Archive for January, 2011

This Weekly Blog Draws Much Response; Here’re YOUR RESPONSES…

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

This Weekly Blog Draws Much Traffic; YOUR RESPONSES to…

High Site Rent, an Intellectually Honest Debate, the S.A.F.E. Act & My Sayonara!

(Note. Don’t miss reading the final paragraph of this blog; it contains a Special Deal for purchase of the 50+ page, 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT! Maybe only time offered..)

If anyone told me two years ago, when I started blogging, electronic media would become a rich and ready forum for discourse among friends and associates throughout the MHIndustry and landlease community asset class, I wouldn’t have believed them. But that’s what has occurred. I pen this 125th consecutive weekly blog, knowing we’ll receive a dozen or so thoughtful and oft provocative responses by this time next week. And that number doesn’t include plenteous email messages that arrive daily, addressing a wide variety of industry/asset class matters. Yes, the community-investor.com website has become the intellectual and communication oasis for manufactured housing executives and landlease community owners/operators nationwide. Here’s a sampling of typical daily and weekly commentary…

I.

The ‘No NSAC – III caucus in February’ announcement attracted a flood of response – but of a totally unexpected nature! I’d been hearing, for some time, peer angst regarding ‘too high homesite rents’, at some or many properties owned/operated by mega – sized LLCommunity portfolio owners/operators. Here’s a sampling of those blog responses:

• “As far as the secondary focus on high rent (at postponed NSAC – III caucus) is concerned, it may just end up (being) a bitch session. However, I would like to hear from the offenders: ______________, ______________, and ___________, as to what their strategy is? Specifically, in the _________________market, their LLCommunities are emptying – out, yet they’ve just raised the rent another $25 per month! They don’t take care of them (the properties) anymore; (homeowner) residents have no equity; they (the owners/operators) pay extravagant incentives to move people in; and then, residents can’t afford to keep up their homes and pay the high rent. I simply don’t see the strategy, if there is one.” D (edited. GFA)

• Responding to the two reasons I gave for not having NSAC – III (i.e. “…largest portfolio ‘players’ have programs in place and eschew distraction” & “Thanks to the federal S.A.F.E. Act and variegated state implementation thereof, most everyone else favors a ‘Wait & See’ attitude, before doing anything.”), one blog flogger (reader) opined: “Don’t believe the reasons you’ve been given! The MHIndustry is paralyzed by fear of anyone learning what steps have been contemplated and taken, to keep their present jobs – at the expense of the balance sheet; and, contrary to any reasonable understanding of the true cost of ‘buying occupancy’ in marketplaces where new homes cannot be sold, except at great loss…” P (edited. GFA) Whew! Do ya think maybe ‘site rent is too high in those marketplaces’?

Keep the dialogue going! Anyone care to ‘splain’ the strategy of having market – leading rental homesite rent when a LLCommunity’s physical occupancy is 80% and dropping?

II.

‘Encouragement for a national, Intellectually Honest Debate about what’s brought the noble HUD Code MHIndustry to its’ knees, then brainstormning what it might take to get it back on its’ feet again’, continues to show up on our PC, laptop and netbook screens. For example:

“The need for an industry wide national forum for discussion, and (formulation of) action plans is as obvious as the 12 year slide from nearly four hundred thousand new HUD Code homes shipped annually, to the 49,000 level we’ve been stuck at for the past two years! This would be an appropriate and timely meeting theme and focus for small, mid and large – sized businesses alike.” K Are our elected and salaried leaders at MHI, the NCC, MHARR, and ULI’s MHCC listening? If you’re a member, tell ‘em!

III.

S.A.F.E. Act related commentary seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Here’s one LLCommunity owner/operator who plans to ‘carry his coals to Newcastle’ next time MHI’s National Communities Council (‘NCC’) meets. After talking about the various home finance alternatives relative to the S.A.F.E. Act, and state implementation thereof, he/she goes on to observe: “One of the problems with the NCC, is the age – old difference in priorities, operation, etc., between large and small (LLCommunity) operators. Everyone is inclined to think the big guys know it all. When in fact, most execs have never been in the trenches, and there are 25 – 50 ‘little guys’ in our asset class for every one of them! Too bad the NCC continues to be dominated by a few big guys….” R`

IV.

“I’m still having a hard time with thinking about you not being involved in this business. I know you need a life, and I do too, but it’s hard to ‘cut bait’, as the saying goes. I too am assessing my options, as a LLCommunity owner, which is hard to do when I’m so busy with day – to – day business demands. So I understand what you mean.” N

Let me say, it’s still early in the process of finding new home(s) for the work products and services we’ve created and grown ‘together’ during the past three decades. I’m cautiously optimistic all will work out in the end, hopefully before December 2011. My ‘ideal’ outcome is pretty well known, if you’ve been reading recent blog postings here, and articles in the Allen Letter professional journal. My worst case scenario however, is not to have found a capable, industry experienced, motivated national successor(s); then having to decide whether to continue in trace another year or two or three; or, as the writer quoted in the previous paragraph puts it, simply ‘cut bait’. Hopefully neither of the last two options will come to pass. In the meantime, know there’s been lively interest to date, in the assets of GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing; with two ‘intents’ expressed, one firm written offer received to date, and face – to – face meetings scheduled and effected. You seriously interested? Contact Susan McCarty, during working hours, using a not – blocked phone @ (317) 889-6465 & request a Confidentiality Agreement to sign, the first step in participating in the process.

V.

The 50+ page, 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT has been flying out our door! Initial print run of 300 is more than half gone one month after the report’s initial release1 There is no plan for a second printing. So, if YOU want a copy of what could well be the last ALLEN REPORT researched and published for the LLCommunity asset class, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156 right away. While the cover price is $450.00/copy (postpaid), there’s a Special Deal available for the 137 LLCommunity portfolio owners/operators listed in this year’s edition; as well as for those who donated funds in 2010, to partially cover the cost of researching and preparing this year’s report! The Special Deal? Only $250.00/copy, and if you’re not already a paid subscriber to the popular Allen Letter professional journal, a new ‘free’ one year subscription, to the newsletter, will be included in that amount as well! GFA

VI.

Speaking of the Allen Letter professional journal. In light of the seriously faux ‘Top 100 List’ published this month, in the only other print trade publication serving the MHIndustry, and as businessmen or women requiring accurate (Not firms long gone!) and timely (Not portfolio stats five years old!) information, begin your paid subscription ($134.95/year for 12 monthly issues) to the Allen Letter professional journal TODAY! Use contact information in the previous (‘V’) paragraph. Credit Card Orders Welcome.

***

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

You Won’t Read Any of What Follows, Anywhere Else in the MHIndustry!

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

You Won’t Read Any of What Follows, Anywhere Else in the MHIndustry!

I.

No NSAC – III next month in Florida! Despite an announcement in the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT – first distributed at the rejuvenated Louisville MHShow in Kentucky last week, the ‘National State of the Asset Class caucus III, (will not meet) to refine the 2nd of Randy Rowe’s Five Points’: Need for more chattel financing sources!

Why not? Sent a ‘test the waters’ mailing to 50 landlease community owners/operators actively engaged in seller – financing of new and resale home transactions on – site, who also happen to be on the asset class’ Exclusive 200 name ‘Insiders List’ – and received but five responses, or 10%. When I phone – polled them, and others, identified two reasons for NOT convening YET: First, the largest portfolio ‘players’ have programs in place and eschew distraction, for the time being. Second, Thanks to the federal S.A.F.E. Act and variegated state implementation thereof, ‘most everyone else’ favor Wait & See attitudes, before doing anything. So, we’ll wait awhile.

Interestingly however, every sole proprietor and small portfolio owner/operator I polled, made it a point to say they support a separate NSAC caucus, that’d elevate the earlier stated secondary focus of ‘too high homesite rent rates’- on the part of some mega portfolio firms, to primary focus! Now, that was a surprise – or was it?

In the meantime, if you can’t or don’t want to wait for the ‘chattel finance regulatory debris to settle’, before moving ahead with a self – finance program of your own, here’re the only five MHIndustry resources available to you today:

• Buy a copy of Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer for $25.00, via (317) 346-7156

• Attend Ken Rishel’s Chattel Finance Workshop (217) 971-3968 & read newsletter

• Ask Dick Ernst about CU Factory – Built Housing’s new program (972) 503-3201

• See Matt Kerlin (800) 955-0021 for info on 21st Mortgage Corporation’s program

• Use ‘Ah Ha! & Uh Oh! worksheet to calculate ‘affordable’ & ‘risky’ housing ‘price points’ in any local U.S. housing market. (317) 346-7156.

Furthermore, plan to attend the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (‘MHI’) National Communities Council FORUM, the day before this year’s MHCongress, in Las Vegas. Why? Entire program focus, this time around – in April 2011, is on property owner self – finance of new and resale home sales transactions within LLCommunities! For information, contact Thayer Long @ (703) 558-0678.

II.

An Intellectually Honest Debate, within and throughout the manufactured housing industry. There’s no way this is going to play out in the online communication blogosphere. Oh, it’s tempting to try, for sure….just read the quoted blog responses following. No, intellectually honest debate occurs best, when and where primary parties are face – to – face, then properly schooled and guided throughout the debate process. Such a timely and much needed forum could occur at a future meeting of the industry’s de facto Think Tank (i.e. Urban Land Institute’s MHCC) – if that wasn’t such a ‘closed society’ forum. Another possibility would be a One Hour Open Discussion, during a future Manufactured Housing Institute meeting – if internal and industry segment power politics could be kept at bay. The MHCongress is ‘out of the question’, as it’s more a trade show than ‘guiding light’; and, the International Networking Roundtable plays only to the landlease (nee manufactured home) community asset class needs. Would YOU patronize a national intellectually honest debate if one was planned this Summer? To express your opinion(s), respond directly to this blog posting or via the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

Here’re recent responses to previous blog postings on this and related topics:

“Too bad, too sad for (home) manufacturers. So many are already gone, and those left need to awaken their imaginations and intelligence. Yes, I know, that assumes (the survivors) have the intelligence and willingness to identify and get out into the (local housing) markets.” N
versus

“…I think it’s unfair to say ‘We (HUD Code home manufacturers) Don’t Get It!’, because not all the houses at the (Louisville) show were low end models built for communities. That is clearly an important market we are working to better serve, with low price points. But it isn’t only about communities.” K (lightly edited for length)

See what I mean? This is an honest intellectual debate waiting to happen! And most likely, it will not occur! For example; here’re just a couple debate parameters:

• All housing is local housing market specific, per climate, demographics, zoning, & LLCommunity occupancy. What will sell in one locale, won’t sell elsewhere!

• Which point(s) of view to embrace? Be an affordable housing purveyor advocate or ‘Bigger Box = Bigger Bucks!’? Housing contractor or street MHRetailer only?

What can YOU DO, if YOU AGREE the manufactured housing industry, and it’s elected leaders, should be engaging in honest intellectual debate regarding our collective future as this nation’s premier source of affordable, non – subsidized, quality, energy efficient, transportable, attractive, quality housing? Whether you’re an active dues – paying member of one or both national advocacy bodies, and or one or more state associations, let them know how YOU FEEL about this timely, increasingly strategic (Because the future of our industry and asset class may indeed be ‘on the line here!’) matter. Will YOU PARTICIPATE if a national honest intellectual debate occurs? Thought so….

III.

Affordable housing & housing affordability still a bugaboo almost everywhere one looks and reads these days. What follows is quoted from the January/February issue of the Institute of Real Estate Management’s prestigious Journal of Property Management, page # 8:

“Affordable housing in Florida is going green…and gold. The $33 million townhouse development called East Village will target very low and low – income families earning between $15,000 and $49,500 annually in Davie, Florida. Monthly rents at the 155 unit complex will start at $416. Average unit size will be more than 1,000 square feet. Amenities will include a community lake surrounded by walking paths, a swimming pool, children’s splash fountain, exercise facility, playground/tot lot, library and computer lab.” Whew! Who wouldn’t want to live there?

OK, here’s ‘the rub #1’. While there are several formulae and measures of housing affordability*1, the most commonly recognized ones include:

• 30% Housing Expense Factor or HEF
• Housing Opportunity Index or HOI
• Housing Wage or HW

In the HEF instance, this means folk who’re earning $15,000/year annual gross income or AGI, will be expected to pay no more than $375.00/month rent – for their rental housing to be considered ‘affordable’. Well, that’s $41.00/month less than the ‘starting rent’ of $416.00, or a net difference (shortfall – unless subsidized) of $492.00/year. Who’s making up that difference? And while it’s unlikely all 155 units will be rented by $15,000/year AGI folk; if that was the case, it’d be a $56,580 annual shortfall in overall rental income. However, mix in some – or many, $49,500/year AGI folk, paying 30% HEF @ $1,238.00/month, as the appropriately compensating balancing factor. Wonder what happens if and when these ‘opposite ends of the affordability extreme’ get to talking to one another about their respective ‘affordable’ monthly rent rates or $375.00 and $1,238.00, for the same sized apartment unit? And then there’s the question as to who’s really footing the bill to make all this happen.

Hence, in this tight raw land development finance market, here’s ‘the rub # 2’. This 155 unit, $33,000,000.00 townhouse development, pencils out to $212,903.00 per ‘affordable’ unit! Wanna know where all this ‘affordable housing’ money comes from? “Funding for the project stems from federal stimulus funds, Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) equity, a Town of Davie SHIP Loan, a Broward County HOME Loan and conventional financing from Citi Community Capital.”

Bottom line? Affordable housing and or housing affordability can, and oft does, mean whatever one wants it to mean! ‘Affordable’ has become the hackneyed catchall term of choice throughout the housing industry; brashly preempted on one hand, by the low income housing folk; and, irretrievably fuzzied by land and housing developers looking to curry favor with political shelterforce activists, on their way to securing quasi – public funding their next project.

***

End Note.

1. HOUSING AFFORDOGRAPHY, ‘Study of Affordable Housing Formulae & Measures of Housing Affordability’, George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®Emeritus, MHM., PMN Publishing, Franklin, IN., June 2008.

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

What YOU Missed, & HUD Mfrs Still Don’t Get It!

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

What YOU Missed at the Louisville Manufactured Housing Show

&

HUD Code Home Manufacturers Still ‘Don’t Get It!’

I.

1,000+/- attendees visited more than two dozen new homes (Mostly indoors, but with three FEMA units outdoors) & 82 supplier exhibits, during the 2 ½ day rejuvenated Louisville Manufactured Housing Show! KUDOS to Show Ways’ Dennis Hill for planning and facilitating the improbable: A New Manufactured Housing Show with a Landlease Community ‘Spin’ to the Program, if not the homes themselves – but more on this point in part II of this blog posting.

More proof of the emerging ‘popularity and profitability of landlease (nee manufactured home) communities’ lies in the asset class’ increased level of participation in this traditional mid – January manufactured housing show, up from 10% in years past, to more than 20% this year! And this, sans participation by most large Midwest property portfolio owners/operators, identified in the just released 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT! Why absent? Probably because they’re routinely buying new manufactured homes in bulk – in one case via a bidding process, built to their specifications; so, probably feel they don’t need to see what’s on display in ‘Luavul’. This time around, who could blame them? – again, more on this point in part II of this blog posting.

Veteran Midwest Manufactured Housing Show attendees remember it was anathema, in years past, to schedule any activity that’d take attendees ‘off the display floor’ during the day. After all, folk (i.e. MHRetailers) were there to buy homes, not necessarily to ‘learn how to do so better’. Well, this year was 180 degrees different. Four pithy, one hour programs, were planned to attract LLCommunity aficionados, and attract them they did – Thanks to online efforts of MHMSM.com (ezine), Ken Rishel’s Chattel Finance Newsletter, this blog, and the Allen Letter professional journal, which comprise the, new in 2010, Print & Online Publishers’ CONSORTIUM. Result? An average of 40+ LLCommunity owners/operators attended each of the following sessions:

• Don Westphal prepared a Power Point Presentation describing the genesis, and present day manifestation, of Community Series Homes or ‘CSH’. These are new lines of HUD Code manufactured, and modular, homes that’re Affordable, Adaptable, and Attractive! They’re often singlesection in configuration, with 3BR2B and an open floor plan featuring some sort of ‘WOW’ factor. Most have shutters on windows, vaulted ceilings, asphalt shingled roofs, and linoleum in kitchens, utility area and at the front door. They also have 40 gallon hotwater heaters, 200 amp service, wood cabinetry, and non – plastic sinks and tubs. And best of all, CSH homes are competitively priced! If you’d like a list of the CSH specialist Business Development Managers (‘BDM’), assigned to ‘talk the talk & walk the walk’ of LLCommunity infill, using manufactured homes, see End Note # 1. To reach Don Westphal, phone (248) 651-5518.

• Ken Rishel of Ken Rishel Consulting delivered a comprehensive overview of ‘captive finance’, a.k.a. or (property owner) self – financing of new and resale transactions effected on – site in LLCommunities. Far too many details and timely advice to describe here, so sign up for his FREE, aforementioned online newsletter by phoning (217) 971-3968. While you’re at it, ask for the firm’s CD on how to prepare for and comply with the new Red Flag program! Plus, if you don’t have a copy of the 100 page Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer, for helpful information on chattel financing, see End Note # 1. Cost? Only $25.00 postpaid.

• ‘Setting Affordable & Risky Price Points for New & Resale Manufactured Homes, Sited Within & Outside Landlease Communities, in any Local Housing Market in the U.S., using AGI & AMI, & HEF guidelines’ was the first LLCommunity – focused seminar in the afternoon. If you’d like free copies of the seminar outline and ‘Ah Ha! & Uh Oh!’ worksheet, see End Note # 1.

• Tony Kovach and his team of marketing specialists, introduced the day’s largest audience, of more than 60 LLCommunity owners/operators, to the exciting new world of online marketing, of new and resale homes, via web site design, blogging, social networks, and much much more. For a copy of that Power Point Presentation, phone the firm at (847) 730-3692.

Heavy snow throughout most of the nation (At one point, 49 states had ‘snow on the ground’) surely affected Louisville MHShow attendance. But now is the time to purpose to attend the January 2012 event! And if you want to input the program composition, talk to Dennis Hill at Show Ways.

II.

So, just how many Community Series Homes were on display at this year’s rejuvenated Louisville MHShow? Oh, two, maybe five, possibly seven, depending on how one ‘counts’. Apparently, only one HUD Code manufacturer, of the six exhibiting at this year’s event, ‘gets it’. Get’s what? That LLCommunities have been, for the past several years – and continue to be, major purchasers of new HUD Code manufactured homes, for on – site infill, ‘marketing, selling & self – financing, when necessary, to get the ground rent meter running!’ But you wouldn’t know that, when viewing the behemoth, tricked – out, multisection homes on display at this year’s Louisville MHShow. Oh, they were certainly ‘pretty enough’, even impressive, but totally out of sync with what most of the couple hundred LLCommunity folk were looking to buy at the beginning of year 2011! Close to a dozen LLCommunity owners, ‘would be homebuyers’, came by the GFA Management, Inc., booth to complain, ‘There’s nothing here at the show for me to purchase for our property!’

Performed an informal survey on Thursday at the Louisville MHShow. Wanted to identify how many of the 29 known BDMs were present to ‘sell product’ to LLCommunity owners/operators; how many CSHs were indeed on display; and, inquire how manufacturers taught wholesale home purchasers (i.e. MHRetailers & LLCommunity owners) to calculate selling price points, for their homes, when marketed in various local housing markets, where Area Median Incomes (‘AMI’) vary widely.

BDM presence. There were three: Walt Comer & Chris Miller from Adventure Homes of Garrett, Indiana; and, Brian Cira of Harmony Homes in Nappanee, IN. But, by the time I was done with the survey, several more were formally added to the BDM roll: Joe Kimmel of Champion (Northeast), Wade Lyall of Champion (South), Jim Justice of Champion (West), and Nathan Kimpel with Manufactured Housing Enterprises, Inc., out of Bryan, OH. These four new BDMs will be added to the next update of that widely referenced resource. Again, see End Note # 1.

CSH presence. Adventure Homes had two Community Series Homes on display. One was 28X44, the other a 14X72 model home. Harmony Homes had larger homes on display, 28X64 & 16X80, both a tad bit large for many, if not most, LLCommunities. And it’s questionable whether the three FEMA homes exhibited outdoors in front of the convention center, should be labeled as CSH models. Size wise they certainly are, but interior features are not akin to specifications listed earlier in this blog posting. Bottom line? Two for sure, maybe four, perhaps seven CSH models among the 25 HUD Code and modular homes on display at this year’s Louisville MHShow.

Price Points. Let’s not even ‘go there’, this time around. It’s clear to this industry observer, present day home manufacturers have little sensitivity to what square footage and features will sell, based on AMI and Annual Gross Income (‘AGI’) in different housing markets throughout their targeted geographic regions.

Bottom line? This year’s Louisville MHShow demonstrated how HUD Code home manufacturers continue to design and fabricate homes to interest land developers focused on scattered (owned fee simple) site and subdivision placement, i.e. The Big 4 B Formula, where ‘Bigger Box = Bigger Bucks’, rather than return to their historic roots and creatively address the affordable housing needs of the greater part of this nation’s citizenry, especially during these times when both conventional real estate and chattel (personal property) financing is so difficult to obtain. Hence the headline: ‘HUD Code Home Manufacturers Still ‘Don’t Get It!’’

III.

22nd annual ALLEN REPORT debuts! Allen Letter professional journal subscribers, for the last time, received a FREE copy of the annual ALLEN REPORT. The now 50+ page compendium of landlease community information, statistics, trends, listing of major portfolio players, and much much more, retails for $450.00/copy. Copies, at the Louisville MHShow, however, sold at a Special Price of only $250.00. And given this was a very limited print run, the remaining 100 copies will likely not last long. So, if YOU want a copy of this seminal document, maybe the last edition that’ll be published, ORDER your copy today! Blog readers can purchase the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT, this week only (January 17 thru 21, 2011) for the above referenced show price of only $250.00. See end note # 1 to order.

IV.

Ouch! Some blog ‘floggers’ (readers) responded strongly to last week’s title: ‘A Call for (more than one) Honest Intellectual Debate’ – within and throughout the HUD Code manufactured housing industry! Gonna let that one lie (percolate?) awhile, to see if more commentary arrives. If so, we’ll pursue the matter further. In the meantime, here’s but a taste of what’s already in hand: “In order to have ‘honest’ debate, we must start with ‘honest’ individuals.” K And this challenge: “The HUD Code problem: ‘How Can We Make Chattel Financing Survivable for Average Lenders?’ L ‘Hmm. What a choice place to start an Honest Intellectual Debate. Anyone else out there a – pondering?

***
End Notes.

1. To order offered items, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156.

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

Aa Call for Honest Intellectual Debate, & We’ll Rue the day we ignored The CAMPAIGN!

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

A Call for (more than one) Honest Intellectual Debate,
&
‘Yes, we’ll surely rue the day we ignored The CAMPAIGN!’

I.

In the least likely of places, I found a quote that, in my mind, describes the current state of affairs at both the top level of manufactured housing advocacy, lobbying, and leadership in Washington, DC; and, among landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners nationwide. Here’re the first two paragraphs from a book review, penned by Bruce Edward Walker, describing economist Thomas Sowell’s book Intellectuals and Society…

“Arguments about ideas are the bread and butter of the academic, journalism and think tank worlds. That is as it should be. Honest intellectual debate benefits any society where its practice is allowed. The key element is honesty.”

“Today, someone is always looking to take out the fastest gun, and in the battles over the hearts and minds of the public, many weapons are brought to bear. Unfortunately, and too often, among the artillery deployed by both sides in an argument are rhetorical deception, misleading statistics, and an air of authority, which can immediately bury facts in the Boot Hill of honest debate.” *1

Well, there you have it; the absence of honest intellectual debate, almost anywhere – anytime, characterizes HUD Code manufactured housing as a whole. Yes, 100+/- of us convene thrice yearly, to ruminate one business perspective, relative to challenges affecting our industry; we do so almost always, without any input from ‘the opposing side’ within our HUD Code family; but often with input from federal regulators. This absence of honest intellectual debate needs to end, if we hope to break free of the severe business malaise gripping us today! And frankly, this ain’t gonna happen when a few executive committee types, oft steeped in ‘political correctness’, from both sides of the industry caucus; unless, they’re charismatic, successful (in their own right) businessmen or women leaders who can debate to amenable resolution, then rally optimism and support to move everyone up and out of today’s ‘dead’ business environment. Such honest intellectual debate hasn’t occurred to date!

This absence of honest intellectual debate ‘hit home’ again, this past week, as I unsuccessfully attempted to organize a formal press conference at the upcoming Louisville Manufactured Home Show. It occurred to me, every member of the Print & Online Trade Media CONSORTIUM, plus The Journal’s publisher, would be in town for this resuscitated event. And with leaders and spokespersons, from national and state manufactured housing associations present as well, why not arrange for press interviews with them? An ideal opportunity for advocacy and trade bodies to ‘tell their story’, then lay out their respective programs for 2011! Well, the idea, following a flurry of email messages, never got off the ground.

Why? Let’s just say; the lack of an aggressive and inquiring trade press, during the past decade or so, has ‘aided and abetted’ the aforementioned absence of honest intellectual debate, giving some spokespersons comfort, when penning newsletters and monthly columns, little concern for consequences of possible ‘rhetorical deception, misleading statistics’, even their ‘air of authority’. For example; here’s one very telling response to the press conference request: “…the time for press conferences, briefings and other forms of intra – industry political forums has long ago passed.” Really? Who sez? He sez! That speaks volumes about one spokesperson’s view of communication.

Who’s to blame? On one hand, the decimated, but now slowly reemerging national trade press, needs to do a better job at being aggressive, inquisitive, and forthcoming, this time around. Hopefully we won’t have to resort to muckraking, but we should be quick to identify rhetorical deception and misleading statistics in material we quote, or clear for publication – and just as quick to comment on same, when observed in print and online elsewhere, especially in biased blast email messages. On the other hand, what’s so difficult, about setting aside an hour or two, during future national and regional trade gatherings, to encourage honest intellectual debate about the very matters that are restraining our ability to engage in the housing trade? Think about it; and if you agree our industry could stand more honest intellectual debate, let your state and national, elected and salaried, leaders know of ideas and challenges worthy of such attention!

Speaking of future national trade gatherings, there’s still a strong possibility LLCommunity owners/operators, from throughout the U.S., will gather in Florida during February for a third National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus. This time the dual focus might be 1) property owner self – financing of on – site sales of new and resale homes, and ramifications of methodology and compliance issues; and, 2) landlease community homesite rental rate avarice versus protecting homeowner’s housing value on – site; two timely topics worthy of honest intellectual debate. The question is, whether these heady topics can be adequately covered during a 1 ½ day caucus. What do you think? LLCommunity owners, ensure your invitation to NSAC – III caucus, by phoning (317) 346-7156, to have your contact information put on the 200 name NSAC caucus ‘Insider List’.

II.

I love when blog floggers (readers) correspond with me, and forward material supportive of what’s been posted, as well as inspiration for new directions to research and blog. Here’re a couple recent commentaries per postings about The CAMPAIGN…

“My comment. I wonder if the political and leadership powers that be (in the MHIndustry) are sleeping or living in denial. In the MHBusiness, we are the result today of decisions made 6 – 18 months ago, depending on the (industry segment) arena in which we try to succeed. Without action NOW, we are destined to decline for many more months and years. Perhaps we should, once again, offer the belly – windows to those executives. It is time to act!” NB commenting on woeful lack of national leadership attention to The CAMPAIGN – a regional image improvement, housing product showcase opportunity, generally in partnership between Big Box Retailers across the U.S. and exemplary local landlease community owners/operators and MHRetailers. For more information email ahaven@creativehavenmedia.com or phone (856) 702-6063.

Veteran home sales personnel trainer Grayson Schwepfinger, commenting on The CAMPAIGN made this wise suggestion, to ensure only exemplary LLCommunities and MHRetailers actively participate: “…prospects would be completely turned off, after viewing a TV commercial, then visiting a retailer whose location looked like a junkyard, with homes poorly displayed, dirty, and only partially set up. In order to overcome this problem, we developed copyrighted signage to be placed in front of the home sales location, and used in their advertising. Then we ended all commercials with this line: ‘To see quality homes, visit a retailer displaying this sign!’ Accomplished two things: Since we didn’t give permission to use this signage, to a retailer unless his/her location passed our scrutiny, they cleaned up their locations! And, retailers had to pay a monthly fee to the state association while the commercials were running. We enjoyed 90% participation among retailers in the TV station market areas involved in this promotion!”*2

III.

A couple weeks ago, in an earlier blog posting, we described – but didn’t name New Lions, picking up property portfolio leadership slack, as their predecessors have “retired…expired…forced from leadership roles, and…moving on to other interests outside manufactured housing and LLCommunity milieus.” Little did we expect one of the most popular, and increasingly high profile New Lions to depart so soon and abruptly. Greg O’Berry, successor to recently retired Barry McCabe, of Hometown America, resigned on 3 January 2011. Perhaps we should name the other New Lions in an upcoming blog posting…

***

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

End Notes.

1. Action Institute’s Religion & Liberty newsletter, p.9.
2. Contact Schwep via (610) 533-4969

Affordable Housing Hell; 5 Part Plan to Save MH; & 22nd ALLEN REPORT is ready for YOU!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Affordable Housing Hell; Randy Rowe’s Five Part Plan;
& ‘ Do YOU have the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT?

When I started blogging for the now defunct Manufactured Home Merchandiser mag,

(Like billboards picturing former President George W. Bush asking, ‘Do You Miss Me Yet?’, I wonder if you feel similarly about that magazine? I sure do.),

I doubted there’d be enough fresh, interesting and compelling information to support this blog, Allen Letter professional journal and the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! newsletter. Boy, was I naive. That’s why this weekly posting contains at least two, three, sometimes four, short stories. And this week is no different. Chalk it up to lively reader response; a Five Part Market Share Recovery Plan worthy of attention & discussion among manufactured housing peers nationwide; and well, if YOU haven’t read the 50+ page, 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT, a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among Landlease Community Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America (in 2011)!’ you should get hold of one of the ‘only 300 copies printed’!

I.

Someone else has figured out how we, as a society, housing industry and nation, have gotten ourselves into ‘affordable housing hell’. What’s that? It’s that too common phenomenon (until recently) characterized by homebuyers, builders, and lenders encouraging would be mortgagors (i.e.‘The party who borrows the money and gives the mortgage.’) to frequently and greatly exceed the traditional 25 percent Housing Expense Factor (‘HEF’), intended to not overburden a homebuyer’s income stream. In last week’s blog posting we ‘splained’ how this 25 percent limit, when ‘fully loaded’ with principal, interest, taxes, insurance (a.k.a. ‘PITI’), and household utility expenses, but not telecommunication charges, allows for the modest, reasonable, even affordable purchase of a new or resale home. BUT, when homebuyers, builders, and lenders encourage a sale and mortgage transaction in which only P&I factors are included in the 25 percent HEF, while facilitating the ‘risky’ purchase of a much larger abode, greatly burdens the mortgagor with T&I factors, plus household utility expenses, but not telecommunication charges, above and beyond the mortgage payment. That’s ‘affordable housing hell’ – when and where we find 40 and 50 percent HEFs now decried by all sorts of ‘affordable housing’ folk, who not long ago, loudly extolled the virtue of ‘Everyone a homeowner!’

Here’s what one blog flogger (reader) – that ‘someone’ alluded to at the beginning of the previous paragraph, penned in response to last week’s blog on this timely and troubling topic.

“I wonder if this ‘duality of affordability’ (Reread previous paragraph) has been precipitated by the propensity of Generation Y to, ‘Have what my parents have NOW!’? *1 We raised our kids on the 25% factor (inclusive of PITI & utilities). Our daughter and her husband both work, yet struggle to fit their family of five into a home being paid for in accords with that 25% factor. Same with our son and his wife of two years, living in a house bought six years ago, again in accords with that same 25% factor.”

“Results? In both cases, George, they’ve followed the 25% guideline, and yes, endured difficulty at times, but now have equity and a home! Many of their friends and acquaintances, however, have lost homes, been bankrupted, or are barely scraping by with little prospect of making any headway in their lives financially. Both kids, at times, have coveted what a friend may have, that seems like ‘so much more’ (home). I’ve asked them to wait, and they do. Both now understand what ‘looks too good to be true, is probably not true, or affordable for them’.”

“So, is housing affordability really a question about what’s truly affordable; OR, is it really a question of self – discipline, and an understanding one cannot have all one wants to have now, and that one is not ‘entitled’ to anything? Perhaps this is a hard lesson our entire country needs to relearn, including greedy home manufacturers, street retailers, (chattel) lenders, even some manufactured home community owners.” (lightly edited)

II.

Those long active in the manufactured housing industry and landlease (nee manufactured home) community real estate asset class, have learned to look to certain individuals, some in dominant roles, others not; for information, guidance, and leadership.

As a veteran landlease community (‘LLCommunity’) owner/operator, consultant and author, I see myself in the information purveyor role, via this weekly blog, two monthly newsletters, occasional features or columns in various realty and manufactured housing trade publications, and books.*2

Randy Rowe, founder and chairman of Green Courte Partners in Lake Forest, IL., and teamed with David Lentz, heading American Land Lease in Florida, is one of those individuals who, in my opinion, while eschewing high profile leadership roles in some national trade bodies, is frequently looked to for wise and timely guidance, by his peers.

Leadership? We’ll turn to that tricky but also timely subject shortly and carefully.

This past Fall, at the 19th annual International Networking Roundtable in Phoenix, AZ., Randy Rowe keynoted a gathering of nearly 200 LLCommunity owners/operators from throughout the U.S. During his address, he shared a Five Part Market Share Recovery Plan for the Manufactured Housing Industry and Landlease Community Asset Class. Since that time, the gist of Randy’s ‘plan’ has appeared online and as a print reprint enclosed, as a lagniappe, with the Allen Letter professional journal, & elsewhere.

But ‘Here’s the rub!’ Not only were some of this industry and asset class’ top elected and salaried leaders in the room, when Randy articulated our timely and critical needs for

• Better manufacturer home warranties

• More chattel (personal property) financing sources

• Ensuring economic security of homebuyer/site lessees (residents)

• Multiple listing service(s) access

• National marketing (image improvement) efforts

at least one national trade advocacy body meeting has occurred since that September event, and this challenging, forward – thinking Five Part Market Share Recovery Plan was not on the agenda!

So, here we have a seasoned businessman, with ‘two feet in both business models’ or the industry/asset class, well known for his previous successes at ELS, Inc. (nee MHC, Inc.) & Hometown America, but whose Five Part strategy (A form of guidance) has not been given an airing on the broader, national scale, encompassing both major segments of our ‘double dual industry’.*3 Why do you suppose this is the case?

That’s where leadership returns to this word picture. Life’s too short, to verbally or otherwise, tear down what’s already in place, unless another life is at stake – but even then, often only the courageous will act. Besides, I’m a believer in the bromide, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!’ OK so far?

With that said, the HUD Code manufactured housing industry has been dying (dead?) for the past decade or (now) longer. While there have been some short – lived initiatives to understand, then reposition, ourselves in the housing marketplace (Think New Orleans several years ago, and the national leadership changes & retirements since then), we’ve also been a victim of economic circumstances. Anything of this leadership nature since? Not that I’ve experienced, at any of the broad – based national venues (Thinking MHCongresses and annual meetings). Closest attempts to such ‘taking control of one’s destiny’ have been two National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucuses, on 2/27/08 in Tampa, FL. & 2/27/09 in Elkhart, IN., when LLCommunity owners/operators and leaders convened. And this past Summer, there was a First National Manufactured Housing Finance Roundtable, hosted by a U.S. Senator and HUD executive, that came ‘close’ to what needs to be done. Following a morning long meeting of presentations and open discussion, during which the GSE’s represented there, made it clear they wanted nothing to do with the manufactured housing industry ‘going forward’ – What happened? The meeting ended at Noon! In this observer’s opinion, leaders should have announced the Roundtable would continue into the afternoon, open to any businessmen and women passionately concerned about the future of chattel finance in the MHIndustry! That did not happen. And do we even want to get into what some have termed the Arkansas & Texas initiative that materialized in June, popped up again in October, and now what?

So, here’s the question two successful NSAC caucuses, an unsuccessful Finance Roundtable, and questionable AR/TX initiative beg to have answered: ‘Why can’t present day industry/asset class leadership call for a national gathering of individuals with, as has oft been stated in the past, ‘with skin in the game’ to meet, articulate, and agree on a plan and a path out of this sorry state of affairs? Where to begin? With Randy Rowe’s Five Part Market Share Recovery Plan for the MHIndustry & LLCommunity Asset Class’! For a free reprint of Randy’s presentation at the aforementioned Networking Roundtable, simply phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156.

III.

This blog was penned and edited during the last week of December. On Wednesday, I turned in the final edited copy of the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT to pre – press, pursuant to printing and binding, for initial distribution with the January 2011 issue of the Allen Letter professional journal. Present subscribers to the newsletter are in for a real treat! As has been past practice, they receive (For the last time, sad to say) a FREE copy of what’s now a 50+ page 5 ½” x 8 ½’ booklet, chock full of timely, strategic information, helpful statistics, and a whole lot more resources, in more than a half dozen appendices! This is a limited press run of 300 copies, and once they’re gone, it’s unlikely there’ll be any more. So, if an AL subscriber, look forward to your late holiday present! If not an AL subscriber, there’ll be about 100 copies left, after the AL distribution, available for $450.00 apiece, post paid. To order now, phone either of the two numbers listed at the end of the previous paragraph.

Why these major changes to the ALLEN REPORT format and pricing? Read last couple weeks of blog postings at this website.

A word of caution. Every page of this year’s ALLEN REPORT clearly states this is a legally copyrighted document, from beginning to end, and must not be copied under any circumstances, without the express written permission of the author. Please honor this request! GFA

IV.

ERRATA. Know that the Day of (three) Seminars focused on landlease community operations, home sales, and self – finance matters, at the Louisville MHShow, will be held on 12 January, not the date published earlier in this blog. Sorry ‘bout the misunderstanding.

Furthermore, 3 – 7 January is your last opportunity to sign – up for the one day Manufactured Housing Manager (‘MHM’) professional property management training and certification program, to be held on 11 January, in the vicinity of the Kentucky State Fair Grounds in Louisville, KY. To register, phone (317) 346-7156. Cost? $250.00 per MHM candidate. Very Special Offer: If you register, attend and become certified as an MHM at this particular 1/12/2011 class, you’ll receive a copy of the aforementioned $450.00 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT at no extra cost – or for FREE! What a deal!

And on 13 January, at the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ed Hicks will be teaching a day long seminar on the FHA 207(m) program. To register, phone (813) 661-5301.
***
End Notes.

1. Generation Y, a.k.a. Echo/Millennial Generation, born between 1981 & 2000 – sometimes called part of the WE Generation (1978 – 2000) oft characterized by the phrases ‘Instant gratification’ and ‘Earn to spend!’ to describe their mindsets and actions.

2. Owners/operators. Once a year, I like to remind my readers that David Helfand, of Helix Fund, American Residential Communities (‘ARC’), and Riverside Communities, based in Chicago, IL., is the originator of that inclusive term for those who ‘own’ and those who ‘operate’ LLCommunities in North America.

3. Double dual industry. A proprietary term describing HUD Code home manufacturing & distribution (i.e. retail sales), on one hand; and landlease community development & investment (i.e. to include property management), on the other hand.

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