For many people finding the perfect residential park home site is possibly the most difficult part of the buying process. Make the wrong decision and the mistake could be costly both emotionally and financially. Unlike many other aspects in life, like hotels for example, residential park home sites do not have a rating scheme and unfortunately there are bad site owners as well as good ones. Separating the good from the bad can be tricky and may involve asking awkward questions.
To eliminate some of the uncertainty of buying a park home we suggest that prospective buyers follow a few simple guidelines.
Make sure that the park home site owner is a member of the trade association for park homes – the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (BH&HPA). Don’t take the site owners word for it, check for yourself at either the BH&HPA website or by looking at the Park Home Living website.
Research, Research and More Research
You cannot do too much research on your prospective residential park home site. Check with the local council that the site in question has the appropriate license for a residential park and that it covers all of the properties contained on the site.
There is a big difference between a holiday park license and a residential park license. With a holiday park you cannot live on site 12 months of a year – be extremely wary of any site owner that says you have to live off site, or go away on holiday for any length of time, or that you have to have an alternative postal address. In all probability they do not have a residential license and this could have consequences for you in the future as holiday parks do not have the same protection for residents as they are not covered under the Mobile Homes Act 2013. The Mobile Homes Act 2013 gives protection to both park home owners and their residents and more information can be found at www.communities.gov.uk.
Similarly, if the site owner says that you do not need to pay council tax it is quite likely that they do not have a residential license. There have been cases, highlighted in the press, where residents have not been aware that their residential park home sites have in fact been a holiday home park and the issue has only come to light when the site has either been sold on to a new owner or the council have investigated the park status. These residents then had to go through much financial and emotional upheaval when the council refused to change the holiday home site license to the appropriate residential site license and they were then evicted from their properties.
You can always do some research on the site owners by Googling their names and seeing what comes up in the search results. You can also ask the council how the site owner has dealt with past regulation compliances.
The best advert for residential park home sites are the current residents. Ask if you can wander around and talk to residents. Be wary of any owner that does not encourage interaction between a potential purchaser and residents – what are they trying to hide? Written testimonials are all very good, but remember you are making a life changing purchase and the people that wrote the glowing statements may no longer be at the site. What do the residents have to say about the park – is it well maintained? How long does it take for problems to be resolved? Are there any ongoing disputes with the site owners? Are the roads and pathways cleared of snow in winter? What are the facilities like? Would they recommend living there?
Some residential park home sites have holiday homes either on site or very close by. It might be worth considering staying in one of the holiday homes prior to making your final decision to give you a general feel for the place. This could be extremely advantageous if you are moving a distance from where you currently live and perhaps are unfamiliar with all the local area has to offer.
Location, Location, Location
This saying goes for all types of property, whether it be traditionally built or a park home. Is the residential park home site where you want it to be? Does it offer everything that you want? If you require regular access to public transport to get around, or are thinking of getting rid of your car, you do not want a site that only has a bus go past once a week. Is there good access to the local shops and doctors surgery?
Additionally, does the site cater for your hobbies and interests? Many residential park home sites encourage activities with other residents, some are set in acres of beautiful countryside where residents have access to a myriad of sports and recreational past times. If you have an interest in gardening, are you allowed to grow your own vegetables?
Unfortunately over the last couple of years we have seen an increase in flooding across the UK and this has obviously affected park home sites. All insurance companies will ask you if there is a history of flooding or storm damage at the park where you want to live, so asking the site owner for a history of the site would be advisable.
You can also carry out your own checks if you want to be sure – after all your home will cost you a lot of money and you can’t really put a price on peace of mind.
In England, the government website has flood maps where you can put in your site postcode.
In Wales, Natural Resources Wales have a similar website where you can zoom in and out of a map to see if there is a danger of flooding.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) also have a postcode search facility.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland have an interactive map that can be searched.
Before signing on the dotted line, ask the site owner to provide you with a copy of their written statement under the Mobile Homes Act 2013 and also a copy of their park rules. The written statement will set out the terms on which you are entitled to keep your home and explains your legal rights. Whilst you are not obliged to seek legal advice, it may be money well spent asking a solicitor to explain anything that you are not clear about. Make sure that you are happy with the park rules as this will contain details of the day to day living on your residential park home site. Additionally, if you are looking to purchase a pre-owned park home, it is strongly recommended that you have the home checked by a surveyor.
The purchase of a residential park home is very much like the purchase of a traditional home and should be treated in much the same way with the same considerations and research carried out. This guide is not exhaustive and is meant to provoke thought and perhaps answer some of the questions that you might have, but a good residential park site owner will be happy and able to answer any additional questions.
Do you have any additional advice that you’d recommend – we’d love to hear it. Leave us a comment below.
For more information on Lifesure’s park home insurance, call for a free quote on 01480 402460.