1) Who, What and Where: (Your name and your formal title at UMH).
Sam Landy, President UMH Properties, Inc., Freehold, N.J..
2) Background: (Educational/Professional snapshot before entering the factory-built housing arena. Specifically mention any prior work experience prior to UMH).
I worked at Sandy Hook Concessions when I was 15 and 16. I worked for Ken Segal who is mentioned in Steve Jobs’ book for putting the “i” in “iPhone.” I trained horses while I was in college and law school. I renovated a farm and trained horses from 1978 until 1983. I worked as a lawyer from 1985 until 1987 working for other community owners. In 1987 I started working with my father at UMH Properties.
3) When and How: (When and how with UMH, which could include a recap of the years since UMH began and what the UMH abbreviation means.)
UMH was formed by my father, Eugene Landy, in 1969. It was called United Mobile Homes, Inc. My father bought his first community in about 1962 and started United Mobile Homes when he was building 250 lots now known as Southwind Village in Jackson, N.J..
My brother Mike and I were always aware of what my father was working on. On any family vacation we stopped to look at real estate of some kind. My father’s philosophy has always been that there are times to acquire, times to build, and times to only manage what you have. He is truly a master of understanding where the business cycle is and acting upon it.
UMH is now in acquisition mode. We are acquiring because our industry is the victim of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We are the most bread and butter business ever invented.
In the 1970’s Art Decio was on the cover of Time Magazine for bringing affordable housing to the masses. In the 1980’s and 1990’s Jim Clayton became a billionaire in this business.
Only the economic distortions caused by well intended but out of control government programs could have made our industry such a loser for the last decade.
But UMH stayed as strong as a company could stay in such a storm and we are now buying based on our view that manufactured housing provides the finest housing at the fairest price of any housing sector.
In the past five years UMH has doubled in size from 6,000 sites to over 12,000 sites. Equally important to the people, properties and product, is timing and my father’s timing is fantastic.
4) What are your personal interests or hobbies? How do you like to spend non-work time?
My wife of 25 years, Laurie has created a non-profit called Special Strides on our farm. She provides therapy to 140 children on horseback. Her program is nationally known and I’m on the board.
My son Jeremy is creating a business, Strap'd-Up, involving his passion; snowboarding.
Harry, my number two son, is the fifth leading harness racing driver at Freehold Raceway and a top trainer.
Daniel my youngest was just accepted early decision to Babson, and is the 8th ranked 17 and younger slope style snowboarder in the nation. On top of that he got a 100 on a physics test.
We have used our farm for a 300 child charity summer camp, spent our weekends in the winters skiing with the kids, built Special Strides, and hopefully helped UMH and MREIC become New York Stock Exchange companies.
5) Can you give us a snapshot of UMH before and after it went public?
Prior to being public, UMH owned communities in partnerships. Being public provides access to capital which allows us to grow by acquisitions. Further it allows us to rapidly purchase rental units and to finance our own sales.
6) While some see doom and gloom, UMH has continued its acquisitions in the Manufactured Housing Community (MHC) space. Please tell our readers what it is that compels you confidence in the MHC sphere?
If a person was in this business anytime but the last ten years they would say this is the best business there is. People need quality housing at a reasonable price. We provide that. We provide a better product than apartments, townhouses, condo’s and single family homes for our customers. Apartment rents have been increasing. Single family home buyers now need down payments once again.
Given these changes and assuming that job growth returns, our sales will be far higher than today’s paltry 50,000 units and may even exceed the old records of three or four hundred thousand shipments per year.
7) UMH has attracted the attention of a number of mainstream media sources. For our readers who don't know the extent of that coverage, please give us a sense by naming some of the media outlets who have done stories on your company. Beyond media, what recognitions and awards that UMH has earned would you like to mention?
UMH has been written about in the Wall Street Journal. My brother Mike was recently on CNBC in regards to MREIC, an industrial REIT my father founded in 1968. UMH has been recognized by the Boy Scouts for our support of scouting.
8) What do you think sets UMH apart from others in the industry who are buying MHPs and MHCs today?
UMH is able to take a long-term view on communities. Our access to capital allows us to look at a potential acquisition envisioning what it could be as opposed to what it currently is. Many of the communities we are buying are great as is and we are buying based on our belief that we can add some sales income and finance income to enhance our returns on these investments.
Our Chief Financial Officer - Anna Chew, Attorney - Allison Nagelberg Vice President of Engineering - Jeff Yorick, Vice President of Sales - Chris Lindsey, Vice President of Operations - Jeff Wolfe. Our Vice President of Acquisitions is Bret Taft" Robert Hanlon is Vice President of Consumer Finance and all of our regional managers, managers, and staff deserve awards!
While we did not receive any awards for our expansions at Fairview Manor, Highland Estates, Whispering Pines, and Allentown, they are all deserving of them.
9) There are an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vacant home sites in manufactured housing communities. While your firms is not vacancy free, you are doing better than many others. What do you see as the root causes of the vacancies that began to crop up in the early 2000s? How has your firm been navigating them?
Real Estate remains critically dependent upon location, location, location. The Midwest was the land of coal and steel. When NAFTA came and those jobs went overseas, some of our best communities experienced vacancies. Those same areas are now situated in the Marcellus Shale region and occupancy is growing strongly.
Vacancies are related first to local economics. If there are people working and looking for housing they will come to the manufactured housing communities and the vacancies will be filled.
Occupancy declines as communities age, unless the demand is strong enough to make the lots valuable enough to remove the old home and replace it with a new home.
In market peaks I have seen people pay over $30,000 for an old house in New Jersey or Eastern Pennsylvania then junk it to put a new home on the lot. When things are bad people will not pay lot rents for thirty year old homes.
I have watched condo converters and home builders in down-cycles and there are times when you just cannot sell your product. The past four years have really been like that for us. Rental demand has remained strong and UMH has the capital to add rentals and fill lots that way. Our sales dropped from a peak of $16,000,000 in 2007 to under $5,000,000 in 2009. They are slowly improving. But I think we will one day exceed $16,000,000 in sales.
10) What do you consider the largest challenges facing the industry in general today?
In the 1990’s, Greentree and our manufacturers were heroes. Then the government went into affordable housing and didn’t invite our industry. They would have done much better with us than with conventional homes and financing gimmicks.
If we can buy lots for $30,000 and add brand new 980 square foot rentals for $40,000 we can provide a brand new three bedrooms with two baths home for a cost of $70,000. No apartment builder or home builder can compete with that which is why our rentals do so well.
People understand value. My rental customers could be buyers but the laws don’t allow us to finance them. When you rent a house, 100% of your payment will increase when the rent increases. When you own the house and rent the lot you only receive a rent increase on the lot rent. Generally that’s less than $25 per month as compared to an apartment where the monthly rent increase would be $50 or more. At the end of five years year our home owner pays $125 less per month then the apartment renter. And the savings grow every year.
Financing and marketing are the two issues our industry has to address. How do our customers get affordable financing and how do we market the benefits of our product? I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all responsible for our own marketing. If you want to be a great retailer you have to pay the bill for the marketing. Why should anyone do it for you, and all markets are local anyhow.
The legal issues however, require a united industry and none of us can fight the regulators alone.
11) UMH had at least two team members at the February 2013 MHI Legislative Conference. You and/or your firm routinely has team members at the MHI/NCC Congress and Expo, or at major events like the Louisville Show. For those in the industry that don't attend such events, please explain why you think it is important to attend and participate in association and industry functions?
MHI and the state associations are the ones who can address legislative issues on behalf of the community owners, manufacturers and retailers. I am involved in the horse industry and have seen what happens for the good when industry representation is strong and for the bad when it is weak. We need a loud, strong, unified voice supporting our industry.
In addition to legislative issues the industry events are networking opportunities. We are looking for acquisitions, great sales people, community managers and other potential staff members as we grow. There is no better venue for meeting these people than industry functions. Additionally, our corporate office heard Jim Clayton sing “King of The Road” in front of all of the attendees at MHI, now that was special!
12) In spite of what HERA 2008 called for – namely, the Duty to Serve manufactured housing, first the GSEs and now the FHFA have failed to implement what the law seems to require. What steps, if any, should the NCC/MHI or other industry groups and players take in addressing such issues?
From my perspective if the government just removes the provisions of the Safe Act and Dodd-Frank that stop us from selling homes to people who can afford them I’d be happy enough.
It’s important to understand manufactured homes in land-lease communities are no longer the generic “affordable housing” some people think. Nor do I think it should be. We have sold manufactured homes in land-lease communities for almost $200,000 in communities with lot rents over $500 per month. Although that is a great value, many people would say that is not affordable housing.
In our 55 and older communities people care more about quality and comfort than “affordability.” Our best buyers were selling their conventional homes for over $300,000 in 2006 and buying homes from us for over $100,000. Getting away from being known as “affordable housing” may actually increase acceptance of our product. Manufactured housing can provide the greatest housing value for whatever type of housing it chooses. In Connecticut there was a company Modular Mansions building million dollar modular homes. Our product is quality housing at a great value.
If we emphasize that factory built housing is the most cost effective quality housing and that we can provide families with the best living space for their dollar, maybe the government can give us a level playing field with other home-builders in the lending market. In New Jersey “Affordable Housing” is anything under $300,000. In Ohio it can mean something completely different. When we are proposing a development the last thing the town fathers seem to care about is whether the product will be “affordable.”
We may be better off aligning ourselves as home-builders than as an affordable housing specialty. We are the most efficient providers of housing. Our factory built houses are better quality and cost less per square foot than equivalent site built homes. Land-lease communities provide amenities that cannot be found in residential neighborhoods. Land-lease communities reduce the buyer’s required down payment and monthly payment by reducing the cost of providing individual water, sewer, road access and amenities.
Manufactured home communities can be affordable housing developments entitled to special government programs, but stick built housing can also be affordable housing. I think rather than asking for special treatment we should stick to asking for just equal treatment.
13) Closing thoughts or comments, sir?
Individual community owners should consider selling their communities to UMH at this time even though it may be the bottom of the real estate market. We are interested in keeping management. We want to provide capital to add inventory of homes for sale and rent, we want to provide marketing.
I believe an individual or partnership owner of communities could sell their community to UMH and find themselves making more money selling new homes for us than they were making operating on their own.
We can upgrade communities, add rental and sales inventory, provide marketing, and retail sales financing. We can provide management seminars and the best legal and engineering representation when necessary.
Entrepreneurs may be surprised to find the access to capital and consulting we provide can free up their time to be more productive and make more money. We understand that people want empowerment and freedom to do their job. We try to give them that. We are patient and understand you can’t sell homes when no one is buying them. Our time will come and when we win, we want the whole UMH family to win. ##