Frequently Asked Questions when Building or Buying a Campground
Homer Staves of Staves consulting has been in the campground industry for over fifty years. As a former executive at KOA and as a campground owner himself, he's familiar with all aspects of building, buying and running campgrounds and RV parks.
If you have a question that's not answered on this page, feel free to contact Homer. He'd be happy to help.
Q: How much does it cost to build a campground or RV park?
A: There are always many variables such as available utilities, topography of the land, local zoning and code requirements. As a broad starting point it will cost between $20,000.00 and $30,000.00 per site. That includes everything except the land cost.
Q: How large should a new RV park or campground be?
A: It usually takes at least 75 sites to be economically viable as a free standing park. Occasionally it is possible to build a park as part of some other business such as a service station, motel, or tourist attraction and then a smaller park might work.
Q: How much land will I need to own in order to build a modern RV park or campground?
A: Once again there are many variables but to build a modern park you should have close to 10 acres of useable land or more. With today's larger sites we can usually design about 10 sites per acre, which includes room for all of the buildings and other amenities.
Q: How long does it take to build a new RV park or campground?
A: The two things that usually take the longest are obtaining financing and getting approval from the local planning and zoning departments. Once those two things are in place, the actual construction is usually fairly fast and can be done in less than one year.
Q: Can I build the RV park or campground in sections over time?
A: Yes and no. The most expensive part of building a new park such as the main building, and bringing utilities to the property cost the same for 10 sites or 100 sites. For this reason the cost per site will increase significantly if you try to open with only a few sites. However, the typical site design will have around 75 sites served by each satellite bathhouse so if you start with around 75 sites, you might be able to wait a few years to build the second 75 sites.
Q: Would I be better off purchasing an existing RV park compared to building a new campground?
A: There are advantages and disadvantages to either option. If you buy an existing park you don't have to go through the planning and zoning process and you have an immediate cash flow. However, almost every campground that is for sale will still need significant capital improvements to bring it up to today's standards. In many cases the cost to modernize the park will be almost as much as to build a new park. If you build a new park you know everything is up to code and in good operating condition. You will also be able to build the type of park you want in the exact location you choose.
Q: Is financing for a RV park or campground available?
A: While there are a few banks and investors who are willing to finance a new RV park, the most common financing today is coming from a local bank with either a SBA or Department of Agriculture guarantee. The federal government will guarantee 80% of the development cost including land and the bank will require a 20% capital investment from the developer. Often this equity is provided through land ownership. If you are purchasing an existing park the seller might offer provide seller financing.
Q: Do I need to retain an engineer or architect to design a RV park or campground?
A: In most cases the park layout we prepare is adequate to get through planning and zoning but in many cases a local engineer will have to be hired after planning approval to overlay the utilities and possibly any earth moving. Some people elect to hire an architect to design the buildings while others simply go with a standard predesigned building.
Q: How do I design a campground or RV park?
A: Most engineers and land planners have only designed one or two RV parks at the most while Staves Consulting has designed over 250 parks and serves on the NFPA code committee that writes the code for the construction of RVs and RV parks. This gives Staves the ability to design the best park for a given location as well as making sure the design will appeal to the customer base identified as the best for any given location. Even people who have camped all of their life probably will not recognize these nuances that are so important to the profitability of the park.
Q: Does my RV park need a swimming pool? What other amenities are needed in a campground?
A: Amenities are a very important part of a modern RV park. Today's campers are not content with a campfire in the woods but want a variety of things do use while they are recreating. The actual mix will vary from park to park driven by the answer to the question, "who is the best customer for this location?" With that said a swimming pool is highly recommended and will usually increase occupancy by at least 10%.