Archive for August, 2011

Independent ’street’ MHRetailers & in – Landlease Community Home Sales

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Independent Street MHRetailers & In – Landlease Community Home Sales

“Do YOU view them as ‘oil & water siblings, separated at birth – never the twain to meet’? Or as ‘one in the same, cut from the same cloth’, but NOW maybe ripe for sharing knowledge that sells homes, while eschewing nefarious ‘tricks of the trailer trade’? And finally, are they willing to embrace contemporary housing marketing and sales techniques, including the establishment of a functioning and accountable secondary manufactured housing resale market?” Edited introduction to last weeks blog posting.

I.

The above subtitle questions were last week’s BEBA (Blast Email Blog Alert) reader provocateur. And did we ever get responses! Here’s an outline based on the observations and commentary YOU sent us; then fleshed out in paragraphs to follow:

Independent street MHRetailers, ‘pro & con’ and recent (not past) trend(s)

In – landlease communities, are new and resale home sales & self – finance necessary evils to fill vacant rental homesites, and or a practical means of ‘adding value’, while complicating one’s disposition strategy and property’s refinance potential?

Consequences of increased federal and state financial regulatory control and supervision of MHRetailers & landlease community owners/operators engaged in self – finance of new and resale home sales transactions.

Still awaiting on a secondary market for resale homes!

Where to go from here, relative to manufactured housing marketing and sales training, communication, resources, and more?

II

Independent street MHRetailers, ‘pro & con’ and recent (not past) trend(s)

While not a documentable fact, many MHIndustry aficionados estimate we’ve lost 9/10ths of the independent street MHRetailers in business during manufactured housing’s most recent, albeit brief heyday, culminating in 1998 with 372,843 new HUD Code home shipments in the U.S. Why? Take your pick of reasons: chasing market share (Think ‘land & home packages’) head to head with stick builders; loss of independent third party chattel (personal property) financing for our homes; and, wholesale acquisition of independent salescenters by cash flush (at the time) HUD Code manufacturers (i.e. Converted to ‘company stores’) During the same period of time, per Danny Ghorbani of the MHARR, we’ve also seen 300 of 400 housing factories close.

PRO. Independent street MHRetailers “…are on the front line of battling business problems every day. They create all the jobs in this industry – for the manufacturers, lenders, suppliers and associations – not the other way around. (Some) have survived these last three years of financial turmoil, with most having been through several downturns over the last 40 years or more.” CC

CON. “Many, if not most, retailers (street dealers) are out of business because they ‘killed the goose that was laying the golden egg’ with their selfish, short – sighted financing shenanigans (i.e. down payment games, fraudulent credit applications and income – reporting antics) or because they couldn’t operate unless they locked the customer in their office to pressure them and keep them from buying elsewhere. What are LLCommunity owners to learn from people like that?” And “Even when lenders caught them, they really just got a slap on the wrist and a warning. Everyone was so concerned about volume and profit, no one thought about the long term consequences, which we are now suffering.” Latter quote (edited) per Jim Carmichael.

TREND. Most landlease community owners/operators, particularly portfolio ones, are convinced MHRetailers have forgotten how to market and sell new manufactured homes into their properties. As a result, the majority of larger LLCommunities, particularly property portfolio owners/operators, now routinely sell and often self – finance new and resale homes on – site. In the meantime, this question begs answer: Will independent street MHRetailers ever return in significant number? Most pundits say ‘Not until independent third party chattel finance returns in volume.’ Others just say ‘No.’ How ‘bout you?

III.

In – landlease communities, are new and resale home sales & self – finance methodologies necessary evils to fill vacant rental homesites, and or a practical means of ‘adding value’, while complicating one’s disposition strategy, and a property’s refinance potential?

PRO. Real estate broker Jim Carmichael penned the following lines a few years ago. Landlease community owners/operators “…must become dealers if they want to increase and control their occupancy levels. Just like a street retailer with a couple park models, sales people and service operations. The (business) model is that of a residential developer when they are building a new subdivision. The good news is you control tenant and housing quality. The bad news is the asset totally changes.”

CON. Hmm. “How does this change the asset class? Once you have a successful dealership in the community and vacancy is back to less than 5%, you decide to sell (the property). Instead of ‘many investors’ driving prices (up), there will only be a few players who can take on the complicated operations now part of the asset. The community (ground leases) will have a value, and the home sales (and finance) business(es), as well as ‘rental units’, all have different values. They are also totally interdependent on each other. So, potentially, a limited pool of buyers will dictate the market, thereby (maybe) driving prices down.”

TRENDS. For the majority of landlease communities (85% of the national inventory containing fewer than 100 rental homesites apiece) it’s ‘business as usual’, with the typical Mom & Pop owner/operator selling an occasional home, maybe carrying a personal note for the buyer, even renting a few units (apartments) from time to time. However, property portfolio owners/operators were quick to realize their very profitability, even their future, depended on their ability to effectively sell, and often self – finance new and resale mobile and manufactured homes, park model RVs, even modular homes on – site to fill rental homesites vacated by more than 250,000+/- repossessed homes circa year 2000. And by coincidence, it’s this same quarter million figure that’s estimated to be the number of vacant rental homesites in landlease communities in the U.S. today! So there’s a great deal of work to be done.

Result of all this? Today, according to past two years of ALLEN REPORTS, 500+/- known portfolio owners/operators landlease communities were carrying $3 ½ billion in chattel ‘paper’ by the end of 2009, and $5.2 billion by the end of 2010. What’s the total for this 2011? Read the 23rd annual ALLEN REPORT in January 2012, when it’s published as a Signature Series Resource Document enclosed with the Allen Letter professional journal. To ensure you receive a copy of that dynamic duo, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

In the midst of the above – described, on – site sales and self – finance reality, landlease community owners/operators took control of their future, by convening National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucuses in 2008 in Tampa, FL. (Where they agreed on Five Action Areas to guide future business efforts), and 2009 in Elkhart, IN., where they met, for the first time in manufactured housing history, with their home fabrication counterparts. There they agreed to new home design features, which led to the branding of Community Series Homes (in contrast with the Developer Series Homes of the late 1990s), marketed and sold by Business Development Managers (‘BDM’), a new job title for the manufacturing segment of the industry. For a description of the typical CSH product, contact Don Westphal @ (248) 651-5518.

IV.

Consequences of increased federal and state financial regulatory control and supervision of MHRetailers and landlease community owners/operators engaged in self – finance of new and resale home sales transactions

In the first instance, since there are far fewer independent street MHRetailers today than a decade ago; those surviving, some even thriving, have learned to adjust to increased financial regulatory overview – or, consider themselves ‘far enough below the radar’ of state and federal review to worry much about it.

Portfolio owners/operators of landlease communities however, are another story altogether. They have far more to lose, monetarily, if caught in violation of S.A.F.E. Act provisions in their state, or regulations pursuant to the Dodd – Frank bill. It’s been interesting to watch those actively engaged in self – finance on – site, segue from one methodology to another, during the past several years. Many started out using the classic ‘buy here – pay here’ approach, then shifted some of their mortgage servicing responsibility to others via ‘captive finance’. In the meantime, others ‘seeing the handwriting on the wall’ opted to ‘return to the 1970s business model’ and lease manufactured homes, as apartment units, on – site; and yet others have become firm believers in carefully worded and executed lease – options.

Is there a clear roadmap out there, for navigating this constantly changing financial regulatory scene? No. For example, read this rambling but illustrative passage from a veteran LLCommunity owner: “…the S.A.F.E. Act has put a great deal on us to do things right. Just because someone is doing ‘something’, doesn’t mean they’re doing it right, or others should copy what they’re doing. I’ve heard community owners say they continue to use Retail Installment Contracts or Promissory Notes to seller – finance manufactured homes, despite what the S.A.F.E. Act says, and assume they either won’t get caught or will only get their hand slapped if they do. I’ve heard others say they use lease – option contracts which provide for the tenant (buyer) to buy the manufactured home for $1.00 at the end of the lease – despite IRS ruling that the sales price must be approximately equal to the Fair Market Value of the asset at that time.” SR Go figure…

V.

Still awaiting a secondary market for resale homes!

If memory serves me right, the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’), under the leadership of Barry McCabe, before he retired, took a good hard look at this matter, at their annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, maybe five or more years ago. Well, we’re still waiting for a secondary market for resale homes to materialize, to take shape. Because, until that happens, we have no efficient, effective, intrastate and interstate home value preservation means of freeing up homeowner equity for them to buy their next new manufactured home from us!

What comprises a secondary market for resale homes? Well, part of the national marketing piece is already in place via MHVillage. Most landlease community owners/operators, as well as homeowner/site lessees, already are either somewhat familiar with the system, or use it regularly. Visit www.mhvillage.com or (800) 397-2158. But that’s but only the visible present day tip of a figurative iceberg that needs to materialize and float our way.

Multilist service. Though discriminatory denial of access to Realtor® mulitlist services has softened since a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, National Association of Realtors (‘NAR’) affiliated state and local realty boards have not ‘flung open their doors’, welcoming manufactured housing listings, including those in landlease communities.

Valuation. As long as federal government GSEs (government – sponsored enterprises), independent third party chattel lenders, and lending institutions continue to opt for ‘book (replacement) values’, in preference to estimating home values ascertained via market ‘comparable sales’, our unique, affordable, manufactured housing product, in and outside landlease communities, will continue to trend toward value depreciation, rather than appreciation or increase. Believe it.

Escrow closings. The sooner we treat our homebuyers/borrowers like folk buying/mortgaging site – built new and resale homes, the sooner HUD Code manufactured housing will be treated, across the board, like HOUSING per se.

Licensure. In most manufactured housing sales environments, this is a touchy subject. But it relates to the previous point. There’s little harm, rather a lot of positives, to educating ‘street’ and on – site sales staffs in the basics of real estate, along with state regulations. If YOU were a would – be manufactured housing purchaser, wouldn’t you feel a whole lot more confident meeting with and buying from a trained and licensed professional, rather than someone with less invested in your home buying experience?

VI.

Where to go from here, relative to manufactured housing marketing and sales training, communication, resources and more?

First; an attempt to answer the primary question posed in the subtitle of this week’s blog posting. Can we indeed bring independent street MHRetailers & in – landlease community home sales, as disparate but akin manufactured housing marketing and sales environments as they are, together to work as the much needed new team to effectively and fairly sell new and resale homes? I think so, if both sides are willing to learn ‘the good lessons’ from one another, even tips from housing ‘brethren’ outside factory – built housing circles. A couple cases, resources, and upcoming opportunities in point.

More than a decade ago, Hometown America recruited a top housing marketer from outside the HUD Code manufactured housing industry. He continues with the firm today, and is widely recognized as bringing conventional housing marketing and sales techniques to that firm, realizing unparalleled success along the way; methods now copied by other property portfolio owners/operators.

Note. If you’re a property portfolio owner/operator reading this blog posting, and wonder why I’m not citing your firm as an example here, it’s because I need to sit in on some of your sales training sessions, then Mystery Shop your landlease communities, to ensure you’re not only ‘talking the (sales) talk’, but ‘walking the (sales) talk’ as well. GFA @ (317) 346-7156. Professional Mystery Shopping of LLCommunities = $500.00 each.

Chris Nicely, longtime marketing executive with Clayton Homes, now an independent consultant, has released the first How To book in decades, describing means to effectively market and sell HUD Code manufactured homes in ‘street’ retail salescenters and on – site in landlease communities! It’s an e-book, titled Pillars of Promotion. In it Nicely describes “six proven tactics that will drive more qualified traffic and increase sales opportunities.” Price is $49.95, actually $10.00 less, if you’re a dues – paying member of any state or national manufactured housing trade association. To order, phone (865) 385-9675 or chrisnicely1@gmail.com

Another relatively new, but now widely used, tool for individuals marketing and selling new and resale homes of any type, is the ‘Ah Ha! & Uh Oh!’ Formulae. This single page worksheet is used by MHRetailers and LLCommunity owners/operators, to estimate maximum recommended ‘affordable’ & ‘risky’ purchase prices – as well as max mortgage amounts – for new and resale, privately – owned homes of any type, whether sited on realty owned fee simple with said home, or on a leased rental homesite within a landlease community! Seriously. Such a practical computational tool was not available to home manufacturers, MHRetailers, and landlease community salescenters before 2008. The procedure begins with either a prospective homebuyer or household’s Annual Gross Income (‘AGI’), or local housing market’s Area Median Income (‘AMI’) – latter ascertained by inputting one’s local housing market’s postal zip code at zipskinny.com For a FREE sample of this revolutionary form, phone the above – referenced MHIndustry HOTLINE today. Why is this form revolutionary? Using it, one never again has to rely on the advice of a manufactured housing factory marketing representative to suggest what home price points will sell in one’s present or intended local housing market; and, no more will salespersons accidentally ‘sell more house than their customer can afford’, based on their Annual Gross Income, or the local housing market’s Area Median Income.

Finally; for those reading this, who’re truly excited about the possibility of ushering in a new era of independent street MHRetailer & in – landlease community home sales cooperation, objectivity and professionalism, there’s a helpful and timely ‘bright light on the horizon’! A National Summit is being planned for 13 – 15 November, in Chicago, where top – notch, successful independent street MHRetailers and in – landlease community home sales pros, will be sharing their ‘insider secrets’ to sustaining home sales and maintaining profits during the past decade. The only way you’re going to get off ‘dead center’, to rejuvenate your MHRetail sales business model, whether street – oriented or in – community, is to network with, and learn from, marketing and sales pros and peers willing to share and discuss ‘what works’! Want more information on this first – ever national summit meeting opportunity? Contact Bill or Chad Carr of Rainmaker Consulting at (800) 336-0339. I plan to be present, how ‘bout you?

***

George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM® Master. Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247

Apartment Industry ‘Reinvents the Wheel’ of Good Fortune as it Imitates Factory – built Housing!

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Apartment Industry ‘Reinvents the Wheel’ of Good Fortune!

As ‘micro (apartment) units’ grab multifamily trade press news headlines, ‘park model RVs’, a.k.a. Accessory Dwelling Units (‘ADUs’) & ‘Granny Flats’ sit on the sideline waiting to be discovered by homebuyers & renters!

I.

Multifamily Executive magazine, in its’ August 2011 issue, ran an article titled, ‘How Low Can You Go?’, and subtitled: ‘With sustainability and affordability on the brain, multifamily developers are pushing (design) boundaries with radical new ideas in micro – unit construction’. P.34.

What’s a micro unit? Redefines ‘efficiency’ in efficiency apartments, where “…the loft – inspired, one – and two – bedroom units range in size from 270 to 425 square feet, complete with a kitchen and bath.” (&) “…two – bathroom (sic) apartment floor plans at a diminutive 764 square feet” in size.

But STOP! Don’t those descriptions also describe factory – built housing’s ‘park model RV’ product line, where loft – inspired, one bedroom units range in size from 300 to 375 square feet, complete with kitchenette and bath, (&) two bedroom units up to 400 square feet in size, complete with kitchen and bath? As an additional point of apt reference, the smallest singlesection HUD Code manufactured home, shipped by Cavco Industries, Inc., is only 500 square feet in size! Talk about ‘reinventing the wheel’.

Impetus for micro units? According to Daniel Gehman, a principal with California – based architecture and design firm TCA, “…micro units could see a renaissance in the rental market as construction activity heats up and developers look to pull yield out of ever – decreasing urban infill acreages.” Read ‘high density lifestyle’.

Hmm. Here’s the high density lifestyle tipping point between micro (apartment) units and park model RVs. Condo owners and apartment renters are forced to share halls, walls, floors, ceilings, and ambient noise with neighbors, in a bee – in – a – honeycomb existence; OR, as homeowner and lessee, enjoy freedom from neighbor proximity and intrusion, enjoy outdoor scenery through windows on all four sides of their home, and enjoy two means of egress, not just one!

Micro unit design goal? According to Michael Ytterberg, principal of Pennsylvania – based BLT Architects, “…amenities are becoming so critically important: The reality is everyone is being squeezed. But we certainly seem to be able to cram a hell of a lot into a small area that still feels commodious.” Really? One wonders if architect Michael has actually ever lived in a micro unit? If so, bet he’d soon prefer a similar – sized park model RV with two doors and windows on all four sides!

The generation factor. “…next – gen renters…embrace open – space design that allows for smaller kitchens without boxy cabinets and living spaces defined by function and furniture rather than the formality of walled – in boundaries, (and) such tiny living spaces A) are more affordable and B) create less carbon stress on the environment makes for an easier sell to prospects numbed by the McMansion culture….” And according to Rohit Arnold, a principal of the KTCY Group, “It’s suddenly cool again to have galley kitchens without any cabinets.” That might be true of Echo Boom renters, still single, but probably doesn’t ring true for retirees opting out of McMansions into park model RVs, with a car port and storage shed attached to one side and a screened – in porch on the other.

Interested in learning more about ‘park model RVs’, built to ANSI 119.5 code?
Phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, and request a list of RV manufacturers. For that matter, if you’d like a ‘free’ list of Business Development Managers (BDM’), who work for HUD Code home manufacturers producing specially – designed Community Series Homes (‘CSH’) for landlease (nee manufactured housing) community in – fill, especially on functionally obsolete rental homesites, call the same number or (317) 346-7156, and request a BDM list. On the reverse side of the BDM list is a description and picture of CSH a home. Furthermore, if you’d like to see and inspect a CSH ‘display home’ firsthand, attend the 20th annual International Networking Roundtable, 14 – 16 September, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, in San Antonio, TX.

II.

Speaking of the 20th annual International Networking Roundtable (‘INR’), registrations to date number many more than 100, in fact we’re closing in on our 200 person maximum! If you intend to participate this year, but haven’t registered, don’t delay. Complete the INR brochure attached to the BEBA (Blast Email Blog Alert) accompanying this blog posting, then email or fax (317/346-7156) it back to us TODAY.

What’s especially exciting is the number of landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners/operators who’ve signed – up that haven’t attended any previous Roundtable event. In addition, several state manufactured housing association executives, from across the U.S., have registered. Our hope is they’ll take some of the exciting and contemporary agenda topics back home with them, and plan New York Housing Association – like Super Symposiums during 2012, inviting some of our 20+ speakers to share their timely and oft critical messages with their members! For further information, phone (317) 346-7156.

*****
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.

‘Why I Belong!’, but Chafe @ Association Meetings…

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

‘Why I Belong!’, but Chafe All the Way to & from Association Meetings

&

‘Then There Were Twelve’ in October Meeting Hell!

&

‘Another New Book in Town, for Authors & Aspiring Writers!

I.

“When a large landlease community (portfolio) owner recently acquired one of our state’s trophy properties, the (on – site) manager was told their firm does not support state (manufactured housing) associations!” a state MHAssociation exec

&

“Gosh! Should have taken a swipe at (MHI’s) exorbitant ($500) registration fee (for annual meeting in October). Makes the (September) Roundtable look like a bargain basement event ($395).” An NCC member.

So read a couple remarks, about manufactured housing trade associations, gleaned from recent emails from by colleagues ‘in the business’. It’s been awhile since I’ve addressed the multifaceted, and sometimes controversial, topic of manufactured housing trade association support and performance.

Let’s begin with an article I penned 12 years ago, titled ‘Why I Belong…’ During the past dozen years, it’s been reprinted and distributed frequently, especially by state trade associations endeavoring to build their membership rolls. If you’d like a FREE copy, simply phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

The gist of ‘Why I Belong…’ is nearly two dozen features (i.e. Good reasons to join and participate in your state trade association!); which are in turn grouped into four areas of emphasis: activities, information, publications, and benefits.

Activities. Depending on the socio – political climate in one’s state at the time, the scope and priority of association activities swings from lobbying, legislative, and regulatory – related matters of the serious sort, all the way to the best of informal, interpersonal networking available anywhere in one’s local and regional housing market. But non – joiners, like those alluded to in the above opening quote of this blog posting, can be extraordinarily difficult to recruit off the bench to become team players, when their abilities, views, and personal/corporate chemistry are unknown. This handicap is critical when top performance is needed in those occasional business games (conflicts) having potential negative impact on everyone in the same line of business. So, what to do about these folk? Go visit them on their turf, or when they ‘come to town’ to visit their local business. But don’t do it alone. A contact team should be comprised of like business owners, at least one of which should be an association board member; and possibly the association exec, with membership application in hand. It works. Been there; done that!

Information. I find this grouping inseparable from aforementioned ‘activities’ and not yet described ‘publications’ aspects of manufactured housing trade association existence. During the past three decades I’ve interacted with most state trade bodies, and have yet to find one that does an even marginal job researching and publishing contemporary data and statistics demonstrating the economic impact of manufactured housing and landlease (nee manufactured home) communities on their respective state’s economic well being. Such ‘information’ directs and focuses an association’s activities (e.g. pro or con particular legislative initiatives, and aids membership recruiting), IF said association publishes online and print publications worthy of reading by members. For example, in 1998, the IMHA/RVIC prepared and distributed Indiana’s Recreational Vehicle & Manufactured Housing Industries, ‘An $8 Billion Building Block for Indiana’s Economic Success’. At the time, this brief but attractive and chart – filled report was impressive and helpful. Has it been updated since? No. And how ‘bout landlease community ‘stats’? It’s taken 30 years to build the body of knowledge we use now. What happens to all this when I retire during the next year or two? (Come to the Roundtable next month to learn of one alternative. GFA)

Publications. OK, I’ll admit it. This is a favorite personal hobby horse. Sure, print publications are more difficult and expensive to prepare, publish and distribute, than online versions. However; how many state manufactured housing trade associations have really ‘taken the time & made the effort’ to determine how much of their decline in membership, these past ten years, can be attributed to reduced communication in this admittedly difficult economic business climate? I don’t have a definitive answer to that challenge, but wish I did. Of this I am certain though; among landlease communities, large properties and portfolios are well suited to use electronic media. But, among the 85 percent majority of LLCommunities nationwide (i.e. Those with fewer than 100 rental homesites apiece), these generally eschew the ever – changing technological business equipment bandwagon, characterized by hardware obsolescence and ever – evolving software, aggravated by personnel attrition. Does your state MHAssociation still regularly publish a print publication? If not, it should it? And frankly, the sale of ads in any such publication not only offsets printing and mailing costs, but can put extra dollars into the association treasury as well.

Benefits. This one is all over the spectrum. Some state manufactured housing associations negotiate group access to insurance programs, express shipping services, travel planning agencies, and much more. Other state associations, particularly the smaller ones, simply don’t go there. Should they? In my opinion, Yes – but only services clearly desired by members, and once contracted, well – coordinated with a fresh and aggressive new member recruiting program. Otherwise, benefit programs have a tendency to lie unused on the shelf, just like tired association and board members. And, when you get right down to it, the aforementioned activities, information, and publication aspects of trade association activity are benefits as well! Where else can one go to ‘talk shop’ with one’s peers about the finer points of the manufactured housing and landlease community business? And information. Our industry/asset class, in my opinion, does a generally lousy job providing timely information we can use, especially on the state level; and that what which we do have, is best shared with members and non – members alike, via a seriously depleted online and print trade press.

In summary, and on a personal note. My firm makes it a point to belong to state manufactured housing associations, and local chambers of commerce, wherever we have lively business interests; right now, in two states. This way we generally, though at times imperfectly and slowly, know ‘what’s going on’ where we do business. And, in the case of the local Chamber of Commerce, as members, we’re always the only landlease community whose literature (brochures and business cards) are in full view wherever the chamber has a presence! And when we attend chamber functions and socials, we – by association – raise our image, as we rub shoulders with the businessmen and women of the local housing market we serve. Have never figured out why more LLCommunity owners/operators don’t avail themselves of this supremely effective way of showcasing our properties, as well as generating leads and prospects. But one just can’t sit there and wait for the business to come. Like Tom Peters wrote years ago, it’s all about getting up off your duff and practicing ‘Management By Walking Around!’

Trade associations on the national scene? Quite a bit, maybe too much, has been opined in that direction of late. And sadly, no matter what’s said or printed past, present or future, it’s highly doubtful, at least in this industry observer’s opinion, anything is going to change anytime soon! Why? The ‘big vs. small business’, ‘anti – regulatory vs. conciliatory’, and ‘all – inclusive’ vs. ‘diverse bodies’ manufactured housing views and association loyalties run deep, very deep. It’ll take one very charismatic, widely popular, successful business leader, to effect lasting and significant, much needed change, or wholesale displacement of myopic territorial posturing, from the top all the way down.

As a somewhat related aside, I was reflecting recently how a couple of the truisms, in the ‘Scintillatingly Salient – but – Salacious Secrets to Business Management Consulting Success’ chapter of my Chapbook of Business & Management Wisdom, result from more than 30 years of trade association interaction, e.g.

‘When participating in national business and trade association activities and politics, possess sufficient resources and support to participate independently, or wind – up being the ever – present, obvious, and tiresome suck – up.’ Two corollaries. First; if a freelance consultant turning out worthy work (books, training, etc.) participate in national meetings to protect one’s proprietary materials from trade association ‘insider’ imitators. And second; go nowhere (e.g. national meetings) without covering one’s travel expenses – and more, with billable work from clients in the geographical area where the event is being held! Believe it. On the average, it costs $1,000 to $2,000 to attend most national gatherings, that’s a fair amount of billable time to have to cover.

‘Don’t rely on trade association executives for steady, if any, billable work! References maybe. Some are among the most multi – faced (that’s because they’re more than two – faced) folk on earth; others might become loyal supporters – especially when they want free information and seminars. They’re ego managers who clearly know who signs their paycheck.’ Corollary. Be aware – and beware, state association executives who’re ‘national association loyalists’. If or when you run afoul, rightly or wrongly, of ‘the national powers that be – or those who believe they’re powerful’, there’s often a trickle down effect among state hangers – on. It’s what I have long reasoned to be, for no invitation to address members in a few states (CA, FL,MI, OH, KY & GA – until recently) during the past three decades. But that’s OK; for it’s better to know who one’s detractors are, than to always wonder….

What have been your recent experiences within and outside state manufactured housing and landlease community – oriented trade associations? How do YOU think state execs can improve on, even reverse, the present general malaise existing among manufactured housing associations nationwide? There’s one anecdote, out and about these days, of an association exec, having been told his six figure salary was at risk, went out and in the space of a week or two, recruited enough new dues – paying members to short circuit that cost – cutting measure. And there’s a relatively new exec, loose in New England, who near single – handedly has turned the fortunes of her association positive, in little more than a year! And yet another exec who’s made an art of serving members’ education and information needs by planning and facilitating annual Super Symposiums, even hosting Manufactured Housing Manager (‘MHM’) professional property management training and certification classes! What has your state exec done for YOU of late? An inquiring blog readership would like to know.

***

II.

Yes, now there’re no fewer than 12 manufactured housing and landlease community – related meetings scheduled during the month of October 2012! That’s a one day meeting every 2 ½ days. Whew! Again, if you’d like a complete list of what’s probably soon to become a true Bakers’ Dozen (i.e. ‘13’) meetings in October, get hold of the September 2011 issue of the Allen Letter professional journal, by phoning the aforementioned MHIndustry HOTLINE or (317) 346-7156.

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III.

Last week we introduced blog floggers (readers) to Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing. Book sales are already brisk at $24.95 each, post paid! And several portfolio owners/operators have ordered copies for all their properties (e.g. five or more copies @ only $20.00 per copy, and PMN Publishing will absorb the postage and handling fees). To order, or for more info, call the MHIndustry HOTLINE or (317) 346-7156.

Well, this week, we’re debuting a booklet titled Collection of Figurative Language & Figures of Speech. The research for this book, containing no fewer than 80 different ‘figures of speech’ extends back more than two decades. The book is also a tribute to Margaret J. Allen (My mother, on her 94th birthday this past week), and is dedicated to my father. Longtime friends ‘in the MHBusiness’ will recognize the short (biographical sketch) story ‘Big George’ contained therein.

Anyway, this little gem of a reference is being marketed for only $19.95 postpaid. If you’re a lover of the English language, a published author, an aspiring writer, and or parent or relative or friend of someone who is, this would be a nice gift and helpful resource for them! Available only from PMN Publishing via (317) 346-7156.

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IV.

Signed up to attend the 20th International Networking Roundtable yet? As of today (8/14/2011) the annual event, designed especially for landlease community owners/operators, is but a month away: 14 – 16 September 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa on the West edge of San Antonio, TX. Already appears we’ll not have any ‘walk ins’ this year, as it appears we’ll be at our max of 200 registrants before we arrive! So, don’t be left out, phone the aforementioned MHIndustry HOTLINE today and request an agenda and registration form. Biggest pleasant surprise to date? The number of sponsors stepping forward to offset the costs of this year’s mega event, where we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Manufactured Housing Institute, 20th anniversary of the Roundtable per se, and 15th anniversary of MHI’s National Communities Council! See YOU there!

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

Friends of George Allen & much more….

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Friends of George Allen

&

This Belongs in Every Landlease Community in the U.S.!

&

‘Whattaya Expect?’

I.

Friends of George Allen. What do the Wellfield Botanical Gardens, RV/MH Museum & Library, Chubby Trout bar and grill, and Golden Egg restaurant have in common, besides being located in Elkhart, IN? They are places where ‘friends of George Allen’ gathered on 1 & 2 August to celebrate with this year’s Class of Inductees into the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s prestigious Hall of Fame.

August 1st also marked Carolyn Allen’s return to manufactured housing’s business and social networking circles, following an absence of 6 ½ years, during which he cared for her Mother Flossie, who lived to be 98 ½ years old.

Accompanied by my younger brother Mark, who flew in from Cape May, New Jersey for the festivities, and following a three hour drive from Indianapolis, our first stop was in Elkhart, to visit the corporate offices of Heritage Financial. There we reunited with friends and landlease community portfolio owners Craig and Connie Fulmer, who took us for a walking tour of the city’s new Wellfield Botanical Gardens. This was a special treat; seeing how Elkhart’s business and philanthropic community are rejuvenating the city’s waterworks (Hence the name Wellfield) featuring a host of sponsored gardens; a large quilt centerpiece comprised entirely of flowers, fronted by a pond; even the functioning pump houses have been redecorated as period structures – one as an estate gatehouse surrounded by an English garden.

Arriving at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s museum, library and Hall of Fame facility, Carolyn and Mark were given a tour of the exhibit halls by Wisconsin Housing Alliance executive, and Hall of Fame member, Ross Kinzler, while I circulated, looking for ‘friends in the business’ I hadn’t seen in awhile.

Almost 400 ‘friends of ten Hall of Fame inductees’ gathered for this year’s banquet and celebration. At our two tables, with Carolyn, Mark and me, were our adult children Susan McCarty, co – owner of Spotlight Strategies in Franklin, IN., and her brother Adam, Certified Financial Planner with Capstone Investment Partners in Greenwood, IN. Ed Clayton, MHM, 25 year manager of our landlease community, along with his brother Jack, drove in from central Illinois. And Tim Newby, principal of Newby Management, and author of the Foreword to my new book, flew in from Ellenton, Florida. Dr. David Funk, head of the graduate real estate program at Cornell University traveled from Ithaca, New York; and John and Sonja Rogosich, CPM, drove in from Chicago.

Other key members of this intimate group were Ken and Donna Rishel, of Rishel Consulting, Springfield, IL; and Dennis Ohnstad, landlease community owner, and former MHRetailer, hailing from Champaign-Urbana, Il. Rick Roethke, principal of Barrington Investments, and his CEO Glen James drove up from Indianapolis. Landscape architect Don Westphal, like realty loan specialist Luis Vela, drove to Elkhart from Michigan. And Paul Bradley, head of ROC-USA, flew in from Concord, New Hampshire. Additional landlease community owners/operators present for the evening’s celebration were Jodi Kirincich, chairperson of Illinois MHA; Greg Pardiek recent past chairman of Indiana MHA; Hall of Fame member Mel Fath and his wife Thelma; and several others. Most of these individuals received free copies of my new book, debuting that evening, Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing, PMN Publishing, 2011. (See Part II. following)

Not important enough to specifically identify, but ‘telling’ nonetheless, were individuals usually present at the annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, but not in attendance this year. However, Danny Ghorbani, of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) was on hand to celebrate member Jim Shea Jr’s (of Fairmont Homes) induction into the Hall of Fame. But there was no national support, of this nature, for two former MHRetailers and one Industry Person of the Year.

Following the banquet, and induction of the Class of 2011* into the RV/MH Hall of Fame, more than a dozen of us reconvened at the nearby Chubby Trout bar and grill, to celebrate and engage in enthusiastic interpersonal networking, highlighted with Mark’s ‘fish stories’, some ‘captive finance’ banter, trade association woes, and photos from our recent trip to San Diego, California, to see our grandson Travis graduate from USMC boot camp. Next morning, a dozen or so ‘friends’ gathered at the Golden Egg restaurant to further enjoy one another’s company – and some good country cooking.

Yes, for many reasons, that was a 24 hour celebration among friends, to long remember and appreciate. Visiting the Wellfield Botanical Gardens with the Fulmers, celebrating my three decade career with friends, and simply enjoying one another’s presence and camaraderie throughout. So, to those of you who made the effort to participate, my Sincerest Appreciation! And those of you who couldn’t make it? The 20th annual International Networking Roundtable (‘INR’) is on the horizon (14 – 16 September, in San Antonio, TX.). We’re already at 100+ and ‘counting’. Are you registered yet? Use the INR brochure, if you have one; or phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156 to do so by phone!

II.

This belongs in every landlease community in the U.S.! WHAT? The new book for landlease community owners/operators you just read about in Part I of this blog posting!

Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing was researched and penned for WHO? You, if you own and or operate even just one landlease (nee manufactured home) community! Some portfolio owners/operators have already placed orders to put a copy of this paperback in every one of their landlease communities! Why not do the same?

WHY buy? This is the first time in industry (i.e. manufactured housing) and realty asset class (i.e. landlease communities) history, a significant number of important events – from 1988 through 2011, relative to this unique type income – producing property have been collected, organized, and published as an historical retrospective. In addition, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to the ‘facts & figures’ every owner/operator needs to know! Furthermore, nearly all the dozen or so Signature Series Resource Documents (‘SSRD’) are included in the tome as well! Plus, a nod to the ‘affordable housing’ concept presently dormant – but hopefully stirring, throughout the HUD Code manufactured housing industry! And know what else? No fewer than 50 notable individuals, all from throughout the landlease community asset class, and its’ history, are identified and lauded in this book

HOW MUCH? Only $24.95 postpaid, for this 88 page paperback. WHEN & WHERE to order? Today, simply phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156. Credit card orders welcome!

Frankly, as this Part II blog subtitle suggests, ‘This (book) belongs in every landlease community in the U.S.!’ So again, consider ordering enough copies for your property or properties today! And while you’re at it, register to attend this year’s Triple Anniversary Networking Roundtable, 14 – 16 September 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort Hotel on the west side of San Antonio, TX. When you phone, ask for a brochure, if you don’t presently have one.

III.

‘Whattaya Expect?’ A short and true story by Spencer Roane, owner of Pentagon Properties headquartered in Atlanta, GA., and present day industry expert regarding use of the self – finance ‘lease option’ in landlease communities. *2

“Last month, a lady at one of our landlease communities walked into the office, handed the keys to her ‘doublewide’ to our manager, and asked him to call her finance company and tell them to come get the house. This morning, I received an email note from another property owner describing a similar incident in one of his landlease communities. In both cases, the residents had excellent site rent payment histories. In both cases, finances had gotten a little tight, work needed to be done on the homes, but the homeowners realized they still had 70 percent of their original loan yet to pay, despite making payments throughout the past 15 years.

As similar scenes continue to play out in one landlease community after another, across the country, property owners shake their heads and wonder how anyone (lenders) could be dumb enough to structure such high – interest, 25 year term loans on depreciating assets; and slick enough, to sell millions of dollars of such loans to Wall Street investors; or someone dumb enough, to buy those ‘asset based securities’?

Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the iceberg, regarding financing mistakes that have taken the manufactured housing industry from producing lots of homes, and having many independent, third party chattel lenders to choose from; to today, shipping very few new homes, with few – if any, lenders to choose from. ‘Back in the day’, most manufactured homes were sited and financed within landlease communities. If the lender needed to get a message to the borrower, he called the property office and asked someone to pass the word. If the borrower defaulted, the home was easily secured, efficiently rehabbed, and quickly resold.

Then someone decided, if financing manufactured homes on rental homesites was good business, financing such homes affixed to real estate conveyed fee simple, must really be good business! Unfortunately, it didn’t matter (to them) the real estate was on a gravel road across from the county dump. As soon as the homeowner changed phone numbers, the centrally – located, highly efficient call center became as useful as ‘a toter without granny gear’ (i.e. transporter sans slowest crawling gear). By the time the lender repossessed the manufactured home, everything but the shell of the house had ‘walked away’ – including appliances, A/C, light fixtures, sinks, lavatories, and toilets. The first move of the home then, was to a retailer’s rehab facility, where technicians attempted to work miracles on the ‘pigs ear’. Then came the mega challenge of selling the used home, as it sat among many sparkling new ones. Finally, along comes move number two, another 25 year loan, and yet another train wreck leaving the station.

No industry can survive without financing – but financing depreciating assets in the middle of nowhere, over 25 years, at excessively high interest rates, isn’t going to work with those (homebuyers or lenders) whose idea of long range planning extends only to next week. Most landlease community owners, however, are willing to work with lenders to create on – site financing programs that’re Win – Win – Win transactions for the lender, community owner, and home buyer – not to mention factories, transporters, installers, and service suppliers. Many community owners are even willing to guarantee the loans on homes in their properties; and, some will even fully collateralize default costs with liquid assets. Why not? These same community owners are often already financing their own manufactured homes on – site!

The S.A.F.E. Act, provisions of the Dodd-Frank bill, absence of independent third party chattel financing, presence of Community Series Homes (‘CSH’), marketing efforts of Business Development Mangers (‘BDM’), inability of prospective homebuyers to qualify for site – built home mortgages, reasonable rental homesite rates in landlease communities, and the increasing demand for truly affordable housing have, all together, created an unprecedented financing opportunity for chattel lenders willing to think ‘outside the (present day, malfunctioning) box’. For example: ‘Do business the old fashioned way!’ How? Reread last half of paragraph three above. What’s next? Get community owners and chattel lenders together, to come up with a financing program that’ll really move some manufactured homes!” SR (Anyone listening at MHI???)

Blogger’s note. If ‘chattel finance’ – or lack thereof, is indeed a hot button topic for YOU, be present at the aforementioned 20th annual Networking Roundtable in San Antonio @ 14-16 September, to discuss the matter with landlease community owners/operators and chattel lenders! Already, more than 100 executives are registered to attend, and while the majority is indeed landlease community owners/operators, chattel lenders and finance service firms too are signed – up, and (hopefully) prepared to listen and discuss. Then, two weeks later in early October, the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’) will host its’ annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ. So there we have the potential for a One – Two Punch, to effect needed traction on this strategic matter! And whether those two sessions wind up being for naught – or are indeed successful, know there’re preliminary plans afoot to convene in January or February 2012, for a third National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus, likely in Florida, to – for lack of a more apt description – ‘force the issue(s)’, one way or another! Let me know if YOU want to be part of the NSAC caucus planning process, as I’ll need the help (Already have some volunteers). In the meantime, get registered to attend the Networking Roundtable in September! MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156. To register for MHI’s annual meeting, phone (703) 558-0678 & ask for Thayer Long.

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End Notes.

1. George Allen; Robert Azevedo; Leonard O. Brown; Harold (Hal’ Gerring (deceased); Bill Gorman (deceased);Larry Huttle; James Knott; John Martin; Mike Schneider; and, James F. Shea, Jr.

2. If you’d like a free reprint on this subject (‘lease options in landlease communities’), phone (317) 346-7156 and request it.

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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