An Open Letter to Blog Floggers (readers) from George Allen

COBA7® presents Blog # 354 via community-investor.com Copyright 28 June 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 the 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!’, & Goal of its’ print & online media = to ‘Not only inform & opine, but transform & improve our MHBusiness model!’

An Open Letter to Blog Floggers (Readers)

You likely know what is commonly said, derogatorily, about ‘making assumptions’. Well, I don’t want to be guilty of ‘assuming’ you 1) know what I’m about; 2) why I pen this weekly blog posting; and 3) where the manufactured housing industry and land-lease-lifestyle community (a.k.a. manufactured home community) realty asset class is possibly headed these days. So, in the following paragraphs I’ll address these legitimate queries.

First off; I’ve been involved in factory-built housing since 1970, a year after returning from a 13 month tour of duty, as a USMC combat engineer officer and shore party company commander, in the Republic of Vietnam. The newspaper ad I answered, for that first job, read simply: ‘WANTED: former military officer with background in construction’. After working for two PA & IN firms, in housing component fabrication, I segued to ‘mobile home park’ management in 1978, overseeing four large properties in Indiana and Kentucky, earning my real estate broker license, and Certified Property Manager® designation along the way.

In 1980, Carolyn and I founded GFA Management, Inc., as a fee management firm; one that, in her words, ‘managed anything that didn’t move’, e.g. strip malls, apartments, houses, offices, and yes, ‘mobile home parks’. With a partner, we bought our first income-producing property in the early 1980s; turning it around operationally and selling it. We continue as real estate investors and property managers to this day. Why – besides the income? If I’m going to write, and teach the Manufactured Housing Manager® professional property management training & certification program,, I need to be regularly involved with what’s going on in and around the manufactured housing industry and its’ various segments.

By 1988, when we self-published Mobile Home Park Management (since retitled Landlease Community Management & in its’ 6th edition), I’d moved into freelance consulting, routinely Mystery Shopping properties, engaging in turnaround planning and execution, as well as authoring textbooks for J. Wiley & Sons Publishers: Development, Marketing & Operation of Manufactured Home Communities (with David Alley & Edward Hicks), and How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell a Manufactured Home Community. All three books continue to be available from PMN Publishing via Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (:877)MFD-HSNG or 633-4764, & community-investor.com website.

Also during the late 1980s and early 1990s, we debuted the first (of 26 to date) ALLEN REPORTs (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators From Throughout North America!’), and first (of 23 to date) International Networking Roundtables – with # 24 scheduled for 9-11 September in San Diego, CA. We also facilitated the eventual appearance of several real estate investment trusts (‘REITs’) in 1994 & 1995, by researching, refining, compiling and popularizing the first manufactured home community Industry Standard Chart of (Operating) Accounts, along with corresponding Operating Expense Ratios, or OERs. These were used by Wall Street analysts to get ‘comfortable’ with this heretofore unknown realty asset class. It was also during that time frame, on 31 August 1993 specifically, when 19 MHCommunity owners met in Indianapolis to form the Industry Steering Committee, ensuring national advocacy when IPOs (Initial Public Offerings of stock) were launched. The ISC became MHI’s National Communities Council division on 1 January 1996. .

Since then, we rolled out the aforementioned MHM® program in 2001, having lain dormant since 1988, out of deference to MHEI’s Accredited Community Manager® program, launched in 1991. To date, nearly 1,000 MHMs have been certified. And along the way, GFA/PMN birthed and nurtured more than a dozen directories and resource documents (e.g. Lenders’ Registry, List of Consultants, etc.); today widely known as Signature Series Resource Documents or SSRDs.

But it was the National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucuses, on 2/27/2008 & 2/27/2009, that brought the realty asset class into the 21st Century. In the first instance, more than 100 land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators convened in Tampa, FL., to ‘take control of their destiny’ – agreeing to a Five Action Areas plan, in effect to this day. And the following year, a 100 mix of home manufacturers and community owners/operators convened at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN., to agree on design parameters for what came to be known as Community Series Homes, or CSH Models. This was acknowledgement that independent (street) MHRetailers could no longer be counted on to fill vacant rental homesites; that property owners/operators must now do so themselves, via selling ‘repo’, good quality resale, even new HUD-Code homes on-site, and seller-financing them when need be.

Hence, a NEW ERA for LLLCommunities was identified, along with the launch of the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, or COBA7® on or about 1 January 2014. And that pretty much brings us to today – and WHY I prepare this weekly blog posting at community-investor.com, along with the two subscriber-supported monthly newsletters, the Allen Letter professional journal & the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! WHY? It’s simple. All but one manufactured housing industry trade print publication, besides the two newsletters just mentioned, have passed from the business scene. And the one that’s left hasn’t changed its’ stable of columnists for a long time. Furthermore, the content quality of regularly published online newsletters, catering to the manufactured housing industry is, with one exception, questionable. That exception being Rishel Consulting’s finance newsletter; as it is should be ‘required reading’ for everyone engaged in any form of housing finance using chattel capital.

Finally; WHERE we are headed as an industry and realty asset class is not an easy question to answer without maybe treading on someone’s toes.

The manufactured housing industry, sad to say, is ‘dead in the water’ as long as there’s no easy access to chattel capital to finance housing transactions on-site in LLLCommunities. That’s why, after six long years, we continue to bump along at an annual average new home shipment nadir volume of only 55,000 per year – though it’s estimated we might come in somewhere between 60 & 70 thousand by year end 2015. However, as we know, ‘Thanks to disunity between national advocacy parties in Washington, DC., annual new home shipment totals will be reported differently.

Land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators fall into two distinct camps. There’s the cadre of 500+/- property portfolio owners/operators (i.e. Portfolio threshold = ‘Own &/or fee manage a minimum of five LLLCommunities &/or 500+ rental homesites – MH & RV’), who appear, for the most part, to be engaging in aforementioned ‘Buy Here – Pay Here’ drill, where new home sales and seller-financing are concerned. This practice has become so widespread, LLLCommunity folk have become known as the New Breed of MHRetailer & Lender. But this cadre accounts for only 15 percent of the national inventory of this unique, income-producing property type.

Then there’s the smaller, mostly Mom & Pop owned/operated properties, usually numbering fewer than 100 rental homesites apiece, that appear to be minimally engaged in the ‘Buy Here – Pay Here’ business model. Why? Probably not deep enough pockets to buy and resell more than one home at a time, let alone carry the financing. Also, lack of operational and marketing knowledge, especially among second and third generation owners, and those who’ve never been anything but passive investors. This sole proprietor segment accounts for the remaining 85 percent of national inventory of 50,000+/-LLLCommunities.

Bottom line? Don’t expect any major changes, albeit except for small ones under way – and just described, in the near future. These matters are not talked about openly at national meetings planned and hosted by national advocacy bodies. Just ‘how bad’ is that situation? One national advocacy bodies does ‘next to nothing’ to promote its’ members and their housing product, i.e. no website, no social media, nada. The other entity? When was the last time you saw or read of any plan(s) to rejuvenate the manufactured housing industry?

Someday, somewhere, ‘Selling More Community Series Homes into LLLCommunities Nationwide!’ should and will become the national topic of conversation – and hopefully action, among manufactured housing aficionados and land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators in this business for the long haul. Perhaps this national, across industry segment or component lines, will begin at the 24th International Networking Roundtable, 9-11 September 2015, in San Diego, CA. After all, that’s the very THEME of this year’s mega – event, expected to draw a 250 mix of MHIndustry & LLLCommunity businessmen and women. Will YOU be there?

Furthermore, RUMOR has it a treatise is being prepared, even as you read these lines, picking up where last year’s (2014) nationally distributed WHITE PAPER left off, actually making positive, practical suggestions to this noble end, i.e. rejuvenating the manufactured housing industry!. Let’s hope it’s completed in time for distribution at the Networking Roundtable in San Diego. You’ll have to be present though, to get a copy.

POSTSCRIPT. What makes aforementioned corporate cooperation so difficult, if not impossible, at times? Self-serving competitive interests of corporate CEOs protecting the interests (e.g. regional and national market share) of their firms, and as they see it, their stakeholders, employees, even their jobs. Simply a sad reality of business life (Or is it?) in corporate America. And things aren’t any better where competing national advocacy bodies are concerned; but there, it’s more territorial than anything else; e.g. MHARR = smaller regional home manufacturers and no one else; COBA7® = land-lease-lifestyle community owners/operators and their lenders in US & CN; and, MHI = representatives from every segment of the manufactured housing industry.

George Allen, CPM®Emeritus & MHM®Master
Consultant to the Factory-built Housing Industry,
The Land-lease-lifestyle Community Asset Class &
Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®

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