Archive for October 18th, 2014

White Paper Redux, new book, & destination trailers?

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

COBA&® @ community-investor.com Blog # 319 Copyright @ 19 October 2014
Perspective. ‘Land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities and ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.
This blog posting ‘is a national advocacy voice, ombudsman press*, statistical research reporter, & online communications resource for all LLLCommunities in North America!’
To input this blog &/or affiliate with Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, a.k.a. COBA7®, use Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764
• Ombudsman press. ‘Manufactured housing’s ronin, fielding inquiries, complaints, etc.
Introduction to this week’s COBA7® blog posting topics at community-investor.com website:

I.
What no one else will tell you about Insights & Errors gleaned from the CFPB’s ‘Manufactured-housing (s) Consumer Finance in the U.S.’ White Paper. Installment # 2. ‘The errors & confusion’

II.
‘Calling All (would be) Authors!’ Time (year 2015) is ripe for fourth MHIndustry guide in 30 years

III.
‘Next Big Story’ OR ‘Much Noise About Nothing’? The ongoing fracas (‘noisy fight’) among manufactured housing and recreational vehicle national advocacy bodies, plus HUD

I.

What No One Else Will Tell You About Insights & Errors Gleaned from the CFPB’s ‘Manufactured-housing (sic) Consumer Finance in the U.S.’ White Paper!
Installment # 1 = last week’s blog posting at community-investor.com website

Installment # 2 = this blog posting at community-investor.com website

Last week we identified interesting and helpful ‘stats’ gleaned from the subject White Paper. This week we focus on errors, terminology missteps, and confusing statements contained in said document.

Let’s begin with terminology. Throughout the 54 page narrative, CFPB White Paper writer(s) arbitrarily mix manufactured-housing (sic) & manufactured housing; manufactured housing communities, manufactured home communities & land-lease communities; along with lots, plots & sites – when they mean ‘rental homesites’ or simply ‘sites’.

There’s this questionable statement: “Historically, around 25-30 percent of manufactured homes have been placed within manufactured housing communities, though the share of new homes placed in communities has grown in recent years.” P.9 Really? During what time frame? Many, if not most, manufactured housing veterans will likely tell a different story, and it goes something like this:

During the 1970s, as much as 80 percent of ‘mobile home’ shipments wound up sited in (then) ‘mobile home parks’. That percentage shifted 180 degrees by the mid to late 1990s, when 80 percent of ‘manufactured home’ shipments were sited on parcels of improved realty conveyed fee simple, and were commonly referred to as being land-home-packages, whether installed within subdivisions or on scattered building sites. This occurred as the manufactured housing industry, for a relatively short time, competed head-to-head with stick or site-builders for market share.

Since the turn of the century, an increasing number of manufactured homes (After 2009, oft referred to as Community Series Homes or CSH Models, vs. Developer Series Homes, a.k.a. ‘Big Box = Big Bucks!’ models of the earlier era), now ship directly into land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities. Why? LLLCommunity owners/operators can no longer rely on independent (street) MHRetailers, or even company stores, to ‘fill their vacant rental homesites’ with new homes, given lack of easy access to chattel capital. Today’s LLLCommunity owners/operators often must sell, even seller finance on-site transactions to remain viable. An apt, but disturbing contra sidebar to this trend, is most small LLLCommunities (i.e. 85% of 50,000+/- such properties in the U.S., characterized by fewer than 100 rental homesites apiece), have NOT shifted to the ‘buy here, pay here’ business model of the 500+/- portfolio owners/operators just described!

“…the decision whether to title a manufactured home as real or personal property affects property taxation, applicability of consumer protection laws, and financing options.” P.10 And more! This statement is a precursor to the (maybe) next paradigm shift to confront manufactured housing’s business model of the past 70 years. Think about it. And if you’re unclear about what’s being alluded to here, read this blog posting weekly (to learn) – or contact me directly!

“Restrictive zoning and prohibitive land development costs are among the reasons there has not been significant development of new manufactured home communities in the past decade, though recent trends indicate that investment in existing communities is increasing.” P.11 While the last statement is certainly true, the first one is incomplete. Add these to the list of reasons for choked development: difficulty securing raw land development financing, and perhaps ‘most important of all’, lack of easy to access chattel capital, to finance the sale of new manufactured homes on-site in newly developed land-lease-lifestyle communities (a.k.a. manufactured home communities). This stagnant state of affairs will not change until easy access to chattel capital returns!

‘Manufactured Housing Share of Occupied Housing Units, by State’ graphic, on page # 12, as interesting as it is, e.g. 17% of homes in South Carolina = manufactured homes, while only 1% in NJ, MA, & MD contains a fallacy. Of concern is the paltry 2% shown for IL, surrounded by 5% in IN, 6% in MO, 4% in IA, & 3% in WI. Frankly, Illinois has approximately the same number of LLLCommunities as Indiana, but due to unique ‘home rule’ provisions in Illinois, (i.e. giving ‘home rule’ cities control over LLLCommunities within their boundaries, rather than the state board of health), many such properties are absent from the state inventory. Reality? Illinois has closer to 5% share of manufactured homes in the state, not the 2% shown in the White Paper graphic.

“Nationwide, ground rents in non-age-restricted manufactured home communities averaged $393 per month as of late 2013.” P.21 (citing information from a press release). Not! The LLLCommunities picked for inclusion in these various regional studies are, by and large, ‘institutional investment grade’ in nature, i.e. 200+/- rental homesites in size, and for the most part, in one or another of the 500+/- known property portfolios existent throughout the U.S. and Canada today. Truth be told – and we will never really know, given the difficulty of polling Mom & Pop owners/operators of LLLCommunities containing 100 and fewer sites in size (Again, comprising approximately 85% of the 50,000+/- such properties in the U.S. today), the national average rent – among ALL SIZES of LLLCommunities , is likely closer to $220-250/month, than $393.00! After all, there’re still smaller, rural LLLCommunities, where monthly site rent barely exceeds $100.00 per month. This misleading $393.00 stat, unfortunately, might encourage rent increases among properties charging much less per month.

And if anyone can make sense of the following statement, please let me know:
“The monthly cost differences between manufactured and site-built housing were narrower among renters in general, and in particular in non-metropolitan areas, where monthly rents for manufactured homes were about $100 less than rents for site-built properties ($654 compared with $551).” P.21 Maybe makes sense IF comparing one rental manufactured home on a parcel of land, with a stick-built home also rented and on a like-sized parcel of land. True or false?

“…a comparison of the prevalence of occupied manufactured homes in U.S. counties and various available measures of local affordable housing availability shows no clear correlation between housing availability and the proportion of households that live in manufactured homes.” P.22 Aside from a couple missing commas, to ease understanding, this is one of those instances where a writer inserts the word or concept of ‘housing affordability’ or ‘affordable housing’, without specifically defining how it’s being used. Would have been illustrative here. For example, here’s the definition of ‘affordable housing’ cited in Bruce Savage’s The First 20 Years! (released by PMN Publishing during year 2013), “Housing is affordable when individuals or households ‘…earning less than half the Area Median Income or AMI’, can afford to rent a conventional apartment and or buy a home in their local housing market.” Pp. 105 & 106

“Since 2004, about one-quarter of new manufactured homes were titled as real estate, though in recent years this proportion has decreased; in 2013 only 14% of new manufactured homes were titled as real property.” P.23 Hmm. It’d be nice (and convenient) If we could use this as the bellwether statistic demonstrating increased number of new HUD-Code manufactured homes (i.e. Community Series Homes) being shipped directly into land-lease-lifestyle communities. But I dare say that’s not possible. We still need HUD-Code manufacturers to step up to the plate and provide those ‘stats’ so we can track the trend – and stimulate more home sales into LLLCommunities, and by the property owners/operators. HUD-Code home manufacturers; are you listening? We need your assistance, we need your statistical input, and the sooner the better!

“Production remains 15 percent lower than the overall peak in 1998 when production exceeded 373,000 units before it declined through the 2000s. Since 2009, however, shipments have showed slight but steady gains.” P.39 (Where have all the commas gone?) I don’t read the historic shipment numbers the same way. For example: 1998 = 372,843 (i.e. less than 373,000 units, not more); followed by 49,789 home shipments in 2009; 50,046 during 2010; 51,606 in 2011; 54,881 during 2012; and, 60,228 by year end 2013. Point? 60,228 home shipments is not ’15 percent lower than the overall peak in 1998’, but simply and tragically, ONLY 15 percent of the 372,943 homes shipped during that acme year! 15% off the 372,843 peak would be 316,917 units. We can only wish that’d been the case….

“The manufactured housing retail industry consists of dealerships which sell new and used manufactured homes to consumers through retail storefronts.” P.40 & “…the largest few manufacturers maintain company-owned networks of stores….” P.41. All that was true at the turn of this century, it’s far less true today. MHI staff, a couple years ago in Congressional testimony, cited 1100 independent (street) MHRetailers having been reduced in number to 400, perhaps even fewer today. But, something else has changed, to pick up part of that home sales slack. Are you reading these paragraphs carefully? If so, you likely know who.

“There are about 60,000 land-lease manufactured home communities in the U.S.” p.42 per Housing Assistance Council case study in 2011. I beg to differ. The figure is closer to 50,000+/-. Read ‘Just How Many Are There’, Manufactured Housing Merchandiser. Free reprint available upon request. See end of next paragraph for ordering instructions.

“The largest publicly-held portfolio of manufactured-home communities is owned by Equity LifeStyle Properties, a Chicago-based REIT, and consists of 201 community properties with over 70,000 manufactured-home and park model homesites.” P.42 2014Q2 Investor Presentation cited. However, the 25th annual ALLEN REPORT lists ELS, Inc., as owning/operating, during year 2013, 376 LLLCommunities containing 138,869 rental (mix of MH & RV) homesites. Interesting differences in reporting. Copies of the 25th annual ALLEN REPORT are available ‘free on request’ till end of this year; then available only via affiliation with the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, or COBA7® @ $544.95/year. Phone the Official MHIndustry HOTINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 and leave a message.

“The industry has been marked in recent years by consolidation….” True, but it’s the unique, income-producing properties being talked about here, not the home manufacturers. Bottom line? In 1987 there were but 25 known property portfolio owners/operators; during year 2014 we polled 500+/- portfolio owners/operators! Who qualifies to be polled? A sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or real estate investment trust (‘REIT’) that owns and or fee manages a minimum property portfolio of five LLLCommunities or 500+ rental homesites.

“Some communities support community occupancy by offering in-house lending to prospective manufactured-home buyers, either through the community’s line of credit or a partner lending institution.” P.43. That dual source statement barely scratches the surface, relative to all ten unique ways LLLCommunity owners/operators secure funds to support seller-financing of new and resale home transactions on-site. For the complete list, read End Notes contained in the Official WHITE PAPER, distributed during September 2014 at two National Public Forums held on 9/11 at the 23rd annual International Networking Roundtable in Peachtree City, GA. For a copy, again, phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE

Well, that about does it for the second installment parsing of the CFPB’s White Paper titled: ‘Manufactured-housing consumer finance in the United States’.

Hope YOU decide to affiliate with COBA7®. A couple hundred (+) of your peers have already done so, and are now ‘MHInsiders’, relative to key statistics and pithy information available nowhere else in the HUD-Code manufactured housing industry and the land-lease-lifestyle community real estate asset class!

As in the past, we’d like to hear and or read your comments on the preceding material. Send them to GFA c/o Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247, or fax to (317) 346-7158 or email: gfa7156@aol.com

II.

Calling All (would be) Authors!
Time is ripe for a fourth MHIndustry HOW TO Guide in 30 years

The following offer is open to anyone in the manufactured housing industry and or land-lease-lifestyle community (a.k.a. manufactured home community) real estate asset class! But first some background…

In 1988, I self-published Mobile Home Park Management, a 175 page paperback book. The first printing sold out within six months of its’ release. The book is in its’ sixth edition, retitled Landlease Community Management. Today, it is sold exclusively by the Institute of Real Estate Management (a.k.a. IREM), as its’ only approved text on this unique realty asset class, and via PMN Publishing. It is also the sole text used by the popular Manufactured Housing Manager®, or MHM® professional property management training and certification program, offered exclusively by the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance® or COBA7®.

In 1992, Ed Hicks, David Alley and I co-authored the first MHIndustry tome in two decades, titled Development, Marketing & Operation of Manufactured Home Communities. The 427 page case bound text was published by the law division of New York publisher, J. Wiley & Sons. Paired with a series of land development seminars during the 1990s, it spawned hundreds of new (then) manufactured home communities, and expansion of others. New copies today, are sold exclusively by PMN Publishing; used copies reportedly sell for $100.00+/- apiece via ebay.com. This text went through several printings until the housing market cooled soon after the turn of the century.

In 1996, with the assistance of eight primary contributors, and as many secondary contributors, I edited the 508 page text J. Wiley & Sons published with the title How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell a Manufactured Home Community. This book is oft referred to as the ‘bible of MHCommunity investment’. A second edition debuted in 1998, and the book continues to sell well to this day, 18 years later! It too is exclusively sold via PMN Publishing and on ebay.com

In 2015, with co-authors and or contributors yet to be selected and identified, plans are afoot to pen (working title) Marketing, Sale & Financing of Homes in Land-lease-lifestyle Communities. Are YOU interested in being considered part of the writing team for this heady project? If so, read on….

If you believe you have the ABILITY to communicate in writing – even if not already published; have a decade or more manufactured housing marketing and sales (e.g. factory rep, MHRetailer, in-community home sales) – and/or – hands on LLLCommunity management EXPERIENCE, I want to hear from YOU – in writing! That’s where MOTIVATION comes in play. Almost everyone emails, talks on the telephone, and engages in interpersonal networking; but not many are able to communicate well on hard copy (paper). So, IF seriously interested in being considered and selected to be part of this writing team, engaged in this once-in-a-career-making opportunity, compose a one page letter to me. Following the opening paragraph greeting; in the second paragraph, succinctly describe your industry and or asset class experience to date, including names and dates. In the third short paragraph, tell me why YOU should be selected for this unique opportunity. Mail your correspondence to George Allen, c/o PMN Publishing, Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247. Please, no phone calls or emails about this opportunity at this time.

Compensation as a co-author or contributor? That depends, and varies, relative to the number of individuals engaged in writing and preparing the text. The dollar amount, &/or number of free copies of the book proper, will be modest. One’s greatest reward should come from having your name cited as one of the few individuals in all of manufactured housing, capable, experienced, and motivated to team pen one of the industry’s four cornerstone texts! All three earlier HOW TO classics have found a permanent home in the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s prestigious Hall of Fame Library in Elkhart, IN. There’s no reason to believe this one won’t wind up there as well!

Why this text now? Beginning in 1988, we needed professional PM guidance to better operate (then) ‘mobile home parks’ cum manufactured home communities nationwide. During the early 1990s, some foresaw the coming MH renascence, as occupancy rates climbed – knowing new income-producing properties would need to be built. And shortly thereafter, in support of the property consolidation trend (i.e. think REIT wave @ 1994 & thereafter), the first and only realty investment text debuted. Today? Many large property portfolio firms have figured out how to buy new HUD-Code homes (i.e. Community Series Homes, or CSH Models featuring a WOW! factor and durability-enhancing features) directly from the factory; set-up on-site sales centers to market said homes at varying profit margins; often engaging in seller-financing to consummate transactions. (Hopefully one or more savvy individuals from such firms will express interest in sharing expertise and knowledge). Unfortunately, this learning curve has not been embraced by the majority of smaller LLLCommunity owners/operators, for various reasons – one being ‘lack of HOW TO knowledge’. That’s where and when this book can and will play a key role during the years ahead – assuming easy to access chattel capital does not return to the industry, and owners/operators must continue selling and financing new and resale homes to survive, i.e. keep rental homesites occupied and paying rent!

If seriously interested in being considered for selection to this writing team, we’ll be accepting letters until 1 December 2014. Not much will happen until the first of the year. If selected, and accepting the challenge, the first step will be to critique a preliminary book content outline that’s being crafted for the project. And once the 26th annual ALLEN REPORT has been distributed, during January 2015, focus will shift to getting this historic project underway!

In conclusion; what you just read is one of several key reasons the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, or COBA7®, was launched early in 2014. A couple dozen LLLCommunity owners/operators saw significant challenges, like this one and others, on the business horizon. However, no one within the industry (home manufacturers, national advocacy bodies, etc.), appeared willing to address continuing needs for ongoing statistical research, resource update & distribution, print & online communication, networking & deal-making opportunities, PM education & certification, and when need be, even national advocacy, e.g. ombudsman (press) responsibilities. Perhaps now is time for YOU to affiliate with COBA7®, become a bona fide ‘MHInsider’, and be considered for selection to this historic writing team.

III.

‘Next Big Story’ OR ‘Much Noise About Nothing’?

One has to be out of touch with the MH & RV industries to not know, read, see, even hear, the ongoing fracas (‘noisy fight’) being waged among national advocacy bodies representing all these folk, plus HUD…

With that said, for the time being we’re backing away from this unfolding story – to gather more information about the confab over whether roof overhang dimensions should, or should not be, included in the 400+/- square foot demarcation between HUD-Code manufactured housing and park model RVs.

However, to titillate you in the meantime, there’s also an additional issue, regarding the end use of park model RVs. The question is whether they’re year round or part time (i.e. seasonal) dwellings, within and outside land-lease-lifestyle communities, RV parks, and campgrounds. Know what complicates the matter still further? HUD’s published use of the term Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, to describe park model RVs, and other similar structures. Some, if not many of us are happy to simply refer to these ‘small building’s, or one bedroom efficiency units, as ‘granny flats’!

Oh yes, and there’s one more factor – or perhaps a ‘red herring’. That being this: ‘Do you know the difference between a park model RV and a destination trailer?’ Didn’t think so! Well, we’re still learning tool. A hint. Investigate Breckenridge, part of Hartland RV, a subsidiary of Thor Industries, Inc. And the plot thickens….

Hey, if YOU can shed some definitive light on this convoluted, complicated, multifaceted matter for me, please do so, and the sooner the better!

****************************************************************************