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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Bradley’

Paul Bradley on the Pending FHFA Final Duty to Serve Rule

December 12th, 2016 No comments

This and Leslie Gooch’s article both push for a chattel pilot in Land Lease Communities; ROC USA is right with them!  Like Gooch, I see the fundamental issue coming down to what we can work out with the GSEs relative to, as she wrote, “reasonable standards for land leases in conjunction with such homes.

We have Fannie Mae financing homes in some of our communities already, but it’s too limited.  We want a chattel pilot and standard land lease so we can scale.  It should reassure skeptics that home-only loans by the GSEs have worked in Land Lease Communities.  We need DTS to get together as a larger market opportunity for the GSEs.

I am surprised that the Community Bankers’ Association (ICBA) would come out against GSE chattel product – from the many community bankers I’ve talked to over the years, the local bankers want a secondary market for chattel.

One of the concerns that lenders often express about manufactured home loans in Land Lease Communities is that homes there lose value.  But that is not a given.  I can point to examples in Land Lease Communities where homes are appreciating.  

ConcernLendersHaveManufacturedHomesLoansLoseValueExamplesHomesAppreciatingPaulBradleyROCUSA-IndustryVoicesManufacturedHousingIndustryVoicesMHProNews

In fact, the two unique elements of this sector – relatively more expensive chattel products and land lease – can be resolved by the GSEs; they could make this market no different than the conventional residential markets where supply, demand, location and upkeep influence house price performance.  The GSEs, with the right lease terms to secure their and homeowners’ interests, could help fix the problem that causes some manufactured homes to lose value. ##

Paul Bradley
President
ROC USA

(Editor’s Note: The National Mortgage News article Paul Bradley is commenting on is linked as a download, here. For an interview with manufactured home owner – Kim Capen, who likewise points to appreciation of manufactured homes in his community – click here.)

Fair and Balanced on CFED – plus – Another View On Rent Control

September 16th, 2016 No comments

Tony, I think that you’ve been fair and balanced on the CFED story.

Maybe I’ve not expressed my vision for MHCs:

I am optimistic that Land Lease Communities and Manufactured Housing can be an increasing source of affordable homeownership in the US.  A fresh vision for the sector starts with secure land tenure (i.e. true land lease) because homeownership connotes security.

rentcontrolmanufacturedhomecommunitiespaulbradleyrocusa_postedindustryvoices-manufacturedhousingindustrymhpronews

Graphic by MHProNews.

That’s fundamental to true homeownership.  MHCs offering true homeownership can’t be closed down, period.

With secure land tenure, the strength of the MHC land use approval is small, affordable and energy efficient detached single-family homes in dense neighborhoods.

On your other article, I think rent control is a symptom of a larger problem.  To my eye, these stories are always about both sides doubling down politically and legally.

I would like to think there are alternatives that don’t rely on third-party boards and local ordinances.  I approach things with a win/win mindset, and from what I’ve seen, courts and boards seem to satisfy neither party in most cases.  A fundamentally different value proposition and mindset is required to stem the tide of rent control.

Those are my thoughts.  ROC on!

Paul    

Paul Bradley
President
ROC USA

 

(Editor’s Notes: this headline was provided by MHProNews, as is often the case with an Op-Ed or letters to the editor. This was sent in response the issues linked in the body of this email, for other takes on the rent control topic, please scroll recent Industry Voices guest columns.

Other thoughtfully expressed viewpoints on this or other issues related to manufactured housing are welcomed.)

Could Long-Term Home-Only Mortgage Loans in Land Lease Communities Rise Again?

December 7th, 2015 No comments

I read with great interest Paul Bradley’s recent article in MHProNews. I agree with Paul that there is an opportunity forthcoming to bring back a program that was created by Freddie Mac – one of the two (2) Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s) – in the early 2000’s. That program had Freddie providing conventional, residential home-only mortgage loans at market rates in selected Land Lease Communities where the residents had a long-term lease.

I was one of a very small group of professionals involved in the manufactured housing industry who worked directly with Feddie Mac to create that program. I know firsthand how well the program worked for residents in three (3) land lease communities that we owned when the program was active.

This was not a simple program to get out of the starting gate. It took well over two (2) years to draft the program, garner internal agency approvals, work through the idiosyncrasies, deal with legal and appraisal issues and partner with a lender to finally bring the program to the market. All of the work involved was not easy to accomplish, yet in the end the program became a reality. And, in my opinion, the program was a success.

People will question why the Freddie program was a success, even though it was not available for more than a few short years. There are many reasons why the program ultimately was cut short by Freddie Mac, but now is not the time to rehash those issues.

What is important is to look at the successes of the program. The template and performance are set for the GSE’s to use, so that time is saved. The success is proven by the number of performing, conventional long-term mortgage loans originated in land lease communities at then current market rates.

As stated above, our firm utilized this lending program in three communities. The home buyers were thrilled to have this loan option available. In fact, after we began to offer the program, rates dropped significantly. Almost every borrower refinanced their loan at a lower interest rate without any issues or penalties!

With complex programs come many questions and concerns. Let me focus on two important issues.

First, under the Freddie Mac program, the mortgages on the homes did not impact the underlining financing of the land lease community. This was a critical issue resolved early-on while we were drafting the program. Documentation was required and provided from the underlining land lease mortgage lender to Freddie Mac, assuring that the community lender would respect the long-term leases of the residents.

Secondly, there is no relationship between the Freddie Mac Program and the proposal by the Uniform Law Commission to title the manufactured homes as “real property.”  Although there were various phrases and terminology utilized in the Freddie Mac program, there is zero connection to the ULC proposal, which is important, as the ULC plan gives current MH personal property lenders heartburn for a variety of reasons.

According to MHI and others, the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) will soon issue a draft Duty to Serve rule. It could be a great opportunity for manufactured home lending if one of the recommendations suggests a lending program similar to the Freddie Mac pilot. Having another viable lending option would be a positive step in the market place.

I stand ready to work with the parties involved on this or any other lending option once the FHFA rules are known. Feel free to contact me, indicating your interest or support. ##

rick-rand-great-value-homes-manufactured-home-pro-news-industry-voices-guestblogRichard J. “Rick” Rand
President
Great Value Homes, Inc.

9458 N. Fairway Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53217-1321

414-352-3855

414-352-3631 (fax)

414-870-9000 (cell)

RickRand@gvhinc.net

Calling MH Innovators . . . Let’s be realistic about Duty to Serve and get something done to bring Home-Only Loans to our Manufactured Home Communities

December 4th, 2015 No comments

The Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) will soon issue a draft Duty to Serve (DTS) rule. The final rule that follows the brief comment period will tell Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae what the two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) will have to do in terms of providing loans to consumers for manufactured homes (MH). The ruling will influence things for as long as the two GSEs are in fact government-sponsored, which I bet will be a very long time.

Everyone involved in the land-lease community (LLC) sector wants there to be more chattel lenders. Clearly, a healthy housing sector cannot rely on just three national lenders and a bunch of captives.

Will DTS add the GSEs to this short list of chattel lenders?

The short answer is no. The FHFA will not require the GSEs to start financing chattel MH loans.

There are three very basic political realities that make calls for GSE chattel lending entirely hollow:

  1. The GSEs will do everything possible to not add chattel lending to their products list. They were burned in the late 90s by large pools of chattel MH loans and they still remember it.
  1. The FHFA won’t make them. The FHFA has both a “safety and soundness” responsibility for GSE oversight and a Duty to Serve mandate. Under safety and soundness, the FHFA will not require the GSEs to incorporate chattel based solely upon the record of chattel loan performance.
  1. Industry and consumer groups are not working together to create any real pressure though they’re not far apart from my read of things. That said, even together they probably couldn’t overturn factors 1 and 2.

I note #3 because it’s been my experience that lawmakers and regulators don’t like being in the position of settling debates between opposing parties. When faced with that sort of disagreement, regulators will, whenever possible, choose deferral and non-action.

Before you get caught up in the inevitable diatribe that will follow the draft DTS rule, consider an alternative based upon an opening that I expect we will see in the rule.

I expect the FHFA will look at bringing back a pilot program that Freddie Mac and some well-known industry leaders implemented in early 2000’s. Specifically, that program had Freddie providing conventional residential home only mortgage loans in LLCs where there was a long-term lease.

Don’t say it can’t be done. It’s been done. I and the other LLC owners who spearheaded the program with Freddie Mac have done it. Home only mortgages that don’t compromise the underlying land (the LLC) or your ability to finance or sell the LLC. But, they do make conventional rates and terms available in communities possible.

How would buyers of homes in your LLC respond to a bank making conventional residential home loans in your community? Could you sell more homes on vacant sites if lender would do 10% down-payment and 30-year fixed rate financing?

Such a program would require long-term leases because conventional lenders won’t lend long-term on a home that doesn’t have a long-term lease. I know of community owners with 20 year leases today so this isn’t too much of stretch, really.

And, don’t be confused with the term mortgage. Yes, the home would be titled as real estate and the security interest would be a mortgage on the home only. The titling of the home and the mortgage instrument don’t include the land and don’t interfere with your commercial mortgage. This type of lending has been done in a range of leasehold arrangements. It works.

Understandably, not all “parks” would make the trade-off. But, higher-end LLCs where the highest and best use is a LLC and where the homes are relatively expensive, conventional loan rates would be a significant benefit to both buyers and LLC owners. It’s a different value proposition and a different public image than a “park”, indeed.

But, for those who are interested, let’s pull together and urge the FHFA to keep or include home only mortgage lending in LLCs in the final rule. Let’s make sure the GSEs know that there’s interest in using home only mortgages in some LLCs.

What we can’t have is a chorus in unison saying, “Make them do chattel!” That’s the equivalent of spitting into the wind. Join the chorus if you want more of the same, just cover your face.

The Duty to Serve is too important to squander. Drop me a line if you want to learn more and coordinate input to the FHFA’s draft rule when it gets released. It will happen fast, which is why I’m going public with my assessment of where we’ll be once the draft rule is published.

We as an industry need to let the FHFA and GSEs know that some innovators in the market want to find a solution to getting 4% home only mortgage loans in our communities. ##

PaulBradleyROCUSA-postedMHProNews-com-75x91-Paul Bradley, President, ROC USA.

 

 

(Editor’s Note: Paul Bradley is featured in a new video interview, see this link here.  As on any MH issue, we welcome confirming or other viewpoints.)

 

 

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.)

Here comes the Senior Tsunami!

September 4th, 2014 No comments

Yesterday, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and AARP released a major study on the growth of 50+ households. For those in the MH industry, the study is worth a close read.

Of note, in the next 20 years, the population aged 50+ is projected to increase from 109 million to more than 132 million. We knew this was coming.

Shocking to me was that homeownership is more prevalent for those in their 70s, with more than 80 percent of them owning homes, compared to only 70 percent of those in their 50s. Are those in their 50s likely to become homeowners later in life? Will they buy a home in our communities? Perhaps they will.

part2

part3

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Given the income levels and retirement plans for most, I’d say this study gives us confidence there are a lot of future customers nearing our doorsteps.

Take note, though. The MH that’s currently in place and with which I’m familiar is not exactly what’s needed. The reports states, “Much of the nation’s housing inventory also lacks basic accessibility features (such as no-step entries, extra-wide doorways, and lever-style door and faucet handles), preventing older persons with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes.”

We know manufacturers can do all of these things. Is that what you’re ordering?

MH is well positioned in terms of entry price. Again, the report says, “High housing costs currently force a third of adults 50 and over — including 37 percent of those 80 and over — to pay more than 30 percent of their income for homes that may or may not fit their needs, forcing them to cut back on food, health care, and, for those 50-64, retirement savings.”

But, many 55+ communities don’t really operate with the level of support and services that the report says will be needed.

The report notes support services of the sort that some MHCs do deliver are too rare. We see informal support services — ride shares, home repairs, checking in, snow removal — in many of the 55+ plus resident-owned communities with which we work. We can do a better job of linking our members to services that are generally available to low-income seniors. I’m guessing most community owners could do better. It will matter more and more; one in eight people will be over 75 in 2040!

The report is long and in depth, but definitely worth reading and sharing. Enjoy! ##

Paul Bradley is the founding president of ROC USA, LLC, which has helped 67 resident groups inpaul-bradley75x75-roc-usa-president-posted-industry-voices-manufactured-housing-mhpronews- 14 states purchase their MHCs from willing sellers since 2008. Contact him at pbradley@rocusa.org.

 

 

(Editor's Note: A video interview with Paul Bradley is found here, and you can find A Cup of Coffee with… Paul Bradley, linked here.)

(Infographic credit: AARP Foundation)

Our experience with Resident Owned Communities – no BS

January 15th, 2014 No comments

The “No BS about Resident Owned Communities” article that appears on this site brings to mind President George W. Bush’s comment while visiting Canada in 2004:

I would like to thank all you Canadians for your warm welcome at the airport. Especially those of you who waved (pause) with all five fingers.”

I get it. We have a successful business model that is reshaping resident ownership and that invites reactions from competitors.

I stand by our record of performance to prove we have a lot of five-finger waves and cheers in the marketplace for ROC USA® as we’ve closed:

  • 13 resident-owned community (ROC) purchases in 2013;
  • 12 in 2012; and,
  • 11 in 2011.

In fact, we have closed a ROC transaction every 37 days on average since we launched in 2008.

We got there by being 100-percent focused on making resident ownership effective and efficient and successful. The marketplace is the true judge.

One of the keys to our success is that we don’t have to chase capital to finance resident purchases. We have already raised all the financing the resident corporation needs — including funds for deposits and due diligence — in a U.S. Department of Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution.

We have current liquidity to finance $40 million of resident purchases today. No one else in resident ownership services has raised capital in advance the way we have. We did it so we could create a different transaction experience for buyers and sellers.

We’re not simply brokers who get paid at closing and walk away — we equip homeowners with the tools and training they need to successfully manage their communities. The fact is that we care about each community’s long-term performance and we know every democratic association needs leadership development and cost-effective shared services to be competitive. ROC USA has a national leadership institute for ROC leaders, a national marketing program for ROCs, and an online and in-person training system to help ROCs and ROC leaders succeed.

At ROC USA, we use the limited equity co-op for simple reasons: It is the most effective and efficient, the fairest and the most affordable model for homeowners. We stand by our work of the last 30 years with more than 140 ROCs that we took from tenants to owners.

Not one of those communities has failed.

That 30-year track record demonstrates the competency and capacity of ROC members and leaders with whom we work.

Every one of these ROCs is real ownership where each homeowner can purchase one low-cost membership interest in the corporation that owns and controls the MHC. There are no outside parties with an ownership interest in the co-op or the MHC, only the homeowners can be member owners.

ROC USA is a nonprofit and thus must serve low- and moderate-income communities, but that doesn’t limit us to small communities. Our largest completed transaction was a two-MHC portfolio transaction worth $23 million for nearly 500 home-sites in 2012. Further, and not surprisingly, every MHC we’ve worked in has sufficient numbers of low- and moderate-income — that’s not an issue.

We don’t apologize for being well-funded or widely publicized. Getting things done attracts interest and attention. Every closed transaction gets a press release and we send postcards to announce purchases. Often we’ll quote the community owner or the broker. Here are two recent ones:

The business model that ROC USA has developed is superb. It was a different transaction in that you usually have to jump through a litany of different hoops in regard to banks and bank regulations. But that simply wasn’t the case here. I would certainly do it again, and I will.”

Joel Erlitz, Broker,
First Commercial Property Corp.

 

“It’s no different than a sale to any third-party.”

Phil Johnson,
Seller in Minnesota

ROC USA does not practice public policy. In fact, we eliminated the part-time policy position at ROC USA in 201l.

We’re out earning our way in the marketplace — just like you.

That’s how we ROC ‘n’ roll. ##

paul-bradley-rocusa-president-posted-industry-voices-manufactured-housing-pro-news-com-.jpgPaul Bradley, President
ROC USA, LLC
pbradley@rocusa.org / 603-856-0709

(Editor's Note: this article comes as a response by the Paul Bradley to the Featured Article entitled No BS about Resident Owned Communities.

Other perspectives on this topic or any that impact manufactured housing are welcome. Please put OpEd, Letter to the Editor or Industry Voices in your subject line and send proposed article to – latonyk@gmail.com and/or iReportMHNewsTips@MHMSM.com – thank you.

As an additional reminder, we welcome tips on topics and local/regional/national/international news that impacts factory built housing. Readers like you can be and are a part of the story here! )

2013 CFED-I’m Home Retreat Snapshot

October 20th, 2013 No comments

Following a retreat for Next Step and its Partners, I was privileged to participate in the CFED I'm Home Retreat in Denver. Imagine a “for profit” mind immersed in a “non profit” retreat. It would have been easy to allow your head to spin if the topics discussed were not so familiar.

The Retreat was fully immersed in the role manufactured housing (MH) could play for the working poor as an answer for initial and replacement housing.

George McCarthy, from the Ford Foundation, gave some great statistics about those living in MH and the percentage of those populations in communities. These stats further magnified the continuing role MH communities’ play in general housing and manufactured housing specifically.

However, energies soon were redirected to the discussion on funding, both for inventory and retail; appraisals; placement, yadda yadda yadda.

As Barry Noffziger, from CU Factory Built Lending suggested – if you close your eyes, you could have sworn you were in any MH association meeting. The concerns and challenges seemed to be the same as the “for profit” side of the industry. The plea was to unite in order to facilitate change.

It was an interesting juxtaposition to find myself in the middle of a segment of the industry I knew/know little about; but yet I could appreciate their passion.

Their energy was unbelievable. Positive – glass seemed to be half full everywhere I looked.

Paul Bradley from ROC was there and talked about their success and plans for the future. 

There was a testimonial about efforts to re-house victims in a MH community affected by Hurricane Sandy; flood victims in Colorado and other locations.

Architect Bruce Tolar, of the Katrina Cottage fame, provided an overview on the lessons learned and how the Cottage is morphing for long term housing solutions. It was noted that long after the national news crews left the Gulf area, there are still victims of Katrina struggling to cope with inadequate housing – 8 years following the hurricane – FEMA gone, almost everyone else as well.

chris-nicely-posted-on-mhpronews-comHeck, that was only the first day and sadly, I had to leave. How often do you leave a meeting saying, “I can’t go, I want to hear and learn more."

Curious, the effort in the room was focused on the resident/owner and how MH can deliver more value and provide life with dignity. This, for a segment of the population most writes off as un-qualified buyers.

It was refreshing and left me wanting to know more about what I could do to help. Hopefully, I will get the chance. ##

chris-nicely-posted-on-mhpronews-com-2.jpgChris Nicely
9052 Legends Lake Lane
Knoxville, TN 37922
865.385.9675
cnicely929@aol.com  

The IBISWorld Controversy and the Manufactured Housing Industry

April 13th, 2011 3 comments

Exclusive MHMSM.com Industry In Focus Report

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

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

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

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

Photo from The Atlantic
Photo from The Atlantic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“State Execs & MHI Board:

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

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

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

“Thanks-

“Thayer”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ THE FULL INDUSTRY IN FOCUS REPORT

IBIS Report and the Manufactured Housing Retailer’s Future

April 10th, 2011 1 comment

Having spent 40 years in the industry, I have experienced every down cycle the industry has had since they started keeping records in 1961. After a peak nationally of almost 600,000 units in 1973, we suffered a dramatic plunge that was felt the most in the Southeast where I was located at the time. I relocated to Oklahoma in the 1980s and endured a drop in shipments from about 13,000 homes in 1983 to about 350 or so in 1988. Shipments again took a hit in the early 1990s as lending became almost nonexistent. The current down cycle began after a peak of nearly 373,000 shipments nationally in 1998 and has fallen below 50,000, which is lower than when the record keeping began in 1961. 

I certainly do not have the credentials to refute the recent IBIS report that labeled the manufactured housing industry as being on the verge of extinction. I also approach the subject with some trepidation as I majored in Marketing and I am keenly aware that most of the buggy whip manufacturers are no longer in business. In order to accept the results of the report from a market demand stand point, we would have to arrive at the conclusion that the demand for new homes priced below $70-100 a square foot will become no longer significant. We would also have to accept that this disappearance of market demand will occur as down payment requirements are poised to increase to perhaps 20% while terms may be reduced to as low as 15 years. In the face of enormous down payment requirements and shortened terms for repayment, suddenly prospective home buyers are going pass over housing opportunities in the $20 to $40 per square foot category? 

We would also have to accept that demand for homes that can be titled without real estate will disappear. Suddenly no one will want to allow their kids or other family members to place a home on family land without encumbering the real property?

We would finally have to believe that no one living in a manufactured home community would have an interest in upgrading their home, and the communities would have no potential for new residents. 

I read Paul Bradley’s feature article in response to the IBIS report here in MHMSM.com. I share Paul’s optimism that a possible result of increased requirements for site-built housing may shift more buyers to the manufactured housing market.

We have had to endure ongoing discrimination of the allocation of lending resources even when the Duty to Serve language is rewritten to specifically cite manufactured housing. As a retailer, I do not see any shortage of willing buyers for the homes that we build. We do experience a series of problems related to recent acts foisted upon us by the federal government. 

I observed in a LinkedIn comment earlier that our industry trade organization, the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) is constricted by the composition of their membership from assuming the role of a being a strong advocate for individual industry divisions. Retailers would have to form an independent organization dedicated to retailers in order to have someone in Washington, DC truly going to bat on all the issues that retailers face. I don’t see the numbers or the money being there for that to happen. In the mean time, we accept MHI with its wrinkles, knowing that the diversity of the membership does not allow for the extreme dedication to our needs that we would like to have. 

The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulation and Reform (MHARR) serves in that capacity for independent manufacturers and manufacturers need that dedicated representation as they have many issues affecting them that are completely unknown to other industry segments. 

Another theory being floated by some industry members is that a conspiracy is in play to undermine the effectiveness that the HUD Code provides and bring about its demise. If that theory is true and if the conspirators have enough influence, market demand will not matter. I am not smart enough to know whether or not a conspiracy exists to destroy our industry. I would say that if it does exist, it is experiencing reasonable success. 

We do face very difficult times as an industry. I have quipped on more than one occasion in the past few years that “absence of stress is death…and I am very much alive.”

As an industry, we have taken a beating for the last twelve years. Some of that has been our own doing and some from lack of fairness by government actions or inactions. If a conspiracy does in fact exist, I am too small a player to have much impact on stopping it. Absent a conspiracy, our company plans to move forward and provide our clients with great values in housing and outstanding customer service. Hopefully our industry can see itself through the balance of any remaining down turn and see an increase in shipments in the years ahead. 

I was privileged to be invited to return to Georgia last summer to speak at the industry’s annual state convention. Given my 40 years in the industry, I was able to reflect back to 20% rates with no less than 10% down and no ability to finance land or improvements. I titled my presentation after Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”

And indeed it is. # #

by Doug Gorman

Doug Gorman owns Home-Mart in Tulsa OK, and is perhaps the most award wining retailer in the U.S. today.  He has served the Industry on the state and national levels, including as Show Chairman for the Great Southwest Home Show in Tulsa.  You can read his Cup of Cocoa with Doug Gorman at this Link. Contact Doug at doug@homemart.us