Archive for April 13th, 2014

Meet Alexa.com & ‘Just Goes to Show You!’

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Blog Column # 292 Copyright 2014 13 April 2014

Perspective. “Land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities cum ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

Reason for this blog. ‘It’s the national advocacy voice, statistical research reporter, & communications resource for all LLLCommunities located throughout North America!’

How to Input this blog & affiliate with Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, a.k.a. ‘COBA7’, via Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-5764

Introduction to this week’s blog posting at community-investor.com I begin every week wondering, “Hmm. What’s going to occur this week that’s newsworthy, interesting, and timely for the 500+ MHIndustry & LLLCommunity readers of this blog post?”

Well, I’m never without inspiration for long. First off; how many of us are frustrated by unsubstantiated commercial website ‘hit’ claims? Part I describes an imperfect commercial website metrics ranking tool. And it concludes with a unique entrepreneurial challenge for ‘someone’ in our industry. You?

Part II? Given the success enjoyed by Community Owners (7 part) Business Alliance, signing 200+ affiliates during first three months of 2014, and as unofficial MHIndustry historian, it’s time to document the inspiration and genesis of COBA7.

And Part III. Three new MHIndustry texts in one year is simply ‘too much’. But you might as well read of plans afoot now, and decide if there’s ‘a place for you’ in the mix.

I.

Manufactured Housing Industry, meet Alexa.com

II.

JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU!

III.

Books, Books, Books, & More Books!

I.

Manufactured Housing Industry, meet Alexa.com

Google Alexa.com and take a few minutes to install the ‘free’ Alexa.com toolbar. Then take a fascinating journey among real estate, homebuilders, and manufactured housing industries’ largest and most popular commercial websites, to view specific web traffic data at this subsidiary of Amazon.com Here you’ll learn the approximate global rankings of these various sites, and more. WARNING. Only the most frequently visited commercial websites will be found at Alexa.com. For example, you will not find community-investor.com (Site of this blog posting), and other small manufactured housing-related venues who routinely ballyhoo their supposed popularity.

Ready to review ten of hundreds of thousands of commercial websites ranked by Alexa.com? Our first run through answers Alexa.com’s question: ‘How is this site ranked relative to other sites (globally)?” Well, the National Association of Realtors® placed #1 in this global ranking, the Manufactured Housing Institute, #10.

NAR.org (National Association of Realtors) 12,534
NAHB.org (National Association of Homebuilders) 94,014
Claytonhomes.com 128,537
IREM.org (Institute of Real Estate Management) 240,601
21stMortgage.com 266,645
Championhomes.net 362,790
Equitylifestyle.com 703,931
Americanlandlease.com 1,190,961
Cavco.com 1,201,958
Manufacturedhousing.org (MHI) 2,252,064

Alexa.com also ranks websites within the U.S., but not all ten firms and entities are listed, only 21stMortgage, Equitylifestyle, Americanlandlease, Clayton, Champion, NAR, NAHB & IREM; not MHI and Cavco.

Alexa.com also tracks three additional metrics: 1) Bounce Rate; 2) Daily Page Views per Visitor; and, 3) Daily Time On Site. Here we’ll just list the Daily Time On Site metrics, beginning with the longest to shortest estimated times spent viewing on site….

Americanlandlease = 13:40 minutes
21stMortgage 6:28
MHI 4:02
IREM 3:3
Champion 3:25
Clayton 3:19
NAR 2:47
Equitylifestyle 2:31
Cavco 2:19
NAHB 2:19

Don’t know ‘bout you, but I find the numbers fascinating; especially Americanlandlease’s Daily Time On Site. Perhaps one should visit, assuming the metric’s accuracy, to learn what’s keeping their visitor’s rapt attention for so long; double the time spent anywhere else among this group. Well, I did, and now understand why: First you have to decide whether you’re interested in an all age land-lease-lifestyle community (i.e. the Clearview Community brand) or one for folk 55 years of age and older (i.e. the Solstice Community brand); then select the region of the U.S. where one plans to settle; and finally, ‘go for a virtual visit or tour’. All that’s going to ‘take some time’, to narrow one’s choices.

Now, you go ahead, give Alexa.com a try; you’ll be glad you did.

Obviously, Alexa.com has its’ limitations, but website ranking and analysis alternatives are few and not that accessible and or helpful. Two examples. Think Google Analytics. Probably the best route. BUT there, data is generally restricted to those with password login info, usually the owner or webmaster of said site(s); hence ‘lack of ready access’. Then there’s compete.com (for $199.00/month, after a free 24 hour trial).

As an entrepreneur I see ‘a need & an opportunity’ here: Someone in the manufactured housing industry, for a price, to routinely perform independent third party research, ranking, analysis, and reporting of aforementioned manufactured housing websites, as well as commercial sites too small to be profiled by Alexa.com. What a help this would be to prospective internet advertisers, needing to know conclusively, whether a commercial website really delivers the volume and quality of ‘hits’ claimed. Someone out there ready to take on this opportunity?

II.

JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU!

“If you build it, they will come!” A promise popularized in the movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, fulfilled in a different manner, since the launch, three months ago, of Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance or COBA7.

First; the way things are today, mid-April 2014. Since mid-December 2013, more than 200 businessmen and women have affiliated with the Community Owners (7 Part) business alliance! They hail from every segment of the HUD-Code manufactured housing industry, including home manufacturers, realty & chattel lenders, MHRetailers, product & service vendors and of course – most of all, sole proprietor and portfolio land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators, from throughout the U.S. and Canada!

Indeed, ‘We have built a new international business alliance, meeting real needs, & they (many of you reading this blog posting) have affiliated!’ But it took a full year, to arrive at that mid-December starting point, for good reasons….

During the January 2013 Louisville MHShow, at KMHI’s PAC reception, MHI chairman Nathan Smith, PHC®, and I had an intense conversation about the present and future of the institute’s National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division. He was OK with the status quo; I and others were not! When I suggested, if the cliquish leadership of the council continued, there wouldn’t be incentive for small to mid-sized owners and operators of LLLCommunities to continue in the NCC fold, and maybe look elsewhere. His response? Words to the effect, “George, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.” End of conversation. And sad to say, we haven’t spoken since; though I’d like to do so. But now, I suppose, it no longer matters….

Then there’s this dual rub. I’m one of the original 19 LLLCommunity owners who took the initial steps, on 31 August 1993 that led to the 1/1/1996 birth of the present day NCC, a story chronicled in Bruce Savage’s 2013 book, The First 20 Years! And there’s this; I continue to be an elected board member of the NCC council. So, my affection for, and loyalty to, this body has been long and deep! BUT, how often does one continue to ‘step on Superman’s cape’ before being upended (As a couple of us were, via a very public, mean-spirited verbal ambush, during the NCC’s Fall 2012 meeting)? And we’ve come to clearly understand, ‘Cliquishness or abject cronyism isn’t going to change anytime soon!’ Effect a change by vote? Nope. NCC meetings are poorly attended by members (a dozen+/- at most), though popular with dozens of observers usually in the room. And the council disallows absentee votes at all elections, as we learned during the Fall 2013 NCC meeting, when two dozen absentee ballots were summarily rejected. In spite of all that, it’s still difficult to walk away to a new business alliance, even one with more and varied functions. And frankly, I plan to continue to pay $500.00 per year in direct, dues-payments to the MHI/NCC for their national advocacy efforts, and not much more! So should you.

What most folk reading this blog posting probably don’t know, is prior to the conversation described in the first paragraph, I’d been meeting, corresponding and conversing with, originally a dozen, then two dozen, businessmen and women, from all corners of the U.S., who shared the common bond of LLLCommunity ownership and management. What brought us together, was the common goal of ensuring continuation of unique products and services, provided by GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing, specifically for owners/operators of LLLCommunities nationwide and in Canada. And there never was any serious talk about alternative representation or advocacy of the asset class on the national level. That’s why COBA7 is a business alliance, and NOT a new, national not for profit entity. In any event, today the number of ‘skin in the game’ intimates has grown from two dozen to more than 200 affiliates!

My original personal goal had been to semi-retire at the end of year 2012. Pensions were in place, and investments in the capable hands of a CFP – my son. But retirement did not happen. Oh, it could have. Nothing, except loyalty to hundreds of businessmen and women friends ‘in the MHBusiness’, stood in the way of me simply ‘pulling the plug’ and walking away. But I’m not wired that way. At stake was 35 years worth of creativity and nurturing of unique products and services, that most if not all, LLLCommunity owners/operators, large and small, continue to benefit from, day in and day out, throughout the year. No, we simply had to identify a practical yet effective means to ensure continuation of these valuable features into the future.

That’s when it was brought to our attention a certain national news magazine, WORLD, had recently converted its’ paid subscribers into affiliates of a larger business alliance, the publisher itself. After looking into the matter, it became obvious a similar conversion, a repackaging of the dozen separate profit centers – beginning with paid subscribers to two monthly newsletters, into a single business entity, would secure the future of these features, today referred to as the ‘7 Parts’ or functions of COBA7, facilitating greater intimacy between affiliates and their alliance! By way of review, here’re the ‘parts cum functions’ that comprise COBA7 today, and going forward:

• Ongoing research, typified by the 25th anniversary ALLEN REPORT, a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’ Did you know? In 1987 there were but 25 known ‘mobile home park’ portfolio owners/operators nationwide. That number has swelled to 500+/-, throughout North America, during recent years, as land-lease-lifestyle communities were consolidated; first by limited partnership syndicators (1980s); then a few REITs (1990s); and most recently, into entities funded by equity partners (early 2000s). 167 of these are identified in the 25th annual ALLEN REPORT; available to COBA7 affiliates, at Option II & III levels.

• Distribution of resource documents & directories known as Signature Series Resource Documents, or SSRDs, e.g. 16th annual National Registry of Lenders.

• Online & print communication via weekly blog posting at community-investor.com, and two subscriber-supported newsletters for LLLCommunities

• Superb peer networking via FOCUS Groups, & an annual International Networking Roundtable that attracts hundreds of LLLCommunity owners/operators, e.g. 10-12 September 2014 at DOLCE Conference Center in Peachtree City, GA. This year? First ever National Public Forum exploring the past, present & future of manufactured housing as ‘housing’, not ‘trailers’; and land-lease-lifestyle communities as ‘lifestyle’ & ongoing ‘realty investments’. Be there! Call Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877)MFD-HSNG or 633-4764

• Deal-making opportunities via coalition of national real estate brokerages

• Professional property management training & certification via Manufactured Housing Manager®, or MHM® program, by classroom or correspondence

• National advocacy, only when need be….

Today, the past is indeed HISTORY; and the future, OPPORTUNITY! With all seven coba7 ‘parts cum functions’ in place and performing well, the predicted NEW ERA FOR 50,000+/- LLLCommunities has indeed dawned! So, if interested in affiliating with COBA7, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. When we process your payment, we’ll immediately mail the four SSRDs (thru April), you’ve missed to date in 2014, and you’ll begin to receive your monthly issue of the Allen Letter professional journal – and the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! business newsletter, if they are your choice(s).

III.
Books, Books, Books, & More Books!

Are YOU interested in learning ‘How to Prepare & Publish Corporate Histories & Personal Memoirs’? Seminars are being planned for (maybe) 8 or 9 May in East Peoria, IL., at IMHA’s annual meeting. Phone Frank Bowman at (217) 528-3423, to express your interest, and while on the phone, register for that educational, networking event where new HUD-Code homes will be exhibited! Seminar cost? None planned. I’ll be teaching the class, and plan to have a half dozen manufactured housing industry corporate histories and memoirs with me, to motivate you to begin planning your own manuscript!

Next session, likely late morning or early afternoon on 4 August in Elkhart, IN., at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Museum, Library facility. Phone Al Hesselbart at (574) 293-2344 to express your interest. And since you’ll be there anyway, why not register for this year’s RV/MH banquet, when the Class of 2014 (including Gary McDaniel of YES! Communities, Barry Cole of MHIS, Tom Kern of Style Crest Enterprises, Ed Evans of EPM, & Dick King of King Insurance, on the MH ‘side of the house’) will be inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame! Seminar cost? We haven’t talked about it yet, but not much. Frankly, Al and I are hoping it’ll be well-received enough, to become an integral part of this popular annual legacy event.

Third session likely to occur on 12 September, as part of the 23rd annual International Networking Roundtable, at the DOLCE Conference Center in Peachtree City, GA. By then, I hope to be well into my autobiography project, tentatively titled: Twice a Warrior!

The there’s How to Market, Sell & Self-finance New & Resale Homes On-site in LLLCommunities. This is a two year project, hopefully to begin sometime during 2014., if we can identify capable, experienced, motivated would-be co-authors. This would be the first perfect-bound book to be published in the manufactured housing industry since 1996, when J. Wiley & Sons’ released How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell a Manufactured Home Community – to have the first printing sell out within six months! Why a two year window? It takes that long to put enough good material together, format and edit it, then print and bind the manuscript. For example; Dave Alley, Ed Hicks, and I started our ‘book ball’ rolling in 1992, two full years before Development, Marketing & Operation of Manufactured Home Communities hit the market in 1994. Is it worth all that effort? We think so. It established our ‘bonafides’ in the industry and asset class for at least the next two decades….Is there a book in you? Call and let’s talk about it.

‘Lessons Learned in LLLCommunity Operations’ maybe not the stand alone new book we envisioned after all; but rather, a new edition of the LLLCommunity Management text used during the popular Manufactured Housing Manager® or MHM® professional property management training and certification program.

***

George Allen, CPM® & MHM®
Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156