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by Michael F.B. Barnabas

Let me begin by tipping my hat to Marty Lavin The Train To Oblivion and Al Cole for having the courage to be who they are, and standing up publicly via this web platform and writing what they have.

It you have not yet read their articles, you should. These are in some ways dark messages that could potentially spell the demise for HUD Code manufactured housing as we know it today.

But precisely by stating the facts, they can be the cause for new hope. We can't fix what we ignore or do not take the time to understand.

The numbers do not lie. When an Industry has suffered an 86%+ decline in production in the past twelve plus years, that would be the death knell for most.

Retailers, communities, developers, manufacturers, lenders, insurance, installers, transport, vendors and service suppliers have all suffered. The recent (and in my view, flawed) IBISWorld report our PDF has marked big elements of our Industry for destruction. Almost every weatherman speaks ill of us when severe weather strikes, because they are ignorant of the facts!

We have no one to blame but ourselves for not fixing what is wrong.

Attorney, manufactured home community (MHC) owner and industry/finance expert witness Lavin and banker Al Cole have had the courage to stand up and say what many know, and that too few are willing to admit.

Why are people afraid to speak out?

Because people are afraid of losing their jobs, or their companies, or their bonuses, Wall Street or investor funding, personal status, etc. I know. Because after decades in this Industry, I am one of them.

But inaction or flawed action is just as sure a way of dooming us as suffering a slow death is.

Retailers need sales. I know many MHC operators are struggling for occupancy. Some land lease communities struggle to fill homes and sites even with buy-here, pay-here and rent-to-own, etc. programs. The rest of the Industry that depends on these follows suit, as each is interlocked with the other.

HUD Code manufactured home chattel lenders must be able to profit, or they will pull out or die off. That is the heart of Al Cole's and Marty Lavin's theme. Without finance, how can a big ticket industry survive? Without working with each other (partnering, as Al Cole described it), we cannot turn the corner back to a sound business model and good industry health.

Customers must have a good experience. Customer and resident satisfaction must be the standard we live by.

We need positive changes.

We need leadership and action.

Then, when leadership is shown, it needs to be strongly supported.

Let's look for a moment at associations, especially state ones. Every association fills an important role, or arguably it would cease to exist. The state associations are where the local, state and federal legislators are often engaged. They are at the cross-roads for political action! They need your membership, involvement and support.

We also need Industry trade media. I noted on George Allen's blog this statement:

Gossip? Received this terse email message from 'a friend in the MHBusiness' earlier this week: 'With the proposed $35.00 charge (subscription) for The Journal, starting August 2011, is it too early to plan a wake? Sad.'

Turns out it's true. "You will continue to receive your copy of THE JOURNAL free until August 1, 2011. Thank you all for over 30 years in business. We look forward to serving you in the future." Jim Visser, Publisher.

Why is this news? Because, if there's no alteration to this announcement, the last of the 'free' advertiser-supported trade publications passes from the MHIndustry scene! As you'll likely recall, Community Management was the first to disappear, then a couple years ago, Modern Home and Systems Building magazines; and during Fall of 2009, the venerable Manufactured Home Merchandiser ceased publication, followed shortly thereafter by Don Carlsons Automated Builder magazine.

This should be troubling to every Industry professional. How can an industry exist without general purpose publications? There are specialty publishers such as Allen or Ken Rishel. But the only two 'general purpose' Industry publications today are The Journal and here at MHMSM.com.

Word has it that Mr. Carlson tried the paid subscription option at Automated Builder, and that failed. It would be worse than a shame if The Journal was similarly unable to make it work.

Let me take this opportunity to tip the hat towards this publication.

We should be grateful to the sponsors and staff of MHMSM.com. No one else covers this Industry as they do. I read other publications. Recently, I almost laughed as I noticed that an MHI news wire report carried stories reported on MHMSM.com in some cases weeks earlier. But there are times that MHI breaks a story, or some other publisher. The point is, we NEED resources for industry information to properly understand our industry and what is going on within it.

So our Industry needs this MHMSM.com-style of online, electronic media that allows us to stay informed AND interact!

Some of the articles published by print, email or online publishers provide for no direct way to comment publicly.

Some know that there are publications which are essentially one advertorial after another.

So when a well-known publication presents a columnist that routinely makes outlandish statements disconnected from reality, there is nothing to do but toss the rag in the can. That said, every one of those publications has value. I would hate to see any more fold.

But without changes, without support, business and publishers in this industry will fold.

It seems to me that short-sighted policies have hurt us. Failure to address issues at their heart and failure to serve customers in a fashion that they appreciate has hurt us.

Too many just do not truly love or believe in this Industry.

Imagine if you were the head of a publicly trade firm that lost even 25% market share. Would you lose your job? In most cases, a near certainty. We can't say this long MH decline has happened to all businesses. Mainstream housing kept rolling along until just a few years ago, while HUD Code manufactured home builders kept sliding down. We've gone downhill for going on 13 years, a very unlucky number to us!

Marty Lavin and Al Cole remind us we can and should speak the facts. We can and should see what the facts tell us, how they can point us in a better direction.

  • As long as retailers and communities 'rape' a lender on every repo (pardon my French), we are telling lenders to be stupid or die.
  • Retailers and communities need to be in the business of helping a lender limit their losses.
  • Retailers and communities need to help home owners, too. We can't oversell or over charge, a point George Allen often makes, too.

I won't recap previous articles, but perhaps MHMSM.com will be kind enough to provide us with links to them at the end of this article.

The point is this. Dark messages from informed, candid people such as Marty Lavin and Al Cole may scare some. But they are doing the Industry a big favor.

Let's close on this note. Every crisis spells opportunity for those who are willing to adapt. For those willing to change, these dark messages can bring us new hope.

Editor's Note: Links to the Lavin and Cole articles are given throughout the above text.

###

Michael F.B. Barnabas is a pen name. The inspiration came from columnist M.H. Ronin in George Allen's newsletter. Posted comments, for or against, are welcome. Suggestions on future articles can be sent to my email, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; more will come via future columns.

Daily Business News Briefs

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Judge says MH class-action lawsuit heading for trial

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Allegations of Flooded, Fixed, Flipped ‘Mobile Homes’ hit state, internatio…

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Freddie Mac’s new Manufactured Housing finance program orignated by Walker …

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Canadians Investing Large in U.S. Housing Markets

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Manufactured Home Community Rent Control on Public Meeting agenda

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“The Big One” Cyber Attack coming? Markets and MH Composite all slide

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Big banks are poised to earn even more, cyber security experts say the ‘Big One’ is coming and fears from the Ukraine were among the factors cited by MarketWatch  moving investors. The three major indexes all lost ground today. Dow 17,078.87 -43.14 (-0.25%). Nasdaq 4,557.70 -11.92 (-0.26%). S&P 500 1,996.76 -3.36 (-0.17%). Yahoo! ...

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New York Times reports Long Island “Mobile Home Park” resales command $1 Mi…

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Featured Articles and Reports - August 2014 Vol. 5 No. 11

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by L. A. “Tony” Kovach American companies spend 2 billion a year on training. So why don't more manufactured and modular home (MH) retailers and communities invest properly in sales training? Read more

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SALES

Upcoming Events

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MHLIVINGNEWS.COM FEATURED HOME OF THE WEEK

Classifieds

Press Releases

RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inducts the Cl…

RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inducts the Class of 2014 into RV/MH Hall of Fame

(Back row l-r) Thomas "Tom" L. Kern, Style Crest Enterprises; Ed Evans, EPM; Gary McDaniel, YES! Communities ; Richard "Dick" King, King Insurance (second row row l-r) Barry Cole, Manufactured Housing Insurance Services; Bob Livingston, Good Sam; John D Roba, Roba and Associates (front row l-r) Mrs. James F Shields. accepting on behalf of her husband,James F Shields (deceased), Pan Pacific RV Centers; Debbie Brunoforte, Little Dealer, Little Prices and Peter B Orthwein, Thor Industries. ELKHART, Ind., August 5. 2014 -- The Class of 2014 was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame (Hall) last night in Elkhart, Indiana, in a gala ceremony before a record breaking crowd of more than 440 family members, friends, and colleagues from across the country. The Class of 2014 includes: Debbie Brunoforte, Little Dealer, Little Prices;...

the MHMSM Team 05 Aug 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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Steve Lefler - Modular Lifestyles and Ne…

Steve Lefler - Modular Lifestyles and Newport Pacific – Successfully Gaining Acceptance for Super Energy Saving, Green Manufactured Homes

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the MHMSM Team 01 Aug 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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Sun Communities, Inc. to Acquire America…

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the MHMSM Team 31 Jul 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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Mountainside Financial launches Dodd-Fra…

Mountainside Financial launches Dodd-Frank compliant non-MLO, MLO SUN Manufactured/Mobile Home Direct Loans and Refinancing

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the MHMSM Team 08 Jul 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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Call for Nominations for the RV/MH Hall …

Call for Nominations for the RV/MH Hall of Fame Class of 2015

ELKHART, Ind., -- The RV/MH Hall of Fame Selection Committee has issued a call for nominations for the Class of 2015. Darryl Searer, Hall president, said, "The Hall welcomes nominations from all RV and manufactured housing sectors -- manufacturers, dealers, campgrounds, housing communities, suppliers, user groups, trade media, associations, etc -- for the class of 2015 and beyond. "The nomination guidelines and forms available online atwww.rvmhhalloffame.org/pages/nominations.cfm." According to the guidelines, anyone can nominate a person to the Hall of Fame that meets the eligibility requirements. The only people who may not be considered are those who currently serve on the Hall's Selection Committee. To be eligible the nominee must be, or have been, an active participant in any segment of the recreation vehicle, campground or manufactured housing industries for a minimum of 25 years....

the MHMSM Team 08 Jul 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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Southwest Region Manufactured Home Commu…

Southwest Region Manufactured Home Communities Showing Rent and Occupancy Growth, Outpacing National Average, According to JLT & Associates’ 14-Year Market Summary Report

Grand Rapids, Michigan – JLT & Associates (JLT), the nation’s #1 market research company for the manufactured housing industry, today announced a 14-year summary report of its manufactured home community rent surveys for 6 Southwest markets. Recognized as the industry standard for manufactured home community market analysis for over 20 years, JLT Rent Surveys provide detailed research and information on communities located in 72 markets throughout the United States, including the latest rent trends and statistics, marketing programs and a variety of other useful management insights. The most recent JLT Rent Surveys for the Southwest region cover 261 manufactured home communities encompassing 69,728 homesites in Albuquerque, Greater Kansas City, Greater Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson and Salt Lake City. This summary report is based on rent and occupancy trends from 2000 to 2014. Findings...

the MHMSM Team 01 Jul 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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