ATTLEBORO — Sandcastle Estates was bought by Legacy Communities for $13.35 million 2 1/2 years ago and now there’s another deal in place to sell it for nearly $19 million.
And that’s very bad news up for the 225 senior citizen residents in the mobile home park on Mendon Road in South Attleboro because it means rents will be going up for the many living there on fixed incomes.
Crow Holdings, which has an office in Newton but is headquartered in Dallas, has offered $18,873,000 for the property, according to the park’s home owners association president, Joe Feroce.
Feroce and other residents have copies of the offer because they have the right of first refusal on the sale.
But they must match the offer if they want to buy the property.
Neither Crow Holdings nor Andrew Fells, the chief operating officer of Legacy, responded to a request for comment from The Sun Chronicle.
The residents, who own the homes in which they live but rent the land on which they sit, have 45 days to decide if they will try to buy it and another 90 days to come up with the cash.
Feroce said it’s his recommendation to try to buy it, but it’s a daunting task.
The park’s tenants couldn’t make it work when Legacy bought it for $13.35 million in January of 2019.
But vice president Joyce Fox said the effort has to be made.
“Whether we can succeed or not remains to be seen,” she said. “But we at least have to try.”
Treasurer Leon Begin said whatever happens will mean financial strain for a lot of people.
“Some people are just scraping by,” he said.
Whatever happens in the end, there’s no getting around the fact that tenants will be paying more and that will hurt them financially, Feroce said.
“Most of us are not wealthy,” he said. “Rent increases are going to be tough for the people living here.”
In addition, some residents are paying mortgages on their homes, which makes their budgets even tighter.
While it’s called a mobile home park, the homes are not mobile.
They may have been brought in on a trailer, but they don’t have wheels and they are not going anywhere, Feroce said.
If the tenants are able to buy the park, the rent will go up to meet the mortgage payments.
Feroce said it will likely be a substantial increase.
He said he’s working on the numbers and plans to present them at a meeting on July 26, when homeowners/tenants are expected to vote on whether try to buy the park.
At least 51 percent must vote in favor.
If they do so, the association will be in charge of the rent and it will only go up to meet increased costs. But if Crow buys it, rent increases are likely to be more frequent, Feroce said.
When the property is sold, it’s likely the tax assessment and taxes will go up too, which will be passed along to the tenants.
When Legacy bought the park, Sandcastle was assessed at $3.1 million.
After the purchase, the assessment was raised to $12.4 million.
As a result, Legacy had to pay $140,000 more in real estate taxes, which the company added to the rent paid by the tenants.
For each of the 172 units that comes out to $68.31 a month or an additional $819.72 a year.
Feroce said the base rent for most of the tenants is currently $567.
The additional $68.31 and other fees brings it to about $647 per month.
One of the residents, Rodney Berge, said companies like Legacy and Crow are buying and selling mobile home parks all over the state and nation because they have “discovered that people, especially senior citizens are easy targets.”
He said they increase the rents for the parcels on which the homes are located knowing the owners can’t move them and if they could, “there’s no place to go.”
And tax increases don’t matter to big companies, Berge said.
“These companies don’t care if the cities or towns increase the taxes as they just pass the cost to the residents,” he said in an email.
Eventually the rising costs will make the parks too expensive for seniors and will force them out.
“When the city reassesses the property value to what it is sold for they are increasing the taxes that are driving these seniors out of their homes,” Berge said.
“Many of the tenants in Sandcastle are in fear of losing their homes,” he added.
Berge said the city council needs to pass legislation that requires the parks to be valued at “the true value of land and buildings (and) not (what) the business end is.”
Meanwhile, state Rep. Jim Hawkins D-Attleboro said the proposed rent stabilization board for the city, which requires approval from the state Legislature, is moving through committees and will be passed.
“It’s moving pretty good,” he said. “But I can’t put a timetable on it.”
Approval was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and the proposal had to be resubmitted this year.
Hawkins agreed with the homeowners association.
Rents will be going up no matter who ends up buying the park.
Hawkins lamented the situation in which the homeowners/tenants find themselves.
It’s getting more expensive for them at a time in their lives when they have less money, he said.
“There just isn’t anything nice to say about (the proposed sale),” he said. “(The park) should be affordable for the rest of their lives.”