“You Don’t Have to Live in the North to Retire in the South,” said Donna Schroeder co-owner of Winter Texan Home Sales; the leading and largest broker for manufactured housing in the Rio Grande Valley. Since 2009 Schroeder, her business partner Tim Mull and their team of dealers sold 664 manufactured homes totaling $18,243,713 in sales. In 2015 the company sold 201 homes marking a significant increase from the 164 sold in 2014. What makes this company so successful and what is it all about?
After years of selling manufactured homes (commonly referred to as mobile homes) on their own, Schroeder and Mull established Winter Texan Home Sales Inc. to assist those wanting to sell, and or buy, these homes located on leased land as in 55+ communities across the Valley. Because these homes are not real property, but personal property, a special license is required. Both Schroeder and Mull are licensed dealers with years of experience in the manufactured home sales industry. Winter Texan Home Sales does not maintain any inventory in the company’s headquarters adjacent to Victoria Palms RV Park in Donna, Texas, but customers do find catalogs filled with home listings all across the Rio Grande Valley. The company’s website is a tremendous and popular resource reaching to hundreds of potential home buyers each week from the United States and Canada.
Schroeder’s passion for helping people reflects in the company’s reputation of excellent customer service and dedication to its sales mission. In Texas, manufactured home sale agencies cannot have exclusive status with senior community parks, so WTHS contracts with parks for access to promote home sales within the property in exchange for a sales commission. “When we started the business, it was only the two of us plus a volunteer staff, and we had contracts with two parks. Today we have contracts with 97 parks and service the area between South Padre Island and La Joya, Texas. The company’s staff has grown to 10 licensed dealers including Mull and Schroeder. They are available 24/7 at the company’s three locations in Donna, Harlingen and Mercedes.
Not all of their customers are Winter Texans. Local retirees and couples 55+ seeking to downsize are turning their attention to life in a senior community. “Senior parks are ideal because they offer amenities like a pool and SPA, and some even offer full service restaurants and golf. It is country club living at a lesser cost,” stated Schroeder. There are a couple of options when downsizing: park models and manufactured homes. Park models are titled like vehicles with a VIN number and must be 400 square feet of living space or less. A manufactured home is registered with a Statement of ownership and location – an SOL – by the Texas Department of Manufactured Homes and boast larger living spaces. Prices range from $7,500 to $125,000 including park fees.
“People still look into wintering in the Valley. Our peak season is from early January until mid-March, but our summer sales have increased by as much as 40% in the last five years,” stated Schroeder. The challenge is that not everybody up north knows about the Valley, but once they visit they fall in love. The trick is to get them down here.” Schroeder believes the affordability of the Valley, the low cost of general services, plus the available medical resources such as health providers add to the quality of life. “Past cold and rainy winters discouraged some from coming back, but at least we are not shoveling snow. Others don’t want to leave their parents up north, so I tell them; ‘bring them with you!’ Their lives will be much better here,” said an enthusiastic Schroeder who followed her own advice and brought her 91-year-old mother to live with her during the Winter months.
There have been setbacks for the business. The hike in Hidalgo County property values over the last two years has been an issue. The significant increase has impacted manufactured home sales in that county. “We receive letters inviting us to show up at a hearing, but we can’t drop everything and come south. There is nothing we can do about how properties are appraised, and we cannot claim homestead either which complicates things,” said Schroeder who still travels back to Illinois in the summer. Challenges will not deter the company from expanding their scope and contract with family parks in the near future. For Schroeder, to assist people in the Valley and fulfill her entrepreneurial spirit is what America is all about. “To see satisfied customers, and the people who are making a living out of an idea two people had just a few years ago blows my mind. It doesn’t get better than that,” concluded Schroeder.
For additional information please visit http://www.wthsinc.com