Archive for April, 2015

MHCongress Shakes Things Up! Sun Communities = #1 in size

Friday, April 24th, 2015

COBA7® via community-investor.com Blog # 346 Copyright @ 26 April 2015

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

This blog posting is a national advocacy voice, official ombudsman (press), research reporter, & online communication media, for all LLLCommunities in North America!

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

COBA7® Motto = ‘U Support US & WE Serve U!’, & the Goal of its’ print & online media = to ‘Not only inform & opine, but transform & improve our MHBusiness model!’

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Attendance and enthusiasm may well have been up, during the recent MHCongress in Las Vegas; but – in my opinion – the event was awash with unneeded controversy (Read I.), suffered a ‘telling’ oversight (Read II.), but did experience bona fide off-agenda progress between GSE Fannie Mae and LLLCommunity owners/operators (Read III.). Oh yes, and there was some on-camera drama better left undescribed for the time being….

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I.

GUESS WHO MIGHT NOT LIKE THE CONSEQUENCE OF THIS CHANGE?

Manufactured Housing Institute’s National Communities Council divisions

‘April 2015, Largest 50 Community Owners & Operators’ List, Ranking Property Portfolios Based on Rental Homesites for HUD-Code Homes (After Omitting All RV Sites!), Positions REIT Sun Communities, Inc., to Supplant ELS, Inc., as Largest Owner/operator of Land-lease-lifestyle Communities (a.k.a. manufactured home communities) in the World! How so? Read on…

The above paragraph, and what follows, are stunning headline statements spawned by unnecessary unilateral changes to property portfolio inventory methodology utilized by the ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’) for the past 26 years! Brings to mind the truism: ‘If it isn’t broken, why fix it?’

• NCC’s ‘April 2015 list’ positions Sun Communities, Inc., a real estate investment trust (‘REIT’), to soon be publicly identified as Largest Owner/operator of Land-lease-lifestyle Communities (a.k.a. manufactured home communities) in North America, for the first time since its’ IPO (Initial Public Offering…of stock) in 1994; repositioning competitor ELS, Inc., into second place – for the first time ever! How so? While presently listed as number two on the NCCs ‘April 2015 list’ (Remember; sans RV sites in property portfolio counts!), Sun’s recent acquisition of 3,130 rental homesites in FL, increases its’ total rental homesite count to 74,259, significantly greater than the RV site-stripped portfolio of ELS, Inc., now at only 71,129 rental homesites!

• Furthermore, the NCC’s purposeful omission of ‘recreational vehicle sites’ from their official rental homesite count, on the ‘April 2015 list’, ignores the growing presence and role of mixed use properties as an integral part of the paradigm shift (i.e. LLLCommunities, not MHRetailers, filling vacant rental homesites with a variety of housing options), underway since the start of the new millennium! For example; of the six types of shelter now commonly found sited within LLLCommunities, two of them are recreational vehicle (‘RV’) related!*1 Why the omission of RV sites from the portfolio counts? Ask them, not me. In my opinion, it likely has to do with MHI being a HUD-Code housing related national advocate, not wanting to mix RVs into their housing coverage and representation – even though their manufacturer members fabricate and ship recreational vehicles when need be. COBA7®, on the other hand, source of the annual ALLEN REPORT will continue to inventory MH & RV sites together, before ranking property portfolio firms in order of declining total site count.

• Good News. While the NCC does not identify any new property portfolio ‘players’ on the ‘April 2015 list’ of 50 community owners & operators, they do provide ‘rental homesite count’ information from 18+/- firms not reporting same in recent years. This new information will likely be included next year, in the 27th annual ALLEN REPORT, a.k.a. Official ‘Who’s Who Among LLLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators Located Throughout North America!’ For a copy of the 12 page, 26th annual ALLEN REPORT, listing 110, of the known 500+/- firms, phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, and affiliate with the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, or COBA7®.

• Comparing the NCC’s inaugural ‘April 2015 list’ with the 26th ALLEN REPORT, down to 1,000 rental homesites property portfolio size, the latter identifies 40+/- firms NOT included on the former’s list! What makes the matter even more interesting, is there’re dozens of additional LLLCommunity portfolio owners/operators who do not appear on either proprietary list. Here’re just a few, in alphabetical order: Brandenburg, Staedler & Moore (CA), Churchill Group (CO), Lakeshore Communities (IL), Moore Enterprises (TX), Phoenix Manufactured Homes (PA), Tower Management (CA), and many more….again, 500+/- in all, owning/operating more than five communities &/or 500 rental homesites apiece.

• Of the 50 firms named on the NCC’s ‘April 2015 list’ only 20 are highlighted in bold print, or 40 percent thereof, identifying them as direct, dues-paying NCC members. However, among the first 79 firms reviewed on the 26th ALLEN REPORT (down to the same 1,000 rental homesite count limit), 50 firms, or 63 percent, are affiliated with COBA7®! And, among all 50 firms listed on the NCC’s ‘April 2015 list’, more than half are presently affiliated with COBA7®!

• Be wary of unsubstantiated claims. These two quotes are from the NCC’s ‘April 2015 list’: “MHI’s National Communities Council is the leading national organization representing the interests of manufactured home community owners, operators, managers, developers, lenders, and suppliers.” Really? How is this measured? Perhaps by number of direct, dues-paying members? If so, reread previous paragraph and reconsider. Then this, “The NCC is also the industry’s most reliable source of data used to create more opportunities for the successful development, operation, and marketing of land-lease communities.” Really? First, what are we talking about here? ‘Manufactured home communities’ OR ‘land-lease communities’? And, just what ‘reliable sources of data’ are available, related to physical & economic occupancy, operating expense ratios, rental rates, income capitalization rates, PM salaries, and more? An inquiring public would like to know…

Bottom lines? The NCC’s ‘April 2015 list’ contains the names of only 50 firms owning/operating LLLCommunity portfolios comprised of 1,000 or more rental (HUD-Code only) homesites. The 26th ALLEN REPORT lists 79 like-sized firms (i.e. with 1,000 or more rental homesites), 110 overall! Truth be told, the actual total number of such firms, with 1,000+ rental homesites apiece, is closer to 100, perhaps even 150 firms. The majority of these shadow owners/operators eschew any form of publicity, for a variety of good and personal reasons. However, they almost all routinely cooperate with, and financially support, the ongoing realty asset class research of COBA7®.

Finally; all 500+/- known LLLCommunity portfolio owners/operators, especially the firm’s decision-makers, can be accessed by anyone, for a price, by direct mail, via COBA7®. Lenders, insurers, and property portfolio builders do so all the time. Simply phone the above-referenced Official MHIndustry HOTLINE….

End Note.

1. Six types of shelter found in many contemporary land-lease-lifestyle communities (hence use of the new specialty term for the realty asset class): pre-HUD code ‘mobile homes’, post-HUD code manufactured homes, modular homes, ‘park model RVs’ – especially suitable for functionally obsolete rental homesites in generally older properties, ‘RVs for a season’, and in FL., stick-built homes constructed on-site, usually following severe hurricanes, to imitate HUD-Code manufactured homes. A.k.a. ‘LLLCommunities’. GFA

II.

2015 Awards Luncheon at the MHCongress

One Pithy Question: Where is/are the annual MHIndustry awards for design(s) of Community Series Homes, or CSH Models?

You know, the specially-designed homes, agreed upon during the National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus, convened at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame facility on 27 February 2009 – six years ago! There, 100+/- HUD-Code home manufacturers and (then) manufactured home community owners/operators agreed to ‘What it would take to sell more new manufactured homes into this unique, income-producing property type nationwide?’ Their answer? Singlesection and modest-sized multisection (NOT the ‘big box = big bucks’ behemoths taking our industry, at the time, down the road toward oblivion, via head-to-head competition with site-builders), but HUD-Code homes with one or more WOW! factors inside and out, plus a plethora of durability-enhancing features, enabling inexpensive ‘make-ready’ between contract buyers and renters.

Yes, these are the same specially-designed homes that, for the most part, have stimulated at least a five, maybe ten percent increase in the number of HUD-Code homes being delivered directly into (now) land-lease-lifestyle communities, from 25% in 2009 to 30% by end of 2013, and likely even higher now!

Furthermore, these Community Series Homes, or CSH Models, have had a lot to do with the manufactured housing industry’s successfully executing a paradigm shift, since the beginning of the New Millennium. A paradigm shift forced by the lack of easy access to chattel capital, hence fewer homes now sold by independent (street) MHRetailers into LLLCommunities; with many CSH Models now sold, and often seller-financed, by the owners/operators of these multifamily rental properties!

So, why aren’t we recognizing this ‘change in design’ to meet market demand? Hopefully the folk who dream up these awards will effect this needed and worthy addition, in time for the 2016 MHCongress.

In the meantime, if you’d like a list of product specification characteristic of Community Series Homes, along with a list of HUD-Code home manufacturers who routinely fabricate and ship them to LLLCommunities, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. You do not have to be a COBA7® affiliate to request and receive this very helpful Signature Series Resource Document, or SSRD – one of more than a dozen produced by COBA7®..

III.

Fannie Mae, the GSE, Makes MHIndustry History!

Yes, they sure did! For 2 ½ hours during the afternoon on Wednesday 15 April, 30 individuals (20 @ Fannie Mae reps, lenders, & financial consultants, plus nine land-lease-lifestyle community portfolio owners/operators, and one Mom & Pop ‘player’ – me) identified and discussed a variety of issues of mutual interest and concern. The LLLCommunity owners/operators hailed from New Hampshire to California, New Jersey to Colorado, and from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

What’d we talk about and resolve? Much and little. Huh? Yes, we ‘much’ discussed rental units on-site in LLLCommunities, flood plain issues, pre-HUD Code homes, park model RVs, the defunct STAR quality rating system re LLLCommunities, and near the end of the meeting, HUD’s Federal Installation Standard implementation and enforcement plans, and possible role for Frost Free Foundations® along the way. But ‘little’ was resolved. Nor did any of us expect change or closure.

This Las Vegas venue was a continuation of spirited dialogue begun during the 23rd annual Networking Roundtable, in Peachtree City, GA., last Fall – when Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, for the first time, met and talked with 200 LLLCommunity owners/operators from throughout the U.S. The Las Vegas venue, ‘off MHI’s MHCongress agenda’, was/is also a springboard onto the 24th annual Networking Roundtable, scheduled for 9-11 September 2015, in San Diego, CA.. Once again, the two GSEs, along with invited representation of the Federal Housing Finance Authority, will continue the Open Discussion of what the GSE’s ‘can do for us’ and what we could ‘do for them’.

To ensure an invitation to participate in the 24th International Networking Roundtable, 9-11 September 2015, phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, and ask for an event brochure, containing the exciting agenda and names of 20 presenters. Also know, this year’s theme, keynoted by a half dozen HUD-Code home manufacturers, is ‘How to Sell More New Community Series Homes into LLLCommunities Nationwide!’ If you own/operate LLLCommunities, how can you not want to be present to prosper from this unique combination of ability, experience, and motivation?

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New Paradigm Education & Micro Units/Tiny Houses

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

COBA7® via community-investor.com Blog # 345 Copyright @ 19 April 2015

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

This blog posting is a national advocacy voice, official ombudsman (press), research reporter, & online communication media, for all LLLCommunities in North America!

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

COBA7® Motto = ‘U Support US & WE Serve U!’, & the Goal of its’ print & online media = to ‘Not only inform & opine, but transform & improve our MHBusiness model!’

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Introduction to this & next week’s blog postings at this website:

This week. 1) What is seriously missing in manufactured housing’s New Paradigm? The paradigm first described here, for you, last week. 2) The Park Model RV ‘discussion has only just begun. Think too of Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs & Micro Units – plus what we’re not discussing them yet, Tiny Houses! & 3) This week’s posting concludes with a review of COBA7®s third WISH for 2015: professional property management & certification among all land-lease-lifestyle communities! Are YOU MHM® certified yet?

Next week. Reportedly ‘record attendance’ at MHCongress, but 1) program tainted by crass imitation; 2) a notable and telling oversight during annual awards presentation; and, 3) an off-agenda meeting that made manufactured housing industry history! And maybe ending with 4) the major announcement from COBA7® deferred in Las Vegas. Hint. ‘Official reporting of annual HUD-Code home shipments will never be the same again!’

You do not want to miss reading This & Next week’s blog postings at community-investor.com If you didn’t realize before, LLLCommunities, and by extension, the manufactured housing industry, are in the midst of a NEW ERA, you soon will! GFA

I.

So, We’re In a New Paradigm. What’s Next?

Last week, here at community-investor.com, we described the new manufactured housing paradigm unfolding since the turn of the 21st Century. One in which land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators no longer rely on independent (street) MHRetailers to fill vacant rental homesites with new and resale homes. Rather, LLLCommunity owners/operators, now buy new Community Series Homes directly from HUD-Code home manufacturers, to be installed on-site, then sold to prospective homebuyer/site lessees at whatever profit margin works in the local housing market. And when need be, LLLCommunity owners/operators also engage in renting homes, and seller-financing, to effect transactions.

With that said, what’s holding the manufactured housing industry back from going ‘gang busters’ filling vacant rental homesites, even boosting annual home shipments up from the 55,145 six year (i.e. 2009-2014) ‘woeful running average’ towards the alleged ‘sweet spot’ of 250,000 new HUD-Code homes per year? In a word, EDUCATION.

This has to be one of the worst industries, and by extension, real estate asset classes, when it comes to educating itself on how to best do something, the right way, at the right time. And this matter is sorely complicated in at least two ways: internecine (‘mutually destructive’) behavior between national advocacy bodies representing the industry, and among business enterprises themselves!

I well remember the late 1980s, when some of us sensed a New Renascence in manufactured housing ‘was upon us’, culminating as it did, in 1998, with 372,843 new homes shipped! There wasn’t a single educational text around, to ‘splain’ how to develop new (then) mobile home parks cum manufactured home communities (by 1994), or even how to search an existing one out, value it to buy, and then turn around (investment wise) as a profitable business. Well, within a few years, J. Wiley & Sons, provided us with Development, Marketing & Operation of Manufactured Home Communities, and How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell a Manufactured Home Community. With those in hand, as an industry/asset class, we were ‘off and running’ for awhile – until our chattel capital finance bubble burst soon after the turn of the century. And know, the preparation and distribution of these seminal texts received little to no interest or help from either of the national advocacy bodies at the time. Nada.

Well, we’re in the same unfortunate state of affairs today. There are at least two tomes begging to be authored and published – to EDUCATE, the sooner the better. And a third title that’d sure be nice to have around. In this order, they’re:

• How to Market & Sell New & Resale Manufactured Homes in-Community! I’d love to write this one myself, but I’m not a practitioner, so won’t be doing so, except as an editor. In my opinion, it needs to begin with ‘how to assess a local housing market’s acceptance of manufactured housing sales’, and what the affordable housing price points will be. Then, how to set up an on-site sales center, spec homes, order same, and begin the marketing, and the sales drill. There’s a key difference between ‘these sales’ and those by independent (street) MHRetailers: on-site we’re selling lifestyle and covet retention, so prequalification plays a major role in the selling process. This must not be a deal-to-deal, or ‘churning’ sales exercise, as was too oft the case within the previous paradigm! So, who’s going to author this text? It will not be an easy task, but certainly a rewarding one. This I know.

• How to Engage in Seller-finance of New & Resale Home Transactions in-Community! Early in 2010, I penned the industry’s first Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer. It sold out at that year’s MHCongress in Las Vegas – that’s how hungry folk were – and continues to be, for that sort of detailed, albeit changing housing finance information. But there hasn’t been anything akin published since, despite my encouragement to qualified practitioners and trainers. We sorely need an updatable reference describing the various ways to finance new and resale homes on-site in LLLCommunities, and how to be in compliance with various state and federal regulations. Also, how to raise capital for said transactions, and the basics of lease-option methodology. So, who’s going to author this text? Hint. Probably best if this is a team effort.

• Land-lease-lifestyle Community Valuation, with & without Property Owner-owned Homes. Believe it or not, the valuation chapter penned by Laurence Allen, MAI®, for inclusion in the aforementioned How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell…book continues to this day, 20years later, to be the seminal work on this timely topic. But today, considering the new paradigm’s influence regarding ‘six types of shelter on-site, not just two’, and presence of property owner-owned homes as rentals, contract sales, and lease options, we’re in dire need of a contemporary reference of this sort. So, again, who’s going to author this text? I can think of at least three MAI®s who’re qualified to do so….

I’ve encouraged qualified and experienced individuals, with expertise and successful experience in all three areas, to step forward and ‘make their mark’, as David Alley, Edward Hicks, & I did with our raw land development classic 21 years ago. But so far, no takers. How ‘bout you? Seriously interested? If so, I’d like to hear from you. With everything else that’s going on with COBA7® these days, I’d still help get one or more of these needed books written, edited, published and distributed to the industry/asset class. And don’t forget, COBA7®, unlike any other national trade group, is closely affiliated with a commercial printer (i.e. Spotlight Strategies) and MHIndustry publisher (i.e. PMN Publishing). To talk about one or another of these heady projects, phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

II.

Room in the Park Model RV Discussion for Micro Units?

As you may recall, the park model RV confab (‘conversation’) of nearly a year ago, promises to heat up again in the not too distant future. First off, everyone – rightly or wrongly, agrees park model RVs are not designed or intended for permanent residency – even though hundreds, if not thousands, of them are already used as such in RV parks in Sunbelt regions. The present pressing issue is, however, whether or not to include the front porch overhang in the 400+/- square feet limit that differentiates between HUD-Code manufactured homes (i.e. more than 400 square feet in size) and recreational vehicles (i.e. less than 400 square feet in size). To do so cuts back on the living space ‘inside the walls’; to not do so, makes for a larger than usual park model RV.

Well, there’s yet another contemporary aspect of this discussion. It involves ‘dainty urban dwellings’, a.k.a. micro units, as apartments and condominiums. The Urban Land Institute recently published a 46-page report titled, ‘The Macro View on Micro Units’. The report draws on three information sources.

According to the report, a micro-unit is roughly 350 sq. ft. in size, “slightly larger than a one-car garage but considerably smaller than a two-car garage.” Some micro-units are as small as 220 sq. ft. (in San Francisco, CA. & Washington, DC), others as large as 400 sq. ft., (in New York City & Philadelphia, PA). In Seattle, WA. & Portland, OR., there are no square footage minimums. Apartments without bathrooms and kitchens are classified, in this report, as single-room occupancy (‘SRO’) units and not qualify as micro-units.

There’s a significant user difference preference relative to micro-units and park model RVs. According to the ULI report, micro-units target “predominantly young, professional singles, typically under 30 years of age, trending slightly more male than female.” Whereas, park model RVs, have become the abode of choice among retirees and senior citizens, often living alone (i.e. ‘granny flats’) in Sunbelt regions of the U.S. Interestingly, HUD itself has a trade term of long standing that includes both these very small shelter types: Accessory Dwelling Unit or ADU. And if that didn’t cloud the issue enough, here’re rebranding terms being bandied about relative to micro-units: launch pads, nano units, urban flats, innovation units, and even fun units.

And lest we forget to mention it, there’s another whole sidebar topic to this discussion, called Tiny Houses. More about these in a later blog posting, as HUD is also deciding whether this shelter type should also be brought in under, or excepted from the HUD-Code that regulates manufactured housing..

In any event, we’re likely in for some rough sledding during the months ahead, as HUD, the RV industry, even manufacturers in the HUD-Code housing business, and now NAHB homebuilders (re: Tiny Houses) strive to protect what they view as their proprietary and regulatory territories in whatever manner appears best to them. Let’s hope though, the housing wants and needs of consumers are included in these discussions.

The material describing ULI’s report was taken from ‘Small Small World’ in the March/April 2015 issue of Multihousing Professional magazine, pp. 36 & 37.

III.

Reviewing COBA7®s WISH LIST for Year 2015

Here we review the fourth of five WISHES identified early this year, as being goals for the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance® during 2015. The WISH?

“Do whatever necessary and possible, to promote professional property management of on-site, regional, and executive managers, via training and certification of LLLCommunity owners/operators, as CPM®s, MHM®s, & ACM®s.”

Well, from my perspective, there’ve been three, and will soon be a fourth initiative in this direction. Three months ago, I taught the Manufactured Housing Manager® program at the Louisville MHShow. A few weeks ago, I taught the same one day MHM® course to a dozen on-site and regional property managers from two Midwest firms, along with two property owners.

And just this past week, handled a telephone inquiry from an ‘asset aggregator’ seeking professional third party property management services for the land-lease-lifestyle communities his firm recently acquired. That was easy. As you likely know, one can count on one hand the number of reputable, capable, experienced, motivated ‘fee management firms’ serving the realty asset class – and not one of them, that I know of, is an AMO® or Approved Management Organization® per the Institute of Real Estate Management. Sad but true. Of course, there’s also that understandable economic reason why there’s so few such firms throughout our realty asset class: most LLLCommunities are too small (i.e. too few rental homesites) to support third party fee management. And most large size communities (e.g. 200+/- rental homesites apiece) are in property portfolios managed centrally.

On 20 May 2015, I’ll again be teaching the one day MHM® class. This time we’ll convene at the Par-a-Dice Hotel Casino, in East Peoria, IL., the day before the Illinois Manufactured Housing Association has its’ annual business meeting. It’s still more than a month away, and already the class is half full (max of 20-25). If you’re interested in attending, register – for only $250.00/person – via (217) 528-3423. What a deal! For that low tuition fee, MHM® candidates receive a copy of Landlease Community Management, a monograph of contemporary manufactured housing readings, and gold MHM® lapel pin and sequentially numbered MHM® certificate.

To date, there’re barely more than 100 Certified Property Managers® active as LLLCommunity owners/operators; 200+/- Accredited Community Managers via the Manufactured Housing Educational Institutes; but nearly 1,000 Manufactured Housing Managers, under the auspices of the COBA7® division of GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing.

So, if not presently trained and certified as a professional property manager, give this upcoming opportunity serious consideration. It’s the only such MHEducation opportunity taught by a veteran LLLCommunity owner/operator, CPM®Emeritus, & MHM®Master. Register today!

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Manufactured Housing’s 21st Century Paradigm Shift

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

COBA7® via community-investor.com Blog # 344 Copyright @ 12 April 2015

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

This blog posting is a national advocacy voice, official ombudsman (press) , research reporter, & online communication media, for all LLLCommunities in North America!

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

COBA7® Motto = ‘U Support US & WE Serve U!’, & the Goal of its’ print & online media = to ‘Not only inform & opine, but transform & improve our MHBusiness model!’

I.

Manufactured Housing’s 21st Century Paradigm Shift

Industry’s Zeitgeist (‘spirit of the time’) Present in New Paradigm!

‘In other words; if you’re buying new HUD-Code homes, especially Community Series Homes, selling them on-site in one or more land-lease-lifestyle communities, and at times seller-financing them, YOU are making manufactured housing history, as a key part of this major paradigm shift in our traditional business model.’ George Allen

We’ve been writing about various aspects of this phenomenon, usually referred to as ‘paradigm change’, in this weekly blog posting for some time – just didn’t put the pieces together to paint the bigger picture – until now. So, hang on as we take a quick ‘word walk’ back to the turn of the 21st Century, when the chattel capital wheels came off (Some would say ‘taken off’) the traditional manufactured housing business model.

Without rehearsing the sorry history of what was described at the time as ‘turning our homebuyer/site lessee customers upside down’; suffice it to say, the immediate and lasting consequence have been less-to-little easy access to chattel capital (Still the case more than a decade later). And over time there’re now far fewer independent (street) MHRetailers, even company stores – because of said ‘loss of access’. Immediate to ultimate cost of those financial shenanigans? According to the CFPB* in a report published during 2014, between years 1999 & 2002, at least 300,000 repossessed manufactured homes valued at $1.3 billion! Those ‘repos’, in turn, competed with new home sales for several years thereafter – forcing a paradigm change in the way we did, and now, ‘do business’. And yes, along also came the S.A.F.E. Act, Dodd-Frank legislation, and the CPFB.

The first significant indicators of change(s) in the way we’d be ‘doing business’ going forward, occurred at two National State of the Asset Class causes held on the same date in successive years: 2/27/2008 among (then) 100 manufactured home community owners/operators convening in Tampa, FL; and then, 2/27/2009 among a like number of LLLCommunity folk and HUD-Code home manufacturers convening in Elkhart, IN. While not fully appreciated at the time, the first caucus gave MHCommunity investors/property managers needed focus, challenging them to take control of their future, e.g. ‘Sell, and if need be, seller-finance more REPO & RESALE home transactions on-site to fill vacant rental homesites!’ The second caucus answered, ‘What’s it going to take to sell more NEW homes into MHCommunities?’ Solution? Community Series Homes, or CSH Models, named as such by Don Westphal later in that year. Today, CSH Models are widely recognized as being singlesection or modest-size multisection homes with one or two WOW! Factors, and a plethora of durability-enhancing features, to speed turnover ‘make ready’, when need be, at minimal cost. That was the second stage of the paradigm shift.

There’re at least three consequences of this shift in emphasis from MHRetailers selling new homes into MHCommunities, and owners/operators buying/selling ‘repos’ & ‘resale’ units on-site, TO this whole new paradigm (After ‘repos’ & ‘resales’ dried up), where/when owners/operators routinely sell NEW Community Series Homes on-site, arranging financing as needed. First; the percentage of new HUD-Code homes being shipped into (now) land-lease-lifestyle communities (Will explain change in terminology shortly) increased from 25 percent, year end 2009, to 30 percent by the end of 2013 – and likely higher by end of 2014. Second; several of the largest home manufacturers have rolled out creative financing programs to help LLLCommunities ‘sell more new HUD-Code homes on-site’. This has been a decidedly mixed bag of results. Just recently, a community investor described one manufacturer’s heavy emphasis on their in-house finance program, more so than the quality of their homes, to position the firm’s finance package as a ‘loss-leader’, to ‘sell more homes’! The third consequence? To date, in this industry observer’s opinion, home manufacturers have NOT addressed the real need to teach LLLCommunity staff how to effectively market and sell new HUD-Code homes on-site!* This is a whole different perspective than teaching independent (street) MHRetailers how to simply sell ‘deals’. Here the emphasis is dual: AFTO (‘Asking for the Order!’) & ABC (‘Always be Closing!) for sure, but balanced with homebuyer/site lessee personal qualification and desire for the lifestyle, as well as needs and wants relative to the home purchase.

The ‘proof’ in how much community owners/operators have bought into this new paradigm (Actually, they ‘have to do so’ to survive as viable business entities…filling vacant rental homesites…estimated to be 250,000+/- nationwide) is the change in trade moniker from ‘manufactured home community’ to ‘land-lease-lifestyle community’. The latter? Underscores the fact, as many as six different types of shelter are now commonly sited in this unique, income-producing property type: pre-1976 ‘mobile homes’, post-1976 manufactured homes, modular units, park model RVs, RVs for a season, even stick-built homes constructed on-site to look like HUD-Code homes (only in FL.).

Another ‘proof’ of the new paradigm has to do with how LLLCommunity owners/operators are pricing their now homes ‘for sale’ on-site. Yes, many still try to achieve as much profit margin as possible on the sales transaction; however, an increasing number of these entrepreneurs sell their homes at little more than cost (i.e. home, freight, installation, etc.), to get said home ‘sold’ and rent meter running on the underlying realty. An interesting sidebar is how some of these ‘players’ go so far as to share the manufacturer’s invoice with their prospective customer, proving ‘what a great deal they’re getting in this home’! And since doing so, is soon to be one of three approved methods of effecting home valuation this Summer, why not? OR, stick with the traditional cost or replacement method (NADA), or arrange for valuation via market comps. Furthermore, an increasing number of owners/operators have become downright creative in the variety of ways and means they raise capital to fund individual home sales transactions on-site, utilizing a bevy of private investors, local lenders, lease-option methodology, ‘captive finance’ and much much more.

At this point we’ve come almost full cycle, describing the paradigm shift that began at the dawn of the 21st Century – and has now matured. One that’s been precipitated and influenced by an industry/realty asset class Zeitgeist wrought by circumstances of tumultuous and difficult economic times.

There remains a final sign of this significant shift, even sea change, in the way the MHIndustry, and LLLCommunities ‘do business’. The former has relied on the Manufactured Housing Institute and Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, for decades, to handle national advocacy matters, particularly since the imposition of federal building code regulation during the mid-1970s.

On the other hand, LLLCommunities, while enjoying a national advocacy presence since 1996, via MHI’s National Communities Council division, have been long forced (30+ years) to rely on private business interests, to provide the variety of products and services needed by professional property managers. To this end, the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance® was launched early January 2014. Now more than a year old, 200 businessmen and women, from all segments of the MHIndustry, have affiliated with COBA7®, to ensure 1) ongoing statistical research, 2) updating & distribution of resources (a dozen + Signature Series Resource Documents), 3) print & online communication via monthly business newsletters and a weekly blog posting, 4) peer networking events, 5) deal-making opportunities, 6) professional property management training/certification (via Manufactured Housing Manager® program), and 7) national advocacy when need be, e.g. offer of ombudsman (press) services and official industry historian. The icing on that array of products and services and more, will be when COBA7® becomes an independent organization in its’ own right, no longer a division of GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing.*

End Notes.

• CFPB = Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

• And the on-site, or in-LLLCommunity home sales drill doesn’t stop there. Manufacturers should be teaching how to realistically and fairly qualify homebuyers/households as to ‘how much home they can afford’; and, teach how to evaluate a potential local housing market in terms of what the citizenry can afford to buy. For starters, Annual Gross Income or AGI (in the first instance) and Annual Median Income or AMI (in the second instance) is a realistic place to start. Bud do manufacturers understand how to use those tools to help homebuyers/site lessees and not just themselves?

• To affiliate with COBA7®, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

II.

Reviewing COBA7®s WISH LIST for 2015

Here we revisit the third of five WISHES on COBA7®s 2015 WISH LIST!

“Stay abreast of the Frost Free Foundation® or FFF® situation, in behalf of COBA7® affiliates in general, LLLCommunity owners/operators in particular. Encourage the dual goal of saving LLLCommunity owners/operators from forced concrete retrofitting expense @ estimated $5,000.00 per rental homesite, and ensuring manufacturers get the save and secure installation their HUD-Code housing product needs and deserves.”

Little to nothing has happened since we last covered this important and increasingly timely topic, in this weekly blog posting at community-investor.com. Have you noticed, as I have? No one else is talking about the matter either. We should be asking ourselves: ‘Why not?’ It is no longer a secret, with Pam Danner, Esq., heading the manufactured housing program at HUD, the long dormant (since its’ passage in 2007) Federal Installation Standards are on track for implementation and enforcement in default states (i.e. where said standard has not been fully implemented, and in even more cases, enforced). So, I guess we’ll have to wait and see how all this pencils out during the months and year ahead.

In the meantime, know with the May issue of the Allen Letter professional journal, there’ll be a lagniappe ‘one pager’ describing the Frost Free Foundation®, where to get your copy of the multi-page document, and some helpful hints on implementing same. I ran it past a half dozen ‘experts’ on the FFF topic. George Porter replied, the information was adequate overall, maybe more than necessary in some locales, but likely ‘not enough’ in local housing markets intent on challenging the effectiveness of Frost Free Foundations®. What does this tell you? Better get educated soon, or face the very real prospect of having to replace existing, otherwise well-performing concrete foundations, when the Feds come your way. When I asked Pam, while talking in Albany, NY, recently, whether present day concrete foundations in compliant states are ‘grandfathered’ under the federal installation standards, she did not provide a clear answer, but the matter would be handled on a case by case basis. So, to get your FREE copy of the FFF® information ‘one pager’ mentioned above, see third * end note at the end of this blog posting.

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What MHIndustry Does NOT Want YOU to Know & Do!

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

COBA7® via community-investor.com Blog # 343 copyright @ 5 April 2015

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

This blog posting is a national advocacy voice, official ombudsman (press), research reporter, & online communication media, for all LLLCommunities in North America!

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

COBA7® Motto = ‘U Support US & WE Serve U!’, & the Goal of its’ print & online media = to ‘Not only inform & opine, but transform & improve our MHBusiness model!’

Introductions to Parts I, II, III, & IV of this blog posting at community-investor.com

I.

Land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators know I’ve lobbied for change to how the ‘30% Housing Expense Factor’ is applied to realty mortgages and personal property (chattel) loans, since the ‘Ah Ha & Uh Oh!’ Worksheet debuted in 2011. Well, here’s where we go ‘very public’ with a practical concept that ensures ‘less house’ but ‘more financial capability & stability’ for borrowers, and less profit for lenders.

II.

The Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance’s WISH LIST for 2015, it seems, has become the manufactured housing industry and land-lease-lifestyle community asset class’ default goals for the year! How do we know this? Because inquiries now come into our offices, from every segment of the MHIndustry & LLLCommunity business environs, telling us so – they’re using these ‘wishes’ as corporate touchstones in 2015!

III.

If YOU have friends and colleagues in the MHIndustry & LLLCommunity asset class who, as pioneers and leaders, deserve induction into the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s prestigious Hall of Fame, and you don’t take appropriate steps to have them so – considered, you are doing them a severe disservice! To date, I’ve recommended a half dozen of my peers, and four have been inducted, and two are still under consideration.

IV.

Las Vegas. Not my favorite business meeting venue. As I’ve said ‘for years’, it’s the last place an industry, trying to shed its’ vehicular heritage should patronize. We are no longer ‘mobile home dealers’ so shouldn’t be gambling with blackjack dealers. I’ll be present, on 15 April, at the behest of clients and peers meeting privately to parse serious industry matters. No, I’m not a public presenter this year. But it wouldn’t hurt to inquire of the show organizers, as to when and where they’ll be asking for my help in the future.

I.

Here’s How to Improve Homebuyer Financial Capability Once & For All!

Impetus for this weeks blog feature:

The Corporation for Enterprise Development, or CFED, via their ‘#FinCapWorks’ Program, during April 2015, challenges housing providers (That’s you & me!) to describe how to improve individual & household financial capability & stability, as an essential strategy for building financial well-being! For information, phone (202) 408-9788.

There is indeed a practical means of doing this, if and when personal property loan (chattel) and realty-secured mortgage originators/lenders have the intestinal fortitude (i.e. guts) to make one significant change in the manner they presently qualify individuals and households for home financing! After reading, copy and pass this message onto them…

Conceptually, this means ‘no longer applying all an individual or household’s 30 percent Housing Expense Factor, or HEF*1, of their Annual Gross Income or AGI, to Principal, Interest, Taxes & Insurance, or PITI’.

And for that matter, all of a local housing market’s Area Median Income, or AMI, to just PITI, for future such loans and mortgages, when previewing and ascertaining apropos price points for rental and mortgaged housing to be sold there in the future.

The following four paragraphs demonstrate this recommended ‘sea change’ in as many scenarios or perspectives, using the following ‘givens:

$51,229 AGI (i.e. the national AMI for years 2010/2011); 30% Housing Expense Factor or HEF; real estate mortgage terms at 6.5% @ 20 years; and in the case of manufactured housing sited in land-lease-lifestyle communities (a.k.a. manufactured home communities), chattel capital terms at 9.5% @ 20 years; and, a rental home site rate @ $333/month.

• In the first instance, contemporary practice regarding conventional housing sited on realty owned fee simple: 100 percent of an individual’s 30 percent HEF of AGI is applied as PITI, to gauge individual or household’s ability to qualify for a mortgage. For example, $51,229 X .30% = $15,368 PITI divided by 12 months = $1,281/month PITI, to service one’s mortgage @ 6.5% & 20 years, resulting in a maximum mortgage of $171,814. When divided by .9 (to account for 10% down payment), maximum home buying ‘financial capability’ will be $191,000; less the value of underlying realty. Keep in mind, all household utility bills related to this transaction will also have to be paid monthly, but using dollars outside of and in addition to aforementioned 30% HEF, likely increasing the (now) homeowner’s risk of defaulting.

• In the second instance, the recommended future scenario, 25%*3 of the $15,368 PITI calculated in the first paragraph, would be set aside to pay household utility bills related to this transaction. For example, $15, 368 X.75% (the reciprocal of 25%) = $11,527 PITI divided by 12months = $961/month PITI to service one’s mortgage @ 6.5% & 20 years, resulting in a maximum mortgage of $127,151. When divided by .9 (see above), maximum home buying ‘financial capability’ will be $141,000. Again, less the value of underlying realty. But this time around, household utility bills related to this transaction will be paid monthly with dollars included within the aforementioned 30% HEF; meaning yes, ‘less house’, but ‘more financial capability and stability’, putting the (now) homeowner on a path to enhanced financial security in the near, and likely long term!

Restating the obvious. We’ve all heard it said, “When buying a home, limit household expenses to 30 percent!” Some, if not most lenders, believe 30 percent HEF should be for PITI alone; others today, usually a minority, believe 30 percent HEF should include PITI and household utility bills, not including CATV expenses. The present practice results in ‘more house’ and yes, ‘more risk’ for the borrower, and certainly more profit for the lender. The latter, however, depending on size of down payment, can mean ‘less house’ and yes, ‘less risk’ for the borrower, and certainly less profit for the lender. In light of what’s happened throughout the U.S. housing market since 2007, the latter practice is a far better means of improving household financial capability and stability, as an essential strategy on the path to building financial well-being! Time for a change? Let’s hope so!

• Then there’s the matter of manufactured housing sited on rental homesites within LLLCommunities. The numbers ‘work similarly’ but for the added presence of monthly site rent (not a factor with conventional housing sited on realty owned fee simple), and higher interest chattel capital. Today, 100 percent of an individual’s 30 percent HEF of AGI is applied to PITI and site rent, to gauge an individual or household’s ability to qualify for a chattel mortgage. For example, $51,229 X .30% = $15,368 PITI divided by 12 months = $1,281/month to service PITI, but first deducting site rent of $333/month, leaving $948/month to pay one’s mortgage @ 9.5% & 20 years, resulting in a maximum mortgage of $101,702. When divided by .9 (to account for 10% down payment), maximum home buying ‘financial capability’ will be $113.000. Keep in mind, all household utility bills related to this transaction will be paid monthly with dollars, outside or and in addition to, the 30% HEF, likely increasing (now) homeowner’s risk of defaulting. But in this instance, there is no deduction for the value of the underlying leased realty or rental homesite…

• In this second instance, or recommended future chattel capital scenario, 25% of the $15,368 PITI and site rent amount, calculated in the previous paragraph, is set aside to pay household utility bills related to this transaction. For example, $15,368 X .75% (the reciprocal of 25%) = $11,527 PITI and site rent, divided by 12 months = $961/month to service PITI, but first deducting site rent of $333/month, leaving $628/month to pay one’s mortgage @ 9.5% & 20 years, resulting in a maximum mortgage of $67,372. When divided by .9 (see above), their maximum home buying ‘financial capability’ will be $75,000. But this time around, all household utility bills related to the transaction will be paid monthly, with dollars included within aforementioned 30% HEF; meaning yes, ‘less house’, but ‘more financial capability and stability’ overall, setting (now) homeowner on a path to enhanced financial security in the near, and likely long term! Note. Again, in this instance, there is no deduction for the value of the underlying leased realty or rental homesite…

Bottom line? First and third bullet point examples demonstrate conventional lending practice, relative to qualifying today’s borrowers for buying site-built homes on realty conveyed fee simple; and, manufactured homes on rental homesites in LLLCommunities. The second and fourth bullet points demonstrate how the same starting point AGI, of $51,229, can be used to buy ‘less house’ while at the same time, ‘enhancing financial capability and stability’ on the path to financial security. Will today’s lenders soon affect such a sea change en masse? I doubt it.

What’s aggravating about this matter, is how prospective homebuyers accept they must pay in excess of $200,000. to buy a contemporary site-built home, often ‘risking everything’ to do so (See first bullet point above); while, HUD-Code manufactured housing, costing half as much, on a square foot comparison basis, is eminently affordable, even when paying fair site rent in one’s local housing market (i.e. Usually 1/3rd the rent charged for a 3BR2B conventional apartment unit). There is a definite disconnect here, relative to what is and what is not affordable housing.

Implementing the not so new but rarely used guideline, described in bullet points two and four, increases home buyer’s financial capability and stability, without taking on unnecessary and additional risk, on the way to eventual financial security! *3

Anyone out there listening – and now motivated to begin a sea change for the better?

End Notes:

1. HEF. ‘30% Housing Expense Factor’ or Housing Measure, is one of several measures of affordable housing in vogue today; the others being The Housing Opportunity Index or HOI Measure, The Housing Wage or HW Measure, The Workforce Housing or WFH Measure, The Income to Home Value Ratio or IHVR, a.k.a. ‘Realtor’s Rule of Thumb’, and ‘The One Who Believes…’ These from the Book of Formulae, Rules of Thumb & Helpful Measures…Available for $19.95 from PMN Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. (317) 346-7156

2. 25% = estimate of percentage of AGI needed for household utility expenses, not to include CATV

3. For a more detailed study of this concept, including a discussion of front and back end ‘debt-to-income’ ratios, read ‘Contemporary Archetype of Truly Affordable Housing in the U.S.’ Available for the asking, via Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

II.

Reviewing COBA7®s WISH LIST for 2015

Here we revisit the second of five WISHES on COBA7®s 2015 WISH LIST!

WISH # 2. “Continue to promote Community Series Homes and CSH Model production among HUD-Code housing manufacturing plants nationwide; and publicizing and growing the percentage of shipments going directly into land-lease-lifestyle communities for resale or rental use. 24th annual International Networking Roundtable theme to be:

‘Encourage manufacturers & communities to work together to build, sell & finance, & rent more new HUD-Code homes!’

Well, if you read this weekly blog posting faithfully, you know this WISH is ‘well underway’! Already a half dozen of the largest HUD-Code home manufacturers have accepted invitations to be keynote presenters at the aforementioned event, 9-11 September 2015, at the Hilton Resort Hotel on Mission Bay in San Diego, CA. Be present the morning of 10 September to hear and learn from Joe Stegmayer of Cavco Industries, Keith Holdbrooks of Clayton Manufacturing, the new CEO of Champion Homes – when named, Terry Decio of Skyline Homes, and Wally Comer of Adventure Homes. Additional MHARR manufacturers have been invited but not yet replied. Also invited CEO from Factory Expo Homes, a franchise chain of 20+ MHRetail salescenters co-located with factories throughout the U.S.

Furthermore, you’re likely aware during year 2009, when the second National State of the Asset Class caucus was held 27 February 2009, at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN., bringing 100 HUD-Code home manufacturers and LLLCommunity owners/operators together, the percentage of new homes going directly into this unique, income-producing property type was 25 percent. And how, once the Community Series Homes were in production that year, that percentage has increased to 30 percent by year end 2013. Hopefully we’re looking at 35 percent by year end 2014, and even higher by the end of this (2015) year. Frankly, that’s why LLLCommunity owners/operators are now oft referred to as being the New Breed of MHRetailer & Lender!

The manufactured housing and land-lease-lifestyle community business models are a – changing, right before our eyes! Look at all that’s happened between years 2000 and 2009, and up until now. Be an integral part of this dynamic unfolding of our exciting history; affiliate with the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, or COBA7®.

III.

RV/MH Hall of Fame Requesting Nominations for RV/MH Hall of Fame
Class of 2016.

“To be eligible, the Hall of Fame nominee must be, or have been, an active participant in any segment of the recreational vehicle, campground, or manufactured housing industries for a minimum of 25years.” This also includes businessmen and women actively engaged as land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators.

A completed application is required, as well as three supporting letters – no more, no less!

For more information, phone (800) 378-8694 and request a nomination packet of information.

IV.

See YOU in Las Vegas? Look me up!

Yes, I’ll be at the MHCongress in Las Vegas the afternoon of 14 April, all day the 15th, and morning of the 16th. But I may be difficult to find. Why? I’ve been asked to make several guest appearances with various groups meeting privately at this year’s event. In one instance, I’ll brief folk about the fourth and present day consolidation WAVE of LLLCommunities, labeled the Asset Aggregator Wave. Who the ‘players’ are, etc..

Then I’ll meet privately with representatives from one or more of the GSEs, relative to unique financing needs of land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators throughout the U.S. Later the same day, will be caucusing with realty-secured lenders and brokers featured in the recently released Signature Series Resource Document: ‘17th National Registry of All Lenders Serving the MHIndustry & LLLCommunities’. If you don’t yet have a copy of this seminal report listing 25 lenders/brokers, affiliate with COBA7® ASAP, at the Option II level ($544.95) by phoning the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. It is chock full of $$$ information!

If and when you see me in Las Vegas, ask for a FREE 3X5 plastic COBA7® ‘Did You Know?’ statistics card, bearing the alliance’s motto: ‘U Support Us & We Serve U!’

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What the MHIndustry Does NOT Want YOU to Know & Do!

Saturday, April 4th, 2015