Archive for July, 2011

‘What I’ve Waited 33 Years to Say!’

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

‘What I’ve Waited 33 Years to Say!’

(George Allen’s RV/MH Hall of Fame Induction Remarks, 1 August 2011, at RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Museum & Library, in Elkhart, Indiana)

I.

Like the haircut? Two weeks ago, as Carolyn and I prepared to join our daughter Susan and her husband Drew, at their son Travis’ graduation from USMC boot camp in San Diego, CA., I decided to make an effort to look like the retired Marine Colonel I am, at least from the shoulders up, by getting a ‘high and tight’ military style haircut! What you see tonight is two weeks of gray fuzz growing back.

As I begin my remarks this evening, upon induction into the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s prestigious Hall of Fame, I’ll keep that salient old ‘3 – Bs Rule of Public Speaking’ in mind; that is, to Be Brief, to Be Sincere, & to Be Seated! So first, some Brief and Sincere Thank You’s, followed by a few cherished memories…

I’ll start by expressing heartfelt gratitude to Carolyn, my wife and companion these past 48 years that we’ve been parents, grandparents, business partners, and now, great grandparents together! She deserves this induction honor as much, perhaps more so, than me, given what she’s had to put up with over the years.

And personal appreciation to John Rogosich, fellow Certified Property Manager and landlease community consultant, for nominating me for induction into our industry’s prestigious RV/MH Hall of Fame.

In like manner, I’m especially grateful to the many landlease community owners and operators, throughout the U.S. and Canada, I count as friends, clients, and associates – especially those gathered here tonight – for encouraging me, and supporting our firm’s work, in their behalf, these past 30 plus years!

Last but hardly least, a sincere and hearty ‘Thank You’ to three men who’ve never met.

Rollin Jackson launched my professional property management career, when he hired me as a regional apartment manager 33 years ago; then shortly thereafter, reassigned me to manage four large but troubled ‘mobile home parks’ he and his brothers owned in Indiana and Kentucky. In some ways, that two year ‘baptism by fire’ property management experience was similar to going into combat for the first time in Vietnam – only this time, no one got killed. And it taught me ‘the business’ well, setting the stage for my future as a real estate investor, property management consultant, and author.

Randy Rowe; good personal friend, long time encourager, industry trend spotter, and faithful supporter of our firm’s research and resources pertaining to landlease communities. Manufactured housing industry aficionados and landlease community owners, for the most part don’t know it, but they owe Randy Rowe one major debt of gratitude, for ensuring the impetus of this realty asset class’ body of knowledge, and the effective national advocacy it enjoys today!

Ed Clayton, certified Manufactured Housing Manager, our best and only landlease community manager, for my business partner and me, during these past 25 years! Ed manages our property ‘like he owns it’, and has become a friend, in addition to being a key employee.

Read much more about each of these outstanding individuals in the Dedication section of my new book, on sale at the RV/MH Hall of Fame*1, or from PMN Publishing*2, titled:

Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing, PMN Publishing, Indianapolis, IN., 2011.

As I bring these induction remarks to a close, I want to share a few brief pivotal points in my life…

Meeting and falling in love with Carolyn, at Eastern Baptist College, now Eastern University, in 1963. She looked really good then, even better today! I’d gone there to become a pastor, but obviously took a big detour. However, my faith as a Christian has under girded most of my personal relationships, our family life, as well as my business, writing, and military careers.

Next, stepping alive and whole, back onto U.S. soil in 1969, following a an exciting, demanding and traumatic 13 month combat tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam, as a U.S. Marine engineer officer and company commander. That day, first in California and then in Philadelphia, was at the same time, a profoundly sobering and exhilarating experience I will never ever forget!

Memories of the births of daughter Susan and son Adam; and in time, their spouses and six children coming into our family, and now two great grandchildren, Hunter and Peyton. How very blessed we’ve been and continue to be!

My business partner and I buying our first ‘mobile home park’ in the early 1980s with $500,000 in borrowed cash, then selling it two years later for five times that amount. Exciting? You bet it was!

Writing and self – publishing my first book Mobile Home Park Management, way back in 1988 was a novel experience; then authoring and editing nine more books since then…

And, frankly, being here tonight, amidst friends and associates from throughout the MH & RV Industries. And certainly not to forget my brother Mark, another retired Colonel, who flew in from Cape May, New Jersey, to share this memorable evening with us.

Thank You All!, as I now deliver on that ‘third B’ and ‘Be Seated!’ GFA

NOTE to blog floggers (‘readers’): Probably too late for you to register to attend this
1 August 2011 gala affair, but ‘just in case’, phone either number listed in End Note # 1, and head towards Elkhart, IN!

II.

My Take on the Matter….

Earlier this month I was asked, by a consulting client, to summarize circumstances I believe deleveraged the manufactured housing industry enroute to the miserable shape it’s in today; and, what landlease community owners may have done, in my opinion, to screw up their own business model. I’ll begin with the (edited) paragraphs I penned, in response to that request; then conclude with a column paragraph published in the July issue of The Journal – followed by commentary.

“In my opinion, the Catch – 22 situation in which manufactured housing and landlease communities find themselves today, has two starting points.*3 The first, and not necessarily sequential event, occurred in the mid to late 1990s, when – as part of the property inventory consolidation trend – several new real estate investment trusts (‘REIT’s) chased Wall Street stock analyst expectations, and eventually pronouncements, that landlease (nee manufactured home) communities were indeed ‘growth stock performers’, NOI – wise.*4 But NOT! That’s when rampant (operating) cost cutting and rent increases began, soon spreading to some large, privately – owned property portfolios; and eventually, leading to the dire consequences (i.e. dropping occupancy and profitability) we see today, as more and more landlease communities suffer forbearance and or foreclosure proceedings.

At the same time if not before, HUD Code home manufacturers ‘seduced themselves’ into competing head – to – head with production site builders, in search of greater market share and profits; you know, the cash flow siren song of ‘bigger box = bigger bucks’. This business model shift, was for awhile, characterized by the now defunct ‘land – home package’ realty/home sales trend, and the eventual disappearance of 90 percent of independent MHRetailers nationwide. This latter phenom, likely due to too few sources of third party chattel finance for home sale transactions – another sad tale; plus, the gobbling – up of independent retail sales centers by cash flush manufacturers requiring more ‘company stores’, to overload local housing markets with inventory glut. Together, this absence of chattel finance sources and disappearance of MHRetailers, marked the near end of building and selling smaller ‘affordable’ singlesection (nee singlewide) and multisection (nee doublewide) manufactured homes for marketing and sale into landlease communities – the very business model that facilitated 1972’s 575,940 ‘mobile home’ shipments, and the industry’s too brief renascence in1998, when 372,843 new manufactured homes were shipped. Today, the manufactured housing industry ships but 50,000+/- new homes per year – in 2008, 2009, 2010, even fewer (likely) during 2011, given year to date performance.” GFA

Then there’s this one sentence summary paragraph, on different yes, but tangentially – related topics, from a column, penned by Danny Ghorbani, and published in The Journal (July 2011), and titled:

‘Saving Independent Retailers and Communities’:

“In MHARR’s view, retailers and community – based entities face a clear choice – continued dysfunction and decline, or a change to a new national level industry representation structure to lead the industry back to real prosperity.” Huh?

Most blog ‘floggers’ are business savvy and critical observers of all things manufactured housing and landlease community wise. So let’s parse what’s opined here. First, lumping MHRetailers and landlease community owners/operators together is a big mistake. They’re significantly different business models, hailing from different major segments of the manufactured housing industry and landlease community real estate asset class duo; MHRetailers are akin to the MHIndustry; and landlease community folk to real estate development and investment. Sure, there’s crossover – or at least there was (Reread the opening paragraphs of part II of this blog posting), a decade or so ago. Today? Many, if not most landlease community owners/operators, particularly property portfolio ‘players’, have become on – site MHRetailers by default; but much different from ‘street dealers’ of years past.

Continued dysfunction and decline? Dysfunction? Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, & How? – the ‘Four Ws & H of basic trade and secular journalism’. No really illuminating answers provided in this paragraph or column! And decline? Sure, especially among MHRetailers; again, 90 percent of them are gone, some bought – out by HUD Code home manufacturers, others now contractors, but most ‘out of business’. And LLCommunity folk? In terms of national physical occupancy, yes, we’re slipping. BUT, show me a LLCommunity owner who didn’t overpay for his/her property acquisition (i.e. Didn’t ‘buy on the come’, as in ‘rent increases to come’ – that never did!), and or has paid down their mortgage, and I’ll show you a generally healthy business model that’s frequently selling, even self – financing new and resale homes on – site, to ‘get the rent meter’ a – running and to keep it running. How much so? Just among the 500+/- known portfolio owners/operators of this unique income – producing property type, $3.5 billion by the end of 2009, and in increase to $5.2 billion by year end 2010, according to the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT. And these 500+/- ‘players’ control but only 15 percent of the national inventory of landlease communities! Surprised? You wouldn’t be, if your get your hands on an ALLEN REPORT every January….

So, with such flawed writing, and lack of justified logic, in the referenced summary paragraph and column, we’re to run off willy nilly to ‘create or change to a new national level industry representation structure’? I think not – at least not until a far better case is made for considering doing so! And enhancing association executive job security should not be part of making that particular case.

But the columnist’s flailings do raise this larger question: Are the manufactured housing industry and landlease community asset class ‘matters’, described in the earlier paragraphs of Part II of this blog posting, exacerbated, unaffected, or resolved, by dint of ‘us’ suffering the consequences of the perennial rivalry between national advocacy bodies in Washington, DC., and Arlington, VA? Are the ‘attacker’, a.k.a. the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) and the ‘ignore the bully – some say watchdog – and he’ll go away’ Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’) loyalists really serving our collective business needs in the best possible way and to the greatest degree possible today? My answer? No!

Is/are there practical answer(s) to this dilemma, stalemate, conflict, rivalry? Whatever it is, it’s going to have to be Solomonesque, for sure. We’ve been down this ‘attempted unity’ road before, several times; and every time, unsuccessfully. The alternatives? Leave well enough alone – believing ‘Conflict (as in competition) is good for the soul, if not business’ (In our case, ‘our conflict’ allows federal legislators to ‘divide & conquer us’, so to speak, when it comes to our effectively confronting onerous legislation – like what’s on the Congressional horizon at present!); or, Combine the divergent cultures into one new entity (‘Do I hear screaming in the background?’); Reorganize into two distinct halves or major segments, based on business type (e.g.manufacturers/distribution & realty development/investment), but under one banner; or, (‘Shutter the thought!’) Start over completely! What say YOU? Me? I’ve already said enough for more than one day, one posting.

Danny got this conversation started (again); how ‘bout if we attempt to embellish or finish it? Let me know your thoughts by phone (317/346-7156), email (gfa7156@aol.com) or letter: GFA c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247.

III.

In case you don’t know it, October Hell continues to Heat Up! How so? We’re now up to 11 MHIndustry events scheduled during the month of October 2011, and I’m told there’re more a – coming. Whew! For a complete list of these trade events, read the August issue of the Allen Letter professional journal! Order by phoning the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. Only $134.95 for a 12 month subscription; or, $250.00 for said subscription plus a copy of the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among Landlease Community Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’). And while you’re at it, if not already registered for the Triple Anniversary International Networking Roundtable, occurring 14 – 16 September 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort Hotel on the West edge of San Antonio, TX., do so soon! Why? We’re ‘more than halfway’ to our limit that can attend. Really hope to see YOU there!

IV.

Likely more details next week. But if you want to be the first on your block to own an advance copy of my newest book, debuts on 1 August 2011, at the aforementioned RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, here’s the title, price, and ordering instructions:

Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing, George Allen, PMN Publishing, Franklin, IN., 2011. 88 pages.

There’re names, incidents, information, stats, and more in this book, you’ll refer to in seriousness and jest, for years to come. I’m finally penning material I’ve long wanted to publish. For example, and in addition to this soon release, later in August, PMN Publishing will sell my new writer’s reference booklet, titled Figurative Language & Figures of Speech. Now that was fun to finally put together.

Price of the Landlease Communities…book? Only $24.95 postpaid. See end note # 2 below. Wait till 3 August to phone though, or leave a message if calling sooner.

***

End Notes.

1. RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN. (800) 378-8694 & (574) 293-2344

2. PMN Publishing in Franklin, IN. (317) 346-7156. Book $24.95, including shipping and handling; $19.95 without shipping and handling fee.

3. Catch – 22 is a satirical, historical novel by Joseph Heller, first published in 1961, and set during latter days of WWII. The phrase ‘Catch – 22’ is oft used to describe ‘no – win’ and or ‘lose – lose’ situations or propositions where a person or entity indeed has choices, but no one choice leads to a net gain; a.k.a. ‘Darned if I do, Damned if I don’t.’

4. NOI = Net Operating Income, i.e. Gross (rent) receipts less operating expenses, but not debt service or mortgage payments.

George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM®Master
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &

Too Late or Not Too Late? Part II, maybe even III

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Too Late or Not Too Late? Part II, maybe III.

“These rent, income, and demographic trends are staring the (manufactured housing) industry in the face, and are tremendous cause for optimism – it is great to see you calling that out.”
&
“Your challenge in paragraph four (of blog # 148, on 10 July 2011) is well stated, and I will be interested to see who the takers are.”

***
These are two of the shorter, but typical responses, to paragraph IV of the above – referenced blog posting, that began with these words: “OK, enough ‘reading between the lines’ for the time being. Let’s talk internal politics for awhile.”

All we’re suggesting then and here, in consecutive blog postings, is there’re two, maybe three, opportunities this Fall and Winter, to get a handle on the present day circumstances of the (1) landlease community asset class and (2) manufactured housing industry, by collectively discussing, debating, brainstorming, and planning our very future, by dint of ‘How to Save the Manufactured Housing Industry!’

Here’re the two, maybe three opportunities, in some detail:

I.

Triple Anniversary International Networking Roundtable.

This event occurs 14 – 16 September in San Antonio, TX. Be present to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’), 20th consecutive annual International Networking Roundtable, and 15th year of MHI’s National Communities Council division! In addition to nearly two dozen presenters and panels covering timely and cutting edge landlease community – related topics, there’ll be dozens of landlease communities showcased ‘for sale’, ten interpersonal networking events, and plenty of opportunities for deal – making. The final session of this year’s Roundtable will be your opportunity to help chart the future of the landlease (nee manufactured home) community asset class, relative to statistics research and publication, print and online communication among portfolio owners/operators, professional property management training and certification, as well as the continuation of a dozen or more Signature Series Resource Documents (‘SSRD’s) used by landlease community owners/operators throughout North America. For information, visit this website, or place an email (gfa7156@aol.com) or telephone request (MHIndustry HOTLINE: 877/MFD-HSNG or 633-4764) today. Attendance limited to 200 registrants.

Manufactured Housing Institute’s annual meeting.

This event occurs 2 – 4 October in Phoenix, AZ. Agenda? Following is taken directly from an email message to members, dated 18 July: “Annual Meeting to continue work on MHI’s priority areas: Financial Regulatory Implementation and Overhaul; S.A.F.E. Act Implementation; GSE Reform and Government’s Role in Housing; Tax Reform and Energy Issues.” Nary a word about any priority relative to reversing the present shipment nadir bedeviling the manufactured housing industry.

Same communiqué goes on to say: “It takes the collective experience and ideas from all members to achieve the highest level of success with these very important issues. Your involvement in the Annual Meeting is essential to the industry’s commitment to growth.” OK, I can buy into all that; but frankly, why not after the word ‘success’, say/write ‘in rejuvenating the marketing, sales and production germane to HUD Code manufactured housing!’ In a word, so to speak, if MHI isn’t going to take steps to ‘Save the manufactured housing industry!’, who is? Your response to this expose’?

And if you own/operate landlease communities in the U.S., for sure plan to attend the regular meeting of MHI’s National Communities Council division during this time frame! The NCC is ‘the national forum’ where, in this industry observer’s opinion, the national grassroots effort to ‘Save the Manufactured Housing Industry!’ should begin.
For more information, visit manufacturedhousing.org or phone (703) 558-0678. And while you’re at it, if a landlease community owner/operator, and not a direct, dues – paying member of MHI’s NCC division, do so – by phoning Lisa Brechtel @ (703) 558-0666. Tell her ‘George sent me!’

Third National State of the Asset Class caucus.

This event is not scheduled at this time, but will likely occur during January or February 2012, somewhere in Florida, preferably on – site in a large landlease community – to lend ambiance to efforts to ‘Save the Manufactured Housing Industry!’

There’s ‘two for two’ success precedent to having a third National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus. While many manufactured housing aficionados are well aware of what occurred on 2/27/08 & 2/27/09, it’s worth taking a moment and two short paragraphs to summarize proceedings:

• 100+/- landlease community owners/operators, from throughout the U.S. convened at the FountainView (all adult or retirement) landlease community in Tampa, FL. Result? Agreement on five ‘suggestions, strategies, and or action areas’: 1) Importance of effective and ongoing political influence, and landlease community advocacy at local, state and national levels; 2) Getting the word out! Timely dual need for a national manufactured housing ad campaign and productive local housing market – tailored promotions; 3) Value Proposition. Ensure a fair interplay of housing product pricing, financing and value, with site rental and more; 4) Measure Customer Satisfaction via resident relations indicators, volume of home sales and site leasing referrals, and degree of tenant retention! 5) Financing and servicing of new and resale home transactions on – site, and financing of landlease communities per se. When one stops and thinks about it, all five areas have seen their share of trade press publicity, if not accompanying action, since first codified three and a half years ago!

• 100+/- HUD Code home manufacturers and landlease community portfolio owners/operators convened at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s new Hall of Fame, museum & library facility in Elkhart, IN. End result? For the first time in manufactured housing industry history, manufacturers and landlease community owners/operators engaged in open and spirited dialog regarding ‘What type homes the latter needed to fill vacant rental homesites’, and ‘What the former were willing to do to accommodate said needs’. It was as simple as that. Results? During the following twelve months, several manufacturers designed and built Community Series Homes (i.e. inexpensive singlesection & smaller multisection) – different from the Developer Series Homes (i.e. Bigger Box = Bigger Bucks homes shipped shortly before and after year 2000) for direct siting and sale within landlease communities. And a new job title and description emerged, that of Business Development Manager or BDMs – manufacturer personnel expected to ‘walk and talk’ landlease communities, to increase those firms’ market share!

Enter a third NSAC caucus. Whatever you read these days, in the trade press, there’s an increasing chorus, among journalists, publishers, and some state and national leaders, that something ‘big’ or at least ‘substantial’ needs to be done to get the manufactured housing industry back on track, in terms of annual new home shipment volume, or watch the industry continue its’ slide into eventual oblivion.

By year end, the future of landlease community research and resources should be secure, as a new national not for profit platform materializes to ensure little to no change in the products and services already enjoyed by landlease community owners/operators form coast to coast, and in Canada.

The remaining issue will be, as it is now – unless greatly addressed during MHI’s aforementioned meeting in early October, is how to ‘Save the Manufactured Housing Industry!’ And given the scope of this challenge, there’s no way progress will be achieved in just one day. Preliminary plans call for a two day affair, so if interested in participating, plan on that. And it’ll be, most likely, consecutive weekdays in the middle of a month.

What’ll be covered? What sort of agenda? Well, that’s where you, blog floggers (readers) come in. Approximately 400 manufactured housing and landlease community folk receive a BEBA (Blast Email Blog Alert) every Sunday – like the one you received announcing this posting! Sometime in mid or late October, if need be, we’ll likely send you a questionnaire, soliciting your input as to topics and format for the third NSAC caucus. In the meantime, at the 20th Networking Roundtable, and prior to MHI’s annual meeting, if you agree with the premise of this blog posting (i.e. Save the Manufactured Housing Industry!), let your thoughts and opinions be known to salaried and elected leaders alike! Now is not the time to be shy about what you think it’ll take to get our industry back on track.

An interesting sidebar has been popping up of late, ever since we coined the concept: MHActivist, a few blog postings ago. More than one responder has commented that individuals participating in the serious exercises suggested in this week’s posting should be ‘stakeholders’ (i.e. business owners), and that we take steps to ensure plenty of grassroots (as opposed to, as they put it, Astroturf) businessmen and women are given opportunity to comment and participate. Well, starting with this posting, here’s your opportunity….

***

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

Too Late or Not Too Late, Part I & more…

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Too Late or Not Too Late?

Meeting Hell (October 2011) Heats Up Even More!

Paper & Print versus Computers & Floppy Discs…

I.

Too Late or Not Too Late?

It’s too late for you to sign – up to attend this week’s (7/20) Manufactured Housing Manager® or MHM® class in Horsehead, New York.

It’s not too late for you, however, to participate in MHM® Classes being formed in Indianapolis, IN., and Chicago, IL. during the next few months.

&

It’s too late to Save the Manufactured Housing Industry!’ if you believe what’s been penned and published by more than one columnist, in one or another of the few remaining manufactured housing trade publications during July 2010.

But it’s not too late, however, to be part of an emerging grass roots national effort to ‘Save the Manufactured Housing Industry!’ How? For starters, read next week’s blog on the subject. Frankly, it’s taken extra time to sort through and organize the heavy, positive response to last week’s blog posting, introducing this very topic in the final paragraphs….

II.

Meeting Hell (October 2011) Heats Up Even More!

In the June 26th blog posting at this website, we described four national meetings scheduled to occur simultaneously throughout the month of October 2011. Well, during the past three weeks we’ve learned of no fewer than five more meetings, one national and four at the state level, also occurring during October 2011. Ready for this?

• October 2 – 4: MHI’s annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ. (703) 558-0678
• October 11 – 13: WMA’s (CA) annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV. ((916) 448-7002
• October 11 – 15: IREM’s Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. (312) 329-6000
• October 12 – 13: New York Housing Association’s meeting. (800) 721-4663
• October 16 – 18: London Computer’s ‘Rent Manager’ meeting. (513) 583-1482
• October 20: Massachusetts MHAssociation’s annual meeting.
• October 20, 2011. MHIS Fall meeting in Charleston, SC. (803) 771-9046X5
• October 25 – 28: Urban Land Institute & MHCC Meeting in CA. (727) 826-8868
• October 27 – 28: Arizona Housing Association’s convention. (480) 456-6530

Look for this already crowded meeting list to be lengthened during the next few weeks.

III.

Paper & Print versus Computers & Floppy discs…

The first book ever published was the Gutenberg Bible. Printed in the 1940s, 21 complete copies exist today; that’s 550 years after they were first published!

Are you or your firm into digital archiving, transferring records to digital storage? While a practice offering many benefits, and prevention of service setbacks like loss of records, know digital media will not last as long as printed matter. We’re already seeing the truth of that statement.

Think about it. Remember when floppy discs were new, indeed ‘floppy’ (Succeeded by rigid 3 ¾ X 3 ¾ plastic ones) and all the rage? Now you never see the truly floppy ones, and the rigid black-clear-white ones are rapidly disappearing from view, as more and more contemporary PCs appear on the market, without ports for them.

Gotta be asking yourself, ‘What’s to succeed CDs, DVDs, and flash and thumb drives during the next three to five year marketing cycle? What will you and your firm do with your digitized records then? Architects, doctors and hospitals (medical records repositories), law offices, financial firms, and government agencies are all asking this heady question – with no answers in sight! Already ‘historical records stored digitally, including recordings and documents relating to 9/11, have been ‘lost’ to this obsolescence creep.” Quoted from ‘Paper Never Forgets’, in Quick Printing magazine, 11/2010, p.13.

So, what’s a responsible businessman or woman to do? Until a ‘better answer’, long lasting solution comes along, we’re archiving these blog postings, short stories, newsletters, standard property management forms, and books, on ‘hard (print) copies’, to be stored in archival boxes. How ‘bout you?

*****

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

Reading Between the Lines!

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Reading Between the Lines!

‘There is an answer in here somewhere, for manufactured housing
& landlease (nee manufactured housing) communities!’

&

Don’t miss reading paragraph four (IV) of this blog posting!

I.

Several recent feature articles from four different business magazines, never once mention manufactured housing or landlease communities, but convey subtle messages applicable to our industry and asset class!

In ‘Homeownership Under Attack’, by Ken Trepeta, in June issue of RISMedia’s REAL ESTATE magazine, begins this way:

“…when you add up the various laws, proposed laws, regulations and proposed regulations, it is hard not to conclude homeownership is under attack. Regulators, legislators and members of the administration are proposing laws or changes affecting homeownership, acting as if their actions are being done in a vacuum. Many of the proposals, may even make partial sense when taken alone, but when taken as a whole, are devastating to homeownership and the housing industry.”

The writer describes provisions in the impending Dodd – Frank law that “… propose a Qualified Residential Mortgage (‘QRM’) requiring 20% or more in down payment for securitized loans…super strict debt – to – income ratios and credit standards that leave no margin, even for a single payment lost in the mail.” And a “…Qualified Mortgage (‘QM’) regulation (that) tightens credit standards even further, and has features that’ll cause one to question whether they can profitably lend money to anyone.” Sounding familiar yet?

Trepeta concludes “…it isn’t hard to conceive of a world where no one is willing to lend or securitize, except to a narrow group of consumers with perfect credit, W-2 income, no debt, and who can put more than 20% down. In 2010, according to National Association of Realtors data, that was only about 25% of home buyers.” Hmm. Where does this apparent ‘attack on homeownership’ leave landlease community owners/operators who, responding to the wholesale disappearance of MHRetailers (circa year 2000), have been marketing and selling new and resale homes on – site; and, when necessary, engaging in one or another form of self – finance, e.g. via ‘buy here – pay here’ & captive finance methodologies; or, most recently, lease options, and upon occasion, rental of manufactured homes as apartment units? Apparently we’re not in this morass alone.

II.

Then, in a short piece titled ‘Affordable Rents Shrink’, by Claire Easley, writing in Multifamily Executive magazine, we learn “Rental housing is home to 38 million U.S. households (according to National Low Income Housing Coalition or NLIHC).” While many rent by choice, numerous others find doing so, a matter of economic necessity.

With “The average renter wage in the U.S. estimated to be $13.52 per hour”, an amount short of what it takes to rent even a modest apartment, “the (large) number of renters spending more than 50% of their income on rent and utilities” demonstrates a severe and all time high cost burden, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (‘JCHS’) report: ‘America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, building on Opportunities”. Guess whether manufactured housing and or landlease communities are mentioned in that study, as a means of meeting said rental challenge, or an opportunity on which to build? Not.

Furthermore, “…just when it seems to be needed the most, the country’s rental stock is disappearing, with low – cost rentals faring the worst.” While here we sit, with a minimum of 250,000 vacant rental homesites in landlease communities throughout the U.S.! But then; to date, we can’t get more than a couple HUD Code home manufacturers truly motivated to fill these sites with affordable Community Series Homes! Go figure.

Geesh! This is indeed a timely opportunity to ‘get the word out’ about our industry and asset class. Last week’s blog described a precious few MHActivists presently afoot within manufactured housing and landlease community environs. Did I miss YOU, as an MHActivist? I hope so. And if so, write and let me know what YOU’re doing to position manufactured housing and landlease communities as viable answers to the aforementioned ‘attack on homeownership’, and in the immediately preceding paragraphs, a ‘practical means of meeting this nation’s rental challenge’!

III.

In the June issue of Multihousing Professional magazine, in an excerpt from a work penned by Carisa Chappel, multihousing (as in apartment and landlease communities) gets some attention. “The demand for multihousing continues to grow across the country, but one segment particularly under – served and attracting the attention of Fannie Mae, is the affordable housing market, according to the recently released White Paper: ‘Fannie Mae & Workforce Rental Housing’.”

‘Of the current 15.2 million rental units, only about 6.5 million are considered affordable housing for those earning less than half of their (local housing market’s) Area Median Income or AMI. The number of affordable units available for households earning less than 30 percent of AMI is significantly lower, at 2.4 million….” And, “Typically, 90 percent of Fannie Mae’s multifamily financing supports housing for renters earning at or below their region’s AMI.” Where do landlease communities fit in this mix? It’d be interesting to know. Perhaps I can find out before posting next week’s blog. Point? Once again – in this case – the multifamily housing rental market continues to move along, albeit not as well as in the past, with little to no sensitivity to the presence of landlease communities, and how many more bona fide ‘homeowners/rental homesite lessees’ might indeed play a greater role in addressing this housing shortage.

IV.

OK, enough ‘reading between the lines’ for the time being. Let’s talk internal politics for awhile.

Several blog postings ago, we challenged manufactured housing and landlease community leaders to caucus, in a public and grassroots manner; to, 1) get a handle on where we are today in the history of our industry/asset class; 2) ‘brainstorm’, or by whatever means works, articulate business plan(s) to invigorate housing production/distribution and property development/investment functions; and 3) commit to take necessary steps to get us off our 60 year, three years running (maybe four) nadir of 50,000 housing units shipped per year! Have YOU heard of any such plan of late? I haven’t. Is there an alternative? I believe there is, and it might, during the next few months, materialize in this fashion….

The 20th annual International Networking Roundtable (a.k.a. ‘Triple Anniversary Roundtable’, honoring MHI’s 75th birthday, Roundtable’s 20th session; and National Communities Council’s 15th year in operation!) will occur 14 – 16 September 2011, at the Hyatt Regency’s Hill Country Resort & Spa on the west edge of San Antonio, TX. Besides the 20+ presenters covering as many timely topics, there’ll be ample time for property and portfolio deal – making, as well as interpersonal networking. One of the most important things that’ll occur at this year’s event is scheduled for the final session on Friday: ‘What’s to become of the research & reporting, print & online communication, and property management education resources now enjoyed by 50,000+/- landlease community owners/operators nationwide?’ Registered to attend? We’re already approaching the midpoint of our 200 attendee limit, so don’t be left out. Register today! See contact information at the end of this blog posting.

A couple weeks later, from 2 – 4 October, at the beautiful Hilton Hotel Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix, AZ., MHI will host its’ annual meeting. They’ll soon be publishing an agenda. Watch to see if time is set aside for an industry/asset class wide caucus during or after this event; or whether mention is even made of a need for such a ‘coming together’ of industry /asset class stakeholders from all segments of the industry. If not; well….

There’s precedent for the convening of national caucuses among manufactured housing and landlease community aficionados! Remember the first National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus at FountainView Landlease Community in Tampa, FL., on 2/27/2009? Were YOU among the 100+/- landlease community owners/operators present that day, crafting a Five Step Program in effect to this day? And the following year, on 2/27/2010, just as many manufactured housing and landlease community folk convened in Elkhart, IN., at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Museum & Library facility, for the 2nd NSAC caucus. Were YOU present that day, when the Community Series Home concept was birthed, and dozens of Business Development Managers named to sell this new housing product to landlease community owners/operators?

Know what? There were preliminary plans for a 3rd NSAC caucus during February of this (2011) year, but these were put on hold when it was (wrongly) sensed our national elected and salaried leaders, at the time, would be carrying on that two year old initiative. Well, neither event happened!

This blog posting’s BEBA (Blast Email Blog Alert) now goes out to nearly 400 manufactured housing executives and landlease community owners/operators weekly. If you’re one of these blog floggers (readers), and believe a 3rd National State of the Asset Class should be scheduled, for the good and future of manufactured housing and the landlease community asset class, during February 2012, and probably in Florida – as Chicago can be a bit nasty, weatherwise, that time of year, let me know by phone: MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156, mail: GFA c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247; or email: gfa7156@aol.com If I receive a minimum of 50 sincere indications of support for the idea; planning a 3rd NSAC will begin during mid to late October 2011- at the same time the time a new research/resource team is compiling the 23rd annual ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among Landlease Community Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’), scheduled for publication 1 January 2012. What say YOU?

Want to be one of the stakeholders intent on preserving and rejuvenating manufactured housing and landlease communities into and beyond year 2012? If so, let me know ASAP!

***

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

ACTIVISTS, HACKTIVISTS, MHACTIVISTS

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

ACTIVISTS, HACKTIVISTS, MHACTIVISTS

The Manufactured Housing Industry Needs More MHActivists

&

Cellphone, Cable, Airline, and Manufactured Housing In Common

I.

“Traditionally, hacktivists will overwhelm a targeted website with nuisance requests, temporary cutting off access to the site. Sometimes they will deface the site’s home page.” Quoted from USA TODAY. So that’s a hacktivist.

“Hmm.” Kinda causes one to wonder if our own brand of MHActivist, buy with a positive, constructive agenda, afoot in the presently moribund world of HUD Code manufactured housing, might be ‘just what the doctor ordered’, since we’re not seeing much, in the way of remedial action, from almost anyone else, even among elected and salaried industry leaders these days. Simply reacting to the S.A.F.E. Act, and anticipated provisions of the Dodd-Frank bill, are not what’s being talked about here; rather, what it’s going to take; no, better yet, ‘What a few individuals are doing to get the manufactured housing industry back on track as this country’s preeminent supplier of truly affordable, quality housing for its’ citizenry!’

After all, a recently published study by a national Think Tank included ‘manufactured housing’ as one of ten dying industries in this country, right there along with the video rental business. Are we gonna take that perception ‘lying down’? For many, ‘Apparently so’; but for a few others?

There are indeed signs, albeit small and sometimes fleeting ones, that some MHActivists are starting to come out of the proverbial woodwork. Here’re a few I’ve been watching and documenting for awhile….

• A chattel finance service consultant (Wish I could tell you there’s more than one, but sadly, there isn’t!) who has been bold enough, during the past two years, to ‘lead the way’ teaching landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners/operators to self – finance home sales transactions on – site in their properties via, originally, buy ‘here – pay here’, and later ‘captive finance’ methodologies. Today, some of that momentum has shifted toward lease purchase (maybe spawning, finally, yet another finance service consultant), even the on – site rental of apartment (i.e. manufactured home) units – just like we did back in the late 1970s. In the meantime, however, this sole MHActivist has been willing to step out, and at least attempt to bring reason to multifaceted interpretations arising from aforementioned federal finance regulatory measures.

• Possibility of a new, national not for profit platform, to ensure continued research and resource needs, as well as communication, networking, and education requirements of landlease community owners/operators, will indeed be met and fulfilled during decades to come. Creating something new like this, out of whole cloth, in trying economic times is no mean fete. Here too, it takes MHActivism, of the first degree, along with cooperation and financial support from the target audience to be served.

• New wave of trade press media. Less than a decade ago, the manufactured housing industry was awash in monthly print publications. Today, there’re but two left, one advertiser – supported (Though publisher is attempting to wring subscriber dollars from decades long readers) and two subscriber – supported business newsletters. But the Good News is the manufactured housing industry is now well – served by a daily online news outlet (See MHMSM.com) or ezine, two financial service newsletters on line (one free and one subscriber – supported), and an independent, weekly blog posting at this website.

• Know what? There’s at least one manufactured housing sales MHActivist out and about these days. That’s right. One Business Development Manager (‘BDM’) out of the two dozen named in Elkhart, IN., at the second NSAC caucus (National State of the Asset Class) on 2/27/10. Today, that BDM is aggressively marketing Community Series Homes (‘CSH’) to landleasse community owners/operators throughout the U.S.! What’s sad about this example of MHActivism, is should be at least two dozen of them at work these days filling the estimated 250,000+/- vacant rental homesites in landlease communities throughout the U.S.

There’re indeed more MHActivists out and about these days, but are difficult to identify.

So, what are YOU doing, in the way of MHActivism, to ensure the continuation, even rejuvenation of the HUD Code manufactured housing industry; contrary to the death knell predicted by that aforementioned Think Tank? OR, are YOU simply ‘along for the ride’, and will just look for another job when this one runs out. Geesh! Hope that’s not the case!
II.

Cellphone, Cable, Airline & Manufactured Housing In Common

In another recent issue of USA TODAY, one editorial was titled: ‘Going over your limits? Cellphone companies don’t want to tell you’. Therein was a paragraph that, to me anyway, read spookedly like it was describing how our industry, the manufactured housing business, too oft relates to its’ homebuying customers:

“It’s hard to fathom why companies so dependent on public perception would take such an anticonsumer stance. Unless maybe, they’re taking advice from the cable or airline industries. Or unless making it easy for customers to exceed their limits is a lucrative part of their business models.”

Anticonsumer stance? In the case of cellphone companies, the editorial describes their general reluctance to provide “…a real time alert to customers when they get near their usage limits.” And, of course, with cable TV and the airline industry, these days, you’re more than tone deaf if unaware of their poor customer service practices – just read Consumer Reports magazine and take a flight somewhere (e.g. in the latter instance, unless you’re flying Southwest, two flyers –husband & wife – can expect to spend at least $100.00 in extra ‘baggage’ fees on just one round trip between two cities as nearby as Chicago and Indianapolis!)

Manufactured housing? We continue to struggle with safe and secure installation of our product, as well as immediate, reliable, and satisfactory customer service ‘after the sale’. Oh sure, there’re pockets of sterling performance, for varying periods of time – usually dependent on personnel attrition, that make us ‘feel good about ourselves’ as an industry; but the bottom line is ‘we’re not known, in a positive way – yet’ for how we treat our homebuying customers over the long run.

Hmm. Harkening back to part I of this week’s blog posting, here’s one more major area where the manufactured housing industry would certainly benefit from the presence and actions of more than one MHActivist! Might that person be YOU?

***

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