Saturday, June 3, 2023


Family-owned campgrounds snapped up by private investors, boosting sale prices and site rates

Owning a campground is often a family business. Dad is usually outside taking care of the grounds and the sites, while mom handles the store, reservations, and the books. The kids and grandkids grow up in the business, taking their turns at the various campground jobs before eventually taking over the entire operation. But family-owned campgrounds might be changing.

Family-owned campgrounds that were purchased for well less than $1 million just a few years ago are now being snapped up by investors for several million dollars. Parents who had planned to transfer park ownership to their children now find themselves with an asset that is either too valuable to just give away or is beyond the financial reach of their kids.

Boom in corporate and outside investor interest in camping, and prices

Mia Caetano Johnson has been a commercial campground broker in New England for the past 12 years. Caetano Johnson’s firm, Northeast Campground Brokers, has seen a boom in corporate and outside investor interest in camping—along with a corresponding boom in prices. Caetano Johnson said she is seeing fewer and fewer “legacy campgrounds” being passed down to the next generation.

“The value of a campground is now based on cash flow, and not real estate values as in the past, and everyone’s values are on the rise,” Caetano Johnson said. “Our industry has now been introduced to many investors who have never looked at campgrounds as a viable investment option. We are now dealing with a whole new group of buyers.”

Caetano Johnson said until two years ago about 80 percent of campground transactions involved a purchase by a small owner/operator (“mom and pop” operations). She said now, 80 percent of campground buyers are outside investors. “They have much deeper pockets, more financing options, and have prior experience running a business,” she said. “One of my fears is that we will be seeing far less ‘mom and pop’ campground operations.”

The end of multi-generational, family-owned campgrounds

The rise in campground prices is having one obvious effect—the next generation can’t afford to take over their parent’s park.

“I do a lot of succession planning with campground owners,” Caetano Johnson said. “The biggest issue that the parents have is that the park has basically always been their retirement plan. Now the value of their campground is so high, the children can’t afford to purchase it from the parents and the parents can’t afford to give it outright to the children.”

As an example, she said campground owners often find the park they purchased for $2 million is now worth $10 million to $15 million. “How is a 25-year-old going to purchase a $12 million park from their parents?” she said. “The family often decides to sell it to an investor and just give the kids a share as their inheritance. There just is no way to keep it in the family.”

The effect on RVers

As older “mom and pop” owner/operators leave the campground market and investors take over at many parks, RVers can expect improved facilities … and higher rates.

“Sometimes these more corporate owners put a lot of money into both the purchase and the facility itself,” said Caetano Johnson. She said investor owners also have their eye on higher rates of return.

“The more investors there are in the market, the higher the rates will go,” she said. “I’ve seen some seasonal site rates go up as much as $1,000 at one time. You don’t see mom and pops doing that, but you do see that with corporate owners.”

Caetano Johnson said investors are drawn to campgrounds with long waitlists and room to expand. “It’s really basic Economics 101,” she said. “If you have 100 people waiting to get every site, you can charge more.”

The RV Industry Association says there were 62 percent more RV owners in 2021 than in 2001. With 600,000-plus new RVs set to roll off assembly lines in 2022 and nowhere near enough new campsites yet in production, it isn’t surprising that the sale price of existing parks is climbing.

A quick look at one campground brokerage website showed even modest-sized family-owned parks listed for from $2.4 million to more than $8 million in price. Even a tiny, 15-site campground in West Texas was listed at $750,000.

“It’s still very much a sellers’ market,” said Caetano Johnson. “There just isn’t much campground inventory for sale out there.”



Mike Gast
Mike Gast
Mike Gast was the vice president of Communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. for 20 years before retiring in 2021. He also enjoyed a long newspaper career, working as a writer and editor at newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Montana. He and his wife, Lori Lyon, now own and operate the Imi Ola Group marketing company, focusing on the outdoor industry.


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1 year ago

Large investors have moved towards buying up real estate, such as condos, housing developments, and RV campgrounds, and converting them to rental properties since their traditional investments (treasuries and other bonds) have gone down in returns thanks to the Fed lowering interest rates. This is a way for them to diversify their investment portfolios and increase returns; they’ve also made tons of money by increasing their investment in stocks over the same period. Ain’t it funny how economic downturns always work to the benefit of already wealthy investors and against the other 95%?

Last edited 1 year ago by Carson
Ali dew
1 year ago

I bought a park model at a mom and pop campground in my case I have been there almost 3 years. They like to absorb your park models to give to their family so even mom and pop campgrounds are being greedy and they have raised everything but no improvements go figure I’m just not cut out for the hassles and harrassment good bye peace!!!

1 year ago

A corporation bought the Yogi campground in our area. They got rid of all their seasonal sites and raised their prices. Those who could afford are able to camp there while others have decided to just camp at state parks. If inflation gets worse I don’t believe the average camper will visit these corporate owned campgrounds.

Cristobal Patiño
1 year ago

They shouldn’t be, ‘Cause none of those Corporate Investors have ever been OUTDOORS; So, they shouldn’t be allowed to purchase this kind of property. Corporations are the reason why this Country’s gone to hell in a hand basket!

Vicki Dow
1 year ago

The prices will get driven to where we can’t afford to Camp anymore

Steve Saal
1 year ago

The solution, boon-docking. Give up the use of cute awning lights, the shuffle board pads, heated pools and get back to what real camping is, rustic sites like on free Camping on BLM land.

Kevin L
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Saal

Wow, thanks for your words of wisdom boomer

RV Staff
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin L

I liked Steve’s words of widsom, Kevin. If you’re being snarky, I don’t like that. If you’re not being snarky, I’ll delete my comment. From the Boomer Class of ’46. –Diane

1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin L

He isn’t wrong

Marilyn Coley
1 year ago

I see more people turning to state and natl parks and they becoming more stressed. Camping becoming a more affluent activity, knocking out alot of people. Camper prices should go way down as site prices go up.
Sad sad day……camping is totally changing in so many ways….

Tom Bauman
1 year ago

We owned a campground and sold it in 2019 to retire. Another couple bought it from us. We never got contacted by an investment group.
Campgrounds should always be valued from cash flow,better known as revenue. It’s a business and businesses should always be evaluated that way. Unless the campground had been run poorly and the revenue isn’t there. Then you value it as ” land and buildings.”
If mom and pop wanted to keep it in the family they could sell it to their kids for a lower price than the investment group will offer. They could also sell it on land contract.
There are ways to keep it in the family if they so choose.
Sounds to me like mom and pop just “Took the money and ran”.

captain gort
1 year ago

When it gets too expensive, the demand will collapse and prices will drop like stones.
Like boating: Think of how boatowners feel about paying the exorbitant prices they do for fuel to feed thirsty engines. Bye-bye long, all-day cruises. Hello sitting in the slip.
Fact is- that’s pretty much the scene nowadays. Most boats just sit in the slips.
Same applies to RVs…but, unlike yacht harbors, who want to hang out in an RV storage yard? Hey- there’s an idea! Make RV storage yards into park-like settings where you can simply visit your RV, enjoy the surroundings, and socialize….without ever leaving!

1 year ago

The sharp ended stick of corporate greed.

Rosalie Magistro
1 year ago

We workamped in an RV park outside of bayfield Colorado 2 summers ago, they sold to a corporation, and raised the site fee 50 percent ,also the folks that have park models there for years have to vacate.
This is so sad..

Maurice Tetreault
1 year ago

At Sebago they just came out this January and told us that older Park Model Homes will not be allowed to be sold on site, must be moved so much for a family investment. So it’s alright for cove to make a 100% profit on a 300 square foot park model but you can’t recoup your investment, not prepared to walk away as we are both retired and lot rent has increased 500 dollars per year for past 4 years

Tom B
1 year ago

These higher prices are based on projected higher revenue, not on current revenue. Expect every sold RV park to raise their prices.
Sadly, there seems to be no shortage of people willing to overpay for entertainment, so they will get away with it. Look at prices for concert and sports tickets, and now hotel and car reservations. Ouch.
Of course, this problem could be partially solved by more competition (new RV parks), but so far, there seems to be a lot of local opposition nearly everywhere.

Bob p
1 year ago

We just bought a park model home at Holiday RV Village in Leesburg, FL. I don’t know when management changed, but they formerly had a policy where owners who snowbirded for the winter only paid a reduced lot rental during the time they weren’t here. Now you pay the full lot rent 12 months a year (currently $624/mo) causing many residents to sell. That’s how we got our home, the former owners are big farmers in IN and came down here 3 months when nothing could be done on the farm, they’ve been coming here for 8 years. This is a LARGE park (950 units) and there’s probably 60+ homes for sale. It’s a great park, but the new policy is causing many people to leave. We have a large Canadian population and most of them are selling saying they can’t afford it.

Maurice Tetreault
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob p

Sounds like a cove community, their sole interest is the almighty dollar. If the family owned parks want to sell they should give the tenants first right of refusal plenty of investment money out there to keep the greedy away

1 year ago

“As older “mom and pop” owner/operators leave the campground market and investors take over at many parks, RVers can expect improved facilities … and higher rates.”

People can make these statements, but it’s wishful thinking. The only place I’ve seen a new owner put in improved facilities, it was a new ‘mom & pop’. The corporate buyers are happy to leave things alone and use the campground as a cash cow, doing minimum maintenance and getting maximum profit.

1 year ago

The campground in Egg Harbor, WI where we have our seasonal site was purchased over the winter by an investment group. The rate for our site went from $3125 to $5500 for the season. Yes, it is in Door County, but the campground is low on amenities. Clean, but nothing special. After eight seasons we’ll be taking a hard look at whether we want to continue past this season.

Tom Hosack
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark

Ouch! I sure hope Wagon Trail doesn’t do the same.

Al & Raven
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark

@Mark Gorrie, I Will not pay and leaving after 17 years. After reading many articles I believe our family owned campground will be converted into a GLAMPING EXPERIENCE. Instead of paying less than $ 70 a night to camp you can Glamp for $100 +, to live in a man made structure. However all campgrounds in Door have extensive waiting lists. We all in good faith gave our deposit for 2022 season. Other then December 17th email from previous owners saying they have sold with no new owner info no word. New management company email received requesting the additional amount of $5000; $2500 increase. If not must be off site by 3/20. What a great introduction by the new company. Feel the Warmth!

1 year ago
Reply to  Al & Raven

It’s everywhere, my storage rental fee went from $84 a month to $135 a month with new owners!

1 year ago

Family owned campgrounds and Family owned restaurants, my idea of Heaven.

David Schmidt
1 year ago

We use only Family owned Campgrounds. Its more personal they treat you like Family. When we call and make a reservation it always turns out to be a friendly conversation and catching up on whats been happening. You will not get that kind of treatment from corporate owned campgrounds. All you get from them is an automated call.

Al & Raven
1 year ago
Reply to  David Schmidt

David , SO TRUE.
Every commuication or lack of have been a disaster with Management Company for this year’s new owners.

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