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Bucking bleak trend, some Pasco County mobile home parks retain property value

Linda Kaczynski, 68, and her husband Frank, 71, stand near their mailbox, adorned with a porcelain bunny, inside the well-kept Club Wildwood mobile home park for seniors.

KAINAZ AMARIA | Times

Linda Kaczynski, 68, and her husband Frank, 71, stand near their mailbox, adorned with a porcelain bunny, inside the well-kept Club Wildwood mobile home park for seniors.

HUDSON — Linda Kaczynski has seldom seen an empty lot at Club Wildwood, the manufactured home community for seniors where she and her husband have lived for a decade.

Sure, it gets quiet when the snowbirds leave their double-wides for the summer. But they come back. Sure, homes go up for sale. But they don't take long to sell.

"We're very fortunate in that respect," said Kaczynski, a 68-year-old retired registered nurse.

Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells sees the trend, too.

Club Wildwood, along with a handful of other well-kept parks where residents own their mobile homes and rent the lots, will see their taxable property values next year hold steady — or in some cases, even go up.

That is a striking fact, as it comes amid the hand-wringing over tanking real estate values in the Tampa Bay area.

In Pasco County, taxable values have dropped nearly $4 billion, almost 15 percent, over the last year.

"This is virtually the only category of income-producing property not necessarily going down in value," Wells said.

That's because appraisers take occupancy rates into consideration when figuring out how much income-generating properties — everything from office buildings to strip malls — are worth.

The higher the occupancy, the steadier the expected income stream, and the more valuable the property.

The occupancy rate at Club Wildwood as of Jan. 1 was 100 percent, Wells said. The park owner is assessed on a taxable value of $15.4 million.

Another manufactured home park expected to hold its value is Hacienda Village, a gated, seniors-only community with a taxable value of $16.6 million. That park, which is off Rowan Road, had a 98 percent occupancy rate, Wells said.

Compare that to the office complexes that lost value this year because of all the empty space.

In the Wesley Chapel area, where developers rushed in to build office complexes on the heels of the housing boom, more than 40 percent of the office space is vacant.

Wells attributes the high occupancy rate at parks such as Club Wildwood and Hacienda to practical considerations.

Residents invest in their manufactured homes, often adding porches, air conditioning and other improvements. Unlike renters at an RV park, they can't just drive away if they don't want to pay the rent anymore.

"These people have large investments in their mobile homes," Wells said.

That's true at Club Wildwood, a 478-unit park that opened just east of U.S. 19 in 1974, becoming home to senior citizens, many of whom had taken their steady retirement pensions and headed south.

Park owners charge residents around $450 a month for the lots, lawn maintenance, water and basic cable.

As people move in, they make improvements to their homes, Kaczynski said.

"Whoever moves in does a little bit along," she said.

She and her husband, for instance, added vinyl siding and a new roof on their 1978 double wide. Others have added porches, put down pavers in their driveways and erected white picket fences.

They settled in, creating a stable community.

On its Web site, the park has listed around 30 mobile homes for sale.

Because the park and mobile homes are older, the prices are reasonable, said Susan Donahue, who retired from her accounting job in West Virginia and moved to Club Wildwood last October. The amenities and civic pride made an impression, too, she said.

"Everyone I talked to loves it here," she said.

Club Wildwood has a community center that offers water aerobics and computer classes. Residents post photographs and sign up for the kitchen committee on the community bulletin board. They work puzzles in the lobby and play on the bocce court.

In 2006, residents of two sister parks in Largo bought their parks plus Club Wildwood in a package deal for $56.7 million. A representative of the owner, officially Club Wildwood LLC, declined to comment about next year's tax values.

Club Wildwood residents have tried to buy back their park. But after the banks tightened lending over the last year, the group of residents found it could not get a loan.

Kaczynski said she hopes they try again.

But in the meantime, she doesn't see many people choosing to leave.

"We've loved it," said Kaczynski. "Neighbors help each other."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Bucking bleak trend, some Pasco County mobile home parks retain property value 07/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 11:38am]

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