“Don’t get too hung up on appearances,” Frank Rolfe reminded us as our tour bus made its way to the first of several trailer parks we would visit on a bright Saturday afternoon in Southern California. “Remember, you don’t have to live in these homes.”
It was Day 2 of Mobile Home University, an intensive, three-day course on how to strike it rich in the trailer-park business. Seventy-five or so students had signed up for the class, which Rolfe offers every other month in different places around the country. Most of the enrollees weren’t real estate speculators; they were jittery members of a hard-pressed middle class. They were nervous about retirement. Or they were worried about their jobs moving overseas. Or they were making $100,000 a year, maybe even $200,000, but felt the need to earn more. All of them, though, had somehow come to see the lowly mobile home as their vehicle to financial freedom. “It’s about self-preservation,” one 42-year-old attendee told me. He had flown down from San Francisco for the seminar because he hated his job selling health care plans.