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If you don’t go forward, you’re not going to go anywhere

May 20th, 2011 2 comments

Marty, thanks for your writing.  You are going where no one wants to go, but should.

I (the bank) have been a manufactured housing lender since 1991.  Not a large one, but neither is the bank I work for (Oxford Bank).  I rarely participate or respond to anyone or anything via the internet; however, Marty Lavin’s commentary interested me.  [See The Train To Oblivion, May 16th.]

Mr. Lavin has identified the brutal facts, but not how to fix them.  Further yet, does anybody really want to fix them?  Everybody  seems to have beaten up and worn down.

I have outlived the Greentrees, Consecos and others that felt booking loans at high rates, extended terms, big fees and huge  volumes was the thing to do.

I am still lending but, only to parks that want to “partner” with us.  Everyone hates bankers right now; hopefully, what I have to say doesn’t make it worse.

Below are a few comments and a few things I have learned in my 20+ years of MH lending.  I am probably getting off the path somewhat, but Marty opened the door for some comments from the lenders side:

  • Rates, of course, are higher than an auto loan.  When you loan money for 20 years at a fixed rate for anything, the bank must protect itself for future increases.
  • Anyone who thinks that the bank makes a huge spread on these loans is just plain ignorant.
  • The park owners control the bank’s destiny, losses and expenses.
    Today’s rates are controlled by losses and expenses, not just cost of funds.
  • Bank regulators do not like MH loans or “Trailers” as they say.
  • A manufactured home is considered personal property and sometimes it’s considered real estate.  If someone wants to hang you – it’s real estate.
  • I believe the parks that do their own financing are building a monster.  Let’s hope they retain a large reserve for losses, understand fair housing and Federal and State compliance laws.  I think they should let the bank be the bank.
    Servicing is expensive; it just increased again with the escrow law.
  • Generally, most parks will sell their own inventory over the bank’s repos, even if the bank pays for advertising.  They will switch the buyer to their home.
  • A big part of the banks’ losses are the parks’ profits.
  • Greentree and some other mega lenders were foolish; high rates and big loan fees do not make good loans.  Worse yet, they would finance the fees.
  • It’s the park’s customer until it becomes a repo; then it becomes the bank’s customer.
  • Some parks must feel that the bank guarantees the lot rent since it financed the home.
  • Many park owners are not active enough in their parks and put an underpaid and inexperienced employee in the park manager’s seat.
  • Unfortunately, these things don’t have motors.  Lenders are totally reliant on the parks for help.  With values in the tank, it’s hard to justify moving them.
  • There are still some crooks in this industry: fake down payments, home options that are not really there and straw purchases are still around.
  • The FDIC deems anyone with a credit score of 660 and under a subprime borrower.  This gives the appearance that my portfolio is subprime.
  • Manufactured home loan brokers are very dangerous.

The industry needs to go forward, not backwards.

Find a lender and “partner” with him or her.  Help the bank when they have a repo by assisting them in controlling the loss.  The
bank is paying the park a commission to sell the home; maybe they could even mow the yard for free?  Maybe they could use their maintenance guy to perform cosmetic repairs at cost?  In return, they could benefit from offering financing at reasonable rates and quality delivery.  This isn’t hard stuff.

My bank is still in the business of financing homes, but only for a handful of parks.  These are the parks that have “partnered” with us to get the job done.  Both the parks and the bank are much better off.

My biggest problems at present stem from loans made years ago in park(s) that have been sold to a REIT, portfolio operator or out-of-state investor.  The buyers of these parks figured out that they overpaid and are now increasing lot rents to compensate for their mistake.  This is creating unnecessary repos and they could care less.  # #

Al Cole
Oxford-Bank.com
alcole@oxford-bank.com