Archive for July, 2010

Ongoing Transition from TPL to Owner Financing

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Ongoing Transition from TPL to Property Owner Financing….

I.

Turns out, all the while we were talking of a maybe Grand Conspiracy to kill the MHIndustry, and weathering our own Near Perfect Storm, new HUD Code home shipments slipped to a 60 year nadir; another, albeit undercurrent, was also present and building in volume and momentum….

Some call it a temporary cum permanent supplanting of ‘third party lending’ (‘TPL’) chattel (personal property) lending on new and resale HUD code homes, by the now widespread practice of property owner financing (a.k.a. ‘self – finance’, via either the ‘captive finance’ or ‘buy here – pay here’ method), throughout the 50,000 property landlease (nee manufactured home) community real estate asset class.*1 Huh?

Yes, you read that right; and for that matter, have been reading and hearing about this gradual change in primary chattel lending situs for months now, though it’s been evolving for a decade – this time around. However, during the past 60 days, subsurface frustration, on the part of some TPLs, regarding capital sourcing, lack of secondary markets, new financial regulations, and other aspects of chattel lending, including aforesaid property owner financing, has bubbled to the surface in industry conversations. To better understand what’s happening, here’s one industry observer’s view of the chattel finance timeline:

First official, public recognition of the phenomenon, where property owner financing of new and resale home transactions on – site in landlease communities (‘LLCommunities’) was replacing TPLs, as primary chattel lending sources, occurred at the National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus, in Tampa, FL. on 27 February 2008. One of Five Action Areas identified by the 100+/- caucusing LLCommunity owners/operators, states: “Financing and servicing of new and resale home transactions on – site, and financing of LLCommunities. The first half this action item is in place….” Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

A year and a half later, all TPLs were invited to participate on a Chattel Finance Panel at the 18th International Networking Roundtable in Chicago, IL., during September 2009, declined. Only one representative from one TPL attended. A telling gesture.

So, at the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (‘MHI’) Winter meeting in southern California, later that same month, a small group of the asset class’ largest property portfolio owners/operators decided to retain the services of a Washington, DC – based consultancy to attempt to ferret out additional sources of chattel financing for LLCommunity use. This focused effort is ongoing, and may indeed see fruition during the months, if not year, ahead. Details, however, are CONFIDENTIAL, and otherwise unavailable for publication in this blog posting, at this time.

During the timeframe, January through April 2010, it was recognized there’d been no new chattel finance information articulated since MHI’s former staffer Joe Owens’ penned a seminal chapter, on this subject, in Development, Marketing, & Operation of Manufactured Home Communities, co – authored by George Allen, David Alley, & Edward Hicks, published by J. Wiley & Sons in 1994. So, in short order, more than two dozen MHIndustry experts contributed chattel finance – related ‘How To’ material for the compilation and publication of the Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer, distributed at the Manufactured Housing Congress in Las Vegas, NV. Of the few surviving national TPLs (a.k.a. the ‘Big Four + 1’), only two contributed ‘self – descriptions of their chattel finance products’.*2

June 2, 2010, turned out to be a pivotal day in MHIndustry history, where chattel finance in public and government arenas, is concerned. A national Manufactured Housing Finance Roundtable was sponsored and co – hosted by Congressman Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Federal Housing Commissioner David Stevens. The event occurred in Elkhart, IN, “…attended by 60 business executives, lenders, politicians, and representatives from federal regulatory agencies – but no GSE’s….”*3 Bottom line? As an industry, we learned once and for all, we’re truly ‘on our own from now on’, when it comes to financing most on – site, new and resale home sale transactions requiring chattel loans! Interestingly; whoever set up that meeting ensured every TPL had a seat at the Roundtable’s ‘square table’, while a greater number of major LLCommunity portfolio owners/operators (i.e. property owner ‘lenders’) also present at the event, were left to sit/stand around the perimeter of the meeting room. Another telling gesture…

Then there was MHI’s Summer meeting in Washington, DC, 13 – 15 July 2010.*4. Dues – paying members, aligned with the National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division, but with strong chattel finance bias, felt ‘less than welcome’ at Financial Services Division meetings. And unbeknownst to the majority of paid registrants at the Summer affair, an off – agenda meeting (Thursday) was requested by FHA  representatives desiring a workshop with TPLs. While this is ‘fine and good’ in its’ own right, it’s ironic the segment of the MHIndustry maybe doing the ‘lions share’ of chattel lending these days (i.e. LLCommunities), was generally not invited to said meeting – with the exception of two senior executives from two large property portfolio firms. Results? Hard to tell. While a request has been made for a copy of the ‘proceedings’ from said meeting, nothing has arrived to date. However, other sources will likely share this information before next weekly blog posting. So, as they say, ‘Stay tuned! (to this blog)’ for more information to come….

Well, there you have the 2 ½ year timeline; realizing of course, property owner financing goes all the way back to near year 2000 and before. Frankly, many of us recall a similar spate of property owner financing, occurring during the late 1970s, when we filled thousands of recently – developed but vacant rental homesites, with mostly resale homes sited as rental units and or ‘contract sales’. That time around, we were reeling from the effects of implementation of the new HUD Code, in 1974 – 1976, when new home shipments plunged from a record high of 575,940 new ‘mobile homes’ in 1972, down to 250,000+/- homes shipped per year, for the next two decades plus. This time around? Are memories so short we don’t recall shipping 372,843 new manufactured homes during 1998, by ‘turning our customers upside down’, financially; then by year 2000, experiencing our own ‘housing bubble bust’ eight years ahead of the one presently paralyzing site – built housing?

So, where does all that leave us today? Depends on who you ask. All I can offer is my opinion. But for what it’s worth, and sad to say, TPLs, like the no – show GSEs (referring to aforementioned 2 June 2010 Roundtable in Elkhart, IN.) are going nowhere, Title I ‘PR’ and hype notwithstanding, for the time being. On the other hand, LLCommunity owner – financing, of new and resale HUD Code homes on – site, where the property owner has deep enough pockets, or sufficient local lending contacts, to engage in self – finance, of either the ‘captive finance’ or ‘buy here – pay here’ method, is doing better than OK. But given uncertain implementation of the federal S.A.F.E. Act (‘Safe And Fair Enforcement of Mortgage Licensing Act’), and other related regulatory legislation of late, there’s been a noticeable retreat, by generally smaller LLCommunity owners/operators, and portfolio folk, from the public scene. Makes sense. When you get right down to it, LLCommunity owners/operators are the last private and practical source of truly inexpensive durable housing, flexible affordable lending/borrowing, and professional property management! You’ve gotta ask yourself: ‘Where else can a would be homebuyer go, to purchase a 3BR2B resale home for $20,000.00. – 50,000.00 (depending on what’s available in the local housing market); and, with a modest down payment, plus whatever amount ‘works for them’ to make dual housing and rental homesite payments each month, become a bona fide homeowner?’ Answer? Nowhere else in the non – subsidized rental payment or conventional homebuying world! And in this unique ‘affordable housing environment’ (i.e. manufactured housing in landlease communities), homebuyers, oft with credit scores within the 580 – 620 range, build equity as well! We are indeed a National Treasure well worth preserving!

II.

Hey; more and more ‘blog readers’ are communicating thoughts, opinions, and ideas to me via this website, email (gfa7156@aol.com), phone (317) 346-7156, and c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247. Become one of my many valued information resources and contact me with your input today! The more you help me, the better informed we will all be during the weeks and months ahead!

III.

If you own one or more LLCommunities, and read this blog, you should be planning to attend the 19th annual International Networking Roundtable in Phoenix, AZ. @ 15 – 17 September 2010. More than 50 have already registered, and max allowed is 200. So, don’t delay. While there’s a Roundtable brochure on this website you can use, also phone and I’ll send you one. This is the premier annual educational, networking, and deal – making event for all landlease community owners/operators in North America!

IV.

You’ve probably already noticed, I frequently reference news notes, stories, and statistics published in the Allen Letter professional journal @ $134.95/year; and occasionally, the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! (Most of what’s contained in the latter periodical can’t be reprinted here or elsewhere. Subscribe and learn why….) @ $950.00/year. If not already a subscriber, to either or both monthly business newsletters, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633 –4764 to do so. Also able to subscribe via this website. Join the hundreds who read the AL each month, and the dozens of top corporate executives who read the TAC! ‘first thing each month’!

V.

FLASH! Do you have personal access to the Urban Land Institute’s Urban Land magazine? Well, the July/August 2010 issue, on page # 62, carries this feature: ‘Today’s Manufactured Home Community’. Contains lots of inside information about this unique income – producing property type. Unfortunately, ULI does not sell single copies of their professional publication, but a reprint of this article will appear as a reprint lagniappe in an upcoming issue of the aforementioned Allen Letter professional journal. Just one more reason to subscribe today….

*****
End Notes.

1. For a more complete description of this phenomenal change, read the July 2010 issue of the Allen Letter professional journal, available by phoning (317) 346-7156.

2. Ibid., and GSE: government – sponsored enterprises. Also, to order your copy of the Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer, phone the above number @ end note # 1.

3. For additional information on MHI’s Summer meeting visit our blog archive for week of 18 July 2010.

*****

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®Emeritus, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
the Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247

POINTs & COUNTERPOINTs

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

POINTs & COUNTERPOINTs

MHI’s Summer Meeting & MHARR; Super Symposium & new initiatives; Renewed Effort to Unify MHIndustry Voice in Washington & Grand Tour!

‘CAPITALISM Pays For SOCIALISM!’ read the bumper sticker on the rear bumper of a car ahead of me, as I drove into Washington, DC., last week. Later, as I checked into the Tabard Inn (‘Oldest continuously operating hotel in Washington, D.C.’) and my $113.00/night room (Shared bathroom down the hall) – otherwise $150+/- per night, with in – room facilities, I reflected upon how I get to make trips and choices as a citizen and businessman in this great country. And it got me to thinking how, at least in the world of free enterprise, how we continually use our talents and abilities, experiences and history, attitudes and motivation, to make key and timely decisions, ultimately spelling SUCCESS or FAILURE, for our employees, employers and businesses. Sincerely hope you’re as appreciative of this great country as I am! Are you?

I

Manufactured Housing Institute’s (‘MHI’) annual Summer meeting in Washington, DC., from 13 – 15 July, according to the registration list, attracted 95+/- participants. Run the numbers. Less seven government workers, 18 MHAssociation execs, and maybe five ‘no shows’; of the 65 remaining ‘direct dues paying members’ & ‘certified representatives’, nearly one third, exactly 20, were landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners/operators. Why is this important to know? Read on…. On a more positive note, Mark Weiss, Senior VP of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) attended the Manufactured Housing Executive Council’s (‘MHEC’) meeting and other functions. First time this has happened in awhile. And know that quiet plans are afoot, to increase these participation numbers during 2011; both overall, and within the landlease community’s (‘LLCommunity’) advocacy body, specifically, the National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division. Are YOU a direct dues paying member of MHI? Perhaps YOU should be! To do so, phone Thayer Long via (703) 558-0678 and tell him ‘George sent me!’

II.

Appears the SUPER SYMPOSIUM movement is nearly dead. Oh, there may be a third symposium hosted by the reinvigorated Georgia Manufactured Housing Association (‘GMHA’), under the executive leadership of Jamie Hammons, but that’s probably the last one. Indiana Manufactured Housing Association/Recreational Vehicle Indiana Council (‘IMHA/RVIC’), in a budget cut, terminated their symposium guru after hosting at least two successful symposiums. The demise of this much – needed educational opportunity, when needed most, to teach LLCommunity folk How to Market & Sell New & Resale Homes On – site & Self – finance, is unfortunate if not tragic! BUT, look for a couple private, Free Enterprise initiatives to pick up this training slack during the months ahead. On 24 & 25 August, Precision Captive Funding will host their 12th two day Captive Finance Workshop, this time in Chicago, IL. To register, phone (217) 971-3968. AND, from 15 – 17 September, in Phoenix, AZ., the 19th annual International Networking Roundtable for LLCommunity owners/operators will convene, featuring nearly two dozen HOW TO seminars and panel discussions, best interpersonal networking in the asset class, unparalleled deal – making opportunities, and new Community Series (HUD Code) Homes on display! For a Roundtable brochure, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, or visit this website.

III.

Were you invited to participate in a conference call earlier this month, intended to spawn an ‘Effort to Unify the Industry’s Voice in Washington, DC.’? Didn’t think so. While said call attracted participation by at two of the remaining HUD Code housing manufacturers, and a plethora of state MHAssociation execs, there was little to no representation from other segments of the MHIndustry, particularly the LLCommunity ‘side of the house’. There lies the first challenge to this otherwise needed re-unity effort. Sure, having ‘too many fingers in such a pie oft creates a mess’, but NOT including the only industry segment enjoying general business success these days, is like effecting a business startup with no capital. And, as opined during the aforementioned MHEC meeting, any would be leader of such a worthy cause should be present with his/her peers, in this case in Washington, DC., to motivate, answer questions and guide planning. And the bottom line issue is: Do we really need, or even want, a third party effort to this (unity) end, when the MHIndustry, on two previous occasions, has managed to ‘come together’ to support mutually desired federal legislation, e.g. the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000? Counterpoint? In previous blog postings, plans for a Grand ‘Once & For All! Tour, of seven regions throughout the U.S. during 2011, was described. Perhaps this is the practical, long range (i.e. distance and time) means to, among other things, bring re – unity to the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class, especially if MHI & MHARR lend their support to the effort. Interested in having the Grand ‘Once & For All! Tour come to your geographic area? Let me know by phoning (317) 346-7156 or responding directly to this blog posting. For more info on the tour, visit the blog archives.

IV.

DID YOU KNOW? During the past four months, no fewer than four new books and booklets, describing one or more aspects of HUD Code manufactured housing and the landlease community real estate asset class, have debuted? All four will be profiled in the August issue of the Allen Letter professional journal! AND, the August issue of the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! business newsletter will address the following pithy, timely and challenging question: ‘What would I / YOU do if selected, tapped, asked, elected, to become Chairman of the Manufactured Housing Institute?’ Be assured, that’s not going to happen to either of us, even though this position of past renown and present responsibility/authority has not been attracting any takers in recent months. That reality alone, makes the I / YOU question, just posed, all the more timely and poignant – as new HUD Code housing shipments continue to languish at a more than a 60 year nadir!

VI.

FYI. The CONSORTIUM of print & online publishers of periodicals, for the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class convened (All present but one!) once again, during MHI’s Summer meeting in Washington, DC. Know what? Such a trade publication networking body was tried unsuccessfully, a decade ago, when Community Management, Manufactured Home Merchandiser, Automated Builder, and Systems Building print magazines were still in business. Appears this group is going to blossom. If you publish a weekly or monthly trade pub for the MHIndustry & or LLCommunity asset class, and would like to attend the CONSORTIUM’s next meeting, 15 – 17 September 2010, in Phoenix, AZ., phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE to express your interest.

*****

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®Emeritus, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class

Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247

(317) 346-7156

More of ‘What’s So Hard AAbout Doing This?’

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

What’s So Hard About Doing This? Part II.

Part I? Scroll Back One Week in the Blog Archives at this website!

Turns out, not surprisingly, we’re not the only ones who underperform.

“I (almost) give up! Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the manager of a WAWA Dairy Store in Blakeselle, PA brushed off a (my) suggestion that would’ve boosted her location’s business volume”

Minutes earlier, I’d exited I-80 and bought regular unleaded gasoline for $3.09/gallon ($3.00/gallon if I’d paid cash) from a local Exxon station. Angered at the predatorily high price of the gas, I purposed not to buy my lunch there, so drove less than a mile to the local WAWA store. Pulling into the parking lot, I was shocked to see their regular unleaded gas was selling for $2.75/gallon! I’d just overspent at least $5.00 on a tank of gas! As I paid for lunch, I asked to speak to the store manager, and told her:

“If you posted a sign at the interstate exit down the street, announcing your $2.75/gallon gas price, you’d get a whole lot more business – considering your competitor of charging 34 cents more per gallon.” Her response? “Oh, we’re WAWA, everybody knows us, we don’t need no sign.” Geesh.

I suppose one could say ‘That’s the difference, sometimes, between an employee and someone with skin (i.e. equity interest) in the game’ of business. But I think it’s more than that. It also has to do with making it a point to be on one’s game (e.g. Ready to perform!) at all times one is expected to sell and lease; and, being open to new marketing and promotion ideas as well!

I.

How does the just related experience apply to selling manufactured homes and
leasing rental homesites? Well, here’s the drill…

A prospective homebuyer/site lessee pulls up and parks their car in front of your on or off – site MHRetail salescenter, hopefully in a space designated with an attractive sign that reads: RESERVED FOR FUTURE RESIDENT! As they get out of their vehicle and head into the Information Center, GET MOTIVATED and put a SMILE on your face and into your voice! Be prepared for ‘the performance of your life’!

As the prospect(s) walk in the door, don’t stay seated, GET UP and walk across the room, meeting them halfway, with an outstretched hand, and (again) SMILE on your face and in your voice! WELCOME them to the Information Center, introduce yourself, and ask their name(s) – and call them by name throughout the presentation and product demonstration. It’s an especially ‘good & timely move’ to then offer refreshment of some sort: something cold and refreshng in a hot climate; something warm or hot on a cold day. Now’s a good time to ask prospect(s) to complete a Guest Card, or you – as sales/leasing consultant, fill it in. That decision is simply a matter of personal style. Then, use the card, and the information contained on it, it to facilitate the sales/leasing presentation, since the card contains their housing needs, wants, etc… Speaking of Guest Cards, here’s a unique one ‘free for the asking’*: the dual purpose Visitor Information & Visitor Response card, perforated in the middle. Use the Information half as the aforementioned Guest Card, give Response half to prospect when they leave the Information Center – whether they bought a home or not, as it asks them to ‘grade’ the property and sales/leasing performance; then mail it back to the property or home office.

Qualify the interested prospect! Is the desired home (size, features, configuration) available now, or must it be ordered? Does prospect have the ability to purchase the needed/wanted home and, if sited in a landlease (nee manufactured home) community, pay the monthly site rent and related household expenses? The easiest way to measure this critical set of circumstances, whether for a land & home transaction; or, again, in the LLCommunity setting, is to use the ‘Ah Ha & Uh Oh! Form, also ‘free for the asking’*. And, as was pointed out in Part I of this two part series on manufactured housing sales & rental homesite leasing, be very careful NOT to Discriminate. Always remember and respect the seven protected classes of citizenry.*

Assuming homebuying interest is high and prospect is qualified to buy, Demonstrate the appropriate product! This means walking through new and resale homes in inventory and already on – site in the LLCommunity. Ideally, homes are skirted, steps/porches in place –if required, climate controlled, and as I’ve noticed of late, attractively landscaped with shrubs and flowers planted, in season, out in front of the home! Do your ‘homes for sale’ have those, and more, selling features in place? And while it pains me to remind you of this, ensure the appropriate Formaldehyde Warning Poster is in place, usually in the kitchen of the home. As a frequent Mystery Shopper, ‘that is not always the case’, hence a risky (regulatory = $ fine) state of affairs. Anyway, it’s not enough to unlock a model or new home’s front door and turn the prospect loose! It’s important to accompany the prospect through the home, pointing out, sometimes even demonstrating features along the way. And here’s an important tip: Vacuum carpets in model homes every workday! Why? Not only keeps them clean, but more importantly, obliterates traffic patterns that form as person after person walks the same or similar paths throughout the house. And, it’s usually a good idea to have floor plans and other sales literature available somewhere in the show house. One more timely tip: Have deodorizers in place in these homes, to mask or counter unpleasant odors. Done demonstrating one or more homes? Assuming prospect is still highly interested, and certainly ‘qualified’ to buy, invite them back to the Information Center to complete the paperwork to buy the home and lease a homesite in the LLCommunity! Most sales/leasing consultants do NOT effect this key critical step! Do you?

Well, there you have it. The basics of on – site sales and homesite leasing. Sure, there’re fine points not yet covered here, but I’m certain you ‘get the idea’. Have salescenter sales/leasing suggestions you’d like to share with readers of this blog? Let me know via gfa7156@aol.com or respond directly to this blog posting.

II

In last week’s blog posting, I mentioned a FREE resource designed to teach sales and leasing consultants how to enhance their personal security when working alone in an Information Center. If interested in receiving this list of ’10 Helpful Steps to Manager & Leasing Consultant Safety’, contact PMN Publishing.*

III.

So, how did the Open Discussion Among New England LLCommunity Owners, turn out? Excellent. Nearly two dozen convened on – site at Dave Piper’s Cranberry Village LLCommunity in Middleboro, MA. Representatives were present from Hometown America, ROC – USA, along with numerous small owners/operators. Program began at 10AM and ended after 1PM. Many local issues, including ‘local rent control’ were discussed, as well as national matters pertaining to the S.A.F.E. Act, and sad results of the 2 June 2010 Manufactured Housing Finance Roundtable in Elkhart, IN.

This gathering turned out to be a helpful precursor to the Grand ‘Once & For All! Tour being planned for seven U.S. regions during year 2011. These will be 1 ½ day sessions comprised of a healthy, challenging mix of information (‘State of the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class’); unity & motivation = join Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’) as direct dues – paying members, especially the National Communities Council (‘NCC’); communication (i.e. Print & online resources available from the newly formed CONSORTIUM); education (re: ‘captive finance’ and ‘captive insurance’ and ‘other matters); and much more. There’s even talk of adding a second day for registrants who want to ‘stay over’ or have local on – site managers participate in the day long Manufactured Housing Manager (‘MHM’) professional property management and certification class.

If you’d like the Grand ‘Once & For All! Tour to come to your geographic area or specific city, and are willing to assist with planning and facilitating the program, please let this blogger know ASAP! We’re negotiating with a national hotel chain to use their facilities exclusively, so will need to identify the seven regions soon, e.g. New England, Mid – Atlantic states, Southeast, Upper Midwest, Lower Midwest, West, Pacific Northwest. And sponsors of this Fall’s 19th annual International Networking Roundtable will be given ‘first opportunity’ to sign onto this historic initiative, and have their product/service message taken nationwide during these sessions.

IV.

Due to space limitations, I’m unable to ‘tell you complete news stories’ in this weekly blog posting. For ‘the rest of the stories’, subscribe to the Allen Letter professional journal for $134.95/year – and receive a FREE copy of the 21st annual ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Owners/operators Throughout North America!’).* AND, if interested in attending the 19th annual International Networking Roundtable in Phoenix, AZ. @ 15 – 17 September 2010, register at this blog’s website or phone (317) 346-7156. And while on the phone, order a copy of the recently released Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer!, subtitled: ‘Almost Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Chattel (personal property) Finance’

******

End Notes

To request ‘free copies’ of the Guest Card and Ah Ha & Uh Oh! Forms cited in this blog, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

Seven protected classes? Think: Realtors Can Really Sell Housing Fast Now, using the first letter of each of those seven words to remind one of Race, Creed, Religion, Sex, Handicap, Familial status, Nationality.

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

What’s So Hard About Doing This? – & MORE…

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

What’s So Hard About Doing This?

90% of MHRetail Salecenter & LLCommunity Sales/Leasing Consultants Do Not Do What’s Described in the Following Paragraphs, Yet Every One of Them Should!
I.
Note to regular readers of this weekly blog! No, we’re not turning this timely, informative and widely read communication tool into a tutorial about signage, Mystery Shopping; and this week and next, telephone and in person, on – site salesmanship and leasing. Rather, we’re taking a short hiatus to ensure everyone reading this blog can say, once the previous and following suggestions have been implemented and supervised, “We’re doing our part to put the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class back on track as this nation’s Best Source for truly affordable, attractive, quality, non – subsidized, ‘green’ housing, along with highly Desirable Lifestyle Environments in professionally managed landlease (nee manufactured home) communities!” So here goes….
The phone rang six times before someone answered, saying “Whadaya want?” When I asked if it was ‘so & so’ MHRetail salescenter in ‘such & such’ landlease community, they answered: “Yea.” Such is the too frequent beginning of MOST initial telephone inquiries to MHRetail salescenters, in and outside LLCommunities. Folk, it’s time to ‘shape up’ and start performing professionally as leasing and sales pros, or admit defeat, and get into some other line of work.
Here’s how the initial incoming telephone inquiry from an otherwise interested, and let’s for the moment assume, ‘qualified’ prospective homebuyer and rental homesite lessee, or eventual resident, should be handled.
Answer the phone on the second ring; not the first, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. Why? Several good reasons. First, use the initial ring as a reminder to put a SMILE into one’s voice! Use the first ring to ‘get motivated’ to sell and or lease! As Zig Ziglar oft said, “I’d rather be greeted with a fake smile (in one’s voice), than with a genuine frown!’ So, give your new customer a genuine SMILE! Think about it. Furthermore; answering on the ‘first ring’ is akin to pouncing on the potential customer – like you’ve got nothing else to do but that. Answering on the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth ring conveys the opposite message: ‘Hey, I’ve got better things to be doing than talk to you!’ Surely you’ don’t want to convey that turnoff message, do you?
So, what Greeting to use? Longtime readers and clients of mine know, I prefer how the Newby Management team, of Ellenton, FL., ‘does it’: “Good morning (or afternoon); Thank You for Calling Newby Management (or salescenter name). I’m (name), how may I serve you?” Oomph! Did you catch that? Don’t know ‘bout you, but I want to get to know folk better who want to SERVE me! And here’s your opportunity to begin to do likewise. Perhaps it’s high time you start wowing your prospective homebuyers and site lessees when they phone!
Early on in the initial telephone conversation, Ask for caller’s name, and Make a record of it on the Daily Traffic Report (You do have such a daily record of phone calls and on – site visits, right?) on the clipboard right next to the telephone. After all, you just shared your name during the Greeting, so ‘fair’s fair’ to ask for theirs – and use it during the conversation. Besides, if you’re like me, and sincerely believe this initial phone contact is a critical first key step to developing Good Resident Relations = More Resident Referrals = Great Resident Retention (a.k.a. ‘6Rs of Really Good Resident Relations!’), then ‘Get this relationship off to a good start!’ And by asking for prospect’s name that serves as a good and timely reminder to get their contact information as well – adding it to the aforementioned daily traffic report. Let me know if you’d like a ‘free’ copy of such a traffic recording form.
At this point, inquire as to caller’s housing needs. What’s needed? When is it needed? How will they be paying for the home and site rent (qualifying question). Just be careful not to discriminate during this important first conversation. How to know? Just recall that old bromide: ‘Realtors Can Really Sell Housing Fast Now!’ The first letter of each word is a reminder of each of the seven protected classes of citizenry: Race, Creed, Religion, Sex, Handicap, Family, and Nationality. Think I’m kidding? You won’t, the first time you get caught practicing ‘linguistic profiling’ by an agent contracted by the federal government to ensure you’re playing fairly. During this part of the conversation, offer some pricing information as well (housing price range, site rent amount), as a further non – discriminatory way to qualify prospects.
Furthermore, if the caller is interested enough to have phoned the salescenter and or property, given you their name and address/phone number, and worked through the housing needs and qualifying conversations, by all means ASK FOR A DEFINITE APPOINTMENT TO VISIT on – site!
But the job is not yet done! Don’t forget to offer Travel Directions to your location. Don’t cop out and suggest they use Map Quest or rely on a GPS system. While popular tech options, there’re still many folk not so technically inclined, and need help finding your location. While you’re at it, ask How They Learned of the salescenter or property. Why? This is the easiest and best way to gauge the effectiveness of whatever marketing means are in effect at the time, e.g. referrals, billboard, drive – by, newspaper ads, online information (e.g. MHVillage.com), Yellow Pages directory, local Chamber of Commerce, brochure picked up at a local hotel, resident referral, and on and on.
Well, that’s about it. Those are the most basic of touchstones used by the most successful of leasing and sales consultants working in today’s MHRetail salescenters and on – site in landlease communities. How confident are YOU, your staff is following that or a similar routine? Maybe time to find out! How? Mystery Shop them! Call the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 and ask for a ‘free’ copy of the Standard Shopping Report form.
OK, let’s turn our attention to what happens when the prospective homebuyer and or homesite lessee arrives to see and experience housing product and lifestyle features.
Do you have signage off – site and on – site to guide visitors to your location? In last week’s blog we talked about bootleg signs at interstate exits, adopting the last quarter mile of highway leading to your property’s entrance, WELCOME HOME entrance signage, and vacant rental homesite signs suggesting BUILD YOUR NEW DREAM HOUSE HERE! Call (information center’s phone number). Are these signs now in place? How ‘bout getting prospect from the entrance to the Information Center (Hopefully you’re not still calling it an Office). If it isn’t right there within eyesight of the entrance, plan on putting small signs out enroute to it. And reserve best parking spot with the sign: RESERVED FOR FUTURE RESIDENT!
OK, prospect arrives on – site, at the Information Center, gets out of their vehicle and comes into the salescenter. What does your staff do? Do you have any idea? You’d better! Here’s what they ‘should do’…
We’re going to stop here, for now, for two reasons: Some blog readers have suggested these postings are too lengthy. And perhaps they are. What do you think? Please let me know, via response to this specific posting at this website, or via email to gfa7615@aol.com or at above phone number. Other reasons? Have some breaking Good News to share with you in the following paragraph or two.
II.
SSBRA Announces affordable, frost resistant foundation!
Today, 1 July 2010, the Systems Building Research Alliance (‘SBRA’) announced the release of the FROST FREE FOUNDATION® design, an affordable foundation solution for placing homes in areas subject to frost. The design is far less costly than either poured concrete footings that extend the foundation below the frost line or concrete (‘floating’) slabs, the two alternatives recommended by HUD for complying with the Manufactured Home Installation Standards in areas subject to frost, which includes most of the U.S.
The FROST FREE FOUNDATION® is based on this simple concept: if a home is installed in a manner that assures the ground under the home is dry and will remain dry, the soil will lack sufficient moisture to heave. For such homes, installing components intended to resist frost heave, such as concrete footings below the frost line, adds cost but provides little value. The concept follows from the manufactured housing industry’s decades of experience installing millions of homes in the Frost Belt with few problems. As industry expert George Porter, an early and tireless advocate for the project explained, “The concept is simple; keep the ground dry, no frost heave. It’s not rocket science.” The design is a variation on the shallow, frost protected foundation systems increasingly popular with site builders.
The FROST FREE FOUNDATION® was developed with financial support from several state MHAssociations and companies involved in manufactured home product, supply, community operators (including the author of this blog posting), and MHRetailers. Seven home manufacturing companies also provided funding. The work was guided by a technical committee chaired by Mark Ezzo of Clayton Homes. In developing this foundation solution, the SBRA (a division of the Manufactured Housing Institute) engaged the services of Paul Hayman, PE. Explaining the dynamics of frost heave, Hayman emphasized ground heave can only occur if three conditions are met: the soil is frost susceptible, outdoor temperatures below freezing are sustained for long periods, and the soil has sufficiently high moisture content.
Interested in more information on this timely and critical subject? Visit www.research-alliance.org/pages/frostfreefoundation.htm Also reach Emanuel Levy, executive director of the Systems Building Research Alliance via (212) 496-0900X14 or elevy@research-alliance.org
III.
What’s Really Happening Throughout the MHIndustry & LLCommunity real estate asset class these days? Next week, 13 – 15 July, in Washington, DC., MHI will host its annual Summer Meeting & Legislative session, also the National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division. Second meeting of the CONSORTIUM of Print & Online Trade Publications will occur at that time, along with a planning meeting for the previously announced Grand ‘Once & For All’ Tour of seven regions during 2010 & 2011. Contact Thayer Long @ (703) 558-0678 for MHI/NCC details.
Week of 23 August 2010? If in Chicago at the time, and a LLCommunity owner/operator, plan to attend a networking dinner for LLCommunity execs, a two day Finance (Chattel) Finance Seminar, the one day Manufactured Housing Manager (‘MHM’) professional property management training and certification seminar. For info call (317) 346-7156.
And, 15 – 17 September, plan to be in Phoenix, AZ., for the 19th annual International Networking Roundtable event, featuring Community Series Homes (‘CSH’) on display; dozens of LLCommunities ‘for sale’ around the U.S.; Randy Rowe, of Green Courte Partners, as leadoff keynote presenter, along with 20 additional educational and panel discussion offerings! For a brochure and or to register as a LLCommunity owner/operator or event sponsor, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.
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George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®Emeritus, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247