Will Euphemisms Save the Manufactured Housing Industry?

Will Euphemisms Save the Manufactured Housing Industry
&
Landlease Community Lifestyle?

• Wordplay. Euphemisms increasingly used as marketing smokescreen

• National Communities Council. Bully pulpit at fork in the road?

• Attempts to muzzle this blog….

I.

Wordplay. Euphemisms increasing being used as a marketing smokescreen of sorts.

‘Euphemism’ According to The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, is “…the use of a mild word in place of a plainer but possibly offensive one.”
Will liberal use of euphemisms SAVE the manufactured housing industry and landlease (nee manufactured home) community lifestyle? In the former instance, from continuing to crawl along at its’ past three years 50,000 ‘annual home shipment’ pace. And, in the latter case, heading off declining physical occupancy of rental homesites? Too early to tell; but let’s take a look at some of the euphemisms ‘in play’ in print and online advertising today.

Last week’s blog posting ended with this teaser: “There’s a whole new privately conceived, funded and implemented national manufactured housing product and image marketing strategy already in play, regarding the smart positioning and advertising of an entire retirement landlease community property portfolio!’ The strategy referred to is the liberal use of euphemisms to describe manufactured housing and landlease communities (‘LLCommunities’). Well, since last week’s posting, I’ve learned of at least three additional landlease community portfolios ‘doing the very same thing’! And we’re not talking about properties just located in Sunbelt regions either. During the past month, I’ve spotted and visited euphemistically – enhanced in a Middle Atlantic state, the upper Midwest, and elsewhere.

In the current issue of one national magazine catering to retirees, euphemisms were used to describe ‘manufactured housing per se, in LLCommunity environs’ this way: “…carefree retirement living, wonderful homes, fantastic amenities, professional community management, and friendly neighborhoods.” Nary a mention of manufactured housing or LLCommunity in the mix! And know what? That’s perfectly fine! New HUD Code manufactured housing product is akin to site – built housing in just about every way except for genuine brick/stone veneers and prevalence of two story models. Similarly with LLCommunities. Today’s properties are oft indistinguishable from subdivisions, except for the presence of ‘professional management’ (Frankly, I take umbrage with firms who advertise such, but whose managers – from top to bottom, are sans commonly – recognized “PM’ credentials to that end: CPM®, ACM®, MHM, etc.), and indicators of leases and home site rental rates.

Are there other euphemisms in play these days? You bet.

Relative to LLCommunities? All the following end with the word ‘community’ and are listed in order of declining frequency of use: retirement community, life – care, rental retirement, residential, resort – style living, campus – style, certified retirement, senior, Mediterranean village –style gated, accredited, garden neighborhood, country club – style, full service – retirement, luxury retirement, senior living, gated, & waterfront retirement – living.

Relative to manufactured homes? Again, listed in order of declining frequency of use: cottages, villas, garden homes, single – family homes, wonderful homes, residential living homes, patio homes, ranch homes, town homes, duplex homes, free – standing homes, single story accommodations, & garden villas.

Even ran across a euphemism for what we commonly refer to as ‘rental homesites’ (nee lots, spaces, stalls). How ‘bout ‘homesites for investment’. Nope, not talking about being conveyed fee simple here.

Don’t know about you, but I surely hope this strategy works! The recent call for a National Image Improvement Campaign certainly hasn’t. Anyway, the concept is simply to remove the ‘manufactured’ label from our quality housing product; and, while ‘landlease’ clearly describes our type income – producing property, the use of consumer – friendly euphemisms helps here too. But the ‘catch’, the caveat! To effect such a forward – thinking strategy, senior management must be marketing and selling the best housing product possible, at truly affordable prices; and, the host property must be deserving of the new moniker used to market it! This latter point harkens to the earlier parenthetical criticism of our asset class’ general lack of professional property management training and certification, and our avoidance of regularly using ‘capable, experienced, motivated’ third party professional Mystery Shoppers to take ‘hard looks’ at what and how we’re marketing and selling, by telephone, online, and in person, now using consumer – friendly, or should we say housing and property – enhancing, euphemisms!

By the way, there’s more to this strategy than simply using euphemisms. It might well involve completely altering a firm’s identity and more. But we’ll talk about this, and other measures, in a future posting….

II.

Manufactured Housing Institute’s (‘MHI’) National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division. Bully pulpit at a fork in the road?

I got two things out of last week’s meeting (3/14/2011) of MHI’s National Communities Council division. 1) Numbers tell a compelling story, and 2) there might well be a way around the infamous S.A.F.E. Act for landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners/operators!

In the first instance, here’re the hard cold facts. Only 78 names on MHI’s meeting official registration list. I’m one longtime member who recalls attendance eclipsing 200, in years past; and, at times, we’ve had nigh as many folk (75) at an NCC meeting! Of the 78 present, 19 were state association execs present (didn’t count Certified Reps) – the best represented segment of the MHIndustry for a change; a dozen landlease community (‘LLCommunity’) owners/operators; and, five HUD Code home manufacturers.

Of the dozen LLCommunity owners/operators present, seven were bona fide property owners, albeit ‘small ones’, owning from one to 16 properties apiece, for an average of five LLCommunities each, though three of us own but one of these unique income – producing properties. The five remaining NCC members were senior executives representing five mid – to – major portfolio ‘players’, averaging more than 50 LLCommunities apiece! Bottom line? Majority of attendees at this sparsely attended NCC meeting were small Mom & Pop owners, ‘yours truly’ included. However, the lions share of properties (i.e. 265+/- vs. 30+/-) were represented by five salaried execs. Previously agreed upon replacements for recently departed Greg O’Berry – chairman, and as other council executive positions, were summarily filled by three of these large portfolio operators. Interestingly, none of the three real estate investment trusts (‘REIT’) were represented at this meeting.

A timely question that begs answering, given the ‘near even – but also lopsided’ representation at this NCC meeting – described in the previous paragraph, is this:

Will MHI’s National Communities Council continue to be regarded, as it presently is by many asset class aficionados – as the ‘big boys club’, a semi – derisive commentary regarding presence and control of proceedings by major portfolio owners/operators; OR, will NCC leadership take definitive steps in the near and not too distant future, to identify advocacy, property management training, information, and related needs of smaller owners, to aggressively recruit them as new and active members of the council division?

Hence, maybe we’re at a fork in the road, relative to LLCommunity representation. The following sentiment is often expressed privately, but rarely publicly: ‘We’re either in this (‘NCC’) altogether in demonstrable fashion, or perhaps we – being major portfolio ‘players’ & Mom – Pop investors, should go separate ways, based on sometimes dissimilar marketing, operational, legislative needs and resources. And NO, this is not the opening gun to creating a new national trade or advocacy body for small LLCommunity owners/operators! It wouldn’t work anyway. Why? Lack of charismatic, widely known, national leaders, to take folk in a new direction; and, getting Mom – Pop owners/operators motivated to join with their peers, after 60 years of being loners.

However, rejuvenation of NCC membership, under the administrative leadership of Lisa Brechtel, and new chairman Steven Schaub of YES! Communities, David Lentz of Green Courte Partners/American Land Lease, and Stephen Braun of Hometown America, is entirely possible! The question is whether there’ll be directed and concerted efforts to increase membership and services across the board, or in one ‘group size’ direction or the other.

A related sidebar to all this, is while 43 percent of MHI’s budgeted income for 2011, is predicted to come from the manufacturers division, 19.5 percent is expected to come from the National Communities Council division; taken together, 62.5 percent of MHI’s total annual revenue is scheduled to come from these two divisions alone! To date, 42.8 percent has come in from manufacturers, and 20.6 percent from LLCommunity folk. Who’d a thunk; nearly 18 years ago, on 31 August 1993, when 18 LLCommunity owners/operators convened in Indianapolis, IN., to form the Industry Steering Committee (‘ISC’) – predecessor to the NCC, this real estate asset class would be 20 percent of the financial lifeblood of the Manufactured Housing Institute.

Oh yes, the second important thing I learned at last week’s NCC meeting! The lease – option, for self – financing new and resale homes on – site in LLCommunities, is experiencing far broader corporate application these days, in certain quarters, than previously realized. How’s it work? There’ll be a feature story in April’s issue of the Allen Letter professional journal, either integral to the newsletter or enclosed as a lagniappe, detailing ‘How to Do Lease – Option Right!’ Be sure to get and read your copy. Why not share details here? This blog posting is already long enough (Some will opine, ‘too long’) as is; and I really want to do this ‘expose & How To’ justice! Need a subscription to the Allen Letter professional journal? Read last paragraph of section IV of this blog, or phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.

III.

Attempts to muzzle this blog

Let’s go into this at a later time. Just know, for now, some of the frank commentary appearing in this blog is perceived, by some, as maybe doing more harm than good. Do YOU see it that way? If so, please let me know in writing (see signature block at end of this posting). If not, I’ll also appreciate your encouraging words….

IV.

Inquiring minds want to know – and will be told, on 29 & 30 March, in Albany, NY.

If YOU own and or operate landlease communities East of the Mississippi and North of the Mason Dixon Line, YOU owe it to yourself to be present at the New York Housing Association’s Super Symposium II in 1 ½ weeks. Expecting close to 200 LLCommunity owners/operators to be present to be engaged by the best lineup of presenters, on in – community financing, ‘in years’. For information, phone Nancy Geer at (518) 867-3242.

And, if you’re selling and self – financing, or even leasing, new and resale homes on – site in your LLCommunities, but can’t be present at this stellar event, then at least buy the only book ever published (in 2010) on this timely and strategic subject. It’s the Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer, available only from PMN Publishing, for $25.00 (or $29.95 postpaid) per copy, by phoning (317) 346-7156. And while you’re at it, consider buying a copy of the 22nd annual ALLEN REPORT and one year subscription to the Allen Letter professional journal for total of $250.00 (postpaid) for both items! Also know the April issue of the newsletter will contain FREE copies of the 13th annual National Registry of Real Estate Lenders & Brokers Specializing in LLCommunity Mortgages, and the 12th annual ‘Who Ya Gonna Call in 2011?’ directory of freelance national consultants active in the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class.

Here’s a compelling reason to acquire these two Signature Series Resource Documents: If no one steps up to the plate, during 2011, to acquire copyrights to these items, they’ll likely not be available in 2012, if I’ve at least semi – retired by then! Think about it….

*****

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®Emeritus, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247 (317) 346-7156

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