If modern property seems overpriced and overcomplicated, there’s another unique lifestyle option available, in the form of park homes.
What are park homes?
Park homes are a bit like an upscale version of the static caravan in Cromer where you used to spend your summers. They’re usually compact, low-rise constructions on rented pitches of land, surrounded by similar buildings in purpose-built parks. Technically they’re mobile homes, though without the context you might sometimes have difficulty telling the difference between a park home and a modest suburban bungalow. Some are designed for seasonal occupancy, while others are occupied year-round, and this blog deals with the latter.
Why do people buy them?
Park homes are a lot cheaper than other residential property (you also don’t have to pay stamp duty), and they’re almost always in pretty places. They’re usually energy-efficient and cheap to run, and are popular with retired people looking to downsize and free up some capital. Apart from anything else, there’s a feeling of community and a sense of ‘travelling light’ about park homes, and many people are drawn by the promise of a less complicated lifestyle in the country.
What are the quirks?
Park homes are a bit idiosyncratic, in good and bad ways. You generally have to get your utilities through the site owner, and you’ll pay a regular pitch fee. There will be also be lists of rules that residents agree to abide by (especially concerning vehicles and animals). You may have to meet certain criteria to buy a home in a particular park (for example, some parks only take older people), and when you come to sell your park home, the site owner can block the sale if the buyer doesn’t conform to the rules.
What protection do owners of park homes have?
In times gone by, the site owner more or less had you over a barrel, but in recent times the laws around park homes have tightened up. There’s a solid legal framework for things like pitch fee increases and changes to the site rules, and utilities are also tightly regulated to avoid the site owner slapping on outrageous mark-ups. Site owners now have only very limited rights to block a sale, though they can still take (regulated) commission when the home is sold. If the home is gifted to a family member then no commission is payable.
What are the downsides?
By law, a park home is classed along with caravans, boats and cars, rather than as a bricks-and-mortar property. This does mean you won’t get a mortgage on one, though since many people are downsizing anyway, it’s often not an issue. And site rules will almost certainly outlaw sub-letting, so you can’t buy a park home and turn a profit off it as a holiday let. Many people also come unstuck by accidentally buying a holiday home instead of a residential one, so you need to read your paperwork carefully.
Gov.uk has a concise primer on the rights and responsibilities of park home owners.