‘What I’ve Waited 33 Years to Say!’

‘What I’ve Waited 33 Years to Say!’

(George Allen’s RV/MH Hall of Fame Induction Remarks, 1 August 2011, at RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Museum & Library, in Elkhart, Indiana)

I.

Like the haircut? Two weeks ago, as Carolyn and I prepared to join our daughter Susan and her husband Drew, at their son Travis’ graduation from USMC boot camp in San Diego, CA., I decided to make an effort to look like the retired Marine Colonel I am, at least from the shoulders up, by getting a ‘high and tight’ military style haircut! What you see tonight is two weeks of gray fuzz growing back.

As I begin my remarks this evening, upon induction into the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s prestigious Hall of Fame, I’ll keep that salient old ‘3 – Bs Rule of Public Speaking’ in mind; that is, to Be Brief, to Be Sincere, & to Be Seated! So first, some Brief and Sincere Thank You’s, followed by a few cherished memories…

I’ll start by expressing heartfelt gratitude to Carolyn, my wife and companion these past 48 years that we’ve been parents, grandparents, business partners, and now, great grandparents together! She deserves this induction honor as much, perhaps more so, than me, given what she’s had to put up with over the years.

And personal appreciation to John Rogosich, fellow Certified Property Manager and landlease community consultant, for nominating me for induction into our industry’s prestigious RV/MH Hall of Fame.

In like manner, I’m especially grateful to the many landlease community owners and operators, throughout the U.S. and Canada, I count as friends, clients, and associates – especially those gathered here tonight – for encouraging me, and supporting our firm’s work, in their behalf, these past 30 plus years!

Last but hardly least, a sincere and hearty ‘Thank You’ to three men who’ve never met.

Rollin Jackson launched my professional property management career, when he hired me as a regional apartment manager 33 years ago; then shortly thereafter, reassigned me to manage four large but troubled ‘mobile home parks’ he and his brothers owned in Indiana and Kentucky. In some ways, that two year ‘baptism by fire’ property management experience was similar to going into combat for the first time in Vietnam – only this time, no one got killed. And it taught me ‘the business’ well, setting the stage for my future as a real estate investor, property management consultant, and author.

Randy Rowe; good personal friend, long time encourager, industry trend spotter, and faithful supporter of our firm’s research and resources pertaining to landlease communities. Manufactured housing industry aficionados and landlease community owners, for the most part don’t know it, but they owe Randy Rowe one major debt of gratitude, for ensuring the impetus of this realty asset class’ body of knowledge, and the effective national advocacy it enjoys today!

Ed Clayton, certified Manufactured Housing Manager, our best and only landlease community manager, for my business partner and me, during these past 25 years! Ed manages our property ‘like he owns it’, and has become a friend, in addition to being a key employee.

Read much more about each of these outstanding individuals in the Dedication section of my new book, on sale at the RV/MH Hall of Fame*1, or from PMN Publishing*2, titled:

Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing, PMN Publishing, Indianapolis, IN., 2011.

As I bring these induction remarks to a close, I want to share a few brief pivotal points in my life…

Meeting and falling in love with Carolyn, at Eastern Baptist College, now Eastern University, in 1963. She looked really good then, even better today! I’d gone there to become a pastor, but obviously took a big detour. However, my faith as a Christian has under girded most of my personal relationships, our family life, as well as my business, writing, and military careers.

Next, stepping alive and whole, back onto U.S. soil in 1969, following a an exciting, demanding and traumatic 13 month combat tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam, as a U.S. Marine engineer officer and company commander. That day, first in California and then in Philadelphia, was at the same time, a profoundly sobering and exhilarating experience I will never ever forget!

Memories of the births of daughter Susan and son Adam; and in time, their spouses and six children coming into our family, and now two great grandchildren, Hunter and Peyton. How very blessed we’ve been and continue to be!

My business partner and I buying our first ‘mobile home park’ in the early 1980s with $500,000 in borrowed cash, then selling it two years later for five times that amount. Exciting? You bet it was!

Writing and self – publishing my first book Mobile Home Park Management, way back in 1988 was a novel experience; then authoring and editing nine more books since then…

And, frankly, being here tonight, amidst friends and associates from throughout the MH & RV Industries. And certainly not to forget my brother Mark, another retired Colonel, who flew in from Cape May, New Jersey, to share this memorable evening with us.

Thank You All!, as I now deliver on that ‘third B’ and ‘Be Seated!’ GFA

NOTE to blog floggers (‘readers’): Probably too late for you to register to attend this
1 August 2011 gala affair, but ‘just in case’, phone either number listed in End Note # 1, and head towards Elkhart, IN!

II.

My Take on the Matter….

Earlier this month I was asked, by a consulting client, to summarize circumstances I believe deleveraged the manufactured housing industry enroute to the miserable shape it’s in today; and, what landlease community owners may have done, in my opinion, to screw up their own business model. I’ll begin with the (edited) paragraphs I penned, in response to that request; then conclude with a column paragraph published in the July issue of The Journal – followed by commentary.

“In my opinion, the Catch – 22 situation in which manufactured housing and landlease communities find themselves today, has two starting points.*3 The first, and not necessarily sequential event, occurred in the mid to late 1990s, when – as part of the property inventory consolidation trend – several new real estate investment trusts (‘REIT’s) chased Wall Street stock analyst expectations, and eventually pronouncements, that landlease (nee manufactured home) communities were indeed ‘growth stock performers’, NOI – wise.*4 But NOT! That’s when rampant (operating) cost cutting and rent increases began, soon spreading to some large, privately – owned property portfolios; and eventually, leading to the dire consequences (i.e. dropping occupancy and profitability) we see today, as more and more landlease communities suffer forbearance and or foreclosure proceedings.

At the same time if not before, HUD Code home manufacturers ‘seduced themselves’ into competing head – to – head with production site builders, in search of greater market share and profits; you know, the cash flow siren song of ‘bigger box = bigger bucks’. This business model shift, was for awhile, characterized by the now defunct ‘land – home package’ realty/home sales trend, and the eventual disappearance of 90 percent of independent MHRetailers nationwide. This latter phenom, likely due to too few sources of third party chattel finance for home sale transactions – another sad tale; plus, the gobbling – up of independent retail sales centers by cash flush manufacturers requiring more ‘company stores’, to overload local housing markets with inventory glut. Together, this absence of chattel finance sources and disappearance of MHRetailers, marked the near end of building and selling smaller ‘affordable’ singlesection (nee singlewide) and multisection (nee doublewide) manufactured homes for marketing and sale into landlease communities – the very business model that facilitated 1972’s 575,940 ‘mobile home’ shipments, and the industry’s too brief renascence in1998, when 372,843 new manufactured homes were shipped. Today, the manufactured housing industry ships but 50,000+/- new homes per year – in 2008, 2009, 2010, even fewer (likely) during 2011, given year to date performance.” GFA

Then there’s this one sentence summary paragraph, on different yes, but tangentially – related topics, from a column, penned by Danny Ghorbani, and published in The Journal (July 2011), and titled:

‘Saving Independent Retailers and Communities’:

“In MHARR’s view, retailers and community – based entities face a clear choice – continued dysfunction and decline, or a change to a new national level industry representation structure to lead the industry back to real prosperity.” Huh?

Most blog ‘floggers’ are business savvy and critical observers of all things manufactured housing and landlease community wise. So let’s parse what’s opined here. First, lumping MHRetailers and landlease community owners/operators together is a big mistake. They’re significantly different business models, hailing from different major segments of the manufactured housing industry and landlease community real estate asset class duo; MHRetailers are akin to the MHIndustry; and landlease community folk to real estate development and investment. Sure, there’s crossover – or at least there was (Reread the opening paragraphs of part II of this blog posting), a decade or so ago. Today? Many, if not most landlease community owners/operators, particularly property portfolio ‘players’, have become on – site MHRetailers by default; but much different from ‘street dealers’ of years past.

Continued dysfunction and decline? Dysfunction? Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, & How? – the ‘Four Ws & H of basic trade and secular journalism’. No really illuminating answers provided in this paragraph or column! And decline? Sure, especially among MHRetailers; again, 90 percent of them are gone, some bought – out by HUD Code home manufacturers, others now contractors, but most ‘out of business’. And LLCommunity folk? In terms of national physical occupancy, yes, we’re slipping. BUT, show me a LLCommunity owner who didn’t overpay for his/her property acquisition (i.e. Didn’t ‘buy on the come’, as in ‘rent increases to come’ – that never did!), and or has paid down their mortgage, and I’ll show you a generally healthy business model that’s frequently selling, even self – financing new and resale homes on – site, to ‘get the rent meter’ a – running and to keep it running. How much so? Just among the 500+/- known portfolio owners/operators of this unique income – producing property type, $3.5 billion by the end of 2009, and in increase to $5.2 billion by year end 2010, according to the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT. And these 500+/- ‘players’ control but only 15 percent of the national inventory of landlease communities! Surprised? You wouldn’t be, if your get your hands on an ALLEN REPORT every January….

So, with such flawed writing, and lack of justified logic, in the referenced summary paragraph and column, we’re to run off willy nilly to ‘create or change to a new national level industry representation structure’? I think not – at least not until a far better case is made for considering doing so! And enhancing association executive job security should not be part of making that particular case.

But the columnist’s flailings do raise this larger question: Are the manufactured housing industry and landlease community asset class ‘matters’, described in the earlier paragraphs of Part II of this blog posting, exacerbated, unaffected, or resolved, by dint of ‘us’ suffering the consequences of the perennial rivalry between national advocacy bodies in Washington, DC., and Arlington, VA? Are the ‘attacker’, a.k.a. the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) and the ‘ignore the bully – some say watchdog – and he’ll go away’ Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’) loyalists really serving our collective business needs in the best possible way and to the greatest degree possible today? My answer? No!

Is/are there practical answer(s) to this dilemma, stalemate, conflict, rivalry? Whatever it is, it’s going to have to be Solomonesque, for sure. We’ve been down this ‘attempted unity’ road before, several times; and every time, unsuccessfully. The alternatives? Leave well enough alone – believing ‘Conflict (as in competition) is good for the soul, if not business’ (In our case, ‘our conflict’ allows federal legislators to ‘divide & conquer us’, so to speak, when it comes to our effectively confronting onerous legislation – like what’s on the Congressional horizon at present!); or, Combine the divergent cultures into one new entity (‘Do I hear screaming in the background?’); Reorganize into two distinct halves or major segments, based on business type (e.g.manufacturers/distribution & realty development/investment), but under one banner; or, (‘Shutter the thought!’) Start over completely! What say YOU? Me? I’ve already said enough for more than one day, one posting.

Danny got this conversation started (again); how ‘bout if we attempt to embellish or finish it? Let me know your thoughts by phone (317/346-7156), email (gfa7156@aol.com) or letter: GFA c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247.

III.

In case you don’t know it, October Hell continues to Heat Up! How so? We’re now up to 11 MHIndustry events scheduled during the month of October 2011, and I’m told there’re more a – coming. Whew! For a complete list of these trade events, read the August issue of the Allen Letter professional journal! Order by phoning the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. Only $134.95 for a 12 month subscription; or, $250.00 for said subscription plus a copy of the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among Landlease Community Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’). And while you’re at it, if not already registered for the Triple Anniversary International Networking Roundtable, occurring 14 – 16 September 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort Hotel on the West edge of San Antonio, TX., do so soon! Why? We’re ‘more than halfway’ to our limit that can attend. Really hope to see YOU there!

IV.

Likely more details next week. But if you want to be the first on your block to own an advance copy of my newest book, debuts on 1 August 2011, at the aforementioned RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, here’s the title, price, and ordering instructions:

Landlease Communities, Manufactured Home Communities, Mobile Home Parks, Trailer Courts & Camps, and Affordable Housing, George Allen, PMN Publishing, Franklin, IN., 2011. 88 pages.

There’re names, incidents, information, stats, and more in this book, you’ll refer to in seriousness and jest, for years to come. I’m finally penning material I’ve long wanted to publish. For example, and in addition to this soon release, later in August, PMN Publishing will sell my new writer’s reference booklet, titled Figurative Language & Figures of Speech. Now that was fun to finally put together.

Price of the Landlease Communities…book? Only $24.95 postpaid. See end note # 2 below. Wait till 3 August to phone though, or leave a message if calling sooner.

***

End Notes.

1. RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN. (800) 378-8694 & (574) 293-2344

2. PMN Publishing in Franklin, IN. (317) 346-7156. Book $24.95, including shipping and handling; $19.95 without shipping and handling fee.

3. Catch – 22 is a satirical, historical novel by Joseph Heller, first published in 1961, and set during latter days of WWII. The phrase ‘Catch – 22’ is oft used to describe ‘no – win’ and or ‘lose – lose’ situations or propositions where a person or entity indeed has choices, but no one choice leads to a net gain; a.k.a. ‘Darned if I do, Damned if I don’t.’

4. NOI = Net Operating Income, i.e. Gross (rent) receipts less operating expenses, but not debt service or mortgage payments.

George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM®Master
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &

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