Archive for September, 2011

Young Turks Emerging & Chicago Renascence?

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

I.

Young Turks Emerging?

In the annual ALLEN REPORTS, we routinely identify the Young Lions of property acquisition, and report the status of a Daring Dozen realty investors who commenced building landlease community portfolios a decade ago. But Young Turks? Last week’s…

20th Networking Roundtable maybe demarcates the end & beginning of two eras….

On 31 August 1993, 18 manufactured home (nee mobile home park) community operators, 14 of whom were bona fide owners with ‘skin in their games’, founded the Industry Steering Committee (‘ISC’) predecessor to the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (‘MHI’) present day National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division. Today, 18 years later, only one of those property owners remains active and regularly visible in national landlease community affairs and issues.

On 15 September 2011, considerably more than 100 landlease community owners/operators attended the 20th anniversary Networking Roundtable in San Antonio, TX. Only one of the aforementioned ISC cum NCC founders was present, along with a few dozen new, second, third, even fifth generation property owners, and these were supplemented by a growing bevy of portfolio operators. Enter the Young Turks!

What’s a Young Turk? According to the Illustrated Reverse Dictionary, an ‘elite soldier or bodyguard in former times’, a.k.a. janissary, a ‘member of any group of loyal guards, soldiers, or supporters’. Know what? The term fits! As I studied the registration list for this year’s Roundtable; along with direct, dues – paying member lists (not the Certified Representatives) of MHI’s NCC division, and the Urban Land Institute’s (‘ULI’) Manufactured Housing Communities Council (‘MHCC’), an interesting pattern or trend emerged. This being, the subtle transferring of management control, in many but not all instances, from the daily, hands – on presence of property portfolio owners, to salaried managers or ‘soldiers, property guards, supporters’, i.e. the Young Turks!

Young Turks for the most part, appear to be salaried, and generally managing landlease community portfolios for sole proprietors, partnerships, corporate owners, even real estate investment trusts (‘REITs’). Only rarely however, do contemporary Young Turks possess earned professional property management or realty credentials, like the hard to earn Certified Property Manager® or CPM® and Certified Commercial Investment Manager® or CCIM® designations, though many have college or university degrees, even advanced ones. They’re also often politically active, when the need arises, generally via state and national advocacy venues, but not always. Furthermore, the majority of today’s Young Turks, like their pioneer owner/operator predecessors and bosses, are male and young.

Who’re today’s Young Turks? I can easily identify several dozen by name. But that’s not the point of this pattern or trend spotting blog posting. But ‘naming’ might indeed be an interesting exercise, and certainly a potential added feature to the 23rd annual ALLEN REPORT – being researched at this time. Speaking of which; please complete and return, via FAX (317) 346-7158, the standard questionnaire, distributed last week, to 600+/- known landlease community portfolio owners/operators! Deadline is September 30th , 2011. The 23rd ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among Landlease Community Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’) will likely be distributed with the January 2012 issue of the Allen Letter professional journal.

Why only ‘likely’? As you may or may not know, there’s a present effort afoot, to launch a new, national not for profit platform, a real estate and manufactured housing Center of sorts, to ensure continuation of Research (e.g. ALLEN REPORT, Allen Surveys, Mortgage & Chattel Lenders’ Registries, etc.) and Resources (e.g. newsletters, directories, books, standard PM forms, consulting services, and professional property management training and certification via the Manufactured Housing Manager program), long provided by GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing. At some point, it’ll become more cost effective for such research reports to be marketed and distributed through (the) Center for Manufactured Housing Research & Resources – or whatever the new not for profit national platform is named. If YOU’d like to be on the ‘inside track’, relative to launching, guiding, and financially supporting this exciting, historic initiative, contact me privately at (317) 346-7156 or via gfa7156@aol.com All inquiries will be kept in confidence!

In the meantime, know that if YOU own and or fee manage five or more landlease communities, and or 500+ rental homesites (even if in just one property), and have NOT received a cover letter and ALLEN REPORT questionnaire, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, ASAP, and request one be mailed to you! Why? Because you’re eligible to be included in the nearly quarter century old ALLEN REPORT, organized by firm name and ranking (per total number of rental homesites owned/operated) of landlease (nee manufactured home) community portfolios, throughout North America.

For that matter, there’re still a couple dozen copies of the 52 page 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT available for purchase @ $125.00 apiece; or as part of a special $150.00 package that includes said report, plus a one year subscription to the Allen Letter professional journal (published monthly, with a subscription price of $134.95/year). Again, use the above MHIndustry HOTLINE to place your order and or to subscribe.

So, are YOU a Young Turk reading these trend – spotting paragraphs? Do you agree or disagree with the characterizations cited? I’d sincerely like to know your view(s) on the subject. Use any of the contact methods cited in previous paragraphs, or pen them to me via: GFA c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247.

II.

Yet another New Era, or a Chicago Renascence, dawning?

Let’s see; the first real estate investment trusts (‘REITs’) emerged during the 1980s. That’s when New Jersey – based UMH Properties, Inc., nee United Mobile Homes, Inc., debuted. Then there was the second REIT wave, in the mid – 1990s, when Chicago – based ELS, Inc., nee MHC, Inc., followed by Detroit – based Sun Communities, Inc., and Colorado – based Chateau Communities, Inc. (Latter acquired by Hometown America in 2003) appeared on the landlease (nee manufactured home) community scene. Today, however, there’re only three REITs remaining in play, ELS, Inc., Sun Communities, Inc., and UMH Properties, Inc.

• Rumor has it a new IPO (‘initial public offering’ of stock) may be in the offing, possibly combining landlease communities of more than one firm. IF this occurs, it’ll be the asset class’ first new REIT since American Landlease (founded in 1998 & de – REITed in 2008) and short – lived ARC (2004 & 2005), originally Affordable Residential Communities, now American Residential Communities appeared on the income – producing property (type) scene.

• AND, there’s yet another new landlease community portfolio firm in the process of being formed, comprised of properties acquired from Hometown America. Think AMC. (No, not a rejuvenated American Motors Corporation!). Trust me; if and when this occurs, and details are made public, it’ll make for an interesting ‘international’ tale….

• Not to forget; the first National Summit for independent ‘street’ MHRetailers and landlease community home sales centers, will be held 13 – 15 November 2011. If seriously interested in improving your manufactured housing retail sales operation, consider attending. Phone (800) 336-0339. I plan to be present.

Is there a common denominator among these disparate but MHIndustry – related events? Sure; they’re all occurring in downtown Chicago (i.e. National Summit @ The Drake Hotel) and in surrounding suburbs. Know what? There’s even more ‘new news’ emerging from the Windy City. Geesh; really want to write more, but need to await further details.

III.

Let Me Whet Your Appetite for Next Sunday’s Blog Post…

The Year is 2012. The Question is ‘Who Will Effectively Lead the Manufactured Housing Industry?’ The Dilemma: ‘Old (habits) Guard or a New (inexperienced) Generation’? This (next) week’s blog posting kicks off Stage II of a three stage (if need be) ‘How to Save Our Industry?!’ industry wide grassroots effort, to effect 1) national dialogue, 2) open discussion, 3) strategic planning, and 4) focused action, to stimulate and lead HUD Code manufactured housing out of its’ decade – long general malaise and array of industry – specific ailments.

Maladies, for sure, like 1) paucity of independent source chattel capital for everyone, not just those with pristine credit ratings; 2) continuing feud between ‘big box = big bucks’ purists (i.e. in land & home competition with site – builders) versus ‘affordable housing’ pragmatists (i.e. desiring to fill 250,000+/- vacant rental homesites nationwide); 3) reluctance to routinely sell homes that homebuyers (and by extension, local housing markets) can afford to buy, rather than what factories decide to ship their way; 4) complete absence of a functioning, ongoing secondary market for the sale of existing manufactured homes; 5) new home warranties that match and exceed those of site – built homes; 6) need for a national manufactured housing brand and image improvement campaign, but only after resolving which comes first: clean up the industry beforehand or after attracting prospective homebuyers to our sales centers and communities? And there’re more issues and related asides….

What’s next? Well, that’s why YOU should plan to attend the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (‘MHI’) annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ. @ 2 – 4 October 2011. Listen, Observe & Participate for YOUrself and YOUr business interests! For more information, contact Thayer Long via (703) 558-0678. And, if you own one or more landlease communities, and would like to at least attend the National Communities Council (‘NCC’), the morning of 3 October, contact Lisa Brechtel via (703) 558-0666. If YOU do attend, either or both venues at the same resort hotel, look me up and tell me know your views on the industry issues identified, in part, in the previous paragraph, and otherwise. See YOU there!

***

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) 346-7145

Stages I & II of ‘How to Save Our Industry!?’

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Stage I of III, pursuant to ‘How to Save Our Industry!?’
effected at 20th Networking Roundtable in San Antonio, TX.

Stage II of III occurs soon, at the Manufactured Housing Institute’s annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ., 2 – 4 October.

Stage III of III? Unnecessary, if elected & salaried leaders
host a national & open forum for manufactured housing & landlease community stakeholders, to discuss, plan & enact ‘How to Save Our Industry!?’

Last week’s blog posting (#157) posed this question: “Is the recent & distinct ‘Stirring’ sensed, among some HUD Code Housing Manufacturers, independent ‘street’ MHRetailers and Landlease Community owners,

Life Being Renewed or a Death Rattle?”

Conclusion? Here’s what I penned at the time: “Death rattle? I think not. Made that mistake back in 1979, shortly after entering this business. Five years later, I was head of my own firm, and cleared $2 million with my partners, on our first landlease community transaction. I’ve not looked back, or negatively, at the industry and asset class since. Neither should you! So, come on, ‘Let’s get a – stirring together!” GFA

*****

Well, more than 200 of us did get a – stirring last week, at the 20th International Networking Roundtable in San Antonio, TX! Landlease community owners/operators, home manufacturers, as well as product and service suppliers, from 27 states, convened for 2 ½ days of the best business education, interpersonal networking, and enthusiastic deal – making, available anywhere, anytime! For a detailed summary of the two dozen seminars and panel discussions, complete with presenters names and contact information, read the October issue of the Allen Letter professional journal! Simply phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. In the feature article, you’ll learn how Cavco Industries, Inc., chairman and CEO, Joe Stegmayer ‘stirred’ this audience; how Green Courte Partners & American Land Lease, under the leadership of David Lentz, has introduced ‘rebranding’ to the landlease community asset class; and how Spencer Roane has taken the lease – option to a new level; and much much more!

The final session of this year’s Networking Roundtable related to the present and future of landlease community ‘research & resources’. Why so late in the 2 ½ day program? To serve as a gauge of how important, or unimportant, the subject of research and resource succession is, to those invested in the landlease community income – property type as bona fide owners, even professional property managers with ‘skin in their game’. Result? Nearly 40 ‘interested parties’ participated in the 1 ½ hour session. That’s more than double the number of landlease community owners/operators it took, on 31 August 1993, to form the Industry Steering Committee predecessor to MHI’s National Communities Council division! More about these new historic proceedings later….

In the meantime, here’s a list of general and intimate observations from the Roundtable:

• This was indeed the ‘Biggest (i.e. More than 200 registrants) and Best (Thanks to Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, 22 ‘presenters’, & the Cavco ‘Community Series Home’ on display) Ever’!

• Cutting edge presentations: Wait till you read what Stephen Wheeler, Joe Adams, Dr. David Funk (Cornell University), and others, had to say at this event, in the aforementioned October issue of the Allen Letter professional journal!

• Have you ever experienced Joe Stegmayer’s dry sense of humor? You should!

• Most old guard landlease community portfolio owners/operators are gone (e.g. only one of original 18 member Industry Steering Committee (See above) was present; supplanted by a new generation, many in evidence at this year’s event!

• NCC bobbled this new member recruiting opportunity; but MHI’s PAC promoter, Rick Rand, ACM, collected mega bucks for institute’s ongoing lobbying effort.

• MHIndustry pragmatists (i.e. smaller size & greater affordability of Community Series Homes) squared off against ‘bigger box = bigger bucks’ MHPurists.

• A dozen Business Development Managers were present, so maybe direct – marketing to landlease community owners/operators is ‘alive and well’ after all!

• Fair home value and homebuyer – friendly chattel mortgage advocates squared off against the perennial ‘churning’ and predatory lending aficionados.

• National Industry Image Improvement Campaign gets its’ first national re – airing since 17th Networking Roundtable in Mystic, CT., in 2008. Conclusion? This hard question: Showcase ‘Best Products & Practices NOW’ or ‘Get Products & Practices Right Before Going Public’? In either event, be wary of tempting siren songs of self – proclaimed marketing pros in search of billable projects.

• 17 Roundtable attendees present at 10th annual prayer meeting for ‘Our Nation & Its’ Leaders’. Each received a copy of Steve Harper’s A Pocket Guide to Prayer.

• Every Networking Roundtable registrant received a copy of the recently released Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing book. Dedicated in part, to Randy Rowe, of Green Courte Partners/American Land Lease, it’s the first inside look at what’s brought our asset class from its’ ‘dark ages’ into the 21st Century! Available for $24.95 via aforementioned MHIndustry HOTLINE.

Finally, many landlease community owners wanted to know, coming away from Stage I (the 20th Networking Roundtable), and headed for Stage II (MHI’s annual meeting); if, where, when, how, and how much would our unique realty asset class be fitting into the HUD Code manufactured housing business milieu of the immediate, near, and forward – looking future? In a word, Are we to be an integral part of this ‘Stirring’ so many of us have been sensing of late? That’s why YOU should plan NOW to attend MHI’s annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ., 2 – 4 October. For information, phone (703) 558-0678 and ask to speak to Thayer Long. Tell him ‘George sent me!’

*****

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

Life Being Renewed or a Death Rattle?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

I.

The Recent & Distinct ‘Stirring’ Sensed by, & among, some HUD Code Housing Manufacturers, independent ‘street’ MHRetailers, even Landlease
Community Owners/operators. Is it our industry’s…

Life Being Renewed or a Death Rattle?

“Landlease communities are HOT!” opined the Business Development Manager (‘BDM’) working for one of the 21st Century Triple ‘C’ Firms, shipping specially – designed Community Series Homes (‘CSH’), for marketing to – and placement in, landlease communities nationwide. When I asked, “How so?”, his response was, half the shipments of new HUD Code homes, from most of his firm’s plants, are now CSH homes headed for vacant rental homesites within landlease (nee manufactured home) communities.

Phone calls to other BDMs, working for Clayton Homes, Cavco, Inc., and Champion – Yes, those are our industry’s 21st Century Triple ‘C’ Firms, confirmed the ‘stirring’ described in the opening paragraph. So much so, another indicator is the large number of HUD Code home manufacturers, nearly a dozen, attending this year’s International Networking Roundtable in San Antonio, TX., (14-16 September). That’s far more than have attended any previous Roundtable during the past 20 years! Even ‘park model RV’ manufacturers have registered for this annual opportunity to meet, market to, and sell their product lines into LLCommunities. But know who’s missing? Unfortunatly, the small to mid – sized, regional HUD Code home manufacturers! And that’s a shame, because there’s plenty of business to be had from the 200+/- gathered LLCommunity owners/operators.

If YOU don’t know about CSH homes, be present at the Roundtable this week, when Don Westphal, freelance consultant and CSH specialist, covers that subject in depth. And David Gorin, RV consultant, will explore the increased interest LLCommunity folk have in RV Parks and ‘park model RVs’. To participate, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. And while you’re on the phone, ask for a ‘free’ list of the more than two dozen BDMs marketing new HUD Code CSH homes to LLCommunity owners/operators.

Independent ‘street’ MHRetailers recently rediscovered a valuable resource and voice in Rainmaker of Davenport, Iowa. While long a consultancy to this key segment of the manufactured housing industry, it’s only become apparent recently (More of that ‘stirring’ feeling.) how surviving home sales professionals are literally chomping at the bit, for a credible opportunity to refresh personal selling skills, improve their online marketing expertise, and frankly, to ‘Get Motivated to Sell – again!’ So, to address those needs, Rainmaker has planned a National Summit for independent ‘street’ MHRetailers and in – landlease community sales center operators, to occur in mid – November in Chicago. For more information, contact Bill and Chad Carr via (800) 336-0339. I certainly plan to participate and learn as well.

And, for the first time in decades, independent ‘street’ MHRetailers have an excellent e-book available ‘just for them’, describing HOW TO ‘drive more qualified traffic to ones’ home center and increase sales opportunities’! This e-book, titled Pillars of Promotion is based on firsthand Lessons Learned by Chris Nicely, former marketing executive with Clayton Homes. Do YOU have a copy yet? If not, phone (865) 385-9675 or pick up order literature at the aforementioned Roundtable this week.

Then there’re the landlease community owners/operators. No other segment of the HUD Code manufactured housing industry has experienced such extreme dichotomy between the ‘Haves & Have Nots’, where occupied rental homesites are concerned! An increasing number of mid to large – size properties, oft saddled with too high rents and low occupancy, have moved – and are continuing to move, from forbearance agreements, pursuant to CMBS (commercial mortgage – backed securities) loans-gone-bad during the past decade, into active foreclosure and REO (real estate owned) status. As in the late 1970s and 1980s, it’ll take a few years – maybe a decade, if reasonable, independent third party chattel financing doesn’t return soon, for these troubled assets to be remarketed, acquired, and returned to solvency!

In the meantime, ‘the other half’ this dichotomy – and actually a far greater number within the unique property type, especially where/when owned by veteran realty investors, are ‘doing just fine, thank you’, as they market, sell, and frequently self – finance, via one methodology or another, new and resale home transactions on – site. And it’s these financially healthy owners/operators, frequently enjoying excess cash flow by dint of having paid down or off mortgages, who oft shoulder additional management risk, and now buy new HUD Code homes at a discount, to fill vacant rental homesites, since the repo market has all but dried up, and there’s still no viable secondary market for the ‘sale and purchase’ of quality resale homes.

Who to talk to about the various self – finance methodologies in vogue these days? Again, be at this week’s Roundtable! Ken Rishel of Rishel Consulting will explain, one – on – one, the ins and outs of ‘captive finance’. Dick Ernst of CU Factory – built Housing will happily describe his firm’s chattel loan servicing capabilities. Matt Kerlin of 21st Mortgage Corporation will also be on hand, to walk you through their new program. And LLCommunity owner/operator Spencer Roane will share his firsthand experience and success, using a carefully crafted lease – option program. And if ‘rentals’ on – site are of interest, request the free reprint titled, ‘To Rent or Not to Rent?’ when you phone the above – listed MHIndustry HOTLINE number. And rumor has it, a freelance consultant (not me) may soon go on the road, carrying the ‘ways to self – finance’ message to state manufactured housing associations and portfolio owners/operators desiring such knowledge. If this interests you, let me know. And, by the way, last year’s ‘bestseller’, the Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer is still available, for $29.95 (postpaid) from PMN Publishing. Again, just phone the toll free HOTLINE.

OK, if by now, you don’t see where this industry wide ‘stirring’ is going, you’ve gotta be tone deaf. Sure, new home shipments continue to drop this year; but know what? Almost everyone described in the previous paragraphs is now ‘pulling out all the stops’ to stimulate new and resale home sales business, filling previously vacant rental homesites, and doing their part to keep the manufactured housing industry alive. How ‘bout YOU? What are YOU doing as your part in this timely, critical, ‘stirring’ scenario?

My participation in all this’? First and foremost, during three decades as manufactured housing’s observer cum blogger, landlease community newsletters publisher, and management consultant at large, I’ve long argued for our industry’s return to ’truly affordable housing’ for the American homebuyer – something, sadly, that hasn’t happened yet. No other type housing, in or out of the factory – built milieu, can do as good a job at ‘being affordable’, than HUD Code manufactured housing, when we set our minds, production, and marketing to do so! Second; PMN Publishing continues to make the handy, do – it – yourself, oddly – named ‘Ah Ha! & Uh Oh! new or resale home sales price & mortgage worksheet’ available FREE for the asking. For the first time in the history of manufactured housing, independent ‘street’ MHRetailers and sales centers within LLCommunities, can easily and accurately calculate ‘just how much home buying customer can truly afford’, based on individual or household Annual Gross Income or AGI, and if opening a sales center in a new local housing market, per postal zip code, know what price range homes will sell, based on the prevailing Area Median Income or AMI. For your FREE copy of this revolutionary form, use HOTLINE number cited earlier.

Death Rattle? I think not. I made that mistake – thinking such, way back in 1979, shortly after entering this business. Five years later, I was had of my own firm, and had cleared $2 million with my partners, on our first landlease community transaction. I’ve not looked back, or negatively at the industry and asset class since; neither should you! Come on, ‘Let’s get a – stirring together!’

II.

And don’t forget! This week’s Networking Roundtable is but the first stage of that Three Step Process, described in this industry blog more than a month ago, to ascertain ‘How to Save Our Industry!’ At the very least, and at this week’s event, we’ll see the ‘stirring’ anticipated national plans for the future of landlease community research and resources! Step II of the Process? Manufactured Housing Institute’s (‘MHI’) annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ., 2 – 4 October. Have YOU perused the meeting agenda? Will YOU be present to ensure our industry’s elected and salaried leaders keep the MHIndustry train on track to increased production and renewed profitability? And Step III of the process? If necessary, a National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus III during early 2012.

***
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

What’s in Your Career Remembrance File?

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

What’s in Your Career Remembrance File?

I.

“You just don’t take a mobile home and stick it in your pocket like you would a diamond bracelet,” says Peggy Vaughn, manager of Hickory Lake Mobile Village, in a news story titled: ‘Huge trailer’s not at home after being taken from (sales) lot.’

“In the wee hours Friday, a 16-foot-by-70 foot Fleetwood became a very mobile home when thieves hauled it off a retail lot near I-65 in Scott County. Friday’s theft of the pale-pink and white abode occurred with nary a sound, at least none loud enough to wake the neighbors.” Marcella Fleming, staff writer for the Indianapolis Star.

***

Following, are some choice pickins’ from my career remembrance file, mostly property management, manufactured housing, and landlease community related.

***

Let’s begin with this ‘How NOT to enforce Rules & Regulations, and encourage good resident relations’ gem. It was a posted ‘Notice to Residents’ I plucked from the laundry room bulletin board, in the old Eastwood Mobile Home Park, circa 1984.

ATTENTION: ‘All Park Resident Who Improperly Dispose of Their Trash or Use Our Dumpsters for Their Own Private Dumping Grounds.’

“You people are filthy, disgusting slobs who walk around without a single ounce of common – sense or a brain in your heads. Since I have been associated with this park, I have brought in 26 homeowners, doubled the rental occupancy, removed four long – bed dumpsters of trash, and have changed the clientele in our ‘rentals’ from scums and bums to decent, hard – working people.

It’s pretty evident I care about the environment you people live in, why the hell don’t you? These dumpsters are to be used for your trash only! Not old water heaters, washers and dryers, sheds, swing – sets, automobile parts, etc.

Any trash I find not disposed of properly, I will no longer give warnings, I will find (sic) you $25.00 per bag. Tell your children, tell your spouse, and tell your neighbors. If you see anyone disobeying (sic), tell me!” The ‘Park’ Manager

This travesty occurred before professional property management found it’s way into, what we today think of as, landlease communities. Hopefully we won’t see this sort of bullying ever again. And to that end, here’s the timely and helpful ‘Six Rs’ mnemonic device for Cultivating Good – to – Great Resident Relations! Good Resident Relations = More Resident Referrals = Great Resident Retention!*1

***

Don’t get me started relating memorable Mystery Shopping experiences, and the important Lessons Learned from them, unless you’ve got lotsa time on your hands.

Like the day I walked into a local apartment community’s Information Center. There, taped on the inside of a closet door that should have been closed, was a large poster featuring a big sleeping bear, with this caption underneath: JUST WAKE ME IN TIME FOR THE WEEKEND! Surefire commentary on the work ethic of that office. Hmm. Perhaps that’s why we were hired to ‘shop’ the leasing staff in the first place. Lesson? When was the last time YOU looked inside – and outside the closet doors in your Information Center(s)? Bet you’ll find some unsettling surprises. Read on….

At an independent ‘street’ MHRetailer’s sales center, a few years ago, I came across yet another large poster, this one picturing a life – sized hangman’s noose, along with this motivating caption: A REMNDER ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT SALES ARE AROUND HERE! Well, I suppose IF the message ‘works’, the poster is worth keeping around – but certainly NOT where customers can see it. When do ‘high pressure sales techniques’ ever equate to long term satisfied home buying customers? Hardly ever!

And how ‘bout this ‘unofficial’ notice I removed from the bulletin board in yet another landlease community Information Center: ‘NOTICE: This Department Requires No Physical Fitness Program! Everyone gets enough exercise jumping to conclusions, Flying off the handle, Running down the boss, Knifing friends in the back, Dodging responsibility, and Pushing their luck!’ Yes, that really happened – the poster removal, that is. So again, what’s on the bulletin board in your Information Center(s)? Go check!

***

Like to receive holiday and birthday cards? Anyone who subscribes to the Allen Letter professional journal knows, every year we rank the ‘manufactured housing – themed Christmas cards’ we receive in December, then feature the winning card in the January issue of the newsletter. And we’ve received some doozies over the years…like one that pictured ‘half a doublewide’ being pulled down the highway, with the center (mating) side wide open, displaying holiday decorations and gifts. And another one, a singlesection manufactured home being towed through the sky by Santa’s reindeer. Cute.

Well, here’s a true Christmas card story you’ve not heard before. Remember colorful, outspoken, iconic, St. Charles, MO., MHRetailer Bob Bross? I’ve long counted him as one of my best friends in the MHBusiness! Well, he’s retired now. But in his heyday, and he certainly had a few (heydays, that is), he was known to save holiday greeting cards received one year, then recycle them the next year. How so? By crossing out the original sender’s name inside the saved cards, then affixing his firm’s address label above the crossed – out signature. Then he’d enclose the recycled card within a tri – folded sheet of his company’s letterhead stationery, bearing this message: “PLEASE DON’T FUSS ABOUT THE ENCLOSED CARD. CONSIDERING THE LOUSY BUSINESS CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PAST YEAR, YOU’RE LUCKY TO GET THIS ONE!” Seriously. That’s vintage Bob Bross.

One year, Bob added this message to the recycled cards: “Being in the manufactured housing industry brings to mind a friend, who spent years of effort and thousands of dollars to cure his bad breath problem, only to find out that no one liked him anyway!”

Someday, ask me to share Bob’s collection of eight ‘After the Party’ standardized excuses and explanations, containing blank spaces where sender (offender) inserts offended parties’ names, e.g. ‘Dear _____________________. I regret telling the firemen it was you who turned in the false alarm. But of course I had no way of knowing they would be such bad sports about it. Those fire hoses sure have a lot of pressure, don’t they? And the water was so cold!’ (Signed) Your friend ____________________.

***

Speaking of (studio) cards. The best one ever, for enticing apartment renters to consider buying new manufactured homes to move into a landlease community, is this one, used ‘for years’ by Country Village.

Top of the front panel features caricature heads of a happy young couple, along with a similar sketch at the bottom, but of a top – hatted villain dressed in black. The verse in between the caricatures goes like this:

‘There was a young couple named Trent, who spent all their money on RENT.
They’d scrimp and they’d save, but their landlord (the knave), walked off with the Trent’s LAST RED CENT!’

Next card panel, inside, again shows the same happy young couple, and reads: ‘The Moral is: Rent is Money Spent. (Don’t be like the Trents). Invest in a Home that You OWN…

And the final, inside double panel of the colorful studio card, features an artist’s rendering of the property’s clubhouse, followed by a list of the property’s amenities, and a sketch map showing how to find one’s way to Country Village. An idea worth trying? I certainly think so….

***

15 years ago, Ed Zeman, of Zeman MHC (LLCommunity portfolio owner/operator) in Chicago, crafted this (slightly edited) list of ‘Top 10 Things (an investor) Hears From a Landlease Community Owner During Negotiations to Buy Their Property’:

• All the lot rent is always in by the first of the month, no one is ever late here!

• My rent (rate) is way under market, so there’s plenty of room for rent increases.

• This local housing market is really hot. Those 25 vacant lots could be filled in no time, and you should sell 50 homes next year. This is best community in the area!

• Rental mobile homes are a great source of revenue. We never have a problem with them, and all our residents are carefully screened!

• What’s the big deal about my underground oil tanks and lines, the wetlands next door, asbestos in my clubhouse, and the flood plain and landfill this community was built on? No one’s ever said anything about that before now.

• My community is worth more. This place can be a real money – maker, and those REITs are banging on my door wanting to buy it!

• This is the best well water anywhere, and the EPA never has a problem with our sewage treatment plant. In fact, the plant operates so good you could drink the discharged effluent.

• There are no maintenance expenses, since my son and I do everything!

• The 50 acres next door is not zoned for manufactured homes, but it could easily be rezoned. I have a verbal OK about that.

• (After six months of discussion) I think I’ll wait until the capital gains tax rate is reduced.

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So, what’s in your career remembrance file? An inquiring blog readership would like to know. Take a look and send me some gems to share in the future….
II.

‘Biggest & Best Ever!’

What do 40 Texans, four state manufactured housing association executives, two dozen women executives, all our landlease community asset class’ REITs, and best of the privately – owned portfolio owners/operators, as well as a Cavco, Inc., Community Series Home (‘CSH’) have in common? They’ll be at the 20th annual International Networking Roundtable in San Antonio, TX., when it kicks off Wednesday afternoon, at 4PM, with a Marcus & Millichap ‘State of the Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class’ presentation, followed by showcasing dozens of these properties ‘for sale’! And then ‘the fun’- the superb education, interpersonal networking, and deal – making begins….

Yes, that’s where things stand two weeks before this annual seminal venue begins. More HUD Code housing manufacturers (e.g. Clayton, Champion, Cavco, Palm Harbor, Fleetwood, Athens Park, and others) will be in attendance than ever before! Why? In the words of one manufacturer’s Business Development Manager (‘BDM’), when thus queried: “Communities are back. Communities are hot!” And that they are.

So, if you’re reading this blog, and own one or more landlease communities, and either sell new and used homes on – site, or are thinking of doing so, YOU need to be at the Networking Roundtable to meet these home manufacturers – and much much more! Need capital to acquire and or refinance landlease communities and homes? All the major realty – secured and chattel (personal property) mortgage lenders and brokers will be present this year.

See brochure attached to the BEBA (Blast Email Blog Alert) accompanying this week’s blog posting, or phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. But I need to warn you. Our max number of registrants is 200, and we were at 175 on the first of September. So, don’t be left out, register today!

III.

Last week, this blog announced the release of Chris Nicely’s new online book, describing HOW TO effectively market and sell HUD Code manufactured homes at independent ‘street’ MHRetail salescenter, and on – site in landlease communities. An
e-book, it’s titled Pillars of Promotion, and contains ‘six proven tactics that drive more qualified traffic, and increase (home) sales opportunities!’ Well, a bunch of blog floggers (readers) responded, buying copies. Did YOU? Price is $49.95; BUT he’ll sell it to you for less, if you’re a dues – paying member of any state or national manufactured housing trade association. To order, phone (865) 385-9675. Tell him ‘George sent me!’ Thanks.

IV.

This blog was the first national MHTrade news media to provide preliminary details about the upcoming National Summit for independent ‘street’ MHRetailers & in – landlease community home sales center operators. The event date is 13 – 15 November, and location will be in the Chicago area. I met with the organizers, Chad and Bill Carr, of Rainmaker Consulting, for three hours last week, and gotta say, ‘I came away impressed’ with what they plan to do to ‘motivate, educate, & rejuvenate MHRetailers’ who’ll be gathering from throughout the U.S. and Canada. At the very least, if you market, sell, and or self – finance new and resale manufactured homes these days, get your name on the list to receive additional information when it’s available. Call (800) 336-0339. Think about it. Attend this mid – November National Summit, and leave with new, exciting, proven practices; plan implementation during December; then, kick off the New Year 2012, with a ‘higher altitude attitude’ and a new game (business) plan designed to increase and sustain your new (and resale) home sales volume during the months ahead!

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End Note.

1. For more on ’mnemonic devices’, read George Allen’s Collection of Figurative Language & Figures of Speech, PMN Publishing, Franklin, IN., 2011. Available for $19.95 postpaid, by phoning (317) 346-7156. A handy, and at times humorous, reference tool for any amateur writer or journalist in your firm or family, or among your friends.

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