and to stay out of trouble. Making the circuit on seasonal rounds, they have a schedule to keep and pay in advance for their own convenience.
Safest Lodgers are P2P RV Renters
Peer-to-peer RV renters are perhaps the safest lodgers of all to take on long-term. Because the transaction usually goes through a third-party, campground owners enjoy guarantees on rents and often insurance and other consumer protections. The P2P lodgers will have been pre-screened, and because often they as guests receive a rating on the platform, have a vested interest in being good guests. Likewise RV park club members through organizations like Good Sam’s.
Finally, locals like educators and elected officials rely on their reputations for continued employment, so a season with them is probably pretty safe. Your local U.S. Congressman is unlikely to set up at camp, but your local school board member just might.
Park-Owner Tip: Local realty agents may steer customers your way, and have already checked their finances.
Word for Campers
A last word to the campers out there looking for long term RV parking. Be good guests even if you are renting an RV for a week and is only there for a couple of days. Owners often live on-site, so you’re staying at their home—treat it like you would want guests staying with you to treat your home.
Promote your favorite places—bringing in new business won’t cost you your spot, and it engenders good will from the owners, so they’ll want to have you back year after year. As their business succeeds, you’ll find the owners reinvest in the campground, and so your spot may actually improve each year.
Vacations are where and when memories are made, good or bad. Our place enjoys lifers whose children spent every summer at the Resort, grew up and bring their children back every summer. Some of them are now on the third, even fourth generation. The place is their home, too, and happy memories continue to be made there.
I know what I said earlier. The guests aren’t your friends. But . . .
Park-Owner Tip: Some of them become your friends, and maybe—if you’re lucky—like family, too.