Matt Bonestroo of Phoenix Mobile Home: “Life is too short to live with regrets”

Life is too short to live with regrets. I stepped away from a Corporate America job to pursue my passion — the affordable housing industry. To this day, I have no regrets from stepping away from my past career. I am looking forward to helping more families in the coming years. In many large cities in the US, […]

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Life is too short to live with regrets. I stepped away from a Corporate America job to pursue my passion — the affordable housing industry. To this day, I have no regrets from stepping away from my past career. I am looking forward to helping more families in the coming years.

In many large cities in the US, there is a crisis caused by a shortage of affordable housing options. This has led to a host of social challenges. In this series called “How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable” we are talking to successful business leaders, real estate leaders, and builders, who share the initiatives they are undertaking to create more affordable housing options in the US.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Bonestroo.

Matt is the founder of Phoenix Mobile Home located in Phoenix, AZ. His business specializes in buying and selling mobile homes around the Phoenix valley. Over the past couple years, Phoenix Mobile Home has experienced the challenges of the affordable housing crisis first hand.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

In a past life, I was a composite materials engineer for an aerospace company in Phoenix, AZ. After kicking around the idea of getting into real estate for several years, I stumbled onto the manufactured housing industry. Fast forward three years later and my business is now one of the largest mobile home dealerships in the state of Arizona. I specialize in helping Phoenix families that want to buy or sell a mobile home.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The mobile home industry is sort of like the old saying — “never judge a book by the cover.” Unfortunately, a lot of our society views mobile home owners as being “trailer trash.” Last year, I was able to help a family sell their mobile home in Mesa, AZ. The family found my contact information online, and we set up a good time to do the initial walk through. As it turns out, the owner of the mobile home was an attorney & had $200K worth of koi fish under his carport (turned into a garage). The mobile home sold for $15k, and the transaction reminded me to never judge a book by the cover.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I started seeing a lot of success when I put my customer’s interest first. There was one time when I was buying something off of Craigslist in Casa Grande, AZ. After talking to the family, they mentioned that their neighbor had been trying to sell his mobile home for over 6 months. I helped him create a “For Sale By Owner” advertisement online while I was at his property. I didn’t make a dollar off of that gentleman. Two weeks after I helped him create the ad online, he left me a glowing review that customers have referenced multiple times. Focusing my business on giving more than receiving has helped me grow exponentially.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My fiancée has been my rock through all of the ups and downs. She is there to celebrate every small victory, and right by my side through all of the difficult transactions. I would not be here today without her support. It is tough to achieve success without a good support system by your side.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I really enjoy the BiggerPockets podcast hosted by Brandon Turner. They have hosted over 400+ episodes, but I vividly remember Ep 276 with Bryce Stewart. The episode had a great quote about “vacuuming the truck”. In the podcast, Bryce talked about all of the financial ups and downs his family was going through at the time. He wanted to sell a truck that was causing his family financial distress, but he didn’t know where to start or how to even sell a truck with a lien. Bryce was able to identify that the first step in the process to selling a truck was to “vacuum the truck.” In life, people are often scared by huge obstacles, but these large obstacles in life can often be overcome by focusing on smaller tasks like “vacuuming the truck.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place,” Nora Roberts.

Life is too short to live with regrets. I stepped away from a Corporate America job to pursue my passion — the affordable housing industry. To this day, I have no regrets from stepping away from my past career. I am looking forward to helping more families in the coming years.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the shortage of affordable housing. Lack of affordable housing has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities. I know this is a huge topic, but for the benefit of our readers can you briefly explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

There are a lot of different factors that are contributing to the affordable housing crisis. My input will be based on the manufactured housing industry in Phoenix, AZ.

For the past 50 years, mobile home lot rents have not increased at the same rate as apartment rents. Mobile home park investors are now taking the opportunity to jack up the lot rent prices as they acquire new properties. Increasing the rent of a newly acquired park is the easiest method to force asset appreciation.

Who takes on the burden of the increased lot rent? The lower income tenants. Unfortunately, moving a mobile home from one park to another is not a viable option due to the expensive cost of transport. The cost to transport a single wide trailer in Phoenix from one park to another is typically $6,000.00–8,000.00. These tenants are trapped unless they want to sell their home and move elsewhere.

In addition, the prices of mobile homes continue to increase as there are no other affordable housing options in Phoenix. Families are willing to spend more to purchase a mobile home, and often purchase their mobile home comes with financing at 12% interest.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact to address this crisis? Can you share some of the initiatives you are leading to help correct this issue?

My mission is to help as many families as possible in the Phoenix metro area. I do this by providing families with all of the information needed to make educated decisions in regards to the Arizona manufactured housing market. My specialty is helping families find the best mobile home deal in town. In addition, I take pride in educating my customers so they can set their family up for financial success by avoiding that 12% loan or overpriced homes.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

This past month, I was able to help a grandmother purchase her first home. She wanted to buy a mobile home so her grandchildren would be able to have a place to sleep on the weekends. Due to the competitive market, the seller had over 10 offers on their mobile home. We were able to get her offer accepted despite the other offers. Personally, I did not make a penny on the transaction, but it was a very self-fulfilling experience seeing the smile on Martha’s face when she received the keys to her new mobile home.

In your opinion, what should other home builders do to further address these problems?

I would like to see a couple things happen to the manufactured housing industry. Currently, there are only a couple of manufacturers that supply the entire southwest- Cavco & Clayton homes. Introducing more builders to the scene would potentially reduce the cost of a manufactured home. Also, I would like to see better financing options for future buyers. For example, I get contacted once a week by families that owe $70k+ on a mobile home at 12% interest. These families will be paying for their homes multiple times over.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

Some states are starting to incorporate rent control. Should a new mobile home park owner be allowed to increase the lot rent $150.00 on the first day of ownership? The argument is that the rent is under market value & their rent is still cheaper than an apartment; however, a lot of the tenants sought out the cheaper rent when they were buying their mobile home. By increasing the lot rent for a mobile home park on Day 1 of ownership, the management is able to increase the value of their asset value by $1Mil+ at the expense of their tenants.

I would like to see more home builders move to the manufactured housing industry. Currently, new home purchases are on backorder for over 18+ months. The price for a new build manufactured home continues to increase as the demand continues to increase. The lack of supply is driving up the price for consumers across the board.

Lastly, I would like to see a reasonable financing option for mobile homes. The argument is that mobile homes depreciate in value; however, a family that wants to own their own home has no viable options at the moment for financing unless they want to pay 12% interest.

If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws which you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

Rent control. The only person that would not benefit from rent control of mobile home parks are the park owners & investment firms. The legislation would not directly help my business, but it would help protect the families that I am working with on a daily basis.

For example, think of your grandma or grandpa living in a mobile home park. Most likely, they are living on a fixed income of $2000/ month (maybe less). One day, an investment fund purchases the mobile home park that they live in and decides to increase the rent $150.00 overnight (this does happen). That is almost 10% of their fixed income. By increasing the rent, the park owner was able to increase their assets value by over $1Mil in one day.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I am a huge fan of the book Go Giver by Bob Burg. The whole premise of the book is about giving more than you receive, and I try to lead my business according to the teachings. There are 5 principles in the book:

  1. The Law of Value — Your worth is determined by how much value you give to your customers.
  2. The Law of Influence — Influence is determined by placing other people’s interest first.
  3. The Law of Compensation — One’s compensation is determined by how many people you serve and how well they are served.
  4. The Law of Authenticity — Most valuable gift you can offer is your true self.
  5. The Law of Receptivity — Key to effective giving is to allow the act of receiving.

A good example would be a family that I helped facing a potential eviction. I was able to help them out through a difficult time, and provide them insight on different options they had going forward. I didn’t make any money by helping them out; however, the experience led to a great relationship with the park manager which has provided compensation.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Personally, I would love to erase the negative stigma that is associated with living in a mobile home park. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a mobile home park? Trailer trash?

At one point in our history, mobile home parks were the “hip” place to live. Even Elvis lived in a mobile home park… I see mobile homes as being one of the last resorts for the affordable housing crisis in the United States, and I am inspired to help families in the Phoenix metro to find their forever homes.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Warren Buffett. He is one of the most well-known investors in the United States; however, most Americans probably do not realize how invested he is in the manufactured housing industry. I would like to have a conversation about where he thinks the industry is heading 5–10 years from now.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am very active on my business website & Facebook page. In addition, I love to share my knowledge in the BiggerPockets forum in regards to the mobile home industry.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.

Thank you! It was fun being able to share my story and experience with the mobile home industry in Phoenix, AZ.

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