Ok.. well, not technically.
First, we didn’t buy property. We purchased a lifetime lease.
Next, it’s not really a ‘house’ but an RV lot with a casita.
But still, we’re super excited to have finally reached this milestone that has been in the works for over two years and all part of our long term plans for splitting our time between RVing and boating.
We’re the Newest SKP Saguaro Park Leaseholders
So first, the big reveal – last weekend we purchase a lifetime lease to Lot #172 at the SKP Saguaro Co-Op in Benson, AZ.
And we’re a wee bit excited about it!
What is SKP Saguaro? What is a Co-Op?
The Co-Op isn’t owned or operated by the Escapees RV Club, but by members of the co-op. There are several similar co-ops in the Escapee’s park system around the country.
Founded in the early 80s to embody the Escapee’s spirit of ‘sharing and caring’ and to be non-profit place for members to live in their RVs affordably and in comfort.
Leases start at a one time purchase of $10,674 (this is now up to $12,254 in 2019) – which gets you a basic 75′ x 52′ RV site, as well as access to the community amenities like a clubhouse, woodworking shop, gardens and more. Some lots have casitas or sheds, for which the actual cost of building & improvements is added to the lease cost.
When you’re ready to give up your lease, it becomes available for someone to take over at the actual cost of what you paid for your lease plus capital improvements (no profiting, no selling/marketing, no passing it on to an heir).
On top of the one time lease purchase, you pay an annual maintenance & operating fee plus assessments (see below for our 2019 accounting of these fees) for upkeep of all of the community amenities, costs and park property tax. Cable, Wi-Fi, sewer and water are covered, and you just pay for your actual electric use.
Your self contained RV must be the primary residence on the lot and where you sleep – the casita however can be an extended living room, office, storage and/or private bath. There is an onsite storage lot where leaseholders can store their RV for free if they don’t want it on their lot while out of the park (or if they have a second RV).
When the leaseholder’s RV isn’t on their lot, the lot can go into a rental pool to become available to others passing through (they have really affordable daily, weekly and monthly rates). Those in the rental pool earn credits towards their maintenance fees based on a percentage of rental income for that month.
SKP Saguaro is registered as a 55+ up park to meet FHA regulations for exemptions, but they are welcoming of those under 55 but over 18. As long as they don’t exceed the 20% quota of residents under 55 – they’ll continue this policy. As far as we are aware, they are the only SKP Co-Op park that will sell a lease to someone under 55.
(For more on 55+ up rules: Can You Stay in 55+ RV Parks if You’re Under 55?)
To become a leaseholder, you put your name one their Hot List (for a deposit of $500 – which gets credited towards your lease purchase) – and as leases become available you call in to express interest. If you’re the lowest number on the list, you get first dibs on the available lot of your choice.
The wait time is generally around 2-3 years.
So Why Did We Become Leaseholders?
A lot folks ask us long term nomads if we’ll ever settle down, or what happens when we feel called to be more stationary. Co-Ops like these were established for precisely that time in an RVing journey – for folks not ready to give up RVing, but not ready (or able) to move back to a sticks-n-bricks.
While we feel no call for either anytime soon – we did want a safe place to leave our RV while we’re cruising and a desert southwest winter launching pad. And maybe a place that eventually becomes a winter home-base.
We love spending our winters in Arizona – roaming around boondocking and engaging in the vast social opportunity with our community. So the location is perfect for us and still easily reachable from the east.
We first visited the park in November 2015 to hang out with our friends Jil & Tom – we shared Thanksgiving with them there. We were quite intrigued by the concept of the park and community – and in particular their lot with a spectacular back porch with an open view of the Dragoon Mountains.
We went back for a second visit in February 2016 on our way east – and decided before leaving to put our names on the Hot List and start the countdown. We could always remove our names at any point and get our deposit back.
We started getting serious about securing a lot late last year – as we intend to spend this upcoming winter in the southwest.
We had actually briefly fantasized about having a lot by March 2018, and just getting Zephyr there after our visit to Texas.
As every basic lot came up – we called in.
We really weren’t interested in one with a casita, we just wanted to get our wheels in the door. Current leaseholders actually get first dibs at any new lots that become available before Hot List members, so we can always upgrade later.
But alas every time we called in, we were told someone much lower on the list beat us to it. Every week, our names dropped further down the list to a point we felt confident that we’d have no problem getting a lot by the time we wanted one this winter.
We kept our eye on the available lots anyway. And we also learned that our friends Jil & Tom decided to move to Oregon recently.
When I saw their lot come up last week – we decided ‘what the heck’ and called in. Even though we were realistically 10-15 spots ‘too high’ to snag a spot.
Imagine our surprise when we were told Lot #172 was ours!
Not only had we checked ‘Get lot at Co-Op’ off our to-do list, serendipity aligned to get us THE spot that initially introduced us to the park (and one we already knew we’d love!). It took us 2 years and 3 months on the Hot List to get a spot.
Jil was of course the first person we told.
For those curious, our lease purchase price with a little pink casita with a living room, storage, porch and plumbing for an eventual bath was $28,392.54 (including this year’s maintenance and assessments).
The casita (with porch) is 12′ x 24′ with an interior living room of 11′ x 15′, and the RV parking pad 14′ x 62′.
Sometime this fall we’ll store our boat and make our way back to Texas to get Zephyr out of storage (2019 update: that didn’t happen, we actually didn’t make our way to Benson until December 2019, a year later than anticipated).
Zephyr will stay in Benson during the spring/summers while we’re boating. Yes, it gets hot there, but this is actually the EXACT area of Arizona that Zephyr served her entire service life as a commercial intercity passenger bus. There’s little humidity to worry about, the park is actually at about 4200′ elevation (so not as bad as other areas of AZ – highs tend to be in the 90s) and we’ll have access to power to run an AC.
When Zephyr isn’t there, we’ll be leaving the lot in the rental pool. If you stop in SKP Saguaro to check it out – you can actually request our lot. Be sure to send us a picture enjoying the sunset there.
We also not-so-secretely hope that other Xscapers might be tempted by the idea of SKP Saguaro and join us in Benson?? Yes, please – get on the hot list and become our neighbors!
Maintenance, Assessment & Tax Cost Update – 2019
The purchase of the lease is just the upfront expense to get into the park.
There are ongoing costs to operate and maintain the park that all leaseholders are responsible for.
To a new leaseholder however, these costs are not as clearly spelled out as they could be (in our opinion), and even in our advanced research we were caught off guard by how many separate invoices we received at the beginning of 2019.
Apparently unless you’re attending the board meetings and/or reading the minutes – you might not be in the know.
These are broken down into four categories:
- M&O – Maintenance & Operations – This covers the general costs like park insurance, water, Wi-Fi, cable, staff salaries, etc. For 2019, the cost was $1300 per leaseholder. We got about a $600 credit for the time our lot was in the rental pool for 2018. This invoice for this came in March, and it can be made in two payments if desired.
- General Assessment – The park maintains a fund for ongoing small repairs that the board can tap into. For 2019, every leaseholder was charged $238 to replenish that fund. This was invoiced in February.
- Special Assessment – Leaseholders must also fund special larger projects. Much to our surprise, in April we received an invoice for $560 for this – apparently paying off some repaving and clubhouse work previously done. This was apparently the last payment for that project, but for 2020 there’s a $400 for 5 years assessment up for vote to establish a repair fund going forward to cover expenses like this.
- Property Tax – You’ll also have an annual property tax bill from the county. For 2019, our was about $170, and it comes due in October/November time frame.
All of the assessments and M&Os can change from year to year. Keeping in mind the the park is now over 30 years old, and a lot of the infrastructure needs to be maintained and/or replaced. Which is why they’re trying to establish a larger fund for those projects, instead of being caught off guard by large assessments.
But definitely go in eyes wide open that you’ll have about $2000/year in ongoing fees that could continue to expand as the park ages and/or new projects are approved. We personally think the park should make an accounting of these fees over the past few years part of the Hot List process, so new leaseholders know exactly what they are signing up for.
That comes out to about $166/mo (assuming you have no time in the rental pool for M&O credits) – which is quite reasonable and affordable. Heck, compared to the $270/mo we were paying for storage for the bus before we moved it to our lot, we’re quite happy – plus we get to be part of a great community when we are in Arizona.