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What More Can We Accomplish After This Year’s Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Congress and Expo?

May 13th, 2014 No comments

Like many others, I attended the 2014 National Congress & Expo two weeks ago in Las Vegas. I also chose to attend the National Communities Council Spring Forum held all day Tuesday prior to the opening reception. There were some exceptional programs! The attendance was very high according to reports from MHI. While there was an eye brow-raiser (or two…) on the agenda, off-agenda items that were pretty interesting and overall the Spring NCC Forum and MHI's Congress and Expo featured seminars with speakers focused on current industry topics and issues. Numerous vendors on hand shared their services, displayed their products and provided opportunities for deal making.

What should not come as a surprise was the number of new individuals who attended the Congress.

Many professionals from all facets of the housing, finance and investment sectors were on hand to listen and learn about the manufactured housing industry. This is another great indication on the positive future for the industry.

Today, there is something in the neighborhood of Two (2) Billion Dollars chasing the manufactured housing industry! That's Billion with a capital B!

Those dollars may or may not be invested in our sector; only time will tell. What we need to realize is that there is capital willing to invest and grow in manufactured housing. With new capital much can change, improve and set the stage for a brighter future of the industry.

Yet, even with the large amount of new capital looking to invest in the industry, manufactured housing will still be a very small piece of the roughly One (1) Trillion Dollar annual U.S. housing market.

The questions I continue to ponder are;

  • what can we do to grow the manufactured housing industry’s share of the overall housing industry?

  • How do we get to the root of the obstacles that continue to impede the MH Industry’s growth?

Flying home after Congress and Expo, those nagging questions bugged me. Below is a thought that came to mind that may provide a profitable starting point.

Why not host an – August 2014? – organizational networking/deal making opportunity event that is Trans-Associational?

Why not consider a location near a fine newer MHC property that breaks the stereotypes – such as Saddlebrook Farms in Grayslake, IL – where the potential for new development could better be understood by those who only know the 1 or 2 star MH properties? Would love to hear suggestions on other possible sites that fill the bill.

That property would also feature great looking, residential style product that is ground set, so this would shatter the 'mobile home' image for potential investors who only know the entry level product.

As you can see, I am not suggesting replacing any current event, such as the upcoming MHI annual meeting, NCC Fall Leadership Forum or other association or industry functions.

Rather I am suggesting something totally fresh and different.

Let’s bring the stakeholders and potential investors to the table at the same time with professional facilitation and the opportunity to participate.

The focus of the meeting would be how to get those multi-billions moving ahead, as well as advance the MH Industry as a larger and viable part of the overall housing market.

What makes this concept different than other current programs is that interested parties are invited regardless of current relationship issues or biases. Bringing goal and solution oriented individuals from differing backgrounds, all committed to growing the manufactured housing industry could be groundbreaking.

Please do not misunderstand; while I'd like to be involved, I am not volunteering to take the lead in this event due to my current business obligations. I am putting the idea out in this public forum for discussion.

The way this gets done is for

  • commercial real estate brokers and appraisers,
  • commercial RE lenders and brokers,
  • MH finance companies (personal property and Mortgage lenders),
  • Any – or all – HUD Code manufactured housing and modular builders,
  • developers
  • Suppliers and other service vendors

to pay for the costs of the meeting, mixers and main meals.

Pick a place that is nice clean convention location, and keep the entry fee really low.

Let's put an asterisks next to this one. What if we make it easy for the hundreds (or thousands?) of owners of MHCs who are looking to exit due to age, health or other reasons to come at a pre-event day to discuss their properties face to face with those who may want to buy them?

Might this be a good way to facilitate the capture of more of that circling capital which would also facilitate the improvement of languishing communities and the sales of more homes in them?

There also ought to be an ability for the event organizers to bar this or that person or group at will, so that the Ishbel Dickens/NMHOA or Industry naysayers don't get in. That keeps this focused on business and solutions.

Just think about the number of organizations who would want to take part in an event of this nature. Here are a few who I believe would join the effort.

rick-rand-industry-voices-mhpronews-com

There probably are others who should be included on this list. These are the organizations that came to my mind while thinking about who the stakeholders are in the future of the MH Industry.

One more critical point. Let's tackle the creation of a vibrant, efficient resale market for manufactured homes. This is absolutely critical for the future of our industry, the benefit of our residents and lenders as well as our homes' broader acceptance.

By being trans-associational, this could also prove to be fertile ground for meeting with and recruiting new members.

As to a target date, based on the interest being shown about the industry, sometime in the near term would be better than delaying. By doing it in the summer, a successful meeting could position the 2015 trade shows for dovetailing with this concept.

The location must be close to a major airport so that there is easy access to the event. As noted, having some newer and older MH communities nearby would be beneficial so that participants can take a charter actually view the new homes and better understand the true breadth of the MH product and variety of community lifestyles.

I believe that an event like this will assist in not only promoting the Manufactured Housing Industry but also could be a catalyst for additional new capital investment and future financing opportunities.

We must not lose sight of a key goal of the meeting; how to advance the MH Industry as a larger and viable part of the overall housing market.

Please feel free to comment below or email me with your thoughts. The future of the MH Industry is ours to create. ##

rRck RandRick Rand is the president of Great Value Homes, and has been involved in small and large scale MHC operations. You can contact him at:
Richard J. Rand, President, Great Value Homes, Inc.. 9458 N. Fairway Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53217-1321,

414-352-3855
414-352-3631(fax)
414-870-9000(cell),
RickRand@gvhinc.net

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