Archive for January, 2010

MILKING, then & now…

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Milking, then & now…

goes by several names; avarice, covetousness in Holy writ, and simple old fashioned greed. As Random House Webster’s College Dictionary posits, ‘…to get something from; exploit: The swindler milked her of all her savings.’ It also occurs when a pettifogger bills clients ‘whatever the traffic will bear’, rather than what’s honest, fair
and earned.*1

Well, landlease (nee manufactured home) communities, over the years, have experienced various nefarious milkings, as in ‘pulling excess profits out of the income – producing property type’, as well.

During the early days of landlease community (‘LLCommunity’) consolidation, roughly from the late 1970s through 1980s, when there were many half full properties on the market, it was common for frustrated, ailing, and near retirement owners/operators to sell their realty investments to buyers, sometimes limited partnership syndicators. These buyers would frequently meet the seller’s top dollar price expectation, while insisting on a low down payment and lengthy contract term; reminiscent of the acquisition mantra: ‘You can name the price or the terms of the deal, but not both!’ Then, after ‘closing’, the now somewhat wealthy, former – but still on the accountability hook, LLCommunity owner/operator, would oft ‘move away’ to begin his or her new, and usually comfortable, lifestyle.

In the meantime, the individual or syndicator buyer nunc owner would start managing the property, sometimes from afar, as a passive investor. And early on there’d usually be attempts to fill the remaining vacant rental homesites with ‘repo’ units, that were in abundance at the time, either as ‘rentals’ or contract sale units, to ‘get the rent meter running’. But along the way, and for various reasons, this flurry of activity tended to slow. Critical operating expense bills would continue be paid, albeit slowly, while routine maintenance became deferred maintenance; and soon, the departed seller nunc retiree – if still alive, would see contract payments arriving later and later, until sometimes stopping altogether. In the meantime, milk money going to the contract buyer (i.e. new owner) would continue, even increase for awhile, until the ‘still on the accountability hook’ former LLCommunity owner/operator filed suit and received a court order allowing him or her to take the property back – usually in far worse condition than when it had been sold ‘for more than it was really worth’. And another property had been milked, through excess profit – taking, by both owners, one more than the other.

So, do similar scenarios play out on a larger scale, say with privately – owned and publicly – owned LLCommunity portfolios? Yes, but in different ways and generally on a grander scale.

LLCommunity asset class consolidation has been underway for more than 30 years. The headcount of known LLCommunity portfolio owners/operators numbered slightly more than 25 in the mid – 1980s, when the Roulac Real Estate Consulting Group of Deloitte Haskins + Sells published an annual list of these ‘players’ in Roulac’s Strategic Real Estate newsletter. Today, however, according to the 21st annual edition of the ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators in North America!’), published January 2010, that number has mushroomed to 500+/- in 2009 & 2010.*2 What’s a portfolio owner/operator? For the purposes of the ALLEN REPORT, it’s a business entity, whether a sole proprietor, limited or general partnership, private corporation, or a real estate investment trust (‘REIT’), that owns and or fee manages a minimum property portfolio of five LLCommunities and or at least 500 rental homesites.

Milking, on the privately – owned LLCommunity portfolio level, over the years, often began with the acquisition of investment grade properties (i.e. usually more than 100 rental homesites per location, with good physical occupancy, & low operating expense ratios*3), ideally including several in the same or neighboring local housing markets. If not already at a high occupancy level, the new owner often took necessary steps to fill vacant rental homesites; often, in the recent past, with assistance from local manufactured housing retail sales centers (a.k.a. MHRetailers nee street dealers or dealers). Then, once a fairly high level of physical occupancy was achieved, say 95 percent, the property owner would start ‘jacking site rents’, in accords with the old bromide: ‘If occupancy is higher than 95%, the rent level is too low!’ While this max profitability maxim focused on the positive fiscal health of the business enterprise, it overlooked the potential consequences of too high rents, e.g. Higher the site rent, the less home (price & mortgage) prospective homebuyers can afford to purchase, encouraging them to go where there’s ‘more bang for their bucks’! Irregardless; given this favorable ‘Return On & of (one’s) Investment (‘ROI’) window of opportunity, per max occupancy, high site rent, and maximum net operating income (‘NOI’) via trimmed expenses, some portfolio owners frequently refinanced with high percentage Loan to Value (‘LTV’) mortgages, that allowed them to walk away with large amounts of money from the property or properties. This was especially common between 1998, when average national physical occupancy among portfolio LLCommunities was at an historic high of 95 percent, and there was far ‘too much easy money chasing too few deals’, and 2008 when financial markets tanked.

Present day consequences? Given excessively high rents (Defined as exceeding the 3:1 Rule of Thumb, where LLCommunity site rent is more than 1/3rd the monthly rent for largest 3BR2B conventional, non – subsidized apartment units in the same local housing market!), homebuyers no longer could afford even modest sized and priced homes in such an overpriced landlease property, so went elsewhere – especially during the run up of the site – built housing bubble of the last ten years! As a result, physical occupancy plunged to 80, 70, 60 percent and lower; while site rents remained unchanged, even increased in places; and now some LLCommunities, and portfolios of these properties, are going into forbearance or foreclosure, depending on the structure of the underlying mortgage financing! In one recent example, as much by dint of mismanagement as out of sync rent levels, a large LLCommunity that sold for more than $11,000,000.00 less than ten years ago, was recently purchased out of foreclosure for $2,000,000.00 cash.

The contemporary REIT experience, is similar in some ways, different in others. UMH, Inc., in Freehold, New Jersey, was the sole LLCommunity REIT carryover from the 1980s, when the 1990s decade began. During 1994, Chicago headquartered ELS, Inc. (nee MHC, Inc), Detroit’s Chateau Properties, Inc., and Sun Communities, Inc. made their debut, making it four REITs. Three years later, Chateau merged with Denver – based ROC Communities, to more than double its’ size, in terms of rental homesite inventory, changing its’ name to Chateau Communities, Inc. The following year, Clearwater, Florida domiciled American Land Lease, Inc. ‘went public’ with an initial public offering (‘IPO’) of its’ stock.; so, ‘then there were five REITs’. This happy family of five began to fall apart in 2003, with demise of Chateau Communities, Inc., acquired and taken private by Hometown America. The following year, upstart Affordable Residential Communities (‘ARC’) appeared on the REIT scene, but lasted only two years, too taken private, via auctioning of assets and direct purchase, eventually resurfacing and renamed as American Residential Communities, still using the ARC acronym. Today there are but three publicly – traded REITs: ELS, Inc., Sun Communities, Inc., and the enduring, though recently renamed, UMH Properties, Inc. American Land Lease, though still a public company, is managed by Green Courte Partners, LLC., out of Lake Forest, IL. What happened to Chateau Communities, Inc., ARC, Inc., and American Land Lease?

While all three corporate stories vary, some lay a significant part of the blame at the feet of aggressive Wall Street analysts who, via published expectations of continually improving financial performance from REIT LLCommunities, effectively treated and feted these otherwise stable realty investments as ‘growth stocks’, feeding investors confidence that dividends would not only be continual, from period to period, but would increase in amount as well. Such overly optimistic expectations fueled operational cost cutting, aggressive rent increases, search for ‘alternative income to rent’ measures, or AITR, e.g. ancillary services paid for by homebuyers/site lessees; and for a time, a flurry of additional LLCommunity acquisitions, on the part of REIT executives. In time, some of these portfolios overheated, no longer able to sustain the profit pace near – dictated to them by Wall Street denizens; so, either merged with other like firms, experienced disposition, were taken back to private ownership, or effected one or another combination of these strategies.

In the private sector, milking of assets has been similar to that described in an earlier paragraph, the major difference being that of scale. For example, when a property portfolio acquires an otherwise healthy and attractive investment grade LLCommunity for top dollar (i.e. often ‘on the come’, or specifically, ‘on the – expectation of rent increases to – come’); then, take the rental homesite rent level upwards to 50 percent or higher, of what’s being charged for large 3BR2B apartments in multifamily rental communities in the same local housing market, would – be homebuyers, even existing LLCommunity residents, soon figure out it’s more economical for them to live in said apartments, maybe even buy a site – built tract home (until recently), with no down payment requirement and an adjustable rate mortgage (‘ARM’) with extremely low monthly payment for the first year of ownership. Repeat this scenario over as many times as there are LLCommunities in a given portfolio being milked, and one can see how millions of dollars quickly add up.

The challenge for LLCommunity site rents to be kept in sync with local conventional apartment communities is compounded when apartment rent rates are reduced in a given local housing market, almost always indirect response to declining physical occupancy levels – though they prefer to refer to this performance benchmark statistic in terms of ‘vacancy percentage’. Do LLCommunity owners/operators respond likewise? Generally, not. The only rationale, for not doing so, that makes any sense, are couched within these two disparate perspectives: First, since our annual turnover of homes runs only about 5 percent, in most good years, due to size of contemporary homes and high expense to relocate them, homeowners/site lessees tend to be a ‘captive audience’. The other, maybe lesser reason, has to do with the 3:1 Rule. When an apartment community rolls its’ rent back by $60.00/month, the equivalent amount of rent roll back for the LLCommunity in the same local housing market would be only $20.00/month. In the minds, I suppose, of many owners/operators, that’s not a large enough amount to waste time and effort to make the adjustment. Or is it?

Believe it or not, the foregoing is just a pretty good sized ‘drop in the bucket’ where this subject of milking is concerned. Do you have business experience, to this end, you ‘d be willing to share with blog readers, or maybe even in a future issue of the new Allen Letter professional journal? If so, communicate with me directly, via GFA c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247, or phone (317) 346-7156, or respond directly to this blog and website.

If you’re with me this far, it’s important you let me know you desire to receive advance notice of future weekly blog postings, and information about upcoming MHIndustry & LLCommunity issues and events. For example; as you read this, during or shortly after the week of 1 February 2010, you should ‘want to know’ what transpired –or, just as importantly, did not occur, at MHI’s Winter Meeting in Savannah, GA. Frankly, and tellingly, there’s going to be only one business press outlet broadcasting and printing that story: this one, and the new Allen Letter professional journal! When I post next week’s blog, on 8 February 2010, advance notice will be sent only to businessmen and women who’ve already emailed me, requesting to be kept on the Blog Posting Blast Email Alert Notice List, and those responding to this specific paragraph in this particular blog! Why the sharp focus? As an industry and asset class we are on the veritable cusp of our collective failure, or a potentially bright future, depending on what we do, or don’t do, during the weeks and months ahead! I only have time and inclination to communicate with peers who care as much about our business future as I do. And, as was hinted at in last week’s blog (Read ‘stealth Starbucks & manuFractured Housing!’), our collective Bottom Line is we need a New Business Model, to convert manufractured into A.C.E. housing or some other improved image and brand presence!*4

Are you keeping 2/26/2010 open on your ‘Save Our Industry!’ calendar?

End Notes.

1. Pettifogger. A mean, tricky, unscrupulous lawyer. Courtesy of Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary, NJ, 1974.

2. 21st annual ALLEN REPORT available for $250.00 from PMN Publishing via community-investor.com or by phoning the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156. It’s ‘free’ with a $134.95 one year subscription to the new Allen Letter professional journal!

3. Physical occupancy = # occupied rental homesites, divided by total # of rentable sites; and OER = either total $ amount of annual operating expenses (or a particular line item from the Industry Standard Chart of Accounts), divided by total $ amount of site rent collected from that particular property. Home sales generally treated as a separate profit center. Allen Model = 40% OER. For detailed information on this strategic subject read, How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell a Manufactured Home Community (as an Investment), available from PMN Publishing. See previous end note for contact and ordering information.

4. Uniquely Attractive, Cost – Effective residences, American – made, Comfortable & Energy – efficient!

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156

Stealth Starbucks & ManuFractured Housing

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Stealth Starbucks & ManuFractured Housing!

Short story how Starbucks is reinventing itself. Lesson for manufractured housing?

During mid – 2009, “…Starbucks tried to avoid being judged by its own label by
opening its first unbranded coffee shop. The ‘stealth Starbucks’, as the distinct
Settle outlet immediately became known, is decorated with ‘one of a kind’
fixtures and , unlike regular Starbucks shops, customers are invited to bring in
their own music for the stereo system, and their own pet social causes for the
message board. The only hint of branding is the fine print on the backs of menus:
‘Inspired by Starbucks.’ After spending two decades trying to blast its logo onto
every conceivable surface, Starbucks was now trying to escape its’ own brand!”

Quoted from ‘No Logo (the book) at 10’, in the Baffler magazine. Vol. 2, No. 1, p.30.

Question: If Starbucks is trying to escape its’ own brand, as good as it is; isn’t it high time for manufractured housing do the same for a better brand?

To help you think through that possibility, here’s our industry’s scenario in three parts:

The Problem!, The Challenge!, The Opportunity!

based on the premise: ‘No New HUD Code Homes Manufactured by 2020!’, and as many of our peers are now saying: the universal distress signal SOS (Save our Ship!) has become, for manufractured housing, SOI (Save Our Industry!). So, with that said…

The Problem has only gotten worse…

While it took brass to go public predicting ‘No New HUD Code Homes Manufactured by Year 2020!’, verbal and written blog response sentiment, by email and phone calls, to this MHIndustry observer and blogger, has been supportive:

“If our industry’s leaders don’t get on the stick NOW, there’ll be ‘No New HUD Code Homes Manufactured by 2015!’

“ManuFractured Housing (moniker) is really cool, and most adequately represents our industry’s current condition!”

And latest year end HUD Code housing shipments for 2009, are running around 46,000; below the predicted 50,000 worst case scenario guestimate earlier in the year, under the 81,889 in 2008; and light years from the 372,843 shipped in 2008.

How, you say, can this be possible? Inaction and misaction in several different ways:

Continued dearth of third party chattel (personal property) financing! Yes, I know you/we’ve heard this before, but that doesn’t make the emergency any less real and serious. But now the tragedy is playing out on not just one, but two fronts, and more:

First; FHA Title I. Ask yourself: ‘How long have we been waiting and waiting for this, hearing one empty assurance after another, from industry leaders and lenders?’ It’s truly become, ‘The promise that isn’t!’ Time has come to learn the real reasons FHA Title I has not, and likely will not, materialize for HUD Code manufactured housing! Accept no rehash of excuses intended to mollify! Some now suggest consolidation conspiracies exist in more than one segment of the MHIndustry, with the nefarious goal of ensuring ‘the survival of one, or a very few, at the expense of everyone else’.

Second; Self – finance. You know, of the ‘captive finance’ and ‘buy here – pay here’ varieties, so commonplace on – site in landlease communities, where new and resale homes are routinely marketed and sold these days. You know, the ‘carrying of paper’ that’s mushroomed from a few million dollars a decade ago, when almost everyone decried the practice given its’ potential to devalue one’s LLCommunity investment upon disposition, to more than $3,500,000,000.00 dollars estimated to be now held among just the 500+/- known portfolio owners/operators of this unique income – producing property type.*1 ‘Ah, but here’s the rub!’ Once states have enacted and implemented their versions of the federal S.A.F.E. Act of 2008, look for this Survival Cum Profitable Business Model to all but disappear.*2 How so? Just look at the state laws, to this end, recently implemented in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Either you’ll be hiring an outside licensed chattel mortgage firm to handle loan origination and servicing functions for you, or you’ll likely find yourself getting licensed as a lender or mortgage broker, and anyone on staff even talking to homebuyers about home finance, being in need of criminal background checks; required training to pass mandatory mortgage licensing tests; and ultimately, formal licensure as a mortgage originator – or more. Reads like low level job security and restraint of trade to me.

And there’s more, much more…

Another growing major problem, has to do with the transfer of regulatory authority over manufactured housing, away from HUD, to other federal agencies and state governments.

Start with the proposed transfer of housing – related energy standards to the Department of Energy or DOE. This is a significant first chip out of the MHIndustry’s preemption protection.

Then comes the water sprinker issue. While an added expense for manufacturers when building a HUD Code home, have LLCommunity owner/operators thought about probable consequences when this regulatory authority segues from HUD to state governments? It leaves the door wide open for the National Fire Prevention Association (‘NFPA’) to lobby all existing homes in LLCommunities be retrofitted with water sprinkler systems! ‘Bye bye’ preemption; ‘Hello’ replacing your underground water system to handle the greatly increased design load!

Are you asking yourself yet, ‘Why aren’t our two national advocacy bodies telling me this? Well, they really are trying to do so, but in different (sometimes conflicting) ways and with different (tones of) voice, bearing with minimal success and results. For example…

Do YOU know about the non – career administrator position being overtly stonewalled by HUD leadership? As long as HUD does so, ‘their (career bureaucrat) man’ Bill Matchneer has effective control of OUR destiny as an industry and YOUR business future! His hands are in every issue just identified, including the S.A.F.E. Act of 2008! Frankly, the appointment of a non – career administrator to shepherd the HUD Code program is Our Last Best Hope & Opportunity to counter much of what’s just been described and much more! And that brings us to…

The Challenge to turn our titanic – like destiny around before…

How? Become informed, become involved, and demand action! In other words, ‘If you’re no longer content to sit back as part of this growing Problem, accept this Challenge, and become an active part of the Opportunity to ‘Save Our Industry’!

By the time you read this blog, it’ll be nearly too late for YOU to make arrangements to attend MHI’s Winter meeting on 1 & 2 February 2010, in Savannah, GA – where HUD’s Bill Matchneer will be a keynote speaker. But try anyway; phone (703) 558-0678 and talk to Thayer Long, MHI’s executive VP, expressing YOUR opinion about the present conditions of, and the probable future of the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class. And, if not already a direct, dues – paying member of MHI, sign – up immediately! You’re no help to the industry or yourself, if you attempt to ‘Save Our Industry’! from afar, even via your state’s salaried and elected representatives to MHI meetings! It’s simply not the same, nor nearly as effective, as YOU being present!

If attending the MHI Winter meeting, as I am, go prepared to ask hard questions and demand honest answers. One of the foremost should be, ‘Where’s the much – vaunted Manufactured Housing Congressional Caucus, of a couple years ago, in this regulatory mix?’ Here’s another I’m hearing frequently these days: ‘What individual or individuals effectively shape the regulatory posture and political thrust of the two advocacy bodies in Washington?’ Well, with MHARR, it’s pretty simple. A bevy of small HUD Code home manufacturers give Danny Ghorbani his specific marching orders. MHI? Much more complicated and vague. Its’ 21 member Board of Directors? Highly doubtful, as that’s akin to ‘management by committee’. The recently dollar – empowered National Communities Committee (‘NCC’) division? Maybe in time, but those members aren’t yet knowledgeable of, or sensitive to, the causes, effects and nuances of HUD’s covert maneuverings. One manufacturer? Maybe. MHI’s salaried executive? No; new to the job and responsive to the whims of elected leaders. The few executive committee members of the Board of Directors? Probably. And that’s the point! Give at least five alternatives, how are we, as direct dues – paying members of MHI, to know who really shapes and directs the regulatory posture and political thrust of this advocacy body, along with our collective business futures? I’d like to know; how ‘bout YOU? Other timely and pithy questions? Reread previous paragraphs and zero – in on the issues! Call and ask Danny Ghorbani, at MHARR, for input: (202) 783-4087.

The Opportunity for a new & better future…

New Business Model needed to convert manufractured into A.C.E. housing!*3

It’d be premature here, to introduce anything different from today’s status quo. However, depending on what, if anything – proactive and substantial, comes out of MHI’s Winter meeting, there’ll be two divergent different paths for the manufactured housing industry to consider; one, is to be more united and stronger than we are today! The other? Well, let’s just wait and see, for the time being. Are you keeping 26 February 2010 ‘open’ on YOUR Business Survival calendar?

A hint. One sage MHIndustry veteran recently penned this email message to me:

“I believe HUD Code housing manufacturers, MHRetailers, LLCommunity owners, and financiers need to gather in the same room and be given the Clear Challenge to Work Together! They need each other, even though they often function like they do not. Our business is not particularly complicated. It is – or should be, Customer Driven, not factory or retailer driven, not LLCommunity or financier driven. All four segments of the industry must work together to meet the customer’s need for housing!” NB (lightly edited. GFA)

To which I’d add. This needed revival, restoration, resuscitation, reawakening, and renewal (Or is it rethinking, reinventing, reorganizing?) has not, and likely will not, occur in a regularly scheduled meeting of any formal trade organization or advocacy body. It must be a separate venue, driven by a bona fide industry wide need; in this case, to Save Our Industry! Similar precursors occurred twice during the past two years; first, when LLCommunity owners/operators convened on 2/27/08 in Tampa, FL., to identify and codify focus for the asset class going forward*4; then when HUD Code home manufacturers and LLCommunity owners/operators convened on 2/27/09 in Elkhart, IN., to ascertain what it’d take to sell more new manufactured homes into this unique income – producing property type, than at any time since the early 1970s.*5 Tangible results? You bet! Which begs the question, now – and – again: Will anything proactive and substantial, relative to achieving MHIndustry strategic focus, advocacy unity, and restored vitality, result from MHI’s Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., next week?

In the meantime, feel free to communicate your views to me by replying to this blog, via email: gfa7156@aol.com, MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, or (317) 346-7156. What do you think manufractured housing’s New Business Model should entail, contain, and do?

Look at it this way. If Starbucks thinks it wise to, at least in part, ‘escape from its’ own brand’, via stealth Starbucks; surely the manufractured housing industry, with shipments as bad as they are today, at a 60 year nadir, should at least consider if and how to escape from its’ image and brand, into one more promising and profitable!

The Countdown nears its climax…

*****
End Notes.

1. See 21st annual ALLEN REPORT, available from PMN Publishing for $250.00 or ‘free’ with a one year subscription to the Allen Letter professional journal @ $134.95/year (12 issues). Just phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877)MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, or (317) 346-7156.

2. Safe And Secure Enforcement of Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008

3. Uniquely Attractive, Cost – Effective residences that are American – made, Comfortable & Energy – efficient!

4. National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus; an international, informal, quasi realty investment and property management body specializing in the landlease (nee manufactured home) community real estate asset class.

5. Historic SUMMIT Meeting

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®, MHM Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry & The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024 Indianapolis, IN. 46147 (317) 346-7156

Living & Working Bass-Ackwards!

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Living & Working Bass – Ackwards!

A book review accents use of FORM acronym & value of the Golden Rule

David Greene of Greene & Greene, Inc., in Atlanta, sent me Steve Beecham’s book, Bass – Ackward Business: ‘ The Power of Helping Without Hustling’, published in 2009 by Home Town Publishing. I didn’t get many pages into it before recalling similar personal and business relationship cultivating (as in ‘promote the growth of’) styles learned and lived over the years.

“My helping without hustling strategy is bass – ackwards when you compare it to everything I’ve been taught about building a business” – “it’s not about you or your sales; it’s about helping others.” Pp. 9 & 14. (Emphasis added. GFA)

Beecham quickly identifies three components to implementing the bass – ackward ‘helping without hustling’ mindset:

1. Get out of the office
2. Focus on relationships
3. Find a way to help people p.24

And through these steps, Steve emphasizes ‘discovering the person and not the business’, earning – by – serving, rather than expecting or demanding, ‘the right to sell’.

No further into the book than that, I reflected on how some of his principles applied – or should apply, to the way I’m ‘doing business’. That thought stirred the memory of cleaning out a vacant office, 30 years ago, and finding a set of AMWAY cassette training tapes. As I listened to them while driving, I learned the FORM acronym, an effective personal networking guide. Letters were for Family, Occupation, Recreation, & Message; or, a reminder to set a date for next Meeting. How’s it work? Simple. Walk up to someone, anyone, – in this case in a group setting, and introduce yourself, with a Smile on your face and a friendly, but not fierce or wimpy, handshake. Then, after exchanging names, strike up a conversation, by asking about Family (may be single, married, whatever). After talking ‘families’ for awhile, segue to Occupation. Might be a student, stay at home parent, or otherwise. By now, both parties should be fairly comfortable conversing, so ask about Recreation – what do you do ‘for fun’? Then, near the end of the conversation, and depending on what seems appropriate, decide on when to next Meet and continue the friendly conversation; or, if fitting, ease into one’s Message. I’ve been using the FORM technique ever since – and it works! *1

Gotta admit, there’re a couple things in Bass – Ackward Business that gave me pause, since I hadn’t run into them before; like this piece non – footnoted advice @ p.39

“Look people in the EYE. Yeah, and by ‘eye’, I mean their left eye. Typically, when you’re talking to someone about serious matters or business affairs, you look into their right eye. Looking into their left eye communicates sincerity – they feel like you care.”

My immediate reaction: “Who sez?” But, until I can ask the author that question while looking him in the right eye, I think I’ll give it a try next time I’m in conversation with a friend or associate! Hmm. Maybe it’s because the left eye is closer to one’s heart…

Then there’s the Ritz –Carlton illustration. After a few superb guest service experiences during a second visit to a hotel in that chain, Steve asked the front desk receptionist what she thought made the Ritz so special. Her response? “We have a card we all carry in our pocket when working that reminds us, ‘We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen’. Now that’s pretty nifty. In fact, it reminds me of a similar experience YOU too can have, by dialing (941) 721-0046. The phone will be answered every time, usually on the second ring, by someone ‘with a Smile on their face’, offering this Greeting after Thanking You for calling, then identifying their firm: “How may I Serve You?” Seriously. Place the call to prove it to yourself; better yet, think how You might implement the Ritz-Carlton & Newby Management’s superb customer service techniques as part of your firm’s resident relations program!*2

As I continued to read Bass – Ackward Business, my thoughts turned, time and again, to this writer’s practical application of the Golden Rule, being ‘Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You!’, to the way we ‘do business’. Frankly, too many firms focus on the antithesis Gold Rule; you know, the one that goes like this: ‘He or she who has the gold, makes the rules!’ Sorry to say, we can probably identify more contemporary businesses that appear to ascribe to that scheme (e.g. Predatory lending and Ponzi schemes are just two of society’s present day poster children for that selfish and greedy mindset) than those practicing the Golden Rule in personal relationships and during business dealings. To underscore this truth, the author cites a fairly well known reminder to ‘Use things and love people, not love things and use people!’ Amen.

OK, so how do you get your copy of this pithy little book (97 pages)? Contact Steve Beecham directly at 11855 Haynes Bridge Road, Alpharetta, GA. 30009 or via steve@hometownmoney.com or via www.bassackwardsbusiness.com

*****

Yes, the Countdown Continues…

Last week was a busy one for manuFractured housing and landlease (nee manufactured home) community aficionados. Friday’s GSE mass auction of Katrina manufactured homes was delayed two weeks. So, if you’d like to buy some of these homes for your LLCommunities in the South (word has it they’re possibly not built for northern climates), contact HUD for further information.

HUD assistant secretary for housing & federal housing commissioner David H. Stevens, in a letter dated 11 January 2010, continued to defend his decision regarding how “…it is not in HUD’s or the public’s interest to appoint a non – career Administrator for the manufactured housing program given the current budgetary climate. This is especially true for this program because HUD has capable staff currently fulfilling this important mission.” (Emphasis added. GFA) So, continuing to have HUD’s career employee(s) responsible for administering ‘the best interests of manuFractured housing’, from both regulatory and industry perspectives is in ‘the best interests of whom’? Not the manuFractured housing industry! That’s why YOU, if indeed ‘having skin in the game’ of manuFractured housing, as small business entrepreneur or senior executive, need to be in Savannah, GA., on 1 & 2 February 2010, to hear what HUD’s MHProgram executive, Bill Matchneer has to say & ask your own questions. Phone (703) 558-0678 to register.

Frankly, there’s more to the manuFractured housing saga than we’re being told, or that I’m sharing here. You need to be personally vigilant to learn ‘the rest of the story’! For starters, read a new column appearing in the February issue of the new Allen Letter professional journal, penned by a 30 year veteran of the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class. The goal of this new business journalism platform is to record and parse published and often differing views, from MHARR & MHI, attempting to publish full disclosure relative to industry issues – then identify either the ‘right business decision’, or as appropriate, ‘a centrist perspective’. No more should you have to rely on ‘reading this (MHI) here’ and ‘reading that (MHARR) there’. To subscribe, call the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156.
BONUS!
21st annual ALLEN REPORT enclosed with January issue of the new Allen Letter professional journal, as a lagniappe (‘freebie’) to subscribers. Or, the ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators in North America!’ is available, from same contact phone numbers listed in previous paragraph, or this website, for $250.00.

End Notes.

1. More information on this subject in George Allen’s Chapbook of Business & Management Wisdom, PMN Publishing, 2008. (317) 347-7156 ($10.00 postpaid)
2. Six R’s of Effective Multifamily Rental Property Resident Relations: Superb Resident Relations = More Resident Referrals = Long term Resident Retention!

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

Sarah Palin & ManuFractured Housing!

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Sarah Palin & ManuFractured Housing

‘When Imitation is not a Sincere Form of Flattery!’

plus

The Countdown Begins….

Mark Twain, in 1888 wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Same can be true with placement of two consecutive letters in one word; though in the following example, it’s the stark difference between a compelling personal story and political chicanery.

Manufactured housing pioneer, retailer and community owner Dick Moore of Millington, TN., recently got snookered at an airport bookseller’s kiosk. In search of Sarah Palin’s best selling autobiography Going Rogue, ‘An American Life’, he was surreptitiously sold Going Rouge, ‘An American Nightmare’, authored by two senior editors at The Nation magazine, Richard Kim & Betsy Reed. Dick was not happy.

Palin’s 413 page book is graciously “Dedicated to all Patriots who share my love of the United States of America. And particularly to our women and men in uniform, past and present – God bless the fight for freedom.” And it’s a good, positive read to boot!

The editors, in their 320 page attack, offer no such grateful Dedication, just this description of their target: “…a Christian fundamentalist opposed to the teaching of honest sex education in schools and in favor or teaching creationism alongside evolution, a climate – change – denier and government – basher alarmingly ignorant of the world and totally unprepared to be president.” Are they alarmed by and scared of her? You bet! “…this is a woman with at least nine lives. By our count…she’s still got seven left.” In any event, Going Rouge is an apt example of when ‘Imitation is not a form of flattery’.

Had something akin occur when authoring and self – publishing my first book, Mobile Home Park Management, in 1988. The real estate management trade association to which I paid dues, and to whom I’d submitted the manuscript for publishing consideration, instead came out with their own book on the same subject. The justice?
22 years later, Landlease Community Management, in its’ sixth edition, continues to sell well, and is foundation text for the popular Manufactured Housing Manger (‘MHM’) professional property management training and certification program! The other book? Long out of print.*1

And there’s yet a third example of inglorious imitation; but this time around, with the near tragic result of nearly killing – off an entire industry, until it learned to ‘make (housing production) lemonade out of a (regulatory) lemon’; that is, until recently….

It begins with enthusiastic kudos from the Assistant Secretary for Housing Production & Mortgage Credit of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, (‘HUD’), when speaking to housing manufacturers: “…you set your fourth consecutive annual record, shipping almost 580,000 mobile homes…Your one percent increase in volume during that year stands in start contrast to the 14% drop in single – family, site – built housing starts…I should think (this) indicates a definite trend for the future. Today, mobile homes constitute just about the only true low – cost houses available…which are at the same time decent, safe, sanitary and comfortable.” Sheldon Lubar, March 1974, quoted in ‘A Comparison of Different Dwelling Costs’ Mobile Homes, Housing’s Best Buy, by Carl Edwards, June 1974. (Emphasis added by Edwards)

Well, it didn’t take long for mobile home manufacturing ‘imitators’ schlock product to severely tarnish the present and future reputation of this uniquely American factory – built housing type, to the extent Congress was forced to legislate in behalf of consumers, enacting the infamous HUD Code, effecting implementation during 1976. The same year, Congress mandated changing product’s moniker from ‘mobile homes’ to ‘manufactured housing’. And, as you likely know, the MHIndustry’s annual production was immediately halved to a quarter million homes shipped per year, remaining there for two decades, until experiencing a too brief renascence in 1998 with 372,843 shipments. Today? We’ll be lucky if we can tally 50,000 new HUD Code homes during year 2009.

All this brings us to today, January 2010! Well, guess what? Secretary Lubar’s kudos, relative to true affordability, decency, safety, and comfort of HUD Code housing is as accurate now as in 1974! The problems are: 1) we have yet to figure out how to effectively promote manufactured housing, nationally and regionally, to the American home buying public; 2) establish and support a well – functioning secondary market for the resale of manufactured homes; and, 3) secure sufficient floor plan and retail chattel (personal property) financing for our customers! In short? ManuFractured housing is broken! Even now, is ‘almost too late’ to identify and implement practical, effective solutions to these timely marketing and financial challenges and opportunities. But some are trying, and within 30 days, a way for you to participate as well.

First efforts at solutions appeared almost a year ago, on 27 February 2009, when 100+/- HUD Code home manufacturers and landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners/operators convened at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Museum & Library facility in Elkhart, IN. (the ‘birthplace of manufactured housing’), for the first Historic SUMMIT Meeting! Purpose of the gathering? Open lines of communication between these two disparate segments (one manufacturing/distribution oriented, the other realty development/investment focused) of the manufactured housing industry and real estate asset class, to learn what each side ‘needed, wanted & expected’ relative to the design, size, specifications, features, and pricing of the HUD Code housing product. Since that day, nearly three dozen Business Development Mangers (‘BDM’), employed by HUD Code manufacturers, have increased the number of new HUD Code homes sold into landlease communities (‘LLCommunities’). And, at 18th International Networking Roundtable in Chicago, during September 2009, it was agreed by the 200 businessmen and women present, the popular notion (circa 1998) of Development Series Homes be supplanted by Community Series Homes (i.e. smaller, affordable, easily transportable, energy efficient), generally destined for LLCommunity siting! Don Westphal, of Michigan, agreed to serve as National Clearing House for input on this subject. Read his inaugural CSH article in January 2010 issue of the new Allen Letter professional journal.*1

For in depth coverage and review of these and other advances, review archived blogs on this website, especially one titled: ‘Let’s Make History Together!’ Why? Because it contains ‘The Near Perfect Storm Manifesto!’ which introduced the now much talked about premise: ‘Imagine No New HUD Code Homes by the Year 2020!’ Furthermore, the January 2010 edition of the aforementioned Allen Letter carries, in side by side columns, official responses to said premise, by the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) and Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’)! Also know, the same issue of the Allen Letter contains a free copy (for paid subscribers) of the 21st annual ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators in North America!’); otherwise available for $250.00. *1

The Countdown Begins!

If an entrepreneur or executive businessman or woman, active in the HUD Code MHIndustry or LLCommunity asset class, and sincerely desirous of becoming and being an integral part of a national effort to Save Our Industry!, plan to be present at MHI’s Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., on 1 & 2 February 2010. Here’re at least two reasons:

First; are plans to Save Our Industry! on MHI’s meeting agenda? If so, you must to be present to participate in the discussions! If not; you should be present to ask, ‘Why not?’ Or, has MHI leadership decided the manifesto’s premise: ‘Imagine No New HUD Code Homes by Year 2020!’ is just an alarmist exaggeration, or simply inevitable – hence unworthy of further effort, from either or both national MHIndustry advocacy bodies. Think of this meeting as a weather report and forecast; and you the participant, as a barometer, measuring and reporting the low or high pressure your business interests is/are experiencing at present and what you can reasonably expect in the near future.

Second; William Matchneer, HUD’s Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regulatory Affairs and Manufactured Housing, is MHI’s invited guest presenter at this meeting. Again, you owe it to yourself to be present to hear what he has to say about MHIndustry ills; otherwise you’ll never really know ‘that side of the story’. And if present, ask why HUD appears to resist full implementation of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (‘MHIA@2000’) – ten years after its’ appearance on the housing scene? And, why the reluctance to appoint a non – career administrator to oversee the work of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (‘MHCC’) pursuant to MHIA @ 2000?. Also inquire about HUD’s position regarding installation of water sprinkler systems in our homes, and why?

Know what it’d take to really make this an open, lively and (hopefully) productive forum? An invitation from MHI, to MHARR’s chief executive, Danny Ghorbani, to attend and participate in dialogue with Mr. Matchneer! Unfortunately, as needed and worthy a stimulus as this would be, it will not happen! Ask me why sometime. Better yet, when you phone (703) 558-0678 to request registration materials for MHI’s meeting, make that suggestion, and watch what happens…

Unable to attend MHI’s Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., but want to support the national movement to Save Our Industry!, hopefully via the efforts of one or more of our national trade advocacy organizations? Then, tell everyone you know, in the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class, about this blog. Encourage them to read it and respond appropriate to their circumstances and passion, or lack thereof, about the subject. Better yet, make copies of this blog and circulate them to all your ‘friends in the MHBusiness’, encouraging them to become actively involved as well!

So, what happens after MHI’s meeting in Savannah, GA? It depends on what happens, or doesn’t happen, at said meeting. Was there positive and substantial progress planning how to Save Our Industry!, or was the Winter meeting simply another non – starter? Past blogs have hinted at a new Business Model being articulated for the HUD Code MHIndustry. If you’d like a sampling of raw material submitted and parsed’, to date, by manufacturing/distribution & realty development/investment executives and entrepreneurs around the country, make your request via Reply at the end of this blog. Include your postal mailing address to receive this material. And, as has also been penned before, you might want to pencil in 26 February 2010 onto your business calendar.

The Countdown Continues…

End Note.

1. To order the text, register for MHM program, and or subscribe to the new Allen Letter professional journal, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156.

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156

FOCUS Group, Blogging Lessons & More…

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

a FOCUS Group opportunity; BLOG Lessons Learned; &,

Two Timely, Pithy Postscripts

‘How the Best LLCommunity Owners/operators Learn Together’;

‘Beware fakers & spammers!’;

‘How to Get Your 21st annual ALLEN REPORT;
&
Recommend ‘How to Save Our Industry from Oblivion by Year 2020!’

FOCUS Group meeting planning typically begins with a telephone conversation or email message from a LLCommunity owner/operator who asks, “George, isn’t it about time we got together for another FOCUS Group meeting?” If there’s no date conflict with an MHI/NCC or ULI/MHCC Think Tank meeting, and the MHCongress/NCC Forum or an annual International Networking Roundtable, the answer is usually ‘Yes’.*1 And the process starts….

But first; what’s a FOCUS Group? It begins with one or more pools of approximately 20 veteran LLCommunity owners/operators, who’ve attended previous FOCUS Group meetings during the past two decades, and individuals who’ve expressed interest in attending their first get together. List of past participants reads like a ‘Who’s Who List of Most Successful Owners/operators in this asset class! A FOCUS Group convenes for 1 ½ days, with attendees spending an evening networking over dinner, the following day working through an agreed upon agenda of timely and compelling topics.

Once the decision to meet has been made, a letter is mailed to the 20 name pool of LLCommunity aficionados from which the request originated; sometimes to both pools. The letter announces preliminary plans for a FOCUS Group to convene. At least two sets of mid – week dates are given (never near the beginning of the month, when rent collection occurs), along with a city location – if a FOCUS Group member has previously offered an invitation to meet in the clubhouse at one of his or her properties. If that’s not the case, a request is made for volunteers to make such an offer. A key part of this letter requests soon input, naming three issues or concerns of import to the FOCUS Group member – along with a deadline for submission.

As date and topic responses are received, generally by email and FAX, an agenda takes shape; prioritized according to the number of similar responses and concerns. A local hotel is identified, and transportation planned from there to the FOCUS Group meeting site. This information is put into a second letter to the member pool or pools, citing a deadline for positive response. Sign – ups are accepted on a ‘first call, first reserved’ basis, until maximum of 12 – 15 commitments have been made. If there’s a particularly strong response to the invite, a second FOCUS Group session is scheduled.

FOCUS Group members fly or drive into the designated city location mid – afternoon the day before the formal meeting, check into host hotel, and gather in the lobby around 6PM to attend a no host networking dinner. Next morning, following breakfast at the hotel, attendees are car pooled or bussed to the host LLCommunity, arriving by 8:30AM to tour the property and be in their seats ‘ready to begin’ by 9AM. While five topics are usually selected for discussion at one of these meetings, e.g. 9 – 9:45, 10 – 10:45, 11 – 11:45, over the lunch hour on – site, and 1 – 1:45PM, it’s not unusual to adjust the schedule when a particular topic commands lively and prolonged attention. A goal is to complete four or five sessions by 2 and 3PM, so participants, who need to do so, can get to the airport to catch afternoon flights home. Many stay longer.

Participants are encouraged to bring 20 or so handouts (e.g. forms, policies, ads.) relating to topics on the agenda. This is LLCommunity cross – pollination at its’ best! And attendees informally agree to keep meeting proceedings confidential among themselves. After the meeting, a summary is prepared by the organizer, with copies sent to each participant, along with an invoice covering meeting and planner’s expenses.

If interested in adding your name to one of the 20 name FOCUS Group pools, contact the blogger via (317) 346-7156, reply directly by message to this Blog, or via the MHIndustry HOTLINE:(877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. FYI; FOCUS Group meeting(s) are now being considered for sometime in late February or early March 2010, likely in one or another Florida LLCommunity. Remember however, this special education and networking event is intended for LLCommunity owners/operators and senior corporate executives. An effort is made to not have competing portfolio ‘players’ in same group.

*****

On another subject. Read or post blogs? Beware fakers and a unique breed of spammer! Those are two things I’ve learned blogging, first for the defunct Manufactured Home Merchandiser, now at the official MHIndustry/LLCommunity website: community-investor.com

Fakers? These are individuals who’d like you to believe they’re experts, in one specialty or another (We’ve all heard the bromide: ‘Fake it till you make it.’ description of some novices), relative to HUD Code manufactured housing or landlease community asset class. There’re several ways fakers hawk their presence online.

First, they come across as being highly successful in their stated or implied MH or LLCommunity – related specialty, whether home marketing and sales, home finance, property investment, property marketing, or property management. When one takes the time to investigate, some of these folk lack the credentials and successful experience they infer. After all, establishing an online presence is not difficult or expensive, just an easy way to garner quick attention, get (back) into business, or head off in an entirely different direction, in the hope no one looks too closely. One indicator is their misuse of standard MHIndustry terminology. Do they talk and write about ‘trailers’ instead of manufactured homes, ‘mobile home park’ vs. landlease community, tenants rather than residents, and more? By the way, this ploy has long been a problem with print trade publications where editors and publishers don’t vet manuscript content and those who pen them. So, just be careful what you read and believe online and off.

Second, beware products or services fakers offer. Begin by examining their website. When was last time it was updated? What national trade affiliations do they claim? Before you spend resources on some novel idea (e.g. leasing vs. selling your income – producing property), product (leak detectors), training (‘Get rich quick, buy a MHPark!’) or service (‘We can easily sell your property; no listing needed!’) , request specific referrals, complete with contact information, to previous customers you can contact in person – and contact those referrals!

Speaking of national trade affiliations; this is a timely and effective acid test. How? If the online vendor/blogger, or trade publication columnist or feature writer – for that matter, doesn’t list a paid, direct membership affiliation with the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’), Urban Land Institute (‘ULI’), or Institute of Real Estate Management (‘IREM’) – where professional property management of LLCommunities is concerned, Beware. They either don’t know of these national trade advocacy, networking, and education bodies; can’t afford membership in same; or, simply, seek to avoid the public exposure they’d experience if a bona fide ‘player’ or expert in the MHIndustry and or LLCommunity asset class.*1

Spammers? If you email, you deal with these folk every day. Turns out they’re on the blogger circuit as well! How so? In my experience, fully a third of the direct responses to newly posted weekly Blogs, comes from spammers hoping blogger will approve their message (vs. delete), leaving it intact, so future blog readers will learn of their (pharmacy) product or (sex) service imbedded within their email address. Seriously. Happens all the time.
*****

Postscript I.

IMPORTANT REMINDER. This week, 4 – 8 January, will see distribution of the new Allen Letter professional journal, commemorating 20 years in continual publication serving the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class! This issue contains the only official 21st edition of the ALLEN REPORT, a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’ Unlike years past, it’ll not be released anywhere else, so ensure you receive your copy, as a lagniappe (‘freebie’) with January’s Allen Letter ($134.95/annual subscription) or for $250.00 for the report alone! In either case, phone (317) 346-7156 to subscribe, and or buy the ALLEN REPORT, listing 125 of the 500+/- known portfolio owners/operators in the U.S. and Canada. Other special features this month? HOW TO articles by Don Westphal and Joanne Stevens, CCIM, as well as a very special presentation of ‘The Near Perfect Storm Manifesto!’ that has our entire industry and asset class addressing the timely Premise: ‘Imagine No More HUD Code Homes being Manufactured by Year 2010!’ For that matter, for the first time I can recall, MHI and MHARR address said Premise in side – by – side columns in this month’s Allen Letter. What they pen, is an enlightening education in itself! GFA

Postscript II.

Relative to the ‘timely Premise’ quoted at the end of the previous paragraph (Postscript I.); it’s not too late to provide your input to a small working group envisioning and crafting a new Business Model, designed to return HUD code new home shipments (a key part of said model suggests changing our industry’s perspective away from its’ ‘shipment’ mentality, to tracking new home ‘sales’! What do you think?) to the 200,000 per year level! How to input? FAX @ (317) 346-7158, respond directly to this Blog, or telephone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. If you’re asking yourself: ‘Why isn’t this new Business Model coming from MHARR, MHI or the ULI/MHCC Think Tank or – best of all – the three of them together? Well, ask them, and the sooner the better! MHI will host its’ Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., @ 1 & 2 February 2009. Bill Matchneer from HUD will be present to field questions. Wonder if this historic Premise is on MHI’s agenda for that meeting? Ask! Contact MHARR via (202) 783-4087 Danny Ghorbani; MHI via (703) 558-0678 Thayer Long, CAE., and ULI/MHCC via (248)645-1077. Go ahead, tell’em ‘George suggested we call you with this or other ideas to prevent realization of the Premise: ‘Imagine No New HUD Code Homes by Year 2020!’ and, ultimately, to help Save Our Industry!

*****
End Note.

1. MHI/NCC = Manufactured Housing Institute/National Communities Council division; the landlease (nee manufactured home) community real estate asset class’ national advocacy body. (703) 558=-678. ULI/MHCC = Urban Land Institute’s Manufactured Housing Communities Council, LLCommunity property types’ de facto Think Tank. MHCongress = MHI’s annual Manufactured Housing Congress & NCC Forum for LLCommunity owners/operators (mid – April in Las Vegas, NV). International Networking Roundtable = the asset class sole, annual,
education, networking, and deal making event for LLCommunity owners/operators; though, of late, HUD Code home manufacturers have been attending to display and market their Community Series Homes via their Business Development Managers (‘BDM’) – for a list, call (317) 346-7156.

****

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247
(317)346-7156