Thursday, September 28, 2000
Steamboat Springs The new owners of the Hilltop Trailer Park in Steamboat Springs still have some paperwork headaches to get over. But at last, the 17 trailer owners also own the dirt beneath their homes.
Hilltop Mobile Homeowners Association LLC closed on the purchase of the trailer park Thursday afternoon at Transnation Title Insurance Co. The limited liability company purchased the property near Steamboat Springs High School from Leland and Ilagrace Harms for $675,000.
"We did it!" Karen Vail exclaimed. "This is only the beginning. It's just such a relief."
Vail is one of three women who will serve as managers of the LLC. The other two are Beth Leys and Jennifer Tallman.
They and their fellow mobile homeowners came together when they learned from the Harmses that the couple was considering selling the mobile home park. With a fourth Hilltop resident, Donna Starbuck, they spearheaded an effort to purchase the land before it was snapped up on the open market. With the help of Rob Dick and Karen Beauvais of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, they managed to borrow the $675,000. All five of the banks in Steamboat Springs contributed to the loan.
"I'm a more important person in the community today than I was yesterday," Leys said, only half in jest.
The challenge for mobile homeowners in Steamboat is very real. Typically, they own their trailer but not the land it sits on, paying rent to a landlord instead of a mortgage payment to a bank. Escalating land prices here mean the economic model of a mobile home park no longer makes sense in some cases.
Mobile homeowners, who thought they'd built equity in their homes and that their mortgages were secure, can find out differently.
Leys, who moved here to work in the commercial insurance industry, said if she had lost her home, she would have had to choose between moving back to Rhode Island or moving back into a roommate situation.
"I'm 36," Leys said. "I've been there and I've done that."
Vail, who is well known in Steamboat for the guided nature hikes she leads, says she hates to think of what her choices might have been had she lost the $30,000 of equity she had in her home before purchasing a one-seventeenth share in the LLC.
"I never went there," Vail said. "This is my home. I couldn't leave. We had a choice. We could either set there and let ourselves be moved, or we could buy it."
Starbuck said the trailer owners feel very fortunate to have received as much help as they have from the community. Accountants and lawyers have performed services for the LLC at reduced fees, she said. For example, attorney Alan Keeffe of Bendelow Law Firm, who helped form the LLC and attended Thursday's closing, worked at a significantly reduced fee, Starbuck said.
The business organization of Hilltop Homeowners Association gives each of the 17 homeowners part ownership in the LLC, which in turn owns the trailer park. The homeowners will also be rent-paying tenants of the LLC, which will make the mortgage payments. In essence, the homeowners will pay rent to themselves.
The homeowners are working on a set of covenants they hope will ensure the trailer park remains a source of affordable housing for the community indefinitely. In the future, when homeowners opts to sell their shares in the LLC, all of the 16 remaining owners will have a vote on whether or not to accept the new owner. And it's their intent to preserve the current situation all of the mobile homes are owner occupied.
Vail hopes the success of the purchase, and the number of people who contributed to that success, will set a precedent in Steamboat Springs.
"Trailer home owners are tired of being booted out of the community. And we're tired of paying high rent," Vail said. "We're responsible, we have a nice neighborhood and we want to keep it that way."
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail email@example.com