Royal Crest keeps rents down and spirits up

Feb 13, 2024

It's been just under two years since the mobile home park Royal Crest became resident owned and the Residents Association has been hard at work to keep lot rents down and to still provide a satisfying community experience.

"We're doing some great things around here," said Bob Costa, president of Royal Crest Residents Association.

In August 2022, the residents of Royal Crest officially purchased the park for $12.1 million with the assistance of ROC USA, a nonprofit that aims to help resident-owned mobile home communities. Royal Crest is the second mobile home park in Wareham to become resident owned — Holly Heights Co-Op was the first back in 1992. 

The park has a management company to handle many of its operations, such as collecting rents, but it also has a Residents Association, run by a board of directors, which meets regularly and offers opportunities for residents to voice their opinions about the park.

"They have the final say," Costa said. "That's how we operate."

The association handles the park's operation and maintenance budget, which is funded through the $624 lot rents. 

According to Costa, the park has been able to maintain this same rent rate since its purchase and is anticipated to remain doing so for the foreseeable future.

Despite the rents not increasing, the park has seen a number of changes that have enhanced the community experience. 

Costa said over 100 trees that posed danger to the park's homes were removed to increase safety during inclement weather. 

Events and social committees were formed to encourage more opportunities for residents to gather and get to know one another. 

A three-car garage at the park has been converted into a makeshift community building where residents gather for bingo every Friday night and breakfast every Sunday morning. 

The bingo is "comical" and the breakfast is professionally made by a former chef who lives in the park, according to Costa.

The building is also used to hold the association meetings and host dinners, such as potlucks where everyone pitches in.

In addition to discussing and voting on park issues, the association also sometimes hosts guest speakers to provide information to residents such as presentations on fraud, fire safety and emergency management.

Costa said the association is always looking for resources and services that can help out the residents in the park.

Just outside the building, a picnic area has been created, which has been used to host cookouts in the summer.

The two spaces combined have "really brought the people together," according to Costa.

A maintenance group was established to handle the grounds keeping, including leaf and snow removal. Vegetation such as shrubs and flowers have been added in the park as well.

The association is looking to add in new locked mail boxes so residents can keep their mail secure. There is a bulletin board in the mail room filled with news for residents as well.

At the office building, a library has been established where residents have donated books and volunteers operate it. 

Bob Valentine, vice president of the Residents Association, said the park's former landlord did well keeping up with the park and keeping rents down. However, "he didn't do much."

"If you didn't walk around, you didn't know anybody, and now it's so much different," Valentine said.

"I just lost my wife last month and all the residents just came out and they put me on a celebration of life," he said. "Years ago, that would never happen because nobody knew you."

Valentine emphasized how the community has become more of a family, with everyone watching out for one another, adding the work “gives them purpose.”

Though much of this has been done through volunteering and community work, there are some improvements the association wants to see happen with the park, which come at a price.

Instead of relying on only rents to cover the costs of improvements, the association has looked to other sources of funding. 

When the park was first purchased by the residents, there were 144 housing lots — 138 were occupied, one was condemned and one is an empty lot. The park is in the process of putting in 10 new homes — of the five that have arrived, two have been sold.

Two homes were a part of the park's purchase and residents voted to have them renovated and resold. The commission from the sale will go back into the capital budget that can then be used for other projects.

One of those homes was recently completed at a cost of $20,000 just for the materials — all of the labor was volunteered by the operations manager and a former painter who lives in the park, Costa said. He estimates that, with the cost of labor, the renovation would have cost the park double.

The park has also established its own real estate agency where residents can choose to sell their homes through the park, according to Costa.

He said the charge for commission is much lower than traditional agencies and it may make the process easier for residents.

The combined revenue of adding new homes, renovating and selling old ones as well as establishing the real estate agency — "That's what we rely on to keep lot rents down," Costa said.

Grant funding can also help the park make improvements such as with the new ramp at the office building, which was funded by Rock USA and installed by resident volunteers.

Costa said the association is looking to do even more, including establishing a community building on the empty lot — if residents so choose.

He said the garage they have been using does not have any running water or air conditioning, so residents have the opportunity to decide if they'd like to renovate the current community building or build a brand new one. 

Beyond improvements, the park also has maintenance issues to fund such as a "major runoff" from Route 28 that has caused a drainage issue.

Costa said the park has been able to make improvements and work together to establish a flourishing community without fear of financial burden. 

"That's one of the nicest and most exciting things that's happened to us as a community," he said.