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Manufactured Housing: Underutilized and Misunderstood

December 10th, 2014 No comments

What will it take for manufactured housing, the principal source of unsubsidized, affordable homes in the United States, to reach its potential?

Limited and expensive financing options make life even more difficult for the financially vulnerable residents who live in manufactured housing DHS_post_MontanaHome_11.03_.25_nhi=credit-posted-industry-voices-manufactured-housing-mhpronews-(MH) communities. The continuing consolidation of ownership is taking a toll, and the industry just can’t seem to shake the outdated, negative stereotype of a rusted, flimsy structure with a dog chained to the front porch.

Manufactured homes, frequently mischaracterized as mobile homes or trailers—even though once placed, they're rarely moved—house over 18 million Americans. Most are just getting by; the median annual household income of residents is $30,000. The homes are much less expensive to rent or own because they’re built in factories, so they cost less than half the estimated $94-per-square-foot national average for new site-built homes.

Not only is manufactured housing misunderstood, it’s underutilized. “We don’t have enough public housing to fulfill our needs,” says MH industry expert Lisa Tyler of Paris, Tennessee. “Manufactured housing presents a solution. It’s inexpensive, energy efficient, and a great value. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the industry, but a lot of obstacles, too.”

One such roadblock is the way most MH is legally classified as personal property rather than real estate, according to a recent report on manufactured housing from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. That means MH homebuyers pay higher loan rates, 6.79 percent on average, and have fewer consumer protections than owners of site-built homes, who paid 3.6 to 4.2 percent in 2012 for a conventional mortgage with a 30-year fixed rate.

And then there’s the persistent image problem. Industry insiders are dismayed that manufactured housing continues to be stigmatized, despite the fact that factory built homes constructed after 1976 must adhere to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code that provides guidelines and oversight relating to quality, safety, and durability.

“Today, manufactured homes are often built with higher quality, more energy efficient and sustainable materials than site built homes, and many are set in lovely, tree-lined communities with responsible, hard-working residents," says Tyler. “The mainstream media tells us that people who live in manufactured homes are 'trailer trash,' drug dealers, or wife beaters. Sadly, many people still have trouble getting past that horribly unfair stereotype.”

Mom and Pop: Unsung Heroes

Residents and owners of manufactured housing communities are also grappling with a wave of consolidation that began in the 1990’s, and continues unabated. Sun Communities Inc., for example, just announced it bought seven MH communities in the Orlando area for $257 million. So far, investors are mostly targeting larger communities, says L.A. “Tony” Kovach, publisher of leading trade publications MHProNews.com and MHLivingNews.com. “But we’re going to see things evolve over the next five years, as investors come knocking and begin targeting smaller sites, those with 150 units or less,” says Kovach, who's based in Lakeland, Florida.

These sites are traditionally the territory of small, local owners and operators, informally called Mom and Pop’s.

“The majority of parks were created by private owners, who manage this valuable resource for low and moderate income people who want a home of their own,” says Paul Bradley, the founding president of ROC USA, a nonprofit based in Concord, New Hampshire that promotes resident-owned communities (ROCs). “But they don’t get credit for it. These stewards of affordable home ownership are unsung heroes.” While smaller owner-operators have their flaws, “most of them are truly decent people who’ve managed their communities respectfully,” adds Bradley.

Meanwhile, many of these MH owner-operators are looking to retire, or get out of the business due to economic pressures and shifts in the industry. As fewer of their adult children want to take over the family business, more Mom and Pop’s are selling to larger operations, which, in turn, sell to investors. That’s when the fortunes of residents can change quickly.

“The difference between how a consolidator runs a business and how we did is one of values, frankly,” says Marc S. Seigle, a retired attorney and former owner, along with his family, of a MH community in Elbridge, NY. Seigle says they raised rents on tenants from $190 to about $300 over 25 years—just enough to cover inflation, taxes and insurance costs.

“There’s always a great deal of talk about the importance of quality affordable housing, but it’s pretty much eyewash—just talk,” says Seigle. “I saw an article in The New York Timesabout Wall Street investors making their fortunes in this industry. I thought, they suddenly discovered they could do what the rest of the world does with folks who don’t have much clout—gouge them. I’m saddened but not surprised to see it.”

A Better Way

Owner-operators of MH communities who're ready to exit the industry don’t have to sell to consolidators. There’s a better option, says Bradley. Residents can collectively buy the land, and create a ROC. Bradley’s organization, ROC USA, has helped secure community ownership for over 150 resident corporations to preserve and improve affordable communities, and help residents build their individual assets. Impressively, none of ROC USA’s communities have gone bankrupt, into foreclosure, or been resold.

Seigle’s family was the first to partner with ROC-USA, back in 2008. He says they received their asking price, and there was no downside to the deal. “I spoke with a consolidator, and it was quite clear to me they’d jack up the rents if we sold to them,” says Seigle. “The fact I was able to sell to my former customers, so they would have some control and I knew it would be well maintained—made it even a sweeter deal.”

Former MH community owner George Everett was also pleased with his ROC USA transaction. He sold the 32-unit Green Acres Cooperative, tucked deep inside the Rocky Mountains in Kalispell, Montana, to the nonprofit in 2010. “I know many of those who live in the community real well. Ninety-five percent are good, hardworking people who didn’t deserve for a developer to come in and suddenly raise the rent so high they’d have to leave their home.”

“I’m a conservative person, but I’d do it again,” says Everett, a former realtor, and a Republican who served in the Montana legislature for eight years. “I still drive past there and talk with the manager sometimes. It seemed to work out well for everyone.”

dana-hawkins-simons-nhi-org-posted-industry-voices-manufactured-housing-mhpronews-com-75x75-Dana Hawkins-Simons directs NHI's Opportunity Housing Initiative, a project that supports the expansion of long-term affordable housing programs and policies. She is an award-winning journalist and former senior editor of U.S. News & World Report. Reprinted on request, as first published in Rooflines,

(Photo of the Green Acres Cooperative by Lorie Cahill.)

A home built in a factory can be a home just like a site built?

November 11th, 2014 No comments

A recent court decision – linked below – has me scratching my head in bewilderment?

http://www.mhpronews.com/blogs/daily-business-news/jdsupra-spotlights-the-6th-circuit-ruling-in-bennett-v-cmh-homes-are-manufactured-homes-a-consumer-product/

  • Senator Moss stated in 1974, that a house would not be a “consumer product” because it is not “tangible personal property.” The Sixth Circuit, expanding on that understanding, held that the Bennett’s’ manufactured home was not a house-trailer or a mobile home designed to be moved; rather, it remained permanently on the land and was taxed as real property.
  • Further, because the triple sectional was as large and looked like a “regular house,” dictionaries for the words “consumer” or “consumer goods” described products that were expendable or replaced, quite different from a dwelling.
  • Judge Stranch dissented, taking issue with the majority’s distinction between “manufactured homes” and “mobile homes.” Stranch said so-called “mobile homes” are not built to be actually mobile, opining that the factory built home industry coined the term “manufactured home” to replace “mobile home” in response to negative stigma against “mobile homes.”

We were always lead to believe a mobile home or manufactured home is never permanent, it is a consumer goods or personal property. It has been a long held belief. The banks do not lend on it due in part to this one definition.

After many years, just when you think it is; it turns out it just ain’t so.

The mobile aspect came about because it is built in one place and transporting it to another location where it will reside. Many years ago these homes were much smaller and could be towed by a car or truck, a “Trailer.” I do not like it here, I am moving, give notice hitch it up and leave.

That image is still with us today even though it has no truth to it.

The homes today require semi-trucks to hitch it, to move it, after the demolition of the accessories and the home’s preparatory work needed to get it to be transported. The money to move it is expensive.

Where are these old mobile homes going anyway when a homeowner wants to leave a community?

Most Land Lease Community (LLC) owners do not want old mobile homes coming into their community so they are refused. They do not even have the distinction of being “Cool”or “Classics” as a desired retro home by the public.

I do not know about you but I have seen many a mobile home sitting for years in an LLC community never leaving its lot location. The term most used by LLC owners is, “Sell it in Place.” It is practice encouraged by management. It makes me think they are permanent because of selling it in place!

The LLC community owners are adamant it stay not wanting it to leave. The LLC owners do not want empty spaces due to the impression of blight and lack of interest in their community. They always hope that Dealer down the street will replace it sometime. It is a better belief to keep the light “On” and stay in place than having an empty lot.

used-mobile-homes=credit-steve-lefler-posted-industry-voices-mhpronews-com-4

The future for manufactured homes with this court decision could be the very change that impacts the old time popular belief and could change the image and acceptance of this home product. The idea of a consumer product nameplate placed upon someone’s home coupled this common-sense decision often effect old time beliefs to change. ##

Steven-Lefler-Vice-President-Modular-Lifestyles-posted-on-mhpronews-comSteven Lefler, Vice President, Modular Lifestyles, Inc.(888) 437-4587.

Kudos for Ron D’Ambra’s thoughtful article on the HUD Code and Manufactured Housing Affordability

September 5th, 2014 No comments

As a former manager of the HUD Manufactured Housing Program, I was gratified to read Ron D'Ambra’s recent piece titled “Are HUD Practices Making Manufactured Homes Less Affordable?”   While there are always some costs associated with any form of government regulation, Ron clearly appreciates the long term benefits that HUD has brought to an industry that was previously known for building low quality firetraps. 

Though a small clan within the industry reflexively condemns just about everything HUD has done over the years, I’d recommend Ron’s review of HUD’s history and various functions to anyone who wants to understand the enormous strides in quality and safety the industry has made since HUD first set up its program shop back in 1976.

Rather than repeat Ron’s points, let me add one of my own.

When the Act was passed in 1974, its title referred to the products as “Mobile Homes” and the language of the Act often referred to the products as “vehicles”. It has always seemed to me that Congress was thinking of the industry’s products as more like automobiles than houses for regulatory purposes.Thus the “Notification and correction of defects by manufacturer” requirements in 42 U.S.C. 5414 which are implemented in Subpart I of HUD’s regulations.

Compliance with these requirements represents most of the real HUD compliance burden, which requires remedies much like automobile recalls for the life of the home.

Given that the quality and safety of manufactured homes now equals or exceeds that of site built homes in most respects, perhaps the time has come to ask Congress to reconsider replacing the current requirements of 42 U.S.C. 5414 with some sort of warranty.For all I know, this idea has already been discussed, but I left HUD in 2010 and may have missed it.

Anyway, on behalf of the hundreds of people who have staffed the HUD program, served as HUD IPIAs and DAPIAs, as HUD contractors and Consensus Committee Members, thanks very much Ron for your thoughtful piece.##

bill-matchneer-formerly-with-hud-and-cfpb-posted-industry-voices-mhpronews-com-aBill Matchneer, JD, recently retired from 23 years of federal government service. Most recently he supervised the Dodd-Frank appraisal rules at CFPB, but is better known to our readers for his ten years as manager of the manufactured housing construction and safety standards program at HUD. Bill can be reached at (703) 973-4366 and at bill.matchneer@comcast.net

(Editor's Notes: A recent interview with Bill Matchneer is found linked here.

As a matter of MHProNews policy, we routinely encourage a variety of viewpoints, which may or may not reflect those of the publisher or our sponsors. You can submit a Letter to the Editor or OpEd to: latonyk@gmail.com or tony@mhmsm.com).

Moblehome, not Mobile Home

July 9th, 2014 5 comments

Does it not roll off your lips? Moblehome. It has a certain rhythm and melody to it. You can say it as one syllable, and not sound like an idiot.

Moblehome, as in a noble home, not a mobile home.

At one time HUD code homes were the only manufactured homes. Not any more.

Man-u-fac-tured-hous-ing, does not roll of your lips. In fact, it is quite laborious to say, with six syllables and no rhythm nor melody. It’s antiseptic. Moblehome is poetic.

Mobile Home is 100% all-American.

I know it’s crazy and against the grain, but I was in it long enough to spout off about it.

Mobile Home should not be a four letter word anymore.

I started in the mobile home finance business working for GECC in Dallas, in 1971, directly for Harry Gilmore, who worked for Fred Wiesenberger, who worked for Scott Conroy, my maternal uncle. Sometime prior to that, Uncle Scott had convinced General Electric to create a “Special Products” division of General Electric Credit Corporation, now GE Capital Corporation, for the sole purpose of offering wholesale and retail financing for mobile home retailers on a national basis.

At the time there were few national lenders, all full recourse, and limited to 84 month retail installment contracts.

I was a mobile home account manager handling about 1500 owners. I managed anything and everything to do with the financed home (primarily collections) from point of sale to completion of contract or repossession, by phone or in person at the residence.

Anyone who was in the business in 1971 knows exactly what kinds of mobile homes were offered to the public. It was not pretty, and in some cases, downright scary.

We all see, on a regular basis, unless you live completely in an urban environment, the vestiges and remnants of the sales heydays of the early 70’s.

There are hundreds of thousands of trailer houses and mobile homes across this country, from coast-to-coast and border-to-border, still in use, well after their intended life span, all pre-HUD, half of them currently uninhabitable by today’s standards, a fourth of them uninhabitable upon leaving the factory, and a fourth of them, like Rollohome, built exceeding the HUD code before there was a HUD code.

The HUD code created a new nomenclature, which has been described by Allen Wallis of

the Natural History Magazine as having four phases;

  • from 1928 – 1940 the travel trailer period;
  • from 1941 – 1954, the house trailer period;
  • from 1955 – June 14, 1976, the mobile home period; and
  • from June 15, 1976 to now, manufactured housing.

Since 1976, we, as an industry, without exception, no matter what sector of the industry one is involved with, as a group, were on a single mission; trying to eradicate all previous terms when describing manufactured housing built to HUD code specifications. It is a valiant and endless chore, perpetually trying to reach the general population, and primarily, our regulators and legislators.

Yet here we are, in 2014, and I still hear on local broadcasting; “trailer,” “trailer house” or “house trailer” and “mobile home,” rarely “manufactured home.”

On national broadcasting, one hears mobile home, an occasional trailer house or trailer park, and rarely, manufactured home.

I see National, State, and County elected officials being interviewed, saying trailer house and mobile home, never manufactured home. Sometimes they will call a HUD home a modular.

I cannot count the times an RV has been referred to as a mobile home, whether it’s a trailer or a motorhome. Motorhome, mobilehome, what’s the difference? Ignoramuses! Are the FEMA trailers ever called anything but the FEMA trailers, even though half of them are HUD code homes and not travel trailers. I doubt you will ever hear, “FEMA manufactured homes.”

I am not saying we have failed, but we sure seem to have a long way to go, after already working on it for 40 years. I have called and emailed I don’t know how many TV stations and networks complaining about their cavalier use of “trailer house” for the last 30 years, although I haven’t called lately. I don’t work in the business any longer, but I do follow it and I do try to educate morons from time to time.

The fact is, the general public has not embraced the term manufactured housing and probably never will. HUD Code manufactured homes are called about everything but manufactured homes by the general public and public officials.

Not mobile home, moblehome, or if you’re nutty about spelling, mobilehome, but one word and when we say it, we are not talking about your grand dad’s mobile home, we are talking about a state of the art, preferred single family residence, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying give totally up on trying to get the general population to say

manufactured housing, but it’s a slow boat to China. I personally like to say moblehome and I make it perfectly clear I am not talking about a trailer, although the steel is always there, so technically, it’s a trailer with a house on it that trails behind a tow vehicle at some point in its life.

At least we are not called come alongs. ##

ken-haynes-jr-new-mexico-manufactured-housing-association-past-president-manufactured-housing-living-news-com75x75-Ken Haynes, Jr. Please see his commentary on the literally historic and very relevant today document attached to Drawn Quarters – Then and Now.

 

 

(Editor's Note: MHProNews strongly believes that accurate terminology matters, so the thoughts and statements made above are solely those of the writer.

Further, there are points in this commentary that are broad statements that could be construed as technically inaccurate, and should not be taken literally, eg; “half of them currently uninhabitable by today’s standards,” should be read as hyperbole to make the author's point, rather than taken as fact.

As on an issue of industry relevance, MHProNews accepts submissions of articles that may represent other viewpoints. Subject line, “Letter to the Editor” or “OpEd for Industry Voices blog” can be sent to latonyk@gmail.com.) 

MHI 2013 Annual Meeting Recap

October 10th, 2013 No comments

IMHA Executive Director Mark Bowersox attended the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (MHI) annual meeting held September 28 – October 1 in Carlsbad, CA. As with most recent industry meetings, speakers and conversations at the event were focused on the impact of the Dodd-Frank consumer protection legislation and reforming the CFPB’s upcoming regulations. MHI and other industry representatives continue to work with the CFBP on three key areas:

Exemption for manufactured housing appraisal requirements

Based on the most recent rules issued by the CFPB loans on all new manufactured homes, regardless of whether or not they included land, are exempt from the appraisal requirement. Loans on existing manufactured homes, not including land, are also exempt from the appraisal requirements. Additionally, all mobile homes (pre-HUD code) home loans are exempt. The CFPB’s rule solidifying these exemptions is still pending. When finalized the rule will go into effect in January.

Key rule clarifications and exclusions

Loan originator compensation guidelines issued by the CFPB this summer provide the industry with key exclusions from the points and fees calculation that lenders must perform and clarifies certain activities that retail sales staff can engage in without being defined as loan originators.

Manufactured home sales price is excluded from the points and fees definition and does not have to be included in calculations performed by lenders unless a creditor has knowledge that the sales price includes compensation for loan origination activities.

 

Retail sales commissions paid to employees is excluded from points and fees calculation requirements unless the salesperson is receiving compensation from a lender for loan origination activities.

According to MHI, activities that do not classify a retailer or its sales personnel as loan originators include:

  • Providing or making available general information about creditors and loan originators that may offer financing for manufactured housing
  • Gathering or collecting supporting information or documentation on behalf of a consumer for inclusion in a credit application
  • Providing general credit application instructions so that a consumer can complete it themselves
  • Financing the sale of no more than three homes in a year.

Activities that will make a retail employee be considered a loan originator include:

  • Filling out a credit application for a customer
  • Discussing particular credit terms with a customer
  • Directing or influencing a customer to select a particular lender or creditor

MHI continues to seek from the CFPB to provide further clarification on what activities retailers can engage in without being defined as loan originators.

MHI is still working with the CFPB and various consumer interest groups on the need to revise the upcoming High Cost Mortgage Loan triggers for manufactured home loans. IMHA will continue to be engaged on this issue, along with MHI and other interested parties. ##

mark-bowersox-imha-posted-industry-voices-guest-blog-mhpronews.com-75x75pxl-.pngMark Bowersox
Executive Director
Indiana Manufactured Housing Association
Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council
3210 Rand Road
Indianapolis, IN  46241

(Editor's Note: You can find more info on the LO Comp Rule and HOEPA from DJ Pendelton's article published in the Industry In Focus Reports module, linked here.

 

You can also find Mark Bowersox's “It's Now or Never” featured article, linked here. )

Irresponsible Weather reporting by Media and National Weather Service

April 11th, 2013 No comments

Tony,
It's that time of year again for bad weather, and of course, the local news weather reporters, The Weather Channel & the National Weather Service are busy scaring the hell out of Manufactured Home owners and residents with ridiculous 'info' about 'trailers' during storms.

Recently, a new 'weatherman' at a Dallas/Fort Worth station told his audience to just get out of "mobile homes" & other poorly built structures.  He didn't say to go to a shelter, or underground, basically just for people to go outside of their "mobile home."

We need a national campaign to educate media 'Weather' reporters, the National Weather Service, and the like in the mainstream media about two things:

  • Manufactured/mobile homes are not trailers. TRAILERS are travel trailers & aren't tied down.

2. Manufactured homes are anchored & the walls are built to withstand direct force sustained winds of high mph minimum standards set by HUD, meaning its federally regulated.

As you know, the average Manufactured Home goes through a dozen earthquakes and 2 hurricanes just getting from he factory to a dealer's lot!

Can you use your vantage point to forward this message to State & National MH groups to get an organized campaign going to stop all this negative & incorrect publicity?

Thank you.
Frank Woody, Owner
Republic Homes
Weatherford & Early, Texas

p.s. I'll follow up on Jody's letter to the Princeton WordNet team, as well.