Posts Tagged ‘Joanne Stevens’

Berkshire’s Joanne Stevens Rips Manufactured Housing Institute

June 27th, 2019 Comments off


NAI Iowa Realty Commercial is proud to be part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies,” says the Joanne Stevens website. The firm is a commercial real estate brokerage firm that specializes in manufactured home communities. Her website sports the logo of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), among others.


Stevens has her own following in the manufactured housing industry. She is known for typically being quieter and gracious.

In the June 25 release of Quarter 1, 2019 of publisher Kurt Kelley’s Manufactured Housing Review (MHR), Stevens had a column.  Under her byline, Stevens addressed the recent spat of negative news and resultant increased interest by political leaders in regulating manufactured home communities. She said that it revealed how unprepared the industry was to respond to such concerns.

Does Stevens have a point?

Saying in MHR that “Tenants, the media and legislators unleashed their outrage against rent increases and MHP owners,” she said that “What happened next [after what she described as a “significant” “rent increase”] is a commentary on how woefully unprepared the MH & MHP Industry is to make the case for the essential role mobile homes & parks provide in the low-cost housing landscape.”

Perhaps Stevens didn’t consider the full import or implications of her words. But when given an opportunity to respond, neither she nor publisher Kurt Kelly disputed the logic or accuracy of the facts outlined in a new report on MHLivingNews linked below. That report is a deeper dive into what is sparking the concerns she said that the industry is not prepared to deal with.



Her bold statement flies in the face of Nathan Smith’s pledge when he was chairman of MHI to leave the association as one that is more proactive than reactive. Smith said at that time that ‘the industry’ – which MHI members often use as phrase synonymous with MHI – had to be honest with itself. Smith said that ‘the industry’ [MHI] had failed repeatedly at being proactive. But there is more in his video, which was produced prior to Smith and SSK Communities legal and media controversies.



In praising MHProNews publicly and on camera, MHI President Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison also grudging admitted that “the industry” failed at times. Again, think of ‘the industry’ in this context as code words for MHI.



But what the new MHLivingNews fact check and analysis reveals is who and what are sparking those failures.



What Warren Buffett Said…

What Stevens may or may not know is that the word heard after Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway acquired Clayton Homes in 2003 was this. Buffett reportedly said he did not want to be seen as ‘raising the rents on grandma.’ Therefore, Buffett wanted the Clayton-owned land-lease communities out of the Berkshire family of brands. They spun off all of those manufactured home community assets.

But various Berkshire units clearly recognize the value of lending on manufactured home communities, or making personal property loans on the manufactured homes in them. The acquisition by Berkshire of Stevens’ led community side of NAI Iowa Realty Commercial was a recognition that there was money to be made in brokering land-lease communities too.

Snapshots like that are why a community leader – speaking about Buffett and Berkshire – said to MHProNews earlier this week, “Damn! That spider has webs everywhere.”

Stevens and Kelley were both given an opportunity to respond to this new report; Kelley already has, but Stevens has not yet done so.

But what they’ve arguable done is this.  Once more, they’ve obliquely made the case that it is often Berkshire and MHI connected brands that have sparked those bad news stories.  While Stevens did not name them, it was MHI member Havenpark that sparked media and political outrage. And as Stevens observed, ‘the industry’ – i.e.: MHI – was unprepared with a cogent reply to that outrage caused by their own members.




Perhaps that is why? Or is there a method to the MHI madness about Berkshire and other ‘black hat’ brands causing bad news, and then not responding to it?  Does the graphic below Havenpark’s D+ rating by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) qualify as evidence of black hat behavior?  Where is MHI’s ethical code of conduct?




The National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners (NAMHCO) has been asked to weigh in on this controversy. A follow up on this topic is planned in the days ahead. See the related reports, above and below.



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Gannett Media Exposés, MH Community Owner Moves Sparks Outrage – IEDs of Manufactured Housing

Independent MH Communities, Retailers – NAMHCO’s Susan Brenton Says What Fueled Break from Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI)


Photo of Commodore Homes model, MHARR logo, are provided under fair use guidelines. See article and letter to Secretary Carson, linked here.

MH Community Leader Robert Van Cleef – Public Call – Federal Investigations of Berkshire Hathaway, Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage, Manufactured Housing Institute


President Trump Signs Executive Order on Affordable Housing Crisis, Ray of Light for Manufactured Housing? Plus, Manufactured Home Stock Updates













Gannett Media Exposés, MH Community Owner Moves Sparks Outrage – IEDs of Manufactured Housing

April 2nd, 2019 Comments off



Given the nature of the internet, bad news in one part of the country travels nationally and globally. So, while this specific incident may or may not seem to be in your market(s), or that of some professional that you know, this Gannett Company media series of exposés could well cost you potential customers.


Even if you aren’t in the manufactured home (MH) communities’ sector (MHCs), given how interconnected manufactured housing is, this report will – properly understood – reveal real-world impacts on honorable businesses and investors.

This vexing series is obviously causing angst among hundreds of residents that these stories covered.



In the American Heartland…Where Politicians Are Criss-Crossing Their State

In a series of reports by Gannett owned Iowa City Press Citizen and the Des Moines Register reflects the outrage by residents who are being hit with rent increases reportedly over 50 percent that will impact them this summer.

Residents at Golf View Mobile Home Court in the Iowa City suburb have been notified by Utah-based Havenpark Capital that they will see their rent spike from $284 to $450 on June 1 — a 58 percent increase,” wrote Ian Richardson and Zachary Oren Smith on March 29, 2019.

Havenpark reportedly did more in another community they acquired. “When the new owners of Midwest Country Estates in Waukee taped notice of a 69 percent rent increase on the doors of residents last week, they were doing the same thing at another recently purchased mobile home park in North Liberty.”

George W told the Better Business Bureau (BBB) on 02/07/2019 that, “Havenpark Capital bought eight Value Homes LLC parks in Mid-Michigan. Our rent increase (including new fees) included a 40%+ hike. Every communication from them states, “we are going to do amazing things.” Nothing amazing has or will happen. Our property manager even encourages us to contact our State Representatives and expresses displeasure in the company’s greedy business practices. Meanwhile, a whole lot of people on fixed incomes are hurting to pay their bills. Some are having to sell their homes and move.”

So, when the Gannett-owned newspaper’s journalists reported the quotes cited herein, they underscore a pattern that complaints to the BBB had already established. The bullets below reflect three quotes from an article linked here.

  • Don Lund, who’s lived at Golf View for 21 years, told the Press-Citizen he’s worried about how his current income — $700 per month from disability and about $160 from newspaper writing — will be able to handle the increase.
  • Most people buy a trailer ’cause we can’t afford a house,” said Lund, who was born without hands or feet. “I spent $40,000 on this back in 1997, and it took 20 years to pay it off.”
  • In Waukee, 91-year-old resident Arletta Swain said she’s lived in the mobile home park for nearly 50 years, and this increase will “take me right down to my last dollar.”

Or ponder the impact on residents, prospective buyers – and thus independent businesses – that reading the following bullets pulled from this link here.

  • Alex Kornya, assistant litigation director with Iowa Legal Aid…,which offers free civil legal assistance to the elderly, low-income, veterans and other vulnerable groups, sees a “high proportion” of people coming to its office with mobile home-related issues.
  • Rent will be going up to protect our community,” the letter [from Havenpark Capital] says. “If the rent did not go up, the land where Midwest Country Estates sits today would have been more valuable if it were changed into apartments, or a large retail store, causing all of our residents to be evicted.”




Havenpark Capital Partners Website

We presently own and operate 25 communities totaling approximately 5,000 home sites. We continue to source properties meeting our investment parameters and offer qualified investor access to a geographically diversified portfolio of properties through private fund offerings.” So says the Havenpark Capital Partners website.

They also stated that their investment criteria is as follows.

  1. 100+ Home Sites
  2. Located in a Metropolitan Area of 100,000+
  3. 3-5 “Star” Asset Quality


What the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Says About Havenpark

BBB File Opened: 5/31/2018
Years in Business: 3
Business Started: 1/5/2016
Business Started Locally: 1/5/2016
Business Incorporated: 1/5/2016 in UT
Type of Entity: Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The BBB currently rates this firm as a D+.




Another Comment from the BBB, and Statements from MHC Seller Barbara Hames

Horrible company! They come in added $100 to our rent, then added water bills on a well, and sewer charges and even school tax. Anyone looking to move into anything these greedy money grubbers own…DON’T. They didn’t add a clubhouse, child play area nothing of any real benefit. This area has many senior citizens who live here who will probably have to give up their meds to live here.” – Shar K, 12/11/2018, per the BBB.


Among the sellers to Havenpark Capital described by the Gannett owned newspapers was Barbara Hames, of Hames Homes.  Here is a video from their website.



Barbara Hames told the Press Citizen that they were not looking to sell two of their communities.  For half-a-year, Hames said they were getting 2 to 3 calls a week from potential buyers.



Hames, a prominent and popular figure in the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association (IMHA), explained the decision to sell to Utah-based Havenpark Capital in these terms.

  • We were absolutely not looking to sell….It is a family business here.”
  • The DNR informed us that Sunrise (Village) would need to be upgraded in a year or two and West Branch would eventually need to be upgraded.” DNR is short for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
  • The reason the offer [from Havenpark] was tempting was both [manufactured home land-lease communities] in Iowa City and West Branch would cost a lot to bring into full compliance.”
  • Hames described the hike in site fees as “surprising…”
  • Even if they raise the rent, they also invest a lot of money in the parks they purchase,” Hames told the Press Citizen.
  • The prices in eastern Iowa have been artificially low for years,” Hames said, which likely made such hikes inevitable.
  • When supply is bigger than the demand, prices go down,” Hames said, who explained that the lack of other credit sources after the fall of Green Tree Servicing forced them to establish their own lending. “The supply of manufactured home sites has been high because of the lack of financing for people wishing to purchase.”

Knowingly or not, Hames has described a pattern that the Daily Business News on MHProNews has tracked for years. More recently, our analysis reflects that several of these issues arose in the aftermath of events described on MHLivingNews at this link here. As Berkshire Hathaway owned 21st Mortgage and Clayton Homes built their respective strategic moats, thousands of retailers were tipped out of business.  That in turn had a cascade effect that impacted communities like Hames’ and thousands of others too.  After all, it was those retailers that used to sell homes into communities that kept them near capacity, and allowed property owners to maintain their locations.

The well-liked Joanne Stevens was reported as the broker in the deal with Havenpark.  Per her website, “NAI Iowa Realty Commercial is proud to be part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies.”

So, on at least two levels, Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway brands are in the mix of what has transpired in these Iowa manufactured home communities.


The Intersection of Mainstream Journalism Realities and Manufactured Housing

Contemporary local media journalists have numerous pressures and limitations placed upon them.  As the number of writers and editors declines, due to dwindling ad revenues lost to competitors such as Google or Facebook, a journalist often lacks the time to dig deeper into an issue than may have been the case in years past.

To generate reader interest – which yields more clicks or sold newspapers – media sources tell MHProNews that they have to focus on controversy and attention-sparking headlines and stories.

So finer details, correct terminology, mitigating circumstances, or other nuances may not rank as high as it otherwise might have in years gone by. It’s not fake news. But it is news that by accident, media dynamics – or at times, an unstated agenda – often reflects poorly on manufactured home living.



Sometimes media has an agenda, and Brad Lovin’s comment is quite apt. But in other occasions, journalists pressed for time may not be able to dig deeply enough to understand the often subtle or complex dynamics at play. But the impact of news articles is real in either case.


For example, these bullets from the same Gannett media source.

  • Resident Janet Hook said…”We’re sitting ducks is what we are…”There’s a lot of us out here who don’t know what we’re going to do.”
  • An NAI Iowa Realty Commercial survey of 13 mobile home parks in the Des Moines metro from October 2018 showed rents ranging from $244 to $596 per month, with an average monthly rent of $436.
  • Joanne Stevens, an NAI Iowa Realty agent who helped with the Midwest Country Estates sale, said owners that want to stay in the mobile home business long-term need market rate rents to keep parks operational and well-maintained.

Nowhere is the Berkshire Hathaway connection to these events explicitly mentioned. Nowhere in these reports will you find a more in-depth explanation for how Berkshire owned brands arguably helped fuel the issues that caused these communities to lose occupancy for years.

As regular and detail-focused MHProNews readers know, the industry’s business model was disrupted in large measure by the events documented here.  There rest are details and commentary.  It is the kind of nuance – or even in-your-face-facts that mainstream journalist who are not well versed in manufactured housing, for the reasons noted above, can easily miss.


The terminology matters because
the terminology determines the
construction standards a home was
built to,” Steve Duke, LMHA.


It will be recalled that not long after Berkshire bought Clayton Homes, the community side of Clayton’s operations were spun off.  Per sources, “Warren” didn’t want to be seen ‘as raising the rents on grandma.

Yet thanks to the domino effect, it is apparently okay with ‘Warren’ when someone else raised granma’s and others site fees.  It is even better when a firm Buffett-led Berkshire owns gets a slice of the brokerage commissions involved. Then, in an ironic twist, Buffett can go on national television, and lament how some citizens become “roadkill” that should be cared for by a Big Brother government.

Buffett has also reportedly used some of his profits to help fund the protest groups – such as MHAction – as reported by the Golden States Manufactured-Home Owners League or GSMOL – see a report, linked here.

The net results?

Real- but artificially-sparked headwinds arise or are allowed to develop.  Lacking the time to dig beyond the surface, journalists in the contemporary media environment may not be able to properly spotlight the underlying causes or contributing factors to the issues that they report on.

So, hearing from residents or others that ‘mobile homes depreciate like a car goes unchallenged, even though there is evidence by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2018 research that manufactured homes can and do appreciate.  Cases like the ones these Gannett media stories reflect may indeed result in depreciation, if someone is forced to move quickly.  But that same loss of equity could occur with conventional housing too, given similar dynamics and a hasty sale.  Stating the facts, but absent all the nuances, can thus cause still more harm to potential sellers of a manufactured home, when they might rightly ask in the wake of such reports, ‘why would I want to be next in line for this kind of situation?’


The MH Industry’s Largest Post-Production Association…

Where is the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) on this or similar issues?  The Daily Business News on MHProNews asked the Arlington, VA based national association.  They are silent. Why? Could it be because some of their ‘big boy’ members benefit from such patterns?

Meanwhile the independents of the industry at large suffer. Who suffers most? The mom-and-pop ‘family’ operations, that may or may not realize what dynamics they have succumbed to, as this report from Iowa sadly reflects.


Metaphorical IEDs in Manufactured Housing

Buffett’s and his minions’ strategic moat tactics don’t require specific foreknowledge of precisely what will occur or to whom.  All they need to know is that when a domino is tipped over, other dominoes in the chain will follow.  See the illustration at the top of this article.

What the Atlantic’s report earlier this decade pointed to impacted not only independently owned manufactured home retailers.  It also logically harmed manufactured home communities, producers, lenders – anyone involved in the manufactured home industry business-supply chain.  ICYMI, or need a refresher, you can click on the hot-linked text-image box below for more details.


Examining Derek Thompson’s Atlantic Report on ‘Mobile Home’ Retail Market as Fastest Dying Business In America


What is occurring in Iowa is like a metaphorical improvised explosive device (IED) planted by a terrorist. Only these IEDs have an economic impact on people, whose personal or professional lives are just as disrupted as soldier’s would be when hit by an unexpected land-mine.

The industry’s once multi-decades successful business model has been disrupted. It could be rebuilt. #OpenMarkets, antitrust law and other solutions must be put into play to right the imbalances (see related reports, further below the bylines and notices).



Click here to see the referenced document, quotes from Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders that year, and a video with Kevin Clayton.

But until the necessary steps are taken to change the dynamics already in play, consolidators like Havenpark Capital will do what Buffett’s “Conquest Capitalism” arguably allowed it to accomplish.

And none of the Omaha-based Berkshire brands found in the Knoxville metro, or MHI would – or could? – respond to these concerns in the presence of their peers, who met in Tunica last week to discuss just such issues.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. That’s not just a clock, it’s effectively an improvised economic-explosive device that mimics IEDs.  How long before politicos in Iowa or elsewhere decide that they will step in to ‘fix’ the problems?

If so, will their political fixes only hasten the issues that caused Barbara Hames and independents like her to sell in the first place?  See the rent control report, linked here.

That’s the latest #NettlesomeThings from MH “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)



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“Kevin…the Problem of Your Industry…”

March 31st, 2018 Comments off


In the video interview with Kevin Clayton, the son of Jim Clayton says what Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway says is what’s wrong with the manufactured home industry.


Per Clayton, Buffett says it’s resale.

Kevin, it seems to me that the problem of your industry is resale.” – Warren Buffett said to Kevin Clayton, per Clayton’s video interview.

That may seem simple. But it is profound.

In the same video interview posted below, Clayton says that he can see the day when their company’s manufactured homes may also be sold via the Berkshire Hathaway real estate arm.

Another source tells the Daily Business News that Kevin – speaking at an Illinois state association event – said, Resale is the key. As Warren Buffett says ‘the MH industry is not going to grow until we expand the market by improving resale’s” – said Joanne Stevens, whose community brokerage operation is also part of Berkshire Hathaway.

Speaking of real estate, in Buffett’s recent annual letter, he says they now have 3 percent of the real estate agents in the country. ‘Just 97 percent to go,’ Buffett said.

The above begs a question.  Realtors weren’t necessary for the industry to hit is previous highs.  So why are the necessary now?

But setting that question aside for now, with respect to the broader housing market, resale and realtors are important topics. Buffett and Clayton are correct in saying its an issue, as what follows will reveal.


Realtors and Manufactured Housing

Among the consulting projects this writer has done in manufactured housing over the years is to successfully get real estate agents to engage with manufactured homes being sold in land-lease communities.

The following observation is neither a defense, nor a hit, on the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and their toe-in-the-water approach to manufactured home lending – especially home only, chattel lending.

If more:

  • realtors were engaged in resale’s of manufactured homes in communities,
  • if the exit strategy for manufactured housing on leased or owned land were easier,
  • it would logically be a game changer for the industry.

Why?  Because it would be a game-changer for lenders, as it could cut hold time and losses on homes that repossess or foreclose.

It would also be appealing for manufactured home owners too, because they would know that they’ve got an obvious exit strategy when the time comes to sell their personal home.

Buffett and Clayton are logically correct.


Realtors and Resales of Manufactured Homes

Don’t misread. There are already real estate pros listing and selling manufactured homes.  There are realtors who sell new as well as pre-owned, “existing” manufactured homes.

But a little like the GSEs, for most real estate agents, that engagement is at toe-in-the-water level.

Law Allows Real Estate Personnel to Sell Homes in Your Manufactured Home Community


The End of the First Quarter of 2018 in Manufactured Housing

As the first quarter of manufactured housing in 2018 is about to hit the history books, what the past tells us is that the industry’s still at levels far below historic norms.  The chart below is an example.



A combination of factors causes those relatively low levels of new HUD Code manufactured home sales.  HUD and third party data reveal that quality isn’t an issue, so what is?

Federal Data Spotlights Manufactured Home Industry Quality, Regulatory Questions

Among them is a scarcity of independent retailers.

Who says?  Producers of HUD Code manufactured homes, all of whom – including those who are members in the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) that were asked about this – confirmed that a lack of independent retailers is as an issue.

As was previously noted in the Daily Business News, some are attempting to address the problem by ‘giving vertical.’ Others told MHProNews that they are considering going vertical. A few have made strong commitments to their independent retailers, and said they would never go into competition with their dealer base.

Beyond the lack of intendent retailers, what else holds the industry back?  Stop and consider these bullets.

  • Berkshire could bridge the gap between real estate (RE) agents and manufactured housing with ease. Why hasn’t that RE agent switch – which Kevin imagined coming in 2011 – been more broadly turned on?


  • Berkshire has its own array of newsmaper/media outlets. Why don’t their media outlets do a steady stream of fact-based articles on the wonders of modern manufactured homes?


  • Several other challenges facing the industry could readily be addressed by a snap of a finger in Omaha.


  • Why haven’t those industry growth steps already occurred? What could be the logical motivation for Berkshire Hathaway keeping a foot on the break peddle of the industry’s growth?  Isn’t that counter-intuitive?



The Answer to those BH Questions…?

Are the same reasons Buffett’s Berkshire brands not boosting manufactured housing, as the bullets above suggest they could be, similar to why Buffett supported POTUS Obama, and then Secretary Hillary Clinton for president?

Both Clinton and Obama opposed changes to Dodd-Frank.  Those changes in CFPB regulations, that Tim Williams, President and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway owned 21st Mortgage said he wanted those regulations modified by MHI’s multi-year – and still unsuccessful – pursuit the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act.

Given the sheer size of Berkshire Hathaway, if one imagines a foot on a brake pedal, artificially slowing the growth of the industry, whose foot’s on that brake? And why?

Is it because the greater percentage of the industry will fall into Berkshire’s hands?  Buffett has said that he loves a bargain.  Buffett has also said that he tells his managers to fight competitors, including by expanding their “moat.”

In that context, isn’t it worth noting that MHI President Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison touted on video his desire for slow growth for manufactured housing? Who did that slow growth serve?

HUD Secreatary Carson was so enthusiastic about manufactured housing’s “Amazing” progress and quality, that he is almost gushing about it in the video posted below.

The professionals working for the GSEs this writer has privately spoken with are impressed with the quality and value of today’s manufactured homes.

When professionals from outside of our industry are properly exposed to manufactured homes, they are routinely blown away by the value.  At a recent trade show, a senior vice president for an international operation told MHProNews that he was shocked that manufactured housing sales levels were so low, given their quality and value.

What did the Urban Institute miss?

Is it what was went undisclosed in their report on manufactured homes?

If you have a long Easter weekend, this may be a good chance to catch up on the study of your own industry. “Warren” – says Kevin Clayton – has studied manufactured housing.

Perhaps it’s time for more industry pros to do the same?  See the linked resources and reports, including the Warren Buffett and Kevin Clayton videos, found below. “We Provide, You Decide.” © (News, analysis, and commentary.)

Related Reports – some with videos – to the above.


Duty To Serve, “Complete Waste of Time” per Tim Williams, CEO/21st Mortgage; POTUS Trump, Warren Buffett Insight$

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