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The IBISWorld Controversy and the Manufactured Housing Industry

April 13th, 2011 3 comments

Exclusive MHMSM.com Industry In Focus Report

The March 2011 IBISWorld report that cited manufactured home dealers as a ‘dying industry’ has made news inside and outside of the manufactured housing industry. MHMSM.com has contacted a variety of Industry leaders and personalities from coast to coast to get their comments. On-the-record comments have included national association leaders, as well as professionals in factory-built housing from the manufacturing, retail, communities and lending sectors.

Messages, comments and calls to MHMSM.com from manufactured home industry professionals dribbled in at first, and then gained in volume as publications such as The Atlantic and Business Insider covered the IBISWorld report. As an example of mainstream media coverage, a TV station in Houston reportedly called a regional firm to interview them about the developing IBISWorld story.

Derek Thompson, associate editor at The Atlantic, penned a commentary that included these words:

“At the center of a perfect storm of boomer burnout, a brutal recession,
and a rapidly changing industry, the mobile home retail market
could be the worst industry in America. Here’s why.”

Photo from The Atlantic
Photo from The Atlantic

“If I asked you to name America’s least fortunate industry, your mind might go to record stores, obliterated by on-demand apps; or photofinishers, left in the cold as digital cameras turn Americans into our own photo editors; or fabric makers, where business is booming … in Shenzhen, China.

“But when it comes to unlucky industries, it’s manufactured home (aka mobile home) retailers who really hit the trifecta. First they missed out on the housing boom. Then they felt the gut-punch of the recession. Now they might yet miss out on the recovery. That makes them America’s fastest dying industry, according to a new report from IBISWorld.”

Paul Bradley with Resident Owned Communities USA (ROC USA) was one of the first in the manufactured housing world’s leadership to publicly respond to this IBISWorld report. Bradley wrote a feature article for MHMSM.com that analyzed the IBISWorld report. Quoting from Bradley’s analysis:

“The (IBISWorld) report states ‘demand is dwindling’ and ‘sales are stagnant because the industry is not innovating, and that sales are likely to continue falling in the coming years.’ They go on to say, ‘Manufacturers have made cosmetics changes to manufactured homes, but they have not been significant enough to alter their life cycle stage.’ The report puts MH retailers in the ‘Industry stagnation’ category of declining industries.

“Are you kidding me? These are ‘deeply researched answers’?

“First, the headline clearly comes from their marketing division as a means of grabbing headlines. The research is not about a dying industry but a declining industry segment – one of two long-standing distribution channels in the business.

“With MH shipments in 2010 at 50,000 or 20 percent of 2000 levels, it’s not news that retailer revenues over that period declined. On that data, I’m surprised establishments are not down more than 56 percent. It suggests that the segment has excess capacity and additional closings are likely.

“Most surprising to me is laying the blame at the feet of manufacturers on the issue of design! From a ground-level market vantage point, that’s misplaced.

“The industry’s great declines came about as a result of, first, an industry-created chattel collapse where the seeds were sown in run-up to the 373,000 shipments in 1998. The collapse, and the repossession overhang which followed, began the decline like a skilled boxer’s well-placed left jab.

“The right overhand came next in the form of aggressive sub-prime and predatory lenders in the site-built market. In that run-up, traditional MH buyers – who were harder to finance for MH as a result of the chattel collapse – were lost to site-built housing in an eerily familiar boom market.

“Dazed by the right hand blow to our collective heads, the left to the body that has people reeling now is the regulatory reaction – the SAFE act, etc. – to the clearly consumer-eating lending practices of the last decade.

“The results of this three punch combination are declines of the magnitude widely reported and felt, and like a good whack, the pain lasts a while.

“Innovation in housing design, however, is not the industry’s chief failing.

“For those of us in the community market segment, in fact, innovation in new homes is a small issue – not a non-issue but a mere shadow of the aforementioned home financing issue. In fact, we are seeing demand for replacement and in-fill homes but only where we are able to arrange decent home financing. People want more efficient homes and the cost savings with new EnergyStar homes can be dramatic based on buyers with whom I’ve spoken.”

(Editor’s Note: The complete analysis by Paul Bradley can be found at this link.)

Other commentary in the form of articles proposed for publication, private and public comments followed. Thayer Long at the Manufactured Housing Institute issued this email as part of his response:

“State Execs & MHI Board:

“A very well articulated response to the IBIS report from last week by Paul Bradley which was just posted on www.MHMSM.com.

“I’d also just add that the sentiment at the Tunica Show, the Louisville Show, and the expected strong turnout at the Congress & Expo and the Tulsa Show and York Show later this month certainly don’t indicate this industry is going anywhere.

“Tony/Paul – I hope you don’t mind me sharing. We’ll see you in Las Vegas. Thanks for your support.

“Thanks-

“Thayer”

MHMSM.com spoke with Danny Ghorbani at the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) and to Thayer Long at the Manufactured Housing Institute.

Danny Ghorbani stated in a telephone interview that his comments were not the official position of MHARR, but represented his own views on the IBISWorld report and related.

Ghorbani stressed that the IBISWorld report represented the “failure” of “the post-production sector of the Industry” [meaning, MHI] in “serving that segment of its membership.”

The MHARR official then referenced two previously published documents that do represent MHARR’s official position, which were previously published on MHMSM.com in August and October 2010. These MHARR Viewpoint articles called for ‘the post-production segments’ of the manufactured housing industry to form their own national association; a thinly veiled vote of no-confidence from MHARR towards MHI.

MHMSM.com spoke extensively with Thayer Long at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). The typically soft-spoken Long was quick to respond.

Long was at times tongue-in-cheek, at other points direct in his comments about the IBISWorld report and Ghorbani’s often pointed comments on the matter. It should be stressed that Long’s comments, which follow, should be viewed as his own, and not necessarily reflective of the official view of MHI.

In an exclusive interview with MHMSM.com, Long shared the following thoughts:

Thayer Long:
“If it is a dying industry, then ok, then I guess I quit! And if Danny wants to blame it on us [MHI], okay, what else is new? … I am still struggling to figure out what he (Danny Ghorbani) is doing right now. Name one thing that he has accomplished … in the past three years? What has he accomplished…? I would love for you to think about that and get back to me. What has he accomplished? We [MHI] win and lose some battles. But at least we try. We have accomplished some things. Except, except, except… [MHARR]…nothing….

READ THE FULL INDUSTRY IN FOCUS REPORT

Why is Louisville so Important?

December 14th, 2010 No comments

Until only in recent years, the heartland of America has been the center of the market for low and moderate income families who have a special fondness for manufactured housing as a viable alternative to less affordable site-built housing.

Photo from Louisville Manufactured Housing Show

From the Northern reaches of America’s breadbasket in the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota to the south-central states of Kentucky and Tennessee, with strong central Midwestern states representation by Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, manufactured housing has appealed to both urban and rural home buyers; this in spite of the many myths about wind safety aspects of factory built homes. Some of our finest retirement communities have been built around many Midwestern urban areas, such as Chicago, Detroit and Michiana. So-called modular homes built to the wide-ranging, ill-defined state codes, hasn’t had the impact here as they have in Northeastern, New England and Mid-Atlantic States.

Is it the affordability? Is it the prices? Is it the home designs? Or is it just the relative ease with which so many Mid-American families find manufactured housing a good value? I guess only an expensive survey will tell, but who cares?

Photo from Louisville Manufactured Housing Show

For many years running, the most successful of showcases for our uniquely American form of housing in mid-Western markets has been the Louisville Show. Coordinated by Showays’ Dennis Hill, it has a reputation for not only putting on a great physical display of the latest in home designs by top manufacturers, but it also provides the many attendees with a wide range of products and services that support these unique homes, ranging from the latest in home financing options and home insurance, to new innovative products for safely installing homes, accessories to supplement the homes, and the latest in insurance, wholesale and retail financing programs.

The show is popular not only with retailers and developers, but with their staffs, installers, salespersons, and suppliers. The introduction of many new innovative concepts in HUD code and Modular homes have started trends in the industry that are prevalent today. A highlight of the show is the many seminars and industry speakers bringing timely subjects to the industry.

January’s 2011 show will also offer insightful seminars that can help you grow your business or address specific needs. In addition to the many homes and booths, the conference speakers will share their decades of experience for those who attend.

  • George Allen will be presenting his “Ah Ha! Oh, No” formula for calculating the ideal pricing of homes and site for long term success.
  • Ken Rishel will be presenting a must-attend topic for many who are looking for new sources for chattel financing. He should call it, “Yes, you can!” with captive finance. But whatever the title, it is good material that every community owner needs to hear, and many retailers should listen to as well.
  • Don Westphal has become the go-to guy on the topic of Community Series Homes as well as being the stand-out man when it comes to development or redevelopment of a community.
  • Bob Stovall and L.A. ‘Tony’ Kovach of MHMSM.com fame will be presenting their marketing magic ideas for driving traffic to your retail or community locations. Check out their “Dominate Your Local Market!” presentation. I saw Tony’s talk on a similar theme in Phoenix, and gave him a 10 out of 10.
  • Finally, I will be presenting an intro on site and an off-site presentation on how you can get manufactured housing community financing or refinancing – yes, even in today’s more challenging lending environment. ‘Tony’ Kovach will act as moderator for this off-site event, with Bedford Lending being present to help with a little-known, but very valuable FHA 207m private lender loan guarantee program. Learn more or sign up for that seminar at this link. This important seminar is to be held for from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. the afternoon of Thursday Jan 13th at the nearby Louisville Crown Plaza hotel, which is adjacent to the Exposition Grounds, and is easily accessed by car or the shows’ internal transportation system.
Photo from Louisville Manufactured Housing Show

More than ever before, the MH industry needs to gather up our resources, spruce up our thinking and light up our resolve to bring new life to a waiting American public. With all our Nation’s problems associated with high unemployment and large numbers of foreclosures, manufactured housing homes look even better than before as a real, viable alternative to more expensive site-built homes. New financing programs like the FHA Title I program, existing programs like the FHA 207m community financing program, and green home building options being offered by some manufacturers are concrete proof of our commitment to the general public in bringing safe, affordable, functional housing to Americans. There is an energy and opportunities aplenty to learn at a manufactured housing show that you simply can’t get any other way.

And it will all start in 2011 with the Louisville Show. I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there too!

Editor’s Note: Photos of the 2006 Louisville Show by Edward ‘Eddie’ Hicks

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By Eddie Hicks
Consultants Resource Group
Lic. RE Broker, Lic. Mortgage Broker
(813) 661-5901 Office
(888) 264-6472 Toll Free
www.mobilehomepark.com/
www.factorybuilthome.com/
www.Interlokhome.com/

FHA207(m) Loans for M/H Land Lease Communities Seminar