By Blake Ellis
In the oil boomtowns of southern Kansas, enterprising residents are turning into real estate moguls, renting out everything from double-wide trailers to rooms in an old bank for as much as $2,000 a month.
Workers flocking to the area seeking high-paying jobs in nearby oil fields and windfarms have created a housing shortage in these small farming towns, causing the rents to skyrocket.
Bobbi Olivier, a native of Harper, Kan., a town nestled right in the heart of the oil activity, left the oilfields of Oklahoma last year in order to buy used double-wide trailers, fix them up and rent them out, among other ventures.
She's been buying trailers inWichita anddriving them an hour south to a lot near the main drag in Danville, a town next to Harper. She then takes the wheels off and tears them apart, adds plumbing, power, carpeting, mirrors to make the rooms look bigger and extra fixtures to make them feel less like a trailer.
"I tend to be an outside-the-box person," said Olivier, who also operates oil wells on her property and holds local rodeos on her family farm. "My goal was to get housing available as quickly and efficiently as possible. I've lived in a modular and a double-wide trailer for a lot of years myself, and they're very nice."
The four trailers are already booked by oil workers for when they will become available at the beginning of July. Meanwhile, Olivier has been receiving five to 10 calls a week from people who she just can't accommodate yet.