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What Manufactured Housing Competes Against

August 7th, 2012 5 comments

l;ance-inderman-mhpronewsI think we need to take a serious look at what our industry is competing with in the housing marketplace and the regulation that each of our housing competitors are facing.

We worry way to much about what one of the 3-C's of manufactured home building are doing than we should. As a percentage of new homes sold, we just keep loosing ground.

The site builders are pushing us further and further into the rural abyss. I have a partner that builds homes with me in Lubbock and we are able to build a brick home with porches and 6/12 roof pitches for around $40 a square foot including material and 100% subcontract labor.

I have another friend that builds about 125 new homes a year with annual sales of about $35,000,000 and a little over 10% net bottom line. He does this with 9 employees, no multi-million dollar building, total work in process and finished goods of about $1,500,000. He has no licensing requirements. His company and his salespeople have no continuing education requirements. He does not offer paid vacations to his employees or laborers. He is not faced with massive unemployment taxes if he does not have a house to build tomorrow. Government mandated health insurance does not affect him. Basically he has almost no regulation and very little overhead. He builds a quality product and is very successful.

I drove down the beach between Beaumont and Galveston and pass one RV park after the other with all types of RV's up to buses that cost over a million dollars.

I saw manufactured homes that were at least 12 feet in the air to protect a $40K double wide from flooding. The construction cost to complete these jobs has to be close to exceeding the cost of the home itself. This does not appear to be a very efficient way to supply housing to me. It looks to me that the RV industry is getting a big piece of our pie and the site builders are getting an ever increasing bite as well.

We have to become more efficient at what we do from the factory to the finished product.

I think the factories do a fabulous job building 16×76's, its the most efficient 3 bed 2 bath housing I have ever seen. But by the time we: 

  • market that 16×76 to our customer at retail,
  • deal with all the regulatory requirements to install and complete the home,
  • deal with private finance against government subsidized financing on site built's,
  • escrow over priced insurance and taxes and
  • then deal with the cost of servicing a home in the middle of nowhere,

our monthly payments are as much or more than most people can buy a new starter home including land in a tract home subdivision.

We must do everything in our power to control these costs, including, but not limited to:

  • getting our finance on a level playing field,
  • getting higher deductible lower cost insurance in our market,
  • factories working with the retailers/installers to do everything possible to lower the cost of installs and
  • last but not least keeping the regulators at bay.

I think our industry has a remarkable product that we can build and a great story to tell but all you hear and see is "I don't want a trailer in my back yard."   Most of those yards now include a brick home with an RV in the driveway.

I've said it a 1000 times that if we did not have FHA, FNMA and Freddie Mac that our industry would be producing the most affordable quality housing option on the market. What gives?

Lance Inderman

l;ance-inderman-mhpronews(Editor's note: Lance Inderman is arguably one of the most successful independent retailers of manufactured homes in the country. Champion Homebuilders recently purchased Athens Park Homes, a HUD Code, modular and park model builder that Lance and his associates operated. He was the Chairman for the Texas Manufactured Housing Association in 2010-2011 and remains an active player there. Lance plans to attend the TMHA annual event.)  

Community Owner to Community Owners and others in Manufactured Housing Business

February 17th, 2012 1 comment
My purpose in writing this column to you is this:
 
1. To encourage MH factories to work more closely with Community Owners
2. To furnish research on the "Boomer Market" which is here now.
 
According to some Industry estimates, there are 250,000 or more empty lots in our communities across the country at this time. Empty lots mean that our infrastructure is ready to accept a new home today. Community owners across the nation are doing things to bring in new residents that we have never done before or used to do years ago. If the truth is told, we have become smarter and run our businesses leaner than before. Probably much like the manufacturing industry of our home products.
 
I have gathered some research which I'd like to take a few minutes and share with you.
 
First, let's admit that things are bad for not only our industry but for everyone. But since we are related to housing let's talk about it. As the joke goes, it's so bad (how bad is it ;-) that in Beverly Hills California there are 180 homes that are being foreclosed on by the lenders of those homes. Residents there are making a business decision to walk away from their loans that are more than the home is currently worth. This sounds familiar, don't it? It's not that they can't make the payments, they just don't want to anymore.
 
According to CNBC.com, Georgia has the 4th highest rate of foreclosure in the nation or 1 home in every 355. Arizona, Calif. and Nevada are #1 with 1 in every 115 in foreclosure. RealtyTrac projects foreclosures will rise 25% this year to 1,000,000+ homes. Last year lenders took back 894,000 homes.
 
You can make your own judgement of why this happened or about whom to blame. Either way, it's not going to change a thing. Maybe we all are to blame in part for actions in our industry and what some did in the 90's or more recently. I certainly made some mistakes in my own small business I wish I could do over.
 
We know our own industry has had sizable numbers of repo's and new home sales in past years. When you look at the projected number of site built homes to be foreclosed on this year alone, it's a huge housing hole that must be filled. I believe our industry can fill this hole if we wanted to and planned to do so.
 
Now for some facts on the "Boomer Market."
 
The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Baby Boomers as those born between January 1st, 1946 and Dec. 31, 1964. On Jan. 1st 2011, the first of 77 million boomers began retirement age and will continue at the rate of 10,000 a day for the next 19 years. Let me repeat – 10,000 people a day – will reach retirement age for 19 years. This represents about 20% of the US population.
 
Along with this staggering fact comes this research that is not so good for many retirees.
 
David Zuckerman of Zuckerman Capital Management says that "the financial reality for most of the boomer population is that funding retirement will be much more difficult than they anticipated. Social Security was never designed to cover the cost of living for such a long period. When Social Security was designed, life expectancies were such that the system was to provide extra income in just the last few years of life. The elderly are living longer and the cost of health care is rising dramatically, making it very expensive to retire."
 
Persons who are retiring at 62-65 can now expect to live another 20 years.
 
One survey reported that 36% of those surveyed said they don't contribute anything at all to retirement savings.
 
35% of Americans already over the age of 65 rely almost entirely on Social Security payments alone.
 
In 1950 there were 16 US workers for every retired person. In 2010, only 3.3 persons were working for every retired person.
 
According to a recent America Association or Retired Person's (AARP) survey of Boomers, 40% of them plan to "work until they drop."
 
Companies across America have been watching the drop of their pension plans and 401K plans values, which were suppose to take up the slack. The stock market went south. If it crashes again, it will devastate the Boomers even more. Many who have 401K's have had to dip into them to just survive while they have been unemployed.
 
Many retirees counted on their homes as their retirement fund. But the housing market crashed. Now some experts say that 22% of homeowners -or nearly 11,000,000 people – owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth; many are boomers.
 
Boomers need to work and want to work longer than previous generations but unemployment is near 9% and many have lost their jobs and can't find work.
 
Personal note: the other day while checking out at the grocery store, the lady working the cash register was at least 70 and the man bagging was probably older than that lady. I can't believe that they were enjoying standing on their feet all day just to have something to do.
 
One other fact that is coming. As more and more boomers decide or choose to stay on their jobs and work for another 10 years to pay for their healthcare, groceries, etc. what do you think will happen to the college kids who are coming out looking for jobs? This is another problem that is upon us.
 
So, where does that leave us in this industry?
 
Clearly there is a tsunami of folks – retiring and young – who could be heading our way.
 
Boomers who do not need the large homes anymore to maintain, heat and cool, pay taxes on, and to rake that yard. They will be on fixed incomes and must reduce their cost of living or continue to work. The homes that were built in the 1950's are not insulated like the homes are today. Those older houses' closets are small, they have steps and other issues that will have to be addressed as they age in place.
 
77 million people in the next 19 years who may decide that they want smaller, tighter, and easily maintained homes that do not share a wall, ceiling or floor with others and want to plant flowers and a tomato plant outside their own home and be independent as long as they can.
 
10,000 people a day who will want to choose to scale back (downsize) and use their limited income on travel and enjoying their lives in a new home, maybe in a community that offers the safety of neighbors who have been screened by the community owner/manager, or where the community mows the grass for them.
 
So I come to the goal of my writing this Industry Voices guest article.
 
We community owners have an estimated 250,000 empty spaces that need homes on them and producing income.  The Manufactured Housing Industry has a product that is well built, affordable, and energy efficient, and for the next 19 years 77 million people will be looking at options for their retirement (this does not even begin to take into account the millions of first time home buyers entering the marketplace).
 
We have the land and sites. Manufacturers have the product and millions are looking for a place to call home. Why are we all not working better together?
 
I attended the Louisville Manufactured Housing Show this Jan. and I only noticed two manufacturers who were going after Community Owners with their Community Series Homes. I did not see anyone addressing Baby Boomers and their needs. Yes, there was a few who talked about wider doors and halls but not much emphasis on this population segment and it's needs.
 
I've heard about BDM's (Business Development Managers) for our HUD Code Home Manufacturers, but again, I only have been approached by 2 HUD Code home builders. who want my business.
 
Now, I am just a small mom and pop with few empty spaces, but I continue to wonder why all manufacturers are not knocking our doors down trying to get to us. We will meet again in Tunica in March, and I wonder how many seminars will be held by the BDM's to talk and reach out to all Community Owners in the South? Why were there seminars in Louisville and some set for MHCs in Tulsa, and not in Tunica's Show?
 
We Community Owners hope that chattel lending companies will begin to see that we can and will work with them in the future, and with the help of manufacturers, everyone can win in this partnership.
 
Our Georgia State Association has held symposiums in the past that invited HUD Code builders from our southern states to meet and work with us to develop homes that would fit our needs. We encourage a dialog with each and every lender and builder of homes so that we can fill the need of the upcoming boomer market and provide them with a home that they will be proud to own, rent or lease.
 
In closing I hope I have accomplished my two goals. Community Owners would like to talk to every BDM about Community Series Homes and would like to develop a national plan on how we can advertise our products and communities to this Boomer market of 77 million people in the future.
 
David Roden
Mountain View Estates
Rossville, Ga.
423-760-4819
 
(Editor's Note: David is aware of and has supported the call for the MH Alliance effort.)