Archive for April, 2014

MHIndustry gets Ombudsman & MHARR an Open Letter!

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Community-investor.com Blog # 294 Copyright 2014 27 April 2014

Perspective. ‘Land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities cum ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

Roles of this blog. ‘It’s the national advocacy voice, ombudsman press*, statistical research reporter, & communications resource for LLLCommunities in North America!’

How to input this blog & affiliate with Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, a.k.a. COBA7, via Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

* Ombudsman press. ‘Non-government alliance handling complaints from the public.’

Introduction to this week’s community-investor.com blog posting…Part I. Finally, for the first time in manufactured housing industry history, we have an ombudsman (press) to field inquiries & complaints from homebuying customers, homeowner/rental homesite lessees in land-lease-lifestyle communities, and others! Part II. Just what it says, ‘An Open Letter to the…’ folk at the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform. And Part III. Salient responses to one of the ‘Stories Not Posted’, but hinted at in last week’s blog. Whew! Another full plate of news and op/ed for you this week! And if you think this blog fare is ‘informative & compelling’, you should read the Allen Letter professional journal each month – along with Signature Series Resource Documents, or SSRDs, enclosed for affiliates of the Community Owners (7 part) Business Alliance! To subscribe (to the newsletter alone) or affiliate with COBA7, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 today

I.

Ombudsman for the Manufactured Housing Industry!

II.

An Open Letter to the…

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, or

MHARR

III.

Responses to ‘A Story Not Posted’ but Described Last Week

____________________________________________________

I,

Ombudsman for the Manufactured Housing Industry!

Didn’t see this one coming, but probably should have….

“I’ve been in factory-built housing since 1970, & have frequently wondered: ‘Why no national advocacy entity appoints, trains and sponsors an ombudsman to serve our industry’s unique customer/resident mix, the ‘manufactured home owner/rental homesite lessee’?” My opinion is, present day national advocacy bodies view themselves simply as lobbyists, not ‘fixers’ of industry problems, customer complaints and more.

(Hmm. Maybe if we’d had an ombudsman or two on board during the past seven decades, we wouldn’t have suffered the image issues faced over the years through today)

In any event, since the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance was launched mid-December 2013, it’s fielded several inquiries and complaints from home owners/rental homesite lessees, land-lease-lifestyle community (A.k.a. manufactured home community owners/operators, and just last week, one from an MH/RV product vendor, who asked:

“Are park model RVs specifically excluded or exempted from the HUD Code?”

COBA7’s answer, with assistance from a manufactured housing state association executive, involved sending this inquirer a copy of current HUD language contained in 42 USC 5402(6), addressing the size and configuration requirements of HUD Code ‘manufactured homes’. Inquiry handled!

With that said, this blog posting is “COBA7’s Public Announcement of an ombudsman (press) presence in behalf of our industry’s customers & residents, as well as businessmen & women, nationwide & throughout Canada!”

What’s an ombudsman or ombudsperson? The term is generally associated with ‘a public official…who investigates complaints by private citizens against government agencies or officials’; but also can refer to ‘…a similar person in a corporation or other organization’ and business alliance. Webster.

Introduction of an ombudsman (press) presence falls within the ‘Seventh Part or Function’ embraced by the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance. Specifically, it’s the ‘National Advocacy, when need be…’ function; again, a presence long needed by manufactured housing/land-lease-lifestyle communities, nationwide and in Canada. And since COBA7 is NOT a formal, national or international, not for profit entity per se, but an alliance of businessmen and women from all segments of the manufactured housing industry and LLLCommunity asset class, a variant of ombudsman, or ombudsperson, is in order, to wit: ombudsman (press), i.e. Where industry ‘problems, inquiries & customer complaints’ will play out, if or when need be….

How to access the ombudsman (press)? Simple. Respond via host website: community-investor.com &/or Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. Also (317) 346-7156, & Ombudsman c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247 USA.

How’s research and resolution ‘problems, inquiries 7 customer complaints’ to occur? While details will be worked out as this ombudsman (press) initiative unfolds, the plan is to receive and log same at COBA7, then reach out to allegedly involved parties, offering assistance, and suggesting private resolution of said matters; and where appropriate, conduct further investigation and or research into the matter – as was the case this past week.

If you’re affiliated with COBA7, and would like to volunteer as an ombudsman or ombudsperson, let me know. Just like every other function, of the seven parts of COBA7, we’re actively seeking volunteers to share the increasing workload of 1) writing articles for the Allen Letter professional journal, 2) updating the dozen Signature Series Resource Documents or SSRDs, 3) preparing a new edition of the Land Lease Lifestyle Community Management text, even 4) teaching future Manufactured Housing Manager® or MHM® professional property management training and certification classes. How to volunteer? Phone GFA at (317) 346-7156.

IMPORTANT REMINDER. Mark your calendar to participate in the 23rd annual International Networking Roundtable, 10-12 September 2014, at the DOLCE Conference Center in Peachtree City, GA. Highlights this year? Two historic (Because this hasn’t been done before!) NATIONAL PUBLIC FORUMS, the morning of 11 September, re: ‘Future of manufactured housing as ‘housing’ (Not ‘trailers’!)’, & ‘Future of land-lease-lifestyle communities as ‘lifestyle’ & ‘investments’ (Not ‘trailer parks’ & ‘predatory $ feeding grounds’!). PLUS 20 seminar sessions, eight superb networking venues, and copious deal-making opportunities. But know this: we market this superb educational, networking, and deal-making opportunity only to last year’s attendees, COBA7 affiliates, and the ‘500 portfolio owners/operators’ mailing list. SO, if YOU want an ‘INVITE’, but are not on one of those three data bases, you must let us know via the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. Goal? 250+/- this year!
II.

An Open Letter to the…

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, or

MHARR

The following observations and comments are inspired by an MHARR Press Release dated April 15, 2014, titled: ‘MHARR Advances Its’ Final Push for Complete Implementation of the 2000 Reform Law’

To begin with, every businessman and woman whose career ‘is’ manufactured housing and or land-lease-lifestyle communities, should be very grateful to MHARR for the ‘Washington, DC Watchdog’ services and results they’ve provided, and continue to pursue in our nation’s capitol! It is my opinion; we would not have the HUD-Code manufactured housing industry we enjoy today – despite the new home shipment malaise since the turn of the century – if it wasn’t for the work of this national advocacy body.

But with that said, and again in my opinion, there’s much room for improvement in the agenda, focus, and very nature of their work as lobbyists. Let’s begin with a simple and easy matter. How many reading these words are aware the ‘2000 Reform Law’ referenced in the title of the aforementioned Press Release actually refers to the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000; and for some of us, abbreviated as MHIA@2000? Why begin an important recitation of a six bullet Action Plan for 2014, by ‘cornfusing’ readers with unclear terminology?

The six bullet points comprising MHARR’s Action Plan going into 2014?

• Implementation of the Full Status & Functionality of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee or MHCC. This body hasn’t met for nearly two years!

• Implementation of the New/Revised Subpart I. Here there needs to be more communication among parties within and outside HUD and the MHIndustry

• Implementation of New Energy Standards. Here the issue has to do with communication with the Department of Energy, and not being pre-empted by standards not reviewed for cost effectiveness.

• Implementation of Enhanced Federal Preemption. Past promises of program reviews and re-evaluation have not been kept, but are still needed.

• Implementation of Label Fee Increase. MHARR argued against implementation of ‘an administrative notice-only system’ that would contravene MHIA@2000, and take advantage of home manufacturers.

• Implementation of Proper Status of MH Program at HUD. Here the desire is to move the Title VI $ program from Office of Risk Management, over to the Office of Single Family Housing in accords with MHIA@2000.

When and where have you, blog flogger (reader) had this sort of Washington ‘insider’ information brought to your attention, even in abbreviated fashion like this? Probably rarely or never! And that’s the point. If you ‘make your living’ in this industry and via the LLLCommunity asset class, you owe it to yourself to ‘be informed’. To contact MHARR, phone (202) 783-4087. But don’t expect to ‘join up’, as this national advocacy body accepts only HUD-Code home ‘manufacturers’ as members.

Which brings up the next, somewhat negative aspect of MHARR. There’s a statement early in this Press Release that begs further discussion. It reads:

“the Association’s outreach on consumer financing showing one of the main reasons for continuing discrimination against manufactured homes and homebuyers is the lingering perception of manufactured homes as ‘trailers’ – which the 2000 reform law was designed to end by completing the transition of manufactured homes to legitimate housing – it became evident renewed and intensified MHARR engagement with HUD on completing implementation of the 2000 reform law (i.e. ‘MHIA@2000’) is both warranted and necessary.”

OK, that statement is fine, as far as it goes. The problem, in my opinion, is MHARR does NOT GO FAR ENOUGH! Out of one side of their mouth, so to speak, the association claims to desire to see HUD-Code manufactured housing ‘complete the transition to legitimate housing’ (presumably away from our ‘trailer’ vestigial heritage) – but only relative to their smaller ‘manufacturer’ perspective! And while they tacitly recognize (What they refer to as) post-production segments of the industry, they do little to fully understand, let alone cultivate support from these adrift folk, other than encourage their formation of a new, independent, national post-production advocacy presence in Washington, DC – or elsewhere.

For example, it’s well known most state association executives routinely read MHARR’s VIEWPOINT press. And many LLLCommunity owners/operators, as well as chattel finance lenders, and product/service vendors, regularly peruse The Journal, the Allen Letter professional journal, and Rishel Consulting’s online newsletter, to learn ‘the rest of the (manufactured housing) story’ – according to MHARR. But all that’s not enough. To be a true and effective industry leader takes ‘more than just talk’- and writing, to achieve, maintain, and apply such status!

So, what’s the answer? In my opinion, STOP (What appears to be) WORRYING about what any other national advocacy body might be doing, and focus on MHARR’s agenda (like these six bullet points). Look what that did for you this Fall, where GSE Reform legislation language was concerned! In addition, make it a point to learn more about the nature and needs of the post-production segment of the manufactured housing industry, solicit their support, and become a timely and valuable resource to them – to the point of stepping out and publicly describing the ‘Future of manufactured housing as ‘housing’, NOT ‘trailers’! Press Releases are Not Enough! However, if MHARR continues to run ‘hot & cold’, relative to post-production segments of the manufactured housing industry, it runs the real and serious risk of compromising its’ present day reputation, integrity and value to the industry and realty asset class as a whole!

Think I jest? Here’s what one owner (Not me) of several LLLCommunities has to say about MHARR and its’ manufacturer members:

“Smaller community owners feel a kindred spirit with smaller MH manufacturers. We are both entrepreneurs, often small businessmen and women. We property owners appreciate the personal service and attention we receive from small manufacturers. We also appreciate the flexibility small manufacturers have in designing and building homes. Similarly, we also share grave concerns about dominance by larger manufacturers and LLLCommunity operators, along with their attitude that ‘bigger must be better’. Lastly, we are especially sensitive to government regulations, red tape, and influence over our businesses and our lives.”

And this from yet another Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance affiliate (Again, not me!):

“I think he’s (Danny Ghorbani) very effective as a lobbyist for smaller home manufacturers – and to a big extent, the industry as a whole! However, the business model he’s most familiar with is the independent (street) MHRetailer of the past. My concern is, so much of what the industry does today, and even more so tomorrow, is in the hands of manufacturers selling new homes directly to LLLCommunity owners, who in turn sell the homes to the public. He knows very little about this new business model, and what he refers to as the ‘post production segments’ of our industry. Getting involved in the Networking Roundtable and SECO Symposium this Fall would be excellent opportunities for MHARR to learn about these important segments of the industry – especially the many smaller LLCommunities.” (lightly edited. GFA)

Bottom line MHARR?

1) Pursue the above-listed six bullet point agenda with vim and vigor!

2) Stop fretting over ‘opposition within’ (e.g. recent GAO interviews) as well as ‘competition outside’ (e.g. other building trade bodies) manufactured housing circles, and move ahead!

3) Learn all you can about the post production segments of the manufactured housing industry1 And when need be, serve as their unofficial proxy, or ronin voice, inside the capitol beltway until…..

4) In the end, MHARR will be a much more effective industry lobbyist in Washington, DC.

As usual, we solicit your response to this challenging and forward-thinking MOPHEAD*

End Note. * MOPHEAD is a 1980s era abbreviation for ‘manufactured housing opinion/editorial’, and metaphor for ‘a tool used to mop up MHBusiness messes’. MOPHEAD is from the time when I penned monthly columns for The Journal, and now defunct Manufactured Home Merchandiser magazines. Now you know….GFA

III.

Responses to ‘a Story Not Posted’ but Described Last Week

Relative to ‘How Latter Day Mobe Dogs Eat Helpless & Hapless Gophers’ non-story:

“Sliding Occupancy & Higher Rent – Oh What A Great (business) Suicide Route!” NB

“You must know the California land-lease-lifestyle community (A.k.a. manufactured home community) market very well, to pen what you did in your blog. Here’s my take:

• California has (local) rent control

• California has high rental homesite rent rates, even for 40+ year old homes

• California has LLLCommunity owners/operators unwilling to upgrade their property’s image, by not renewing leases on old homes and buying new ones.

• California politicians pander to take away property rights to give to others, e.g. bastion of ‘feel good at others expense place’ in the entire U.S.

• California LLLCommunity owners raised site rents during the ‘Go Go days’ for one reason: they could. In the end, they killed the independent (street) MHRetailer business, and affected homeowner/site lessees in different ways, per rent control.

• California ‘chattel finance’ has a hard time financing resale homes in LLLCommunities. Now that new home market is primed, will LLLCommunities participate?

• California LLLCommunity owners must take control of their property(ies) now, following seven years of idleness.

Interestingly, the non-story cited in last week’s blog posting was NOT describing a LLLCommunity market survey re: California or Florida, but Michigan. Surprised?

And know what else we learned from this unpublished story? Who ‘really reads’ blog postings and who does not. It was so apparent when individuals started phoning and emailing, requesting FREE copies of the unidentified Market Survey. Conscientious LLLCommunity owners/operators want to know (Must know!) if their local housing markets are experiencing, e.g. ‘declining occupancy AND rising rents’, in order to take corrective or self-protective actions before business failure threatens or occurs. Did YOU request your FREE copy?

***

George Allen, CPM& MHM
Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156

Revisiting Alexa.com; Stories Not Posted; & MHOmbudsman

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Blog Column # 293 Copyright 2014 20 April 2014

Perspective. ‘Land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities cum ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

Reason for this blog. ‘It’s the national advocacy voice, statistical research reporter, & communications resource for all LLLCommunities located throughout North America!’

To Input this blog & affiliate with Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, a.k.a. ‘COBA7’, use Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764

Introduction to this week’s blog posting at community-investor.com BREAKING NEWS! After penning Part I of this posting we learned MHVillage Welcomed More Than 1,000,000 Unique Visitors to their website during March of this year! Why is that important to know? Because this isn’t a FIRST for just MHVillage, but the entire manufactured housing industry and land-lease-lifestyle community asset class. Read on! And Part II? These are hints of stories we planned to post, but for various cited reasons decided not to do so. Read between the lines. Part III? More often than not, ‘blog floggers’ (i.e. ‘readers’) observe better than me. This is one of those times. Part IV. Well, we’ll let that one unfold during the coming week….GFA

I.

Alexa.com Revisited!

II.

Four Blog Stories Written but Not Posted

III.

I Couldn’t Have Said This Better Myself

IV.

Next Blog = may be an OPEN LETTER to…, & an MHOmbudsman @ COBA7

I.

Alexa.com Revisited!

Within minutes after posting last week’s blog (#292), I learned of my faux pas, accidental oversight, blunder and gaffe, all rolled into one! And I’ve heard more about the matter, from additional loyal blog ‘floggers’ (readers). Reason for all this excitement?

Last week’s ‘Manufactured Housing Industry, meet Alexa.com’ blog posting identified ten realty and manufactured housing-related websites, from hundreds of thousands of commercial websites ranked by Alexa.com, but we accidentally omitted the largest MHIndustry website of all: MHVillage.com!

That’s right, MHVillage.com should have been ranked #2 on this global list of eleven organizations and firms, behind ONLY the NAR.org (‘National Association of Realtors’) website! Here’s how the global list should have been displayed and posted:

NAR,org 12,534 = first in this RE & MH ranking
MHVillage.com 41,557 = 1.000,000 visitors in March 2014
NAHB.org 94,014
Claytonhomes.com 128,537
IREM.org 240,601
21st Mortgage.com 266,645
Championhomes.net 362,790
Equitylifestyle.com 703,931
Americanlandlease.com 1,190,961
Cavco.com 1,201,958
Manufacturedhousing.org 2,252,064

And one could say, we ‘added insult to injury’ when we didn’t rank MHVillage’s ‘Daily Time On Site’ amongst the same firms; for here they were #3, with an impressive 6:15 minutes on site, just behind Americanlandlease at 13:40 and 21st Mortgage at 6:28 minutes. Number four? MHI at 4:02 minutes.

Well, the oversight certainly wasn’t intentional. And no excuses are offered. But if you’re not familiar with MHVillage, and own/operate land-lease-lifestyle communities, YOU SHOULD BECOME FAMILIAR WITH WHAT THEY CAN DO FOR YOU. Not only is it the manufactured housing industry and LLLCommunity asset class’ primary means of marketing homes ‘for sale’, but is soon to become the primary source of yet another major aspect, maybe even two, of LLLCommunity benchmark statistics! They are? Ah, for that you’ll have to attend, see and hear at the 23rd annual International Networking Roundtable, 10-12 September 2014, in Peachtree, GA*. There, Dan Rinzema will announce exciting growth plans for this longtime MHIndustry firm.

End Note. * To ensure you receive an invitation to participate in this ‘sole standalone annual event planned for land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators, and their preferred lenders and product/service vendors’, phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. You’ll be glad you did!

II.

Four Blog Stories Penned but Not Posted

Title: Recovering from Manufactured Housing’s ‘Perfect Storm’

Why not posted?

The necessary adjustments and corrective measures were more than the industry, its’ leaders, and the land-lease-lifestyle community real estate component were willing, or likely able, to bear at the time….

Today? Little has changed. The manufactured housing industry, for the most part is mired in its’ vestigial trailer past, except where and when circumstances dictate otherwise, e.g. demise of most independent (street) MHRetailers when easy access to chattel capital ended; and, for the first time in ‘industry history’, LLLCommunity owners/operators began to routinely buy new manufactured homes to resell on-site and oft times self-finance.

It’s why the First National Public Forum, on this topic – to debut this Fall* – is so important and timely, from historical and strategic planning perspectives.

End Note. * 23rd International Networking Roundtable, 10-12 September 2014, in Peachtree City, GA. See Part I of this blog for contact information.

Title: The New Wave of ‘Flashes in the Pan’ LLLCommunity Investors?

Why not posted?

Two reasons. To frame the argument, we’d have had to identify two dozen erstwhile ‘Hare today, goon tomorrow’ land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators who’ve ‘loudly come & quietly gone’, since circa 1980. Not a good idea. And, LLLCommunity specialist real estate brokers tell me such an expose’ would likely scare away equity and hedge fund dollars now coming outa the woodwork since recent published stories profiled our unique business model as being slam dunk profitable (At times!) and predatory (Not for many of us!) in nature.

Title: ‘How Latter Day Mobe Dogs Eat Helpless & Hapless Gophers’

Why not posted?

Similar in theme to previous ‘not posted’ blog title. This time however, descriptions would have been of business practices that led to ‘operational aberrations – at best’ & ‘major business failures – at worst’.

Today? Sad to say, but aberrations remain in effect, despite mega business failures along the way. A hint? In a recently published 14 year (specific state) Market Summary Report*, on a particular land-lease-lifestyle community market, two timeline graphs are shown side by side. One describes ‘occupancy dropping’ for 12+ years. The second cites ‘site rent rising’ during same 12+ year time frame, among the same properties. Perhaps it’s not the market researcher’s responsibility to draw conclusions or predict future performance trends from such illustrations; but paraphrasing the baby’s line in a popular TV commercial, “Doesn’t’ anyone see the mime talking?” – applied here, “Doesn’t anyone see the nay saying these charts suggest for our present business model cum tomorrow?” Specifically; the charts show site rents were raised annually to offset revenue lost as site occupancy declined. Now today: ‘Why would new homebuyer/site lessees move into these properties to pay inflated rent rates, unless new home prices and PITI payments are pegged artificially low as an incentive – in effect devaluing said home(s) more and faster than usual depreciation?’ None of this is new. Firms have long priced themselves, rent wise, out of local housing markets, often paying the ultimate business failure penalty….

End Note: * For a copy of the Market Summary Report, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

Title: ‘Shifty Shifting Support’

Why not posted?

Simply ‘too ripe and timely’ a matter for the parties involved. One of them is not given to equal opportunity dialogue, so suffers declining influence. And the other, frankly, lacks passion for and understanding of, post production segments of the manufactured housing industry. More to come, in good time…….

III.

I Couldn’t Have Said This Better Myself

The following paragraph was sent to me by a blog flogger this past week. The identity of the writer is unimportant; the gist of what he/she pens is insightful and telling.

“It appears to me there are three tribes of folk in the (manufactured housing) industry, with overlap in some areas among them. The highest exposure to new investors comes from Frank and Dave, which (sic) gets the least qualified investors, but at the end of the day, more investors and people on the outside seem to know of them than anyone else. Then comes the Manufactured Housing Institute, because they have the reach of all the state associations, and they get people who are a little more serious than Frank and Dave. Lastly are the Allenites, which is a group of solid, very ethical ‘insiders’ who are easier to do business with and much more proven.”

Just as happened with last week’s blog (Reread Part I of this posting for description of an inadvertent omission), ‘WHO is obvious here, by their absence from this tribal census’? Presuming we identify the same national player, said absence begs the question: WHY? In my opinion, it’s likely due to an unwillingness, on their part, to learn and embrace the manufactured housing industry as a whole, including its’ realty and finance components – though there have been forays of late, into the latter post production segment. Of course, neither was the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, a.k.a. COBA7*, mentioned; but seeing as how the alliance of 200+ affiliates is only four months old, that’s not surprising.

End Note: * Any individual or business involved in any segment of the HUD-Code manufactured housing industry may affiliate with COBA7 by phoning the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 & selecting Options I, II or III!

IV.

Next Blog = may be an OPEN LETTER to…, & an MHOmbudsman @ COBA7

***

George Allen, CPM & MHM
Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156

Meet Alexa.com & ‘Just Goes to Show You!’

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Blog Column # 292 Copyright 2014 13 April 2014

Perspective. “Land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities cum ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

Reason for this blog. ‘It’s the national advocacy voice, statistical research reporter, & communications resource for all LLLCommunities located throughout North America!’

How to Input this blog & affiliate with Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, a.k.a. ‘COBA7’, via Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-5764

Introduction to this week’s blog posting at community-investor.com I begin every week wondering, “Hmm. What’s going to occur this week that’s newsworthy, interesting, and timely for the 500+ MHIndustry & LLLCommunity readers of this blog post?”

Well, I’m never without inspiration for long. First off; how many of us are frustrated by unsubstantiated commercial website ‘hit’ claims? Part I describes an imperfect commercial website metrics ranking tool. And it concludes with a unique entrepreneurial challenge for ‘someone’ in our industry. You?

Part II? Given the success enjoyed by Community Owners (7 part) Business Alliance, signing 200+ affiliates during first three months of 2014, and as unofficial MHIndustry historian, it’s time to document the inspiration and genesis of COBA7.

And Part III. Three new MHIndustry texts in one year is simply ‘too much’. But you might as well read of plans afoot now, and decide if there’s ‘a place for you’ in the mix.

I.

Manufactured Housing Industry, meet Alexa.com

II.

JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU!

III.

Books, Books, Books, & More Books!

I.

Manufactured Housing Industry, meet Alexa.com

Google Alexa.com and take a few minutes to install the ‘free’ Alexa.com toolbar. Then take a fascinating journey among real estate, homebuilders, and manufactured housing industries’ largest and most popular commercial websites, to view specific web traffic data at this subsidiary of Amazon.com Here you’ll learn the approximate global rankings of these various sites, and more. WARNING. Only the most frequently visited commercial websites will be found at Alexa.com. For example, you will not find community-investor.com (Site of this blog posting), and other small manufactured housing-related venues who routinely ballyhoo their supposed popularity.

Ready to review ten of hundreds of thousands of commercial websites ranked by Alexa.com? Our first run through answers Alexa.com’s question: ‘How is this site ranked relative to other sites (globally)?” Well, the National Association of Realtors® placed #1 in this global ranking, the Manufactured Housing Institute, #10.

NAR.org (National Association of Realtors) 12,534
NAHB.org (National Association of Homebuilders) 94,014
Claytonhomes.com 128,537
IREM.org (Institute of Real Estate Management) 240,601
21stMortgage.com 266,645
Championhomes.net 362,790
Equitylifestyle.com 703,931
Americanlandlease.com 1,190,961
Cavco.com 1,201,958
Manufacturedhousing.org (MHI) 2,252,064

Alexa.com also ranks websites within the U.S., but not all ten firms and entities are listed, only 21stMortgage, Equitylifestyle, Americanlandlease, Clayton, Champion, NAR, NAHB & IREM; not MHI and Cavco.

Alexa.com also tracks three additional metrics: 1) Bounce Rate; 2) Daily Page Views per Visitor; and, 3) Daily Time On Site. Here we’ll just list the Daily Time On Site metrics, beginning with the longest to shortest estimated times spent viewing on site….

Americanlandlease = 13:40 minutes
21stMortgage 6:28
MHI 4:02
IREM 3:3
Champion 3:25
Clayton 3:19
NAR 2:47
Equitylifestyle 2:31
Cavco 2:19
NAHB 2:19

Don’t know ‘bout you, but I find the numbers fascinating; especially Americanlandlease’s Daily Time On Site. Perhaps one should visit, assuming the metric’s accuracy, to learn what’s keeping their visitor’s rapt attention for so long; double the time spent anywhere else among this group. Well, I did, and now understand why: First you have to decide whether you’re interested in an all age land-lease-lifestyle community (i.e. the Clearview Community brand) or one for folk 55 years of age and older (i.e. the Solstice Community brand); then select the region of the U.S. where one plans to settle; and finally, ‘go for a virtual visit or tour’. All that’s going to ‘take some time’, to narrow one’s choices.

Now, you go ahead, give Alexa.com a try; you’ll be glad you did.

Obviously, Alexa.com has its’ limitations, but website ranking and analysis alternatives are few and not that accessible and or helpful. Two examples. Think Google Analytics. Probably the best route. BUT there, data is generally restricted to those with password login info, usually the owner or webmaster of said site(s); hence ‘lack of ready access’. Then there’s compete.com (for $199.00/month, after a free 24 hour trial).

As an entrepreneur I see ‘a need & an opportunity’ here: Someone in the manufactured housing industry, for a price, to routinely perform independent third party research, ranking, analysis, and reporting of aforementioned manufactured housing websites, as well as commercial sites too small to be profiled by Alexa.com. What a help this would be to prospective internet advertisers, needing to know conclusively, whether a commercial website really delivers the volume and quality of ‘hits’ claimed. Someone out there ready to take on this opportunity?

II.

JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU!

“If you build it, they will come!” A promise popularized in the movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, fulfilled in a different manner, since the launch, three months ago, of Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance or COBA7.

First; the way things are today, mid-April 2014. Since mid-December 2013, more than 200 businessmen and women have affiliated with the Community Owners (7 Part) business alliance! They hail from every segment of the HUD-Code manufactured housing industry, including home manufacturers, realty & chattel lenders, MHRetailers, product & service vendors and of course – most of all, sole proprietor and portfolio land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators, from throughout the U.S. and Canada!

Indeed, ‘We have built a new international business alliance, meeting real needs, & they (many of you reading this blog posting) have affiliated!’ But it took a full year, to arrive at that mid-December starting point, for good reasons….

During the January 2013 Louisville MHShow, at KMHI’s PAC reception, MHI chairman Nathan Smith, PHC®, and I had an intense conversation about the present and future of the institute’s National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division. He was OK with the status quo; I and others were not! When I suggested, if the cliquish leadership of the council continued, there wouldn’t be incentive for small to mid-sized owners and operators of LLLCommunities to continue in the NCC fold, and maybe look elsewhere. His response? Words to the effect, “George, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.” End of conversation. And sad to say, we haven’t spoken since; though I’d like to do so. But now, I suppose, it no longer matters….

Then there’s this dual rub. I’m one of the original 19 LLLCommunity owners who took the initial steps, on 31 August 1993 that led to the 1/1/1996 birth of the present day NCC, a story chronicled in Bruce Savage’s 2013 book, The First 20 Years! And there’s this; I continue to be an elected board member of the NCC council. So, my affection for, and loyalty to, this body has been long and deep! BUT, how often does one continue to ‘step on Superman’s cape’ before being upended (As a couple of us were, via a very public, mean-spirited verbal ambush, during the NCC’s Fall 2012 meeting)? And we’ve come to clearly understand, ‘Cliquishness or abject cronyism isn’t going to change anytime soon!’ Effect a change by vote? Nope. NCC meetings are poorly attended by members (a dozen+/- at most), though popular with dozens of observers usually in the room. And the council disallows absentee votes at all elections, as we learned during the Fall 2013 NCC meeting, when two dozen absentee ballots were summarily rejected. In spite of all that, it’s still difficult to walk away to a new business alliance, even one with more and varied functions. And frankly, I plan to continue to pay $500.00 per year in direct, dues-payments to the MHI/NCC for their national advocacy efforts, and not much more! So should you.

What most folk reading this blog posting probably don’t know, is prior to the conversation described in the first paragraph, I’d been meeting, corresponding and conversing with, originally a dozen, then two dozen, businessmen and women, from all corners of the U.S., who shared the common bond of LLLCommunity ownership and management. What brought us together, was the common goal of ensuring continuation of unique products and services, provided by GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing, specifically for owners/operators of LLLCommunities nationwide and in Canada. And there never was any serious talk about alternative representation or advocacy of the asset class on the national level. That’s why COBA7 is a business alliance, and NOT a new, national not for profit entity. In any event, today the number of ‘skin in the game’ intimates has grown from two dozen to more than 200 affiliates!

My original personal goal had been to semi-retire at the end of year 2012. Pensions were in place, and investments in the capable hands of a CFP – my son. But retirement did not happen. Oh, it could have. Nothing, except loyalty to hundreds of businessmen and women friends ‘in the MHBusiness’, stood in the way of me simply ‘pulling the plug’ and walking away. But I’m not wired that way. At stake was 35 years worth of creativity and nurturing of unique products and services, that most if not all, LLLCommunity owners/operators, large and small, continue to benefit from, day in and day out, throughout the year. No, we simply had to identify a practical yet effective means to ensure continuation of these valuable features into the future.

That’s when it was brought to our attention a certain national news magazine, WORLD, had recently converted its’ paid subscribers into affiliates of a larger business alliance, the publisher itself. After looking into the matter, it became obvious a similar conversion, a repackaging of the dozen separate profit centers – beginning with paid subscribers to two monthly newsletters, into a single business entity, would secure the future of these features, today referred to as the ‘7 Parts’ or functions of COBA7, facilitating greater intimacy between affiliates and their alliance! By way of review, here’re the ‘parts cum functions’ that comprise COBA7 today, and going forward:

• Ongoing research, typified by the 25th anniversary ALLEN REPORT, a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’ Did you know? In 1987 there were but 25 known ‘mobile home park’ portfolio owners/operators nationwide. That number has swelled to 500+/-, throughout North America, during recent years, as land-lease-lifestyle communities were consolidated; first by limited partnership syndicators (1980s); then a few REITs (1990s); and most recently, into entities funded by equity partners (early 2000s). 167 of these are identified in the 25th annual ALLEN REPORT; available to COBA7 affiliates, at Option II & III levels.

• Distribution of resource documents & directories known as Signature Series Resource Documents, or SSRDs, e.g. 16th annual National Registry of Lenders.

• Online & print communication via weekly blog posting at community-investor.com, and two subscriber-supported newsletters for LLLCommunities

• Superb peer networking via FOCUS Groups, & an annual International Networking Roundtable that attracts hundreds of LLLCommunity owners/operators, e.g. 10-12 September 2014 at DOLCE Conference Center in Peachtree City, GA. This year? First ever National Public Forum exploring the past, present & future of manufactured housing as ‘housing’, not ‘trailers’; and land-lease-lifestyle communities as ‘lifestyle’ & ongoing ‘realty investments’. Be there! Call Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877)MFD-HSNG or 633-4764

• Deal-making opportunities via coalition of national real estate brokerages

• Professional property management training & certification via Manufactured Housing Manager®, or MHM® program, by classroom or correspondence

• National advocacy, only when need be….

Today, the past is indeed HISTORY; and the future, OPPORTUNITY! With all seven coba7 ‘parts cum functions’ in place and performing well, the predicted NEW ERA FOR 50,000+/- LLLCommunities has indeed dawned! So, if interested in affiliating with COBA7, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. When we process your payment, we’ll immediately mail the four SSRDs (thru April), you’ve missed to date in 2014, and you’ll begin to receive your monthly issue of the Allen Letter professional journal – and the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! business newsletter, if they are your choice(s).

III.
Books, Books, Books, & More Books!

Are YOU interested in learning ‘How to Prepare & Publish Corporate Histories & Personal Memoirs’? Seminars are being planned for (maybe) 8 or 9 May in East Peoria, IL., at IMHA’s annual meeting. Phone Frank Bowman at (217) 528-3423, to express your interest, and while on the phone, register for that educational, networking event where new HUD-Code homes will be exhibited! Seminar cost? None planned. I’ll be teaching the class, and plan to have a half dozen manufactured housing industry corporate histories and memoirs with me, to motivate you to begin planning your own manuscript!

Next session, likely late morning or early afternoon on 4 August in Elkhart, IN., at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Museum, Library facility. Phone Al Hesselbart at (574) 293-2344 to express your interest. And since you’ll be there anyway, why not register for this year’s RV/MH banquet, when the Class of 2014 (including Gary McDaniel of YES! Communities, Barry Cole of MHIS, Tom Kern of Style Crest Enterprises, Ed Evans of EPM, & Dick King of King Insurance, on the MH ‘side of the house’) will be inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame! Seminar cost? We haven’t talked about it yet, but not much. Frankly, Al and I are hoping it’ll be well-received enough, to become an integral part of this popular annual legacy event.

Third session likely to occur on 12 September, as part of the 23rd annual International Networking Roundtable, at the DOLCE Conference Center in Peachtree City, GA. By then, I hope to be well into my autobiography project, tentatively titled: Twice a Warrior!

The there’s How to Market, Sell & Self-finance New & Resale Homes On-site in LLLCommunities. This is a two year project, hopefully to begin sometime during 2014., if we can identify capable, experienced, motivated would-be co-authors. This would be the first perfect-bound book to be published in the manufactured housing industry since 1996, when J. Wiley & Sons’ released How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell a Manufactured Home Community – to have the first printing sell out within six months! Why a two year window? It takes that long to put enough good material together, format and edit it, then print and bind the manuscript. For example; Dave Alley, Ed Hicks, and I started our ‘book ball’ rolling in 1992, two full years before Development, Marketing & Operation of Manufactured Home Communities hit the market in 1994. Is it worth all that effort? We think so. It established our ‘bonafides’ in the industry and asset class for at least the next two decades….Is there a book in you? Call and let’s talk about it.

‘Lessons Learned in LLLCommunity Operations’ maybe not the stand alone new book we envisioned after all; but rather, a new edition of the LLLCommunity Management text used during the popular Manufactured Housing Manager® or MHM® professional property management training and certification program.

***

George Allen, CPM® & MHM®
Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156

COBA7 Launches LLLCommunity Mgr. Compensation Study

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Blog Column # 291 Copyright 2014 6 April 2014

Perspective. ‘Land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities cum ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

Reason for this blog. It’s the national advocacy voice, statistical research reporter, & communications resource for LLLCommunities, of all sizes, throughout North America!’

How to Input this blog & affiliate with Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, a.k.a. ‘COBA7’, via Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (8777) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764

Introduction to this week’s blog posting at community-investor.com. Three of many responses to last week’s ‘MH Public Discourse Impasse Ends 9/11/2014 @ Networking Roundtable in Peachtree City, GA.’: “Excellent George.” MD, & “Good blog, George. Glad someone is still willing to give our industry a bit of hell when they need it.” JU, & “I will not forget how we worked as an industry, via low cost, convenient and quality housing. Those basics were and continue to be the best!” NB Now, this week’s lineup?

I.

COBA7 Launches Land-lease-lifestyle Community
On-site Property Manager Compensation Study

II.

‘In the Know’ MHIndustry Aficionados to Flock to East Peoria, IL @ 8 & 9 May 2014

III.

Finally Going on the Offense over Offensive Writ in The New York Times re: MHIndustry

IV,

Coming Over to the Other (Our) Side of Life

I.

COBA7 Launches Land-lease-lifestyle Community
On-site Property Manager Compensation Study

Long and often considered in MHI’s National Communities Council (‘NCC’) circles, this timely subject was given ‘just lip service’, as everyone wanted the information, but no one was willing to share proprietary salary and benefit information. Well, Thanks to several land-lease-lifestyle community owner/operator affiliates of the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, that’s changed! And just recently, a national executive search and recruiting firm, that specializes in placing regional and on-site LLLCommunity managers, has joined the study. The goal of this first COBA7 project? To provide a practical tool by which LLLCommunity owners/operators throughout North America, can better determine what a particular on-site property management job is worth, salary and benefit wise!

To date, they’ve crafted a formula using six variables in this sequence:

1. Total number of rentable homesites in a given land-lease-lifestyle community (a.k.a. manufactured home community, or ‘mobile home park’) if preferred.

2. Number of ‘occupied & paying rent’ homesites at said property, when the formula is applied.

3. Set or average rental homesite monthly rent rate; assuming said rent, if including water & sewer, offsets those expenses; or if billed separately, is factored back onto the rent rate, to fine tune the gross potential rent amount offsetting said expense category.

4. Application of appropriate Operating Expense Ratio or OER percentages. For example: 4.5% @ admin labor, not including PM fee; &, 3.0% @ maintenance labor = 7.5% or .075 OER, when using asset class’ Industry Standard Chart of (Operating Expense) Accounts, given a national average 40% OER overall. Corollaries: Realization a property’s OER% is generally greater (than 40%) among smaller properties and large properties with low occupancy; due to less economy of scale in the former instance; more common area and utility risers to maintain, as well as marketing-related expenses in the latter instance. Conversely, a property’s OER% is generally less (than 40%) among larger properties enjoying high physical & economic occupancy. This example assumes the same Industry Standard Chart of Accounts is applied and all OER categories are used as described.*1

5. Final adjustment of preliminary salary amount per concessioned site rent, unit rent, and appropriate utilities – if any concessions; and, when/if appropriate, compensation for extra duties, e.g. wastewater treatment plant operation, testing & reporting; and/or seasonal duties such as grass mowing, snow plowing, etc.
.
6. For a statistical benchmark comparison, relate final adjusted salary amount to Area Median Income for the local housing market in which the subject property is located. AMI is available via zipskinny.com

Now the fun begins. If you’re a COBA7 affiliate*2, and would like to participate in the ‘proof & refinement’ of the above proposed formula, mail the following information, in hard copy, to either COBA7 c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247, or FAX to (317) 346-7158.

Please use a separate page for each property reported:

1. Total number of rentable homesites at this land-lease-lifestyle community (a.k.a. manufactured home community): __________

2. Actual or average number of ‘occupied & paying rent’ rental homesites at this LLLCommunity: __________

3. Set or average rental homesite rent rate at this location: $__________ Does this amount include water & sewer? Circle YES or NO. If NOT, what’s the average monthly amount of water & sewer charges billed per rental homesite each month? $__________

4. At this property, relative to the management staff, do you concession rent &/or utilities? Circle YES or NO. If YES, total monthly amount for this property into: Total site rent $__________, Unit rent $_________, Utilities $ __________

5. Total number of on-site managers at this location: __________. Number of additional salaried employees: __________ and hourly employees: __________

6. What is the postal zip code for this property? ________ OR, if you know it, the Annual Median Income or AMI of the local housing market $_______________

7. This final step is not required, but if you’d like to be kept abreast of project progress, be sure to supply your name and preferred contact information here:____________________________________________________________

Our hope is to eventually publish, either in chart format or easy-to-use formula, a means by which LLLCommunity owners/operators can estimate a fair and appropriate (Based on a property’s characteristics, scope of job description, and nature of the local housing market in which the LLLCommunity is located) Property Management Compensation, sans performance bonuses, for smaller LLLCommunities requiring part-time salaried management, as well as larger properties, able to justify a staff – but not including ‘home sales’ or ‘rental unit’ operations if budgeted and accounted for separately from usual land-lease operations.

End Note.

*1 For a FREE copy of the Industry Standard Chart of Accounts, along with the national average Allen Model OER percentages, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 and request it.

*2 COBA7 affiliates, in this instance, include everyone registered under Options I, II & III – the difference being I = Allen Letter subscription alone; II = newsletter & 12 Signature Series Resource Documents or SSRDs, & III = newsletter, SSRDs, & the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! business newsletter. If reading this, and not yet affiliated with the hundreds of LLLCommunity owners/operators who’ve already done so, simply (again) phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE, shown in End Note # 1 above, for information.

II.

‘In The Know’ MHIndustry Aficionados to Flock to East Peoria, IL.@8 & 9 May 2014

WHY?

50 copies of Bruce Savage’s popular 2013 book: The First 20 Years! – of national advocacy, in behalf of land-lease-lifestyle communities, have been donated to the Illinois Manufactured Housing Association (‘IMHA’), host of this year’s stellar event in East Peoria, IL. The books will be given to the first 50 individuals (one book per company) to register! Phone (217) 528-3423 today and RESERVE YOUR COPY today!

Ken Rishel, ‘Manufactured Housing Industry’s Person of the Year 2013 & 2014’, will ‘splain’ compliance issues relating to federal finance & S.A.F.E. Act regs; and Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (‘CPFB’) matters! Phone (217) 528-3423 to register!.

John Underwood, manufactured housing sales trainer par excellence! John, to date and in my opinion, the ONLY trainer of independent (street) MHRetail salescenter teams to successfully transition his expertise re: on-site marketing and sale of new homes within land-lease-lifestyle communities. Come & learn from John! (217) 528-3423 to sign-up!

When and where was the last time someone taught you HOW TO Best Show your Display Homes relative to Home Décor, for MHRetail salescenters and on-site in LLLCommunities? Learn from Clayton Homes consulting expert, Sue Yoder! (217) 528-3423

WAKE UP! That’s what Tammy Fonk, from CBRE; & Creighton Weber, from Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital, will admonish YOU to do when planning, FIRST, to market your LLLCommunity ‘for sale’; &/or SECOND, to ready it for acquisition financing or refinancing! Two top experts in the U.S. today! Call (217) 528-3423 to get on board!

Saving the Best for Last? Maybe. Here’s a TRIPLE PUNCH to be delivered at this year’s event: 1) Opportunity for LLLCommunity owners/operators to benefit from prospective Resident Screening Services via AmRent; 2) Accounting & Accountability software from Rent Manager; and, 3) Home Sales Marketing Services from MHVillage (plus) their recent foray into local housing market Rent Surveys a la JLT & Associates methodology! Frankly, YOU cannot afford to miss this threefold opportunity! (217) 528-3423. I’ll be there

‘Official State of the Manufactured Housing Industry & Land-lease-lifestyle Community Asset Class’ – a cumbersome title sure, but the ONLY such briefing available in the U.S. today, covering both major segments of the manufactured housing industry! And know what? It’s an exciting lesson in ‘stats’ & trends! Call (217) 528-3423 to hear this, & ‘All you wanted to know about COBA7, but didn’t know who to ask!’ George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM®Master

Bottom Line? There will be dozens of state MHAssociation meetings and seminars during 2014, but all will pale in comparison to what’s planned to occur at the Par-A-Dice Casino & Resort Hotel, in East Peoria, IL., on 8 & 9 May 2014. How can YOU not want to participate? Luxurious hotel, gaming, superb timely topics & presenters, good food, top notch networking, even some deal-making. See YOU there! (217) 528-3423

III.

Finally Going on the Offense over Offensive Writ in The New York Times re: MHIndustry

KUDOS to MHARR! Finally, a national manufactured housing advocacy group stands up to The New York Times publishing of ‘The Cold Hard Lessons of Mobile Home U’. Here’s the complete text of what MHARR put on the editor’s desk this past week:

“Mr. Gary Rivlin’s March 13, 2014 story, ‘The Cold Hard Lessons of Mobile Home U’, does a great disservice, not only to the nation’s manufactured housing builders – many of them small businesses struggling to survive in a difficult economy – but also the millions of Americans who choose today’s manufactured homes for their unique combination of quality and affordability, guaranteed by federal law. Presenting manufactured homes, communities, and residents as cartoonish caricatures, the article ignores the reality that today’s manufactured homes offer Americans the most affordable route to homeownership – beating even rentals. And unlike the ‘exotic’ mortgage schemes for overpriced homes that triggered the 2008 credit crisis, manufactured homes pair moderate and lower-income homebuyers with homes they truly can afford, without accounting gimmicks, subsidies or taxpayer funded bailouts. Instead of a superficial catalogue of outdated stereotypes, the Times should offer its readers a deeper look into the genuine advantages of today’s affordable manufactured homes.” Danny Ghorbani writing for the MHARR

Enough time has passed (three weeks) for this sensationalist piece to fade from the scene. Just know however, yours truly – via formal correspondence; the American Housing Advocates– via electronic correspondence; and now MHARR, have all lodged formal complaints, in your behalf, with the editor of The New York Times, regarding what some have called Yellow Journalism (i.e. ‘offensively sensational’). The only ones who’ll keep it alive now, are individuals with an ongoing, self-serving need to draw attention to themselves, perhaps via further interviews; and others, maybe using the article as a marketing ploy to promote future events.

IV.

Coming Over to the Other (Our) Side of Life

DID YOU KNOW? The consulting services of BILL MATCHNEER, recently retired from the Manufactured Housing Division of the Department of Housing & Urban Development (‘HUD’) are now available via Rishel Consulting, relative to issues pertaining to the CFPB and HUD? To effect contact with Bill Matchneer, do so via the firm’s Chicago office: (312) 878-2802. His billable services are available hourly, daily, and per project – on a retainer and non-retainer basis.

***

George Allen, CPM & MHM
Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156