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Posts Tagged ‘dick ernst’

Finance Expert Dick Ernst of FinmarkUSA: introduction at Tunica Manufactured Housing Show 2014

May 20th, 2014 No comments

Editor's note. This public introduction was videoed during the business building seminars held during the 2014 Tunica Manufactured Housing Show.

Note that the Speakers knew they were being filmed.

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An exclusive interview with Dick Ernst is planned to be featured in our upcoming June issue. Dick moderated the finance panel at aDick-Ernst-Financial-Marketing-Associates-tony-kovach-mhpronews-com3 packed room of industry professionals at the 2014 Tunica Show. Dick Ernst also moderated MH home lending and commercial panels, in an overflow crowd during the 2014 Louisville Show.

Dick is a key figure in meetings with industry and public officials, including the CFPB, FHFA and more.

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You'll get exclusive insights into the widely acknowledged top man in the manufactured home finance business, into industrymhpronews-interviews-with- finance issues, how to generate more profits and much more. Watch for it – and the. Watch it – in June!

More video Interviews available today are found at this link below.

http://www.MHProNews.com/home/industry-news/industry-in-focus/7540-global-eyes-on-manufacturedmodular-home-movers-shakers-and-news-makers

Our thanks to Dick Ernst at FinMarkUSA.com for his profit-making and protecting leadership for businesses, associations and others, and my thanks too for his kind words shared in the video above. ##

(Image and video credits, ManufacturedHomes.com in association with MHProNews.com)

The Emperor has no Clothes

August 21st, 2011 13 comments

There is a lot to say about what has gone wrong with our country and our Industry.  We will begin ‘at the top,’ with our Chief Executive, President Barack Obama.

What’s up with Obama’s recent bus tour?

I’m no fan of the prior president, but say what you will about President W, when he took a similar bus trip to President Obama’s, W used campaign dollars to pay for it.  Where is the “watchdog” media? Why no hue and cry when the administration buys millions of dollars of Canadian buses so President BO can tour in style on the taxpayer’s dime?

What’s up with all that?

Isn’t it ironic that BO tours campaign style after lecturing millionaires and billionaires about private jets and corporate perks?  Or is that rhetoric just a way of getting the votes of middle America and ‘the little people?’

Do you like ‘divide and conquer politics?  To me, it is plain wrong.  Talk about issues, talk records or about facts.  But don’t pit one group against another.

I need to be clear that W vacationed considerably more than BO.  But W went to his ranch or Camp David, etc.  But to add irony to injury, on the heels of all this bad economic news, BO is in Martha’s Vineyard – the haven of the elite – now?

Even left wing commentators see this vacation in the New England playground of the rich and famous as a problem.

  • Experts and government statistics suggest we have 17% unemployed and under-employed.
  • We have more people on food-stamps and welfare than at any time in U.S. history.
  • And BO will give us his ‘next’ jobs program in September, after his resort vacation?
  • Where are all those shovel ready and other jobs from the ‘first’ one?  Or were all the jobs ‘created’ at the job killing CFPB?

They say the emperor has no clothes.  Well, we have no emperor, but a president and his wardrobe looks just fine.

Ascendancy and Dependency

It is the party of dependency that is still in ascendency.

Or at least still in high office…

…dependency is a major voting block today.

Be it government labor unions, federal jobs or those on government assistance, it is an issue.  We have to put people to work, not get them used to no work. We do need federal and other government jobs.  But we can’t give everyone a job regulating someone who is working to produce a product or a service that keeps America’s wheels turning.

If we do not change our ways federally and locally, we will look like rioting old England some day, because we can’t afford to keep adding to our debt and taking on more programs that fail to foster independence.

While we have plenty of dependency programs, meanwhile, we have

  • flash mobs that form, rob, harass and harm others in our cities.
  • We have automatic weapons fire along our southern border.
  • We have three wars we are involved in instead of the previous two.

I didn’t favor W taking us into Iraq, nor do I favor BO taking us into Libya.  Even if we ‘win,’ what have we won in either case?  We spill American blood and treasure, for what?  We can’t be the world’s cop, and we can’t have wars for the sake of foreign oil, etc.

Let’s drill and do energy on U.S. soil and off U.S. shores, as safely and prudently as possible.  Think about the major jobs creation potential.

Private enterprise can pay for it all without federal dollars.  Let business people do business in America again.

Another Recession, whats up with that?

The media speaks of double dip recession.  What’s up with that phrase?

Did anyone notice that the ‘great recession’ never ended?  Did you notice that the housing markets still suffer, and Keynesian/Euro socialist economics just added trillions to our debt without giving us a stronger economy?

No jobs.  No stimulated business.  Tougher lending.  Very little respect overseas.  Where is the change we can believe in?  Or was that supposed to mean the pocket change we have left after taxes?

Third part candidate George Wallace once said there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties. Thus Wallace favored what some have for years, a third party to bring America back. But Ronald Reagan had it closer, we don’t need a third party, but a rejuvenated second party.

That means we don’t need Rino Republicans, Republicans In Name Only.  To me, W was a Rino, socially conservative, but nearly as much a man about big government as BO is.  W helped give us that darn bail out of the bankers.  W took us into two wars with no end in sight.  W’s dad may not have “finished the job” in the first Gulf War, but he had the smarts to get in and get out.

We need business friendly independents, Democrats and Republicans.

Businesses create jobs.  Jobs are what American’s need, and then they can start buying houses again!

Speaking of jobs, how about creating 20 million new ones?

I’ve read the same reports you have; that there are two trillion dollars of investment money on the sidelines – actually overseas – that could be brought back to the U.S. In short order.

But that 2 trillion fled America due to regulations and tax policies.  Do we have the political will to bring those trillions back?

Think about what Two Trillion Dollars we don’t have to borrow, or write down, would mean to our country right now.  If every $100,000 invested created only 1 American job, that would mean 20,000,000 jobs.

Think: 20 million people off aid, off food stamps, off unemployment or other government programs.  2o million more taxpayers.  Think 20 million people less dependent, means we would be that much closer to a balanced budget!

We better find and support candidates in whatever party who know how the free enterprise system works, because creating jobs by supporting business is what we should be about.

Free Enterprise, not Keynesian/Euro socialist economics, is what made America the land of the free and the home of the brave.

November 2012 is shaping up now.  Who we support now for our state houses, or for Congress, the Senate and the White House will be on the ballot 15 months from now.

Personally, I’ve contacted my senators and representative and made my feelings known on economic and social issues.  But I will also make them known on the path to election 2012.

Give the man his props

One thing that our recently bus touring and now vacationing BO has done is give us an executive order we can believe in.  With all due respect to Marty Lavin, Danny Ghorbani was the first to bring it to our Industry’s attention.  We speak of Executive Order (EO) #13563, similar to President Clinton’s issued in 1993.

MHMSM.com posted EO #13563 months ago, that requires an examination of regulatory impact and its benefits.

MHARR is right.  HUD’s budget has grown, while our industry shipments have shrunk.  What’s up with that fact?

What the president – at least on paper –  has done is give us EO#13563 which could hold HUD and other regulators accountable.  Now will our national associations use that to our Industry’s benefit?

The Fall Congressional hearing on Manufactured Housing

Ooops.

Who do we have in DC “helping us” in the planned fall Congressional hearings on our Industry?  Congressman Barney Frank.  What’s up with that?

Let’s see.  Barney helped give us the SAFE Act.  Barney also gave us part of the name of the bill that in his: Dodd-Frank.

So do you feel safer or dodd-franked?

With friends like Barney, does our industry need any federal enemies?

Who is watching how our industry PAC money is spent?  Is this the type of anti-business candidate we need to support?

Where is that change we can believe in?  Or did I drop that change the last time I filed my quarterlies?

One of the best meeting planners around, but…

I asked Tony Kovach why George Allen’s Roundtable was not on the MHMSM.com calendar.  “George isn’t an association, and he opted not to pay for an ad.”

Maybe there is considerable momentum from last year’s event that MHMSM.com did promote.  I noticed that Allen is reporting more state association executives coming to the Roundtable this year.  State execs are often ‘comped’ for coming to an event.  George is one of the best self-promoters the Industry has seen in the past 2 decades.  I’d want state execs helping me promote an event of mine too.  Nothing wrong with it, a common practice.

In the manufactured home communities world, Allen’s Roundtables are unmatched.  Allen gets some fine speakers and topics in.  They are informative and enjoyable.

However, I can’t always agree with George Allen’s commentary, live or in his columns here or in his own publications.  Let’s parse some of his recent ones for a few moments.

I understand and agree with George that MHI doesn’t seem to have a plan for our Industry’s recovery.  What’s up with that fact?  I can see why the natives are restless in the NCC, even with Lisa B getting appointed.

George is spot on that MHI is failing to do half of what an association is called to do – protect and promote.

  • Where is the Industry promotion?
  • How has MHI worked to reverse the Industry’s downward new home shipment trend?  Marty was spot on regarding that topic, in his recent column.

But George’s bashing of Danny and MHARR misses the mark.  Why?

Because MHARR is an association for independent Manufacturers. MHARR don’t get paid to represent communities or lenders or suppliers.  MHARR doesn’t represent retailers,  which if you ask retailers like Doug Gorman or Dick Moore, MHI doesn’t seem to do such a hot job for them either.

George, the point is that MHARR can’t be faulted for focusing on what its members pay MHARR to do, namely, work on regulatory issues.  So George, if you want to fault Danny, fault him for something that group is paid to do.  At least MHARR has stated publicly they support the ‘post production’ sector (MHARR code words for MHI) in their efforts to modify Dodd-Frank, SAFE, etc.  I’ve not seen any similar effort from MHI back towards MHARR.  If it exists, it is behind the scenes.

I also agree with Marty Lavin that we better watch more what people say than what people do.  We better watch results, because words alone can be cheap.

Or words can costly, depending on how you look at it.

Industry Marketing and Image Campaign

Speaking of MHI and the Industry image campaign…

…I’ve seen the plan Tony, IMHA’s Mark Bowersox and others have put together.  In a word, brilliant.

In my mind, they need to consider a different name, but for now they are calling it the Manufactured Housing Alliance and Phoenix Plan.  Their plan navigates the key political issues that our industry has faced that has kept us from moving ahead.

We keep reading from MHI the statistics about our dropping new home shipments.   This gets back to the dual role that an association is supposed to have, protect and promote.

Where is MHI on this MH Alliance/Phoenix Plan effort to turn around our image, marketing and sales results?

Silent.

By contrast. I see John Bostick’s name on the page in favor of the MH Alliance/Phoenix Plan.  That makes me want to order some Sunshine Homes and get others to do the same!

Good for MHARR’s Chairman, who did not endorse it on MHARR’s behalf, but Mr. Bostick has obviously taken the time and had the guts to publicly say, hey, this can work.

Which leads to the questions:

> Where are the MHARR members or Danny on this plan?

> Where is MHI on this plan?

Marty Lavin on Danny Ghorbani

I’m the first to agree with Marty that Danny needs to polish up those lobbying skills.  In fact, let me take Marty’s points a step farther.  As I personally see it, and others may disagree, Danny has three options:

  1. change your ways, permanently and rapidly, to become more effective at what you do for MHARR,
  2. retire and consult for MHARR as needed;
  3. or just retire.

Danny, retire? What would happen to MHARR without Danny?  What’s up with that idea?  Can you even say MHARR without saying Danny G’s name?

Yes, you can.

Attorney and MHARR VP Mark Weiss is a good man.  Mark knows the law, can be reasoned with and Danny has prepared him to take the helm at MHARR, when the time comes that Danny decides to retire or when MHARR members make that decision.

For example, MHARR could bring in a new associate, give Danny a nice gold watch, and a one year transitional consulting agreement.  The independent factories that support MHARR can save money.  As or more important, they likely can get more done and advance their cause in DC with HUD, Congress and other regulators.

The timing is right for a change at MHARR.  Danny, don’t take it the wrong way, you are a smart guy and know the HUD Code as well as anyone in the manufacturing side of the Industry.  But in my personal opinion, it is time to change your ways for the better or you better retire.

The best suits and fine meetings

Danny has some of the best suits in DC that our Industry can brag about.  Danny and MHARR are spot on with some key issues.  But you can be right, and still do things in a way that turns people off.

But give the man his props, Danny is right about MHI meeting,

after meeting,

after meeting and

…where is the MHI plan?

But then, Danny – if you stay – you and MHARR should then walk the walk and have an action plan of your own. Not a some day, or five year plan, a let’s get it done now plan.

Perhaps John Bostick’s public move supporting the MH Alliance/Phoenix Plan will inspire others of stature to make their own public statements or just help launch the program.

But at some point, we need to get past meetings, and get to doing.  46,000 shipments.  We are now down about 88% from our post HUD-Code high in 1998.  How much lower can we go and still have an Industry?

  • We can’t fill empty home sites with only used product.
  • We need new homes bought from factories and sold to consumers.
  • We need retailers and community operators who attract customers with good credit, and then close them and turn them into happy homeowners who will tell their friends and once again let our Industry grow.

The Numbers on MAP

I like abbreviations. Let’s call this plan of Mark’s and Tony’s MAP for short, because this MH Alliance Phoenix can be our road MAP to the future. Maybe we can get Tony and Mark to come up with a better name.  But in the mean time, MAP it is for me.

I asked Tony to give me a projection on what he thinks MAP can do.  His answer?  First year from the launch date could double shipments without a need for hurricane season (no need for FEMA orders).

The next year could double it again.  That would be roughly 92,000 shipments in year 1. Then 184,000 shipments in year two.

Take a look at the MAP if you haven’t already.  If you have a better plan, why not share it?  But if not, get behind the plan that is out there being discussed.

I’m told that MAP can be up and running in short order.  We can do MAP, with no waiting for federal or state action!

Doing the Math, my Math not Ts

Tony has his math, I have mine.

Let’s say MAP was launched, and then MAP raised shipments back to 75,000 the first year.  Let’s further say, 1/2 of the increase went into communities.

  • That would mean 14,500 spaces filled.  At say $275 average a month per site, that would mean $47,850,000 more to MHCs a year.  Plus the profits off the home sales.
  • 29,000 additional new shipments would mean 29,000 new jobs.
  • It would mean security for those whose jobs or businesses are at risk due to declining shipments.How many MH plants would stay open?
  • At even a low $50,000 average per home, that 1.45 billion in new sales.  Think about the boost in revenue to retailers and developers.

Would you give $75 per location to boost sales $1.45 Billion and create about $48 million in new communities revenues?

If not, please go back to 5th grade math.  To me, this spells a good deal.

Let me stress, these are my numbers, not T’s or Mark’s.  But it tells me why they and others are working to see this plan happen.

Chattel Lenders

I’m not without experience in dealing with personal property lending.  While he wasn’t talking about just lending, I agree with Chad Carr’s recently published statement about MAP.  The MH Alliance/Phoenix Plan is the only plan I’ve seen that gets to the heart of fixing chattel lending for our Industry.  MAP provides solutions for image, lobbying and other practical issues too. It dares to be bold, without trying to step on any industry group’s toes.

If your chattel lender has not yet seen this, she or he better do so!  This can help us cut our repos losses dramatically.

It will help our customers – manufactured home owners – dramatically too.  That will in turn attract more customers, and more credit worthy ones.

Manufactured housing lenders need to see our losses cut.  Because that panel of lenders at the MHI Congress last April were correct.  A repo can cost 50% (or more) of the loan balance.   There are so many dark clouds that hang over personal property lending for manufactured housing right now, we have to have solutions if our Industry will ever advance.

In fact, our survival depends on it.

I asked Tony specifically about people who have and have not seen MAP.  T won’t comment about those who haven’t shared a public statement. I can respect that, but it does leave us guessing.

So someone needs to ask Marty Lavin or Dick Ernst where they are on this.  Have they seen it?  What is there take?  It is obvious that Ken Rishel has come out for it, big time, in his own newsletter and on MHMSM.com too.

Come to think of it, where is George Allen’s name on this subject?  Didn’t he say a few months ago, we needed an image campaign?  What’s up with that?

We could go through a list of industry leaders and say, what about you?  Where are you on this MAP subject?

If you are for it, why not say so publicly? If you oppose it, why and then propose your own alternative!  Mark, Tony and those working on this want to see consensus. I appreciate that, but I’d add that we can’t afford to debate stuff forever.  We need to move ahead, and pronto.

If we do not start advancing, more factories, more retailers and more communities will fail.  It is simply 5th grade math.

State and Communities Association leaders

Given that a pair of state association leaders have already publicly stated support for the MH Alliance and Phoenix plan, it is reasonable to think others have seen it too.  We need to watch and encourage this plan at the state level.

Because let’s be honest, the states are where it is at.  All politics are local, and your business happens at the state and local level.

Last year, we saw some state execs who took a leadership role to get things happening at the federal level.  We need to see that again, and we need to see that on MAP or their best alternative to it.

A pimple on an elephant’s bottom

We’ve heard this expression at meetings and coffee tables.  I admit it sadly fits the influence our Industry has politically in DC today.  We need to be working tea parties to get the party of jobs, business and growth moving ahead. We need to hold the feet of those who say they will change DC for the better to the fire, and get the gold of jobs and rising housing back to work building the U.S.A.

We have lost our nation’s AAA credit rating.  Debt piles up, what do we have to show for it?  Where are the jobs?  The lending?  The recovery?  What did we bail out anyway?  Who benefited from all that taxpayer funded largess?

We saw some amazing upsets at the midterms, and I think we can see more if we plan now for the best candidates and then mobilize for the general elections.

It is frankly another good reason to learn and get behind the MAP.  We will increase our influence at the state house and in Washington when our consumers are visibly supporting us in sizable numbers.

Let’s work and earn the support of our communities’ residents and home owners/customers!  Then we should make sure we continue to deserve it.  Without happy customers, we are as doomed as if HUD bureaucrats or others would just shut us down.

TANSTAFL

If I boiled this down, it would be this.  We can’t have something for nothing.  TANSTAFL = There is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone always pays.

We better work for truly positive change, or we will be left with pocket change.

We better look at and support a plan that can move us ahead.  I vote for the MH Alliance/Phoenix Plan.  Or we will suffer the fate of the buggy whip makers.

I shop at WalMart no more than I have to, because I believe in supporting the smaller and more independent business women and men out there.  They are more like me.  They want to serve me, and I in turn want to support them.

We better support the HUD Code builders, and they in turn, better support us too.

Talking and Doing.

Before we look at any other emperor who also lacks clothes, let’s close for now. Talk is fine, but let’s follow talk with do.

I want to thank those of you who have written.  Please do not think me rude, but for now…

…I hope you understand that some things need to be said that have gone unsaid too long.

More next time.##

post submitted by
Michael Barnabas

(Editor’s note: The views presented on the Industry Voices Guest Blog represent those of the writer.  They do not necessarily represent the views of MHMSM.com (soon to be rebranded as MHProNews.com) or our sponsors.

We encourage a respectful exchange of opinions and views on topics of general interest to the Industry.  Industry Voices guests columns are not a forum for business promotion; that is what advertising is supposed to do.

The Industry Voices forum encourages a respectful dialogue between industry members.  You can post comments using our Disqus system or submit your own Industry Voices guest column in reply to a column like this topic or on any other topic of interest to the factory built housing Industry.  Please put Industry Voices Guest Column in the subject line when you submit an article for consideration. Posted comments via Disqus and Industry Voices columns must stay within the boundaries of civility, the law and common sense.)

 

 

 

 

 

Dodd-Frank Act and Manufactured Housing

July 12th, 2011 No comments

Editor’s Note:  Received from the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), July 2011, thanks to a communication from Executive Director Thayer Long

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (or “Dodd-Frank”) is approximately 2,200 pages long and affects all financial service products, including manufactured home loans.  Because of the legislation’s enormous size, complexity and its broad scope of impact, discussing it in piecemeal terms is difficult.  Even within the banking industry, community banks have a different focus compared with the large national banks.  For non-depository institutions, the same problem also exists.

Yet, there is a commonality of interest across a number of sectors.  Dodd-Frank contains a number of unintended consequences that impact a variety of industries and consumers.  For instance, with respect to the manufactured housing industry, Dodd-Frank was structured and written around a regulatory framework for real estate mortgages.  However, the bill essentially reclassifies all manufactured home loans as mortgage products.  Manufactured home loans not secured by real estate are not the same as mortgages.  To regulate all home loans the same way is an unsuitable model, which creates significant challenges to the industry and the consumers it serves.

Manufactured home loans have unique characteristics.  Manufactured home loans, in most cases, are much smaller than typical residential real estate secured mortgages and have shorter durations, which make transactional costs harder to recover.  Manufactured home loans have higher servicing costs than residential mortgages, requiring specialized knowledge and more personal contact and less reliance on technology.  Many manufactured home loans (with the exception of FHA Title I loans) are made with no government guarantees or potential losses to taxpayers.

How is the Industry Impacted?

First, the law creates a new standard for a “high-cost mortgage” loan which is based on interest rate spreads that fluctuate over time.  If the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) exceeds the average prime offer (the loan purchase rate established by Freddie Mac) by more than 6.5 percent, or in personal property transactions under $50,000 by 8.5 percent, then the loan is considered “high cost.”

For example, if the law became effective today a “high-cost mortgage” loan is any residential loan over $50,000 with an APR of 11 percent or more, or, a loan under $50,000 (if the dwelling is considered personal property) with an APR of 13 percent or more.  The law does not prevent “high-cost mortgage” loans from being made, but it does make it more difficult to make these loans, and it imposes a significant level of potential legal liabilities making them virtually impossible to securitize.

This is a problem because since our cost of capital is higher, manufactured home loan interest rates are typically higher.  Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not purchase loans or create a secondary market where manufactured housing lenders can access capital at a discounted rate, lenders need to rely on other sources to make loans.  These sources charge a higher interest.

Also, there are other fixed costs associated with making any kind of loan, such as fees for preparing the legal documents necessary to originate a loan.  These basic costs increase with each state and federal law and regulation that is enacted.  In addition, there are costs associated with each prospective borrower, including borrowers that are rejected and those who for whatever reason end up not taking the loan.  These costs also include a portion of the advertising and marketing that go into borrower acquisition, the costs of maintaining methods of communication, and the costs of determining loan eligibility.

This conflict is particularly compounded with existing manufactured homes sales, where loan balances tend to be smaller.  The loan may be smaller, but fixed costs are the same regardless of the loan size.  These fixed costs must be recouped in some way in order to make the loan.  Therefore, the only way to recoup these costs is by charging a higher rate.

If a lender decides to make a “high-cost mortgage” loan under Dodd-Frank, they must be prepared for a variety of new regulations, including

  • requirements for borrowers to undergo loan counseling by a HUD-Certified Counselor, the cost of which is expected to be $400-$600;
  • prohibitions that prevent financing points, fees and closing costs;
  • rules limiting late fees; and
  • rules requiring multiple disclosures to sell or assign “high cost” loans.

Second, Dodd-Frank does provide a path for relief through the definition of a “Qualified Mortgage (QM),” which is intended to provide a legal safe harbor from some of the Act’s more burdensome provisions.   However, the criteria that must be met to be considered a qualified mortgage include:

  • no balloon loans;
  • points and fees are restricted to 3 percent of the loan amount;
  • ability to repay must also consider taxes, insurance, and assessments; and
  • standardization of debt to income guidelines that have not yet been determined.

Again, because of the nuances in manufactured home lending, the definition of QM is unworkable for many loans made in our industry.  First, while balloon payments are not commonly made by manufactured home industry lenders, they are common with captive finance companies and local banks.  Second, the cap of points and fees at 3 percent coupled with our smaller loan balances will force lenders to charge a higher interest rate (thus tipping the scales and classifying them as “high-cost mortgages.”)

Communicating this in detail is complicated because the law’s impact will vary from lender to lender depending on their business model and the types of loans that they make.

What is true of all of the existing non-captive lenders involved in manufactured home lending is there is a limit, which varies from organization to organization, of how small a loan they believe they can make and still recover a reasonable amount of their costs.  Lenders will have to make a decision on what their lowest loan amount will be due to new limits on their ability to recover those costs.  To better understand this, a lender has only three ways to recover costs which are:

  • to buy the loan at a discount, which is only possible if there is a motivated seller involved in the transaction who is able and willing to accept a discounted payout;
  • to charge the borrower additional closing costs; and
  • to raise the interest rate and recover the costs as the borrower pays back the loan.

Even the strategy of using points to keep the interest rate below the triggers of a “high-cost mortgage” is impeded leaving no way to recover costs.

To further clarify, if the cost of origination and legal compliance equals X, that number does not change based on the loan size or duration.  The shorter the term and the lower the dollar amount, the harder it is to recover those fixed costs.  Here is an example:

A lender is considering making a $10,000 loan with a term of four years.  Using a risk-based pricing model, the correct interest rate is determined to be 11 percent.  If the fixed costs of origination are figured to be $2,000, the lender must charge the borrower either in points or closing costs that $2,000 to keep the rate at 11 percent.  If a law or regulation caps the lender’s closing costs or points, then the lender must look to raising the interest rate to recapture whatever costs could not be recaptured through points or closing costs.  If the entire cost were recovered via interest, the interest rate would need to be increased to 17 percent to recover the costs.

Captive finance companies currently have zero, or very low, minimum loan cutoffs.

Typically, they utilize higher interest rates to recoup costs, but often the justification for lending in the first place is that their related entities are profiting from the transaction in other ways, not the home loan itself.

What is the Result if Dodd-Frank is Not Amended?

Financing will still be available for those buyers with good credit and who can make a sizable down payment.  Industry lenders that have or require higher credit quality customers may not be as impacted by the “high-cost mortgage” loan provisions.   Those needing to serve customers with more challenged credit quality, and therefore needing to risk price their loans accordingly, will be impacted.

Also, those who fund low balance loans will find it more difficult to do business and existing homeowners will find it very difficult to sell their homes to buyers that need financing.

The dollar amounts for not making a loan will vary by lender because of all the variables detailed above, but each lender will find and set a minimum loan requirement based on their internal numbers.

It has been estimated that 50 percent of all the loans made on manufactured homes in manufactured home communities are under $25,000.  Another source has estimated that nearly 75 percent of all manufactured home personal property loans are under $75,000.00.  If the fixed transactional costs mandated by current and proposed law are higher than the lender’s ability to recover costs, the loan will not be made by lenders independent of other profit center relationships.

Bottom line is that without changes, there will be a significant number of consumers who will not be served.

Potential Solutions

MHI has an effort underway to seek bi-partisan legislative relief in six specific areas that needs and deserves the support of everyone in the manufactured housing industry.  The issues identified by the MHI Dodd-Frank Task Force are as follows:

  1. Elimination of the expanded scope of Homeowners Equity Protection Act (HOEPA);
  2. Clarification of the Qualified Mortgage Standards;
  3. Clarification and Consistent Standards of a Mortgage Originator;
  4. Exemption of Manufactured Homes from the new Appraisal Standards;
  5. Exclusion of Manufactured Home Loans from the Residential Mortgage Loan Definition; and
  6. Clarification and strengthening of exemptions for manufactured home retailers from CFPB Oversight.

A six-page white paper created by MHI can be obtained from MHI or any state association.  Industry members should obtain copies and distribute them to their Representatives and Senators along with personal letters and emails urging them to support this effort.  Those reading this article should distribute it as widely as possible throughout the industry along with their personal efforts to persuade other industry members, including employees and community residents, as well as suppliers,  to also contact their Representatives and Senators.

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MHI is the preeminent national trade association for the manufactured and modular housing industries, representing all segments of the industries before Congress and the Federal government.   This article was prepared with input from the MHI Dodd-Frank Taskforce, in particular Ken Rishel, Sheila Dey, Dick Ernst and TF chair Tim Williams.

An MHMSM.com INdustry In Focus Exclusive Interview Report With industry consultant and once interim-president of MHI, DICK ERNST Part Three

August 10th, 2010 No comments

Dick Ernst discusses the SAFE Act and its impact on the Manufactured Housing Industry, and the extent of a potential boost from FHA financing

Reporter Eric Miller with Publisher L.A. ‘Tony’ Kovach for MHMSM.com

We conclude the interview begun last week with Dick Ernst.

MHMSM: You just mentioned the SAFE Act. How is that being viewed from inside the mortgage industry?

ERNST: There is lots of confusion. More so, probably, for the manufactured housing business. In the mortgage business, it’s pretty straight forward. I think for the most part, mortgage brokers are being squeezed out because you can’t do the yield spread premiums, charge higher rates to customers with more money going to the broker and things like that. So I think the mortgage brokers are being really squeezed on the mortgage side of the business. But it’s pretty straight forward for the mortgage business. If you operate under a national charter – if you’re a national bank, credit union or thrift – you have to register your people; your people don’t have to be licensed. But the people who go out there and originate loans for you have to be licensed within the state they are doing business with, so you’re dealing with someone who is going to be regulated.

In the manufactured housing business though, it’s much more confusing because of the nature of our business – with some of it being mortgage-type transactions and a large part of it being chattel financing. There are some issues related to the SAFE Act that really make it confusing, in my view, for the average retailer. But in that situation, I believe, the way our business has historically been handled using a retail installment contract or a three-party contract, I think that’s going to be very problematic for the industry going forward because that, technically, makes the dealer a lender and then he assigns that loan to another lender, usually at par value. So, I think that’s going to be problematic and I think our industry is still trying to figure out the right way to handle it.

Community operators, those that we just talked about, that are actually investing in their own paper – I don’t think there’s any question that they are lenders. They are deriving benefit because they are collecting interest on the loan they are providing to the customer. All the other issues related to the administrative aspects of what a retailer does, those to me become more secondary to the bigger issues of, are you getting benefit by earning interest on the loans you are making? Are you, in fact, utilizing a retail installment contract, which represents a loan contract that you are taking to the borrower and then assigning it to someone else? I think all those things are more important issues.

MHMSM: Is becoming licensed difficult? Would that possibly serve the customer better if some of the people in the industry did become licensed?

ERNST: Becoming licensed for people who are involved in the mortgage business is like becoming licensed to begin with, passing your mortgage broker’s license. You have to have certain training and understanding of the mortgage lending laws and what you can do and what you can’t do, and what truth in lending is, or [Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act] RESPA is; the various applicable federal laws and state laws and things of that nature. So you already have a background in it and familiarity with it and you have studied for it to pass your mortgage broker’s license. It’s more difficult for our industry, because typical retailers are not that heavily immersed in mortgage lending and, from what I am told, many of them do have difficulty in passing that license, or passing that test to obtain a license because they are dealing with something they haven’t done before. So I think for our industry, it’s going to continue to be problematic. But if you step back about eight or ten paces from this thing and take a big-view picture of that and say, “Is the customer going to be better-served by having someone who is licensed handling or involved in their loan transaction?” I think the answer is, yes. The real question is: what does mortgage lending have to do with doing a chattel transaction?

TK: Let me jump in here and follow up on the SAFE Act issue because a lot of what we heard at the DC meetings was the shear costs of meeting the SAFE Act requirements. I remember the Texas Association executive director saying that a quick numbers crunch with some of their people came up with a cost of 12 million dollars for licensing, and some small lenders figure it’s going to cost them two million dollars to meet all the requirements. You want to touch on that for a second, how that impacts the industry?

ERNST: From a lender’s perspective, doing business in this industry: Take a company that does business in multiple states. They have to actually have people licensed – anyone who touches that loan transaction, helps to either set payments or underwrite or establish terms on that loan – is going to have to be licensed within that state. Because every state now has their own SAFE Act they were required to put together. So if you have someone operating in multiple states – and let’s say you have loan officers who may get loan business from five, six, seven, eight, nine different states – they’ve got to pass the licensing for all of those. And so the compliance – and I heard one of the major lenders in our industry talk about their expenses like you say – that compliance, that licensing – that’s looking at every aspect of your business to make sure you are doing things properly, because compliance is their second largest expense after personnel. It becomes very costly, because the penalties for violating SAFE Act requirements or regulations can be severe. I think the big fear that most of the industry has is that because of the economic situation, you may have states that see this SAFE Act as a potential revenue generator for them both through the licensing fees as well as the audit fees, and potentially the fines and penalties that might be imposed and collected.

MHMSM: But most state laws are based on the national model, right?

ERNST: They are, but keep in mind, the national model – there’s no final rule that’s been published yet. It’s questionable whether a final rule will be published because the responsibility for the SAFE Act is being transferred from HUD over to the Consumer Protection Bureau, and whether HUD is going to ever issue a final rule or not is in question. Meanwhile, you’ve got states out there that have created their own, based on the information provided initially from the proposed rule from HUD; and keep in mind, those were minimum standards. So the state law had to at least contain the minimum standards provided for in the national SAFE Act that HUD had published. So you see other states that have imposed other things such as brick and mortar requirements. In other words, you have to have a physical office with someone specifically licensed in that facility where records can be stored, where customers can come in if they wanted to, to address issues, whatever it may be. That becomes a very expensive proposition. And then you begin to look at states and say, “Well, how much business am I getting out of there anyway and can I justify having an office there; and if I can’t, then I am going to pull out of the state?” So you’ve got all of those issues. And when you talked earlier about the cost for some, it’s, “What do I have to do to be in compliance in those 46 or 48 states or whatever it may be that I am operating in?”

MHMSM: Right. I could see where that would add to the cost substantially. You once served as interim President for the MHI – when was that?

ERNST: Back in 1998, the last of the big years when we had 373,000 shipments that year. The issues the industry faced then were significantly different. MHI had been trying for a number of years to pass the Manufactured Housing Reform Act, if you will, that addressed issues like installation and licensing and inspections and things of that nature, that really brought some significant issues and updated the HUD code, so to speak. The industry battled and we had conflicting views with MHARR and we couldn’t get anything done. In fact, we had Congress people tell us, “You guys better get your act together before you come back in here because we can’t have divisive opinions from both of you. We don’t know which way to go on this thing, so you better get your act together if you expect to get any help on this at all.”

That was what I would say was one of the positive things that occurred during that period I did serve as interim president. Walt Young was the chairman at that time and Walt directed me to sit down with Danny Ghorbani and meet with him and see if some of our disagreement wasn’t more personality than substantive and if we couldn’t both come together and compromise. We did end up coming together. We formed a coalition with MHARR and had a working group of people that worked in lock step, and we spoke with one voice as an industry for the first time in many years. That helped to get the Manufactured Housing Act of 2000 passed.

The question that’s often asked is: How did we face that issue? And I mentioned earlier that we had a third of our business that had below a 600 FICO score. And everyone likes to have an excuse; and excuse or not, there was an awful lot of Wall Street money, there were a lot of things going on at that time in the industry, a lot of consolidations, a lot of acquisitions going on. Champion Homes was very busy acquiring other companies, acquiring a lot of retail distribution networks – chains, if you will, of retail operations – and creating a really intensive, competitive struggle within the industry. You had other companies then trying to stay ahead of the game with Champion and trying to match them purchase for purchase; a lot of Wall Street money chasing the industry saying these securitizations are great, get us more, get us more, and people saw the acquisition of a chain of retail operations as a way to cement their ability to generate a lot of retail paper and more securitizations. As a result, underwriting went away pretty much. I remember lenders were paying as much as five points for a transaction to a retailer – and that’s to buy a 600 FICO score customer – and they were paying the retailer five points. That’s just not sustainable. It all came crashing down. Repossessions started occurring with great frequency and it became very difficult.

MHMSM: It seems to me manufactured housing can now be positioned as quality housing you can afford, unlike the so called site-built McMansions that too many couldn’t afford; but there’s talk the Obama administration may begin to look away from promoting and subsidizing homeownership in favor of pushing the rental housing market. Shouldn’t manufactured housing be positioned as an alternative to both? How can we move our message ahead the most rapidly and effectively?

ERNST: I think it should be positioned and I’ve often questioned in my own mind – you know, we like to claim that we’re the only form of non-subsidized housing. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s always been touted as being a good thing, but at the same time, if you’re not a part of the government’s plans for providing or assisting people with housing, then that kind of puts you on the outside. I agree with you that the industry should position itself as a home that you can afford. You don’t always have to rent. But I think, and this is just a personal opinion, I still think that we’ve got to improve our image, and perhaps even the architectural appeal of our homes, so that they are more broadly accepted by what I will call the traditional home buyer. I think there are people who look for manufactured homes or who buy manufactured homes because they think that’s the only thing they can afford. At the same time, those same people may have had a manufactured home before or maybe currently live in one.

So I think that we’ve got to broaden our appeal. I think that we’ve got to offer good quality affordable lifestyles, whether it’s in a land-lease community or provide an architecturally comparable home for someone who wants to put it on a piece of real estate. And I think until we do that and can get the opportunity for urban and suburban placement of homes, because architecturally they are compatible with all other homes, I think that’s when we’ll begin to see a broader acceptance and a broader capability of maybe doing suburban developments with homes that just happen to be built in a factory, but they look like everything else.

MHMSM: You mentioned urban. I haven’t heard of many instances where there’s any of that. Is that a potential market for manufactured housing?

ERNST: There have been situations. In California, in Oakland and other places; there was one, I think, in Louisville and in Maryland and other places where non-profit groups actually did urban infill projects where there are a bunch of empty lots; and they had to change the architectural characteristics of the home for them to be compatible with surrounding products.

Also in Cincinnati; I remember Dan Rolfes did the project in Cincinnati. He worked with the mayor and several manufacturers and they did some gorgeous homes. Some of them were modular and some of them were manufactured. None of them looked like a mobile home. They all looked like houses and they were very compatible; they were really a little bit nicer than their surrounding properties, because it was in a much older area of the city. The experience from those has been that those homes have appreciated; they were very favorably priced, and it provided a place where young professionals could purchase a home, be close to the city, be close to the ballparks – that type of thing – without having to commute 30-40 miles.

MHMSM: Is there anything else you would like to share?

ERNST: I do want to clear up and offer what I think are some potential positives. The industry can get mired down in negatives pretty easily. We’ve been mired in negatives for a long time. I really think there’s an opportunity to have good open dialogue and meeting with people, at least at FHA, which I think could be a critical component of the whole finance picture for our industry. If we have a source, an insured source, who consistently… now just think about this for a moment. If we have a source, even with some tightened underwriting through the existing FHA guidelines, that will permit lenders to do the 620 to 660 or 680 FICO score customer, you could have local banks, you might even have regional banks or others, make those loans where they are not participating in the market at all. I think that ultimately then, that will help the over-all industry because I think it will make available an insured loan product. And I think that’s an important part of it, too, because if you have community banks or someone like that making a loan that’s insured by FHA, if they do have to repossess the home, then their loss will be contained to an affordable loss as opposed to one that might be fifty percent of the unpaid balance.

I’ve worked with community banks, and once a board of directors sees a loss where you might lose 50 percent of an unpaid principal balance on a particular home, the next action is, “We’re not doing any more of those.” So I think this could open the door for some portfolio lenders who say, “Ok, I could do a couple million dollars worth of those, or five million dollars worth of those; we’re going to be insured, and we can still buy decent quality paper in there if we service it properly.” That’s one thing. And we mentioned to FHA that I think it would be very helpful if the industry and MHI in some way could help FHA create some sort of an educational program for new or prospective lenders in the Title I program, and even Title II, to educate them about our industry and about our home products and give them the tools they need to be successful in it. We don’t need any more failures in this business.

TK: I agree with that. You kind of touched on something indirectly right there if you’ve got an extra minute. Part of what FHA was setting up was this “ten million dollars plus ten percent.” What do you see happening to that?

ERNST: Well, I personally thought it was an overreach, that it was excessive. Because some of the best lenders in the industry, those that have been successful – and I’ll use Triad as an example – while they may meet the ten million dollar net worth requirements, the additional ten percent of all the outstanding securities that they issue is very onerous. Because if you operate in 45 states or however many they operate in, and if you did an additional 300 million dollars a year in FHA business, that’s an additional 30 million dollars in net worth that you’ve got to have. So now all of a sudden, your net worth requirement goes up to 40 million. That’s just too onerous. What we tried to do is demonstrate to them that that’s not necessary. We went back to them and said no, the average loss on these homes for the lender, while it may not be ten percent – it’s more like 15 percent.

There are some capped expenses that FHA has: they’ll only pay $1,000 per section to move a house (it may cost $1800 per section to move it); they’ll only pay seven percent commission on the sale of a repossession. You know, seven percent on a $50,000 deal is not a lot of money, and you’re sure not going to get a lot of people interested. The standard is more like ten percent, so there’s additional exposure for the lender.

If their actual loss experience is fifteen percent, the ten percent additional is still an overreach. It’s up to us to prove that’s what the lender’s actual loss exposure is. Vicki [Bott] commented that their data reflected that it was closer to 30-40 percent; I think that’s what she said. Well, if it’s 30-40 percent, then there may be a reason to have those excess net worth requirements. I don’t believe that they are. And the unfortunate thing [about those statistics] is that really, the only the only people involved in FHA Title I financing have been Vanderbilt and 21st Mortgage to any degree over the last five to seven years, and they haven’t done a lot of it. Everything else they have is so old and really not even applicable to today’s marketplace and the way people do business. And there’s more of a distressed marketplace situation. I don’t believe it’s appropriate to use those numbers or that they are applicable, but we’ve got to be able to demonstrate that we’ve got some more recent history and some more recent data that says it’s closer to 15 percent. Then we can demonstrate that maybe they can relax the rules to some degree. I’m also working on some other things that I’m not at liberty to talk about that might be another approach on that.

TK: One last question after the one last question. How much of a bump do you think a successful FHA program would represent to the industry in terms of shipments? We’ve seen a lot of numbers on that. What would your take be?

ERNST: Well, I know there’s a lot of disagreement with this and people are going to say, “He’s nuts.” I think there could be a 10-15 percent bump in shipments. That’s 5,000-7,500 shipments, because of the ability to reach the heart of the industry’s customer, the 620-660 or 680 FICO score customer. That being said, there are a lot of other things that have to be right in the marketplace, too. Right now in a lot of areas, we’re still seeing excess inventory of site built homes, a lot of foreclosed homes, a lot of deep discounts on those properties – and that still represents competition. And we’re still looking at a lot of uncertainly in economic times. That’s keeping people from being [at] the sales center and looking to buy. Another important point is that there are going to be a lot of homeowners out there who have the scar on their credit reports of having had a foreclosure. If everything else – income, job stability, all the rest of the situation – is good for a customer, how is FHA going to look at that? We don’t know.

TK: That’s a great point. Dick, thank you so much. Eric do you have anything else?

MHMSM: No, that was a lot of great information.

TK: I want to really thank you personally for your time and all this expert insight. It was very valuable and I think the industry will appreciate it.

ERNST: Well you’re welcome and I hope it’s helpful and I hope you don’t get too [much] criticism of it.

TK: A little bit of criticism is a good thing. I think this is going to be well-received and just outstanding material. Thanks so much.

This concludes our three-part series of an Exclusive Interview Report with industry consultant and once interim-president of MHI, DICK ERNST.

An MHMSM.com INdustry in Focus Exclusive Interview Report with industry consultant and once interim-president of MHI, DICK ERNST, Part Two

August 8th, 2010 1 comment

Dick Ernst Discusses Duty to Serve amidst the future of Fannie and Freddie and the potential return of private financing
Reporter Eric Miller with Publisher L.A. ‘Tony’ Kovach for MHMSM.com

We continue with the interview begun last week with Dick Ernst.

MHMSM: Even for Industry pros, there can be confusion with all the terminology, agencies, etc. Do you have a simple way or suggestion to help readers keep it all straight?

ERNST: I agree with the fact that it’s confusing. We’ve seen that recently in a couple of other blogs that were published. FHA is the Federal Housing Administration and it’s been around for years. The FHFA is the conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and it was just recently put together to act as a conservator on behalf of the government. It deals only on the mortgage side of the business with Fannie and Freddie.

MHMSM: Will the FHFA go away when the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are determined?

ERNST: That is to be determined and I would expect that it probably would. I think it’s anybody’s guess right now. I don’t believe Washington really knows what’s going to happen to Fannie and Freddie; they still have huge issues and huge problems to work through. We’ve all seen the anticipated losses that the taxpayers are going to have to eat as a result of their involvement. I think there will be some privatization of that business, but the mortgaged-backed security market has to be alive and well and thriving. I think that there will be a continuing government role in some form of providing a marketplace, and it might focus on the low- to middle- and moderate-income families and affordable housing. That might be a better spot for them to play in. But it’s still too early to tell what’s going to happen to Fannie and Freddie and what role the government is going to play going forward, and whether FHFA continues to exist.

MHMSM: Any thoughts on the GSE’s Duty to Serve and how it can be enforced? Do you think the conservatorship excuse they have given holds water legally? If not, why not?

ERNST: There is a legal question and a practical question to be asked. Legally they are under an obligation, a legislative obligation, to create programs and it’s only enforceable to the extent that Congress is willing to hold their feet to the fire and say, “Look, you guys have an obligation to provide loan products to this industry because you’re only providing less than one percent of the financing that occurs when this segment of the housing market has historically averaged about 20 percent of the new single-family housing market. So it’s woefully underserved, and we passed legislation specifically for you to address it.”

That being said, the practical side of it is, who is going to put the pressure on it. Politically it could be suicidal because of the massive losses that Fannie and Freddie are taking. They would be saying “Oh, now we want you to go into this area of business even though there are some historical facts that this may have a higher default rate than what you are comfortable with.” I don’t think there’s many Congress people, including those on the housing finance committee, that really want to tackle this head on and hold Fannie and Freddie’s feet to the fire to say, “You’ve got to offer chattel financing, you’ve got to do this and you’ve got to do that.” There may be legislation there, but we’ve seen from a legal standpoint, obligations that the federal government has legislatively that they are just unwilling to address because of the potential political problems that exist for it.

MHMSM: Do you think that will be more palatable to address after they exit conservatorship, if that’s what happens?

ERNST: I think our industry is taking the right approach. We’ve always been big supporters of Fannie and Freddie, I guess in hope that they would step up to the plate and fill that Duty to Serve, and offer more programs and opportunities for a secondary market. We’ve made it clear to both agencies and the FHFA that the industry is willing to talk about skin in the game, talk about minimum credit qualities, talk about minimum equity requirements and have a good sustainable program. I don’t know that they’ve got the stomach at this point right now to take on something new. I think they’re overwhelmed with the size of the problems they have right now. That takes up the bulk of their time.

Once they’ve exited, I think we have to keep an open mind and say, “What is their obligation, what is their duty now to the housing industry, and what’s the role and how can we work within that?” I think the industry is taking the right approach to say, “Look, we’re not going to come out and say anything negatively against the agencies in terms of whether they should exist or not exist.” We continue to be hopeful that at some point it will provide us a source. We’re certainly not going to say anything about “take ’em private and the government should get out of this business” because I think that it’s a marketplace the government has to play some role in; we just don’t know how big or how much.

MHMSM: What are some of the biggest barriers to providing chattel loan financing privately? How can the Industry move beyond some of the past history of experiences like Conseco?

ERNST: Right now there is no asset-backed securities market. Chattel financing, up until the credit crunch occurred, was predominantly either being funded by portfolio lenders, or the asset-backed securities market was still providing some. I’ve got to back up a little bit here. Clayton Homes’ Vanderbilt Mortgage and 21st Mortgage were both big players in the asset-backed securities market until the early 2000s; and then when the cost of securitization became so expensive, they felt their own existence being threatened because of the cost.

I can remember in the early 2000s where if someone had a billion dollars worth of securities to go to market, they wanted securitization for a billion dollars worth of manufactured housing loans, they had to come up with an additional 200 million dollars in over collateralization to get that deal done. There aren’t very many companies in this industry that could withstand that for any period of time because if you have to do that for two to three years, then all of a sudden, you’re talking about $600 million dollars in additional over collateralization, and a lot of companies didn’t have that kind of excess capital or excess assets.

The landscape changed dramatically for our industry after the blow-up, if you will, of the sub-prime credit purchases that we were doing in the mid to late 1990s, and I think it’s changed pretty dramatically, and I really don’t see it getting back to where it was. I think the asset-backed securities market will come back, but I think the disciplines many lenders have in their portfolio will open up an opportunity to do some securitizations, because the credit quality is so high and the default experience has been very good on that higher-credit-quality customer.

MHMSM: Will there be a process and what will the process be for public finance returning as an option?

ERNST: The process is a comfort level in the capital markets. I’m sure you’ve read where there’s beginning to be some opening up in the mortgage-backed securities market as well as some asset-backed securities classes like automobiles and other things like that, where there are some asset-backed securities deals being done. Slowly I think, because of demand or the need to invest capital, I think that ultimately there will be that opportunity to do some asset-backed securities with some pretty high-quality manufactured housing loans. Some of the more recent loans that were securitized by Countryplace Mortgage and Origin, some of those had average FICO scores of more than 700. It was pretty high-quality and for the most part, those have performed very well. I think it’s a matter of investor confidence and sitting on a lot of extra capital right now that they need to get invested; but they want to invest it in something that’s going to have predictable returns and a predictable experience.

MHMSM: The manufactured housing industry experienced an easy-money, no-credit-score bubble in the late 1990s. That was repeated more recently in the site-built housing industry. Have we learned our lessons? What are those lessons?

ERNST: Who do you mean by “we”? If you’re talking about the manufactured housing industry, I’d say absolutely we’ve learned our lesson. I think there’s been a lot of slicing and dicing, so to speak, of that business that was purchased prior to 2000 or 2001; and a lot of people looking at the credit quality look at the way business was being done back then.I mean, we got pretty loosey-goosey back in the late ’90; and when I say loosey-goosey, it’s been reported Marty Lavin (who is kind of a statistical nut and likes to look back at things) has indicated that more than a third of the businesses purchased in the late 90s had less than 600 FICO score business.

We know, based on experience now, that that business cannot perform. It’s not a matter of IF it’s going to repossess; it’s a matter of WHEN it’s going to repossess. When you’re dealing with low- to moderate-income customers, they have less leeway to be able to withstand an adverse event in their life, whether it’s an income interruption or whatever it may be; they have fewer assets, fewer reserves and less disposable income to withstand that event. I think we’ve learned.

The survivors do a lot of verifications now: they verify down payments, they verify income, they verify employment, they look very carefully at what the customer’s disposable income is going to be, what their other expenses are, what their family size is – all of those things now, I think, are being looked at a lot more closely. I think that the lower-quality credit customers are just not able to get those loans financed for the most part. If they do, through a company like 21st Mortgage, they’re going to have to have some significant equity in that loan or put up some collateral, perhaps land that they own or something like that, so they have more at risk. I think our industry has learned a lesson.

I can’t speak for the site-built industry. It’s been pretty devastating what’s happened to them. You’d like to think that everyone learns a significant lesson from this, but we all know there are a lot of cyclical events that occur in major markets like this, and we can only hope that everybody has learned a lesson.

MHMSM: What are your thoughts on efforts like Ken Rishel’s to move chattel ahead via establishing captive finance programs, especially for land lease community operators?

ERNST: I think the captive finance entities that Ken works with and a number of community operators that provide financing for their own customers is absolutely through necessity. You have to remember that land-lease communities have two potential benefits. Number one is, they tend not to focus so much on the profitability on the sale of the house. They want it to be profitable to some extent, but there’s less emphasis on the profitability and they want to have a loan that they can put in their portfolio. They’re willing to take a little bit more credit risk because they have much more control of that individual transaction with the site manager who can monitor what that customer is doing on a monthly basis and look for the signs that they may be having some issues; maybe look out there and see that the guy bought a new motorcycle or whatever it may be. Sometimes those can be things that create difficulty with a loan going forward. I think the captives are by necessity.

At the same time I think the captives in the future – and I don’t know how long in the future – but I think at some point in the future, there will be the ability to securitize those loans with someone with some pretty high leverage, or I should say low leverage. In other words, if you put a billion dollars in loans together, you might be able to re-coupe a half a billion dollars in capital. In other words, you might have to do a two-for-one type of deal because of the potential risk involved. Now, the larger communities – and to the extent they are well capitalized and have access to capital – I think you see folks like Hometown America and others who have done that and done it successfully, believe it’s necessary for their business model to support the communities, to create revenue-generating customers, revenue from those lots that they lease, and they think it’s important. At the same time, they’d love to be able to securitize those loans so that they don’t have all that capital tied up.

I think it’s going to continue; and the numbers that have been published – I have seen both from George Allen and others, and Tony’s numbers – indicate anywhere from three and a half billion to as much as six or seven billion dollars worth of paper that’s being held by these community owners. I do think the SAFE Act is going to cause everybody take a look at that and make sure they are doing business the right way; but at the same time, the captives are a necessary part of their business model.

Be sure to catch the third part of the MHMSM.com exclusive report with Dick Ernst when we discuss the SAFE Act and its impact on the Manufactured Housing industry and the extent of a potential boost from FHA financing.

Click for Part Three of this interview

An MHMSM.com INdustry In Focus Exclusive Interview Report With industry consultant and once interim-president of MHI, Dick Ernst, Part One

August 4th, 2010 No comments

Reporter Eric Miller with Publisher L.A. ‘Tony’ Kovach for MHMSM.com

MHMSM: To help us set the stage for this interview, please tell us about your role at Finmark and how you and your firm serve the Manufactured Housing Industry.

ERNST: Finmark is a shortened version of Financial Marketing Associates. It’s a company I formed in 1983. When I first got into the manufactured housing industry and I started my own company, we represented banks and savings-and-loans and originated manufactured housing loans for them. Eventually, it’s evolved into my doing consulting work predominantly now, and putting together outside-the-box type transactions.

Some of the unique things I have done are a joint venture mortgage operation between three manufacturers and Wells-Fargo, and ran that operation for about three years. I also put together Countryplace Mortgage for Palm Harbor Homes 14 or 15 years ago now. I helped Textron create a commercial construction mortgage loan program and was working on a consumer program for them when the financial meltdown occurred and they decided not to move forward with it, and ultimately decided to get out of the manufactured housing inventory finance business as well.

The work I do is all related to the manufactured housing business. I like to put special deals together and provide consulting to manufacturers, retailing groups or finance entities that makes their projects possible.

MHMSM: What is the “big picture” to take away from the June 2nd Elkhart meeting?

ERNST: Many times the big picture gets missed based on individual comments and interpretations of how the meeting went. There are a couple of big picture take-aways from that meeting. One is, I found Dave Stevens, the FHA Commissioner, and members of his staff to be very open and candid about their willingness to work with the industry and help craft a program that can be sustained. I don’t think there’s any question that the FHA believes clearly that manufactured housing has a very important role to play in providing affordable housing to people in this country.

The issue that they have to deal with – and I think this goes beyond manufactured housing – is they have a very difficult task of reigning in the FHA mission of being the lender of last resort for low-end, low-quality credit customers to being a viable source of financing for qualified customers. They may run a broader spectrum than what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have done, but I really believe they want to play a serious role with Ginnie Mae to provide a good source of FHA insurance and have Ginnie Mae provide that secondary market for our industry.

I think we have some very smart people with extensive mortgage backgrounds willing to sit down, engage with us, understand our business better and work with us to craft a program that’s going to be sustainable.

The other take-away is that FHFA now is the only entity that we’re able to talk to with respect to Fannie and Freddie. It’s clear to me that they are using their conservatorship as another convenient excuse not to tackle something they have been directed to do through the Duty to Serve legislation. They are using their conservatorship and all of the other problems that they have in order to pretty much stay away from our industry. That’s a sad situation.

MHMSM: What is the big picture take-away from the follow-up at the MHI Summer Meeting with Vicki Bott [Deputy Assistant Secretary HUD] and other Industry and public officials?

ERNST: The Washington meeting came about as a result of FHA reaching out and saying we would like to put together a working group of lenders and interested parties who can help us understand your business – the way you originate it, the way you service it, the repossession and disposal characteristics – and understand your business better so we can address those things properly and still have a sustainable program.

Vicki mentioned that at some point in the not-too-distant future. they’re going to be sending out a TI letter to all mortgage lenders that are operating in the FHA space that anything below a 580 FICO score is going to require a ten percent down payment. That’s a huge jump for FHA because the current regulations require it to be anything below a 500 FICO score. From 500 to 580 – that should be a clear message that FHA is taking these defaults and delinquencies very seriously and they really believe they have to pay a lot more attention to the underwriting side of the business instead of being the lender of last resort.

Again, the take-away from that meeting is she came prepared. She brought several members of her staff. I wasn’t really expecting that. I thought there would maybe be one or two people, but she brought in four or five people including her head appraiser, because there can be appraisal issues and concerns about the program. They had specific questions in areas that they wanted to explore and get feedback from the industry.

I was very pleased with the quality of the meeting, the quality of the questions, the openness of our membership, the lenders who were involved and I’ve seen in some previous blogs comments that the people around the table were “the survivors” – and there is a lot of truth in that. The survivors weren’t the guys doing the bad acting in the late 90s that created some of the housing problems we had in the early 2000s.

I appreciated their candor. For the first time ever, when Bob Ryan, their risk officer… I mean that in itself has got to be amazing to people who track FHA. FHA has a risk officer. That’s pretty astounding to know that with billions and billions of dollars in mortgages that they’re insuring, and they’ve never had a risk officer before to assess what type of risk they are taking on and whether or not programs for site-built are sustainable as well. So when they came to us and said not only are you battling some perception issues, you’re also battling some real issues.

When provided some material on FHA Title II that the serious delinquent accounts, the number of defaults, 30, 60 or 90 day delinquents, all pretty much doubled the site-built business – the rates were double what the site-built business was, that’s a real problem. And it’s a problem our industry has to respond to and say we do need to tweak this program and make it actuarially sound and there are things both of us can do to make it work.

MHMSM: Vicki Bott comes to HUD with a Mortgage Background, Right?

ERNST: That’s correct. She came from Wells Fargo. She’s a very bright lady with a very inquisitive mind. The interaction I saw with her is “she gets it.” When someone responds to her, we’ve seen others that pretended they got it, but they didn’t really have much of a clue what we were talking about. I think that she really gets it from the depth of experience she has from her mortgage background.

MHMSM: If I’m just an average voter out there, I might listen to this and say if you have the qualified borrowers, why can’t the private market handle them? Doesn’t all this stuff exist because we want to allow people who maybe aren’t as qualified to have a home?

ERNST: I don’t think that’s it. It’s potentially a conflict and the way the FHA conventionally has been viewed as providing the opportunity for someone to get a home who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a conventional program.

But I think you do that in a couple of different ways. The conventional programs from Fannie and Freddie, and even those from private institutions typically require 5, 10 or 20 percent down; and because of the private mortgage restrictions, those having higher credit scores are usually the only ones able to qualify. Does that mean that everyone else is unable to qualify? I don’t think that it does.

I made the comment during that Washington meeting that I believe the heart of our industry, that is the people who buy manufactured housing, typically will have between a 620 and 660 FICO score business. Those private companies that are in the marketplace today, with the exception of 21st Mortgage and perhaps Vanderbilt because of their funding capabilities with Berkshire Hathaway, the bulk of the companies are buying 680 plus FICO score business; and while they may do some with five percent down, they’re going to have to have a higher FICO score for the most part. The 620 to 680 FICO score customer is still a legitimate customer capable of buying a manufactured home and they deserve an opportunity for financing.

The other way FHA permits financing opportunities for those customers, is with a five percent down payment. Because a lot of those loans can be securitized with Ginnie Mae, the interest rates charged to the borrowers are actually going to be more advantageous than some of the conventional money or portfolio money that’s out there today. As a result of that, it provides a nice window for FHA to provide a way for people to buy homes that maybe aren’t being served today in most of the conventional markets for manufactured housing.

And I think provides a tremendous opportunity for our industry, for people in the land-lease communities as well. I think it gives them a potential source of financing because I really see the Title I program for chattel financing focusing more in the 600 or 620 to 680; and then to the extent that higher credit quality customers would drift toward an FHA loan, they would do so because of the interest rates or the down payment situation.


Be sure to catch the second part of the MHMSM.com exclusive report with Dick Ernst when we discuss the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the recent housing bubble, the SAFE Act and its impact on the Manufactured Housing industry and more.

Click for Part Two of this interview