Home & Garden
No work and all play ; Baby boomers looking for an affordable, easy-care vacation home discover 'park models, RVs that are more like cottages.
RAY ROUTHIER Staff Writer
5 August 2007
Portland Press Herald
? 2007 Portland Press Herald. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.
Fran and Bob Hall used to vacation in a motor home.
That was until they discovered that they could get a 650-square- foot seasonal cottage for about the cost of a high-end motor home: $75,000. And that's furnished. So this summer, the Halls are spending their vacation time a mile and a half from Wells Beach in their two-bedroom "park model," a kind of recreational vehicle gaining
popularity as a vacation home.
The Halls' park model has a kitchen with full-size appliances, including a stove, oven, refrigerator and dishwasher. It's got a full-size bathroom with two sinks, and a 32-foot "Florida room" - a fully enclosed seasonal porch - for watching TV or just hanging out. "It's got plenty of room for the family to come and be with us, and that's what it's all about," said Fran Hall, whose family runs an automotive business in Concord, N.H. "And it's an inexpensive way to be close to the beach."
The Halls' park model is located in Sea-Vu West, a seasonal park in Wells that is focusing on park model vacation homes. The park, which opened last year, has about 80 park models occupied now, with plans for a total of about 220.
There are sites for traditional RVs and motor homes as well, and it has the amenities found at many RV parks, including a children's playground, game room, store, pool and laundry facilities.
SURGE IN POPULARITY
Owners Lee and Jason Talevi opened the park after doing some research on vacationing trends. Jason's family has been in the RV park business for years, and own two nearby parks, Sea-Vu and Sea- Vu South.
The Talevis opened the park at a time when park models are becoming increasingly popular around the country, especially in seaside areas where building a vacation home might be prohibitively expensive.
While the Talevis are making park models the focus of their business - they sell them as well as provide the land for them - other parks in Maine are hosting park models these days as well.
A park model is smaller and less insulated than a manufactured home, since they're intended for seasonal use. They're called park models because they can be parked anywhere. Because they're meant to be mobile, their size is restricted by federal law for easier highway travel.
They're classified as recreational vehicles, because of the wheels, even though most folks park them in one spot for years at a time.
Park models have been around for a while, but in the past 10 years or so their updated exterior and interior designs have made them look a lot more like cottages than RVs. That, combined with their comparable affordability, has resulted in a 46 percent increase in sales since 1997, according to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association. BOOMERS FUEL MARKET
Of Maine's 280 licensed campgrounds and RV parks, about 100 have at least a few park
model homes, said Rick Abare, executive director of the Maine Campground Owners' Association. However, Abare said he was not aware of any concentrating as fully on park models as Sea- Vu West.
Abare said the popularity of park model homes in Maine has grown significantly in the
past 10 years, as baby boomers began nearing retirement age.
"These are folks who enjoy camping, who probably did tenting when their kids were small, then maybe bought a motor home, then as they neared retirement, they looked for a place to settle," said Abare.
The housing market may have something to do with the trend too, he said. Because of the increase in house values over the past few years, many Mainers can probably sell the homes they've owned for 30 years and be able to afford one park model
here, and one someplace warm, like Florida.
After years of vacationing in a motor home, Fran Hall, who is semi-retired, says she and her husband were looking for a vacation home that was "stationary." She and her husband spend winters in Florida and summers in Maine.
"So when we drove by here and saw these, we found that it was just what we were looking for," she said.
Driving through Sea-Vu West, with its neat rows of park models on well-cared-for grassy lots, one can see the park model's resemblance to a motor home. The structures are
narrow, about 12 feet wide, for instance.
But all have an 8-foot-wide and 32-foot-long Florida room built on, helping to create a cottage look. They also have dormers, reminiscent of a bungalow from the outside, which help to create 13- foot ceilings and a roomy feeling inside.
The park models at Sea-Vu West have various colors of vinyl siding, and at least one has real wood logs as siding, for a cabin feel. Most have "skirts" made of vinyl that hide the wheels of the park model and make it look more permanent. They all have plumbing, air conditioning and heating systems as well.
Though the basic park model sold at Sea-Vu costs about $75,000, there are extra costs. For instance, it's about $3,600 a year to lease at lot. That covers sewer and water, cable TV, and the cost of winterizing the home. But it does not include the applicable state lodging tax, electricity and gas or propane.
The Halls have put $10,000 to $15,000 into various improvements in their park model,
including opening up a wall between the kitchen and Florida room and installing wall boards in the Florida room. When built, the Florida rooms are basically enclosed porches, and the park models' exterior siding is visible in them. So the Halls used wall boards to cover the siding.
One thing you do not have to buy for your park model, if you don't want to, is furniture.
The ones sold by Sea-Vu West all come fully furnished by the manufacturer, and include beds, sofas, even entertainment centers and TVs. Appliances and furnishings can be upgraded or downgraded, depending on what you're looking for.
The three brands of park models sold at Sea-Vu West - Woodland Park, Trophy and Chariot Eagle - have varying floor plans.
Some kitchens are bigger, some have islands with stools, some have room for a full dining table. Some of the park models have the Florida room divided into two rooms, some have lofts and some have two small lofts. The lofts are only big enough for the average adult to crawl around in on hands and knees. But they're perfect for sleeping, especially for children.
While park models seem to appeal to baby boomers who are nearing retirement, they also attract young families. Many of the yards at Sea-Vu West have kids' bicycles parked in them, and the playground and playscape get a lot of use.
The Talevis say another benefit of park models is how easy they can be to get into. At Sea-Vu, you can order your park model, and pick the site. Then it gets delivered to the site and set up. The Florida room is added, water and sewer is hooked up, and whatever appliances and furnishings you ordered are brought in. So when it's done, it's ready to move into.
"A lot of people want it furnished because then everything matches and they can move right in," said Jason Talevi.
It is, after all, for vacationing. And who wants to work while on vacation? Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:
WHAT IS A PARK MODEL?
PARK MODELS ARE a type of mobile home, on wheels, that are designed for seasonal use and are often located in motor home and recreational vehicle parks. BY FEDERAL LAW, they cannot be larger than 400 square feet, and are usually 11 or 12 feet wide. Newer park models have full-sized kitchens and bathrooms, and feel like vacation cottages.
MORE ON PARK MODELS
HERE ARE SOME places on the Web to see floor plans, pictures and other information on park models:
http://woodland-park.com - The site of Woodland Park Inc., a park model manufacturer
based in Middlebury, Ind.
www.trophyparkmodel.com - The site of Trophy, a park model maker based in Elkhart,
www.charioteagle.com - Site of Chariot Eagle, a park model manufacturer with
corporate offices in Arizona and Florida.
http://sea-vuwest.com - RV park in Wells that sells park models.
www.rptia.org - Web site of the National Park Trailer Industry Association, Inc., a trade association for the park model, or park trailer, industry.
Caption: Photos by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer Fran Hall owns a business in Concord, N.H., and spends winters in Florida, but this summer she's calling Sea-Vu West in Wells home. Hall and her husband, Bob, own a two-bedroom "park model," a type of
recreational vehicle that's become popular as a vacation home. Below: The loft of a park
model home at Sea-Vu West looks down into a living room and kitchen area. The cottages at Sea-Vu West come furnished and with appliances. Photos by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer The Woodland Park Cabin Series at Sea-Vu West in Wells has a log-home look and feel inside and outside. The Florida room at Fran Hall's park model at Sea-Vu
West in Wells is divided into two rooms. She has made a living room/family room area in the space pictured here.