Rapidly growing business Wyldecrest Parks has just acquired its 100th UK residential park, making it by far the largest park owner in the UK.
Steve Rowe chats to owner Alfie Best about the company’s amazing growth and hears about his predictions for 2023
It was a fairly wet December day when I met billionaire entrepreneur Alfie Best at his company Wyldecrest Parks’ latest acquisition, Riverside Residential Park, a small development on the banks of the River Thames in Tilehurst, near Reading.
However, Alfie’s spirits were high because this park marks a major milestone in the growth of his company, being the 100th site in its portfolio of sites all over the UK. It’s been a remarkably quick growth, with Alfie founding the company from scratch as recently as 2001, with just one park to his name. An experienced businessman at the time, he was drawn to the park home sector because he was bought up on a caravan park and is very proud of his family’s caravan heritage.
Alfie probably has the highest public profile of anyone in the park home sector, even appearing on TV programs, including ITV’s series Undercover Boss in 2021. I’ve interviewed Alfie a couple of times over the years and he’s one of the most down-to-earth, easy-going businessmen I have spoken to for the magazine, so the fame and his wealth (he has been featured in The Sunday Times UK Rich List) certainly haven’t gone to his head.
Having had a quick look round Riverside Park with Alfie, we sat down over a coffee and chatted about his company’s rapid growth. He enthused: ‘We officially acquired Riverside Park on the 15th of December, but in the few weeks since then we have also purchased another three UK parks, taking our total to 103. We are now the biggest park owner to ever have existed in the UK and Europe and our sites have around 16,000 homes in total. We’ve also set our sights on the USA and plan to buy more parks over there during 2023.
‘In the UK we’re currently in the process of acquiring another five parks, which should be completed by the Spring, so we’re not slowing down. We also own a golf course in Worcestershire, with all our residential home owners offered membership here if they want.’
Alfie also comes across as a very driven businessman, as shown by his company’s rapid growth, so I asked what really motivates him? He explained: ‘I think park homes could be part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis in the UK and I am very driven to prove this point. They are cheaper to buy, their Council Tax is usually in Band A or B and, on average, electric bills can be 28 per cent cheaper than traditional brick-built homes. If the park home sector was expanded, it would also allow more older people to downsize, freeing up their old housing for new families.’
I asked Alfie what’s currently stopping more growth in the park home sector. He continued: ‘I think councils should be more open to park home site development. We’ve never managed to get planning permission for an all-new residential park site, so we can really only grow the market by developing existing parks. I suspect many councils are greedy for the bigger financial gains that come from granting permission to brick-built housing developers, where they can cram in lots of houses or flats and where owners will be paying council tax in the higher bands.’
Very hands-on boss
With so many parks in his company’s ownership now, I asked Alfie how hands-on he is with the business. He explained: ‘I spend a lot of time visiting our parks all over the UK and enjoy speaking to residents. I genuinely want to help people and we are always looking at ways to improve our parks, updating the infrastructure and finding ways to make life better for our residents.
‘Being bought up on a caravan park has given me a real passion for park homes. I actually lived on the first park home site I bought for seven years, bringing up my own kids there, so there’s not much I don’t know about parks and the lifestyle.’
What does the future hold for Wyldecrest?
I was keen to ask Alfie what his long-term plans for the company’s future are and he explained: ‘As well as continued expansion in the UK we also want to expand more into Europe and also into the USA. Famous US Investor Warren Buffett owns a park home manufacturing company in the US, as part of his portfolio of businesses, which is just a small sign of the potential of the park home sector in the US. I want us to buy some parks in the US and grow our business there as well as in Europe.
‘We also now have our own finance company, Best Park Home Finance, which we set up to offer finance for people buying homes on our residential or holiday parks. We even offer finance to help people buy a hot tub for their park home or holiday home!’
Future predictions for the UK housing market
Concluding our chat, I asked Alfie what he thinks will happen to the UK housing market in 2023 and beyond? He explained: ‘I think demand for park homes is going to remain as strong as ever, but I also think we are set for one of the worst property crashes in history.
‘If you just look at interest rates, these have gone up hugely over the past year (from 0.25 per cent in December 2021 to 3.5 per cent in December 2022). The rates might still be small by historic standards but, over the past ten years or so, people have got used to the lower rates and have financed their house purchases and spending accordingly, So, such a massive increase in rates will have a big effect on the market during 2023 and house prices are already declining.
‘Add in the cost-of-living crisis, with higher food and fuel prices and it’s the perfect storm. So, things don’t look good for the 2023 property market. My main piece of advice for 2023 is to encourage anyone who is thinking of downsizing and buying a park home to put their existing house on the market as soon as possible, since prices are only likely to decline. Those people who buy a park home as a way of downsizing for their retirement years, getting rid of their mortgage in the process, are, of course, insulated from any interest rate rises and this has always been part of the appeal of park home ownership.’
“My main piece of advice for 2023 is to encourage anyone who is thinking of downsizing and buying a park home to put their existing house on the market as soon as possible.” Alfie Best
Riverside Residential Park is at: Scours Lane, Tilehurst, Reading RG30 6AX
T: 0330 133 7300 (Wyldecrest sales number)
The 100th park
Situated on the banks of the River Thames in Tilehurst, near Reading, Riverside Residential Park was a family-owned site before being purchased by Wyldecrest in December 2022, making it the 100th park in the company’s portfolio of parks all over the UK.
It’s a small, long-established site, with just 30 homes, a mixture of twin-unit homes and single-unit models. Perhaps the best feature of the site is its closeness to the River Thames and the path that runs alongside, perfect for walking or just relaxing and watching the boats go past.
A brand new single-unit home, with two bedrooms, is due to be placed on the site by Wyldecrest early in 2023, which will be on sale for around £150,000, which represents good value for this part of the world, close to London and the M4 motorway.