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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

North Carolina County Suggests Removing MH Age Restriction

North Carolina County Suggests Removing MH Age Restriction

The Greene County Planning Board in North Carolina, after reconsidering the county’s manufactured home (MH) ordinance which restricts homes being brought into the county to no more than 15 years old, has removed the restriction and recommended the decision to the county commissioners. A North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in 2009...

02 Sep 2014

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Skyline Trades Down as Nasdaq Moves up Modestly; Dow and S&P Slip

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In today’s trading on Wall Street following the Labor Day holiday, the Dow and S&P slipped modestly, while the Nasdaq made a minor advance, and tracked stocks closed mixed. However, Skyline Corp. (SKY) dropped -9.17 percent to 3.17, a decline of -0.32 points in the largest fall of stocks we follow, while UMH Properties, Inc. […]...

02 Sep 2014

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Capital Square Realty Acquires three MHCs

Capital Square Realty Acquires three MHCs

MHProNews has been informed by virtual-strategy.com an affiliate of Capital Square Realty Advisors, LLC has acquired three manufactured housing communities consisting of 1,141 home sites in Indiana and Ohio. The largest community is Timberbrook in Bristol, Indiana with 567 homesites set on 103 acres. Woodlake-Summerdale, located in Yoder, IN is...

02 Sep 2014

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Work Stops on Massive Modular Housing Project in Big Apple; Ratner, Skanska…

Work Stops on Massive Modular Housing Project in Big Apple; Ratner, Skanska at Odds

Following a series of stories MHProNews  posted regarding the development of the 32-story, modular housing project by Forest City Ratner and construction partner Skanska intended for Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, work has come to a halt in a bitter dispute over tens of millions of dollars in cost overruns. Skanska idled 157 workers in the ...

02 Sep 2014

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Michigan MH Residents Prepare for Summer Storms

Michigan MH Residents Prepare for Summer Storms

The Michigan Manufactured Housing Association (MMHA) reminds occupants of system-built homes that potentially damaging summer wind and rain storms are at their peak and residents should ensure that roofs are in good condition and rainwater is directed away from the foundations. While manufactured homes (MH) are built to strict federal standards...

02 Sep 2014

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New Home Sales Fall Second Consecutive Month

New Home Sales Fall Second Consecutive Month

According to numbers released by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U. S. Census Bureau, sales of newly-built single-family homes dropped 2.4 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 412,000 units in July. Initially, according to the National Association of Home builders (NAHB), sales fell 8.1 percent in...

02 Sep 2014

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Modular Multifamily to Rise in Michigan

Modular Multifamily to Rise in Michigan

The Lansing (Mich.) City Council has approved plans for developer Harry Hepler to build 200 modular apartments on the city’s northside, as lansingstatejournal.com informs MHProNews. Summit Street Development LLC has received a conditional use permit to build housing on the property that is zoned heavy industrial. Mr. Hepler says Metro Flats...

02 Sep 2014

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Modular Workforce Housing Planned in Mississippi

Modular Workforce Housing Planned in Mississippi

The possibility of up to seven billion barrels of oil in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale formation in southwest Mississippi and central Louisiana has led the McComb (Miss.) Board of Selectmen to vote in favor of annexing 40 acres for the construction of a 535-unit modular workforce community. Shale Lodge will include a cafeteria, laundry and […]...

01 Sep 2014

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Hoarding along with dozens of cats found at home in MHC

Hoarding along with dozens of cats found at home in MHC

“Is there an unwritten rule that every third MHCommunity has someone who hoards and/or has a bunch of cats?” quipped manufactured home industry consultant and publisher, L. A. “Tony” Kovach. The comment flowed from the discovery of dozens of cats seized from the Niagara Mobile Home Park in Newfane, NY. “The stench coming from a […]...

01 Sep 2014

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Manufactured Housing’s Labor Day 2014

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Wikipedia says: “Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and […]...

01 Sep 2014

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William ‘Bill’ Steenberg, Award winning Steenberg Homes founder, Passage

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William “Bill” Steenberg died Sunday, August 24, 2014, in Ft. Myers Beach, Florida, after a short, courageous battle with cancer. His fiance Wendy was by his side when he passed away. Bill’s children, Julie, Shelly, and Jeffrey and his granddaughter, Miranda, visited a couple weeks earlier in Florida.  Bill founded and owned ...

01 Sep 2014

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Featured Articles and Reports - September 2014 Vol. 5 No. 12

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UnBranding - a Key to Unlocking the Door to more MH Sales?

UnBranding - a Key to Unlocking the Door to more MH Sales?

by L.A. "Tony" Kovach Years before Palm Harbor Homes went into bankruptcy and eventually ended up with Cavco Industries, Palm Harbor ran TV ads showing beautiful, “residential style” manufactured homes. Read more

MARKETING

“Should We Be a More Aggressive Breed?”

“Should We Be a More Aggressive Breed?”

by Nadeen Green, JD Many if not most manufactured housing folks truly make the effort to be compliant with the Fair Housing Act and are well aware of the need to... Read more

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Earthquakes & Other Disasters: Are you Prepared?

Earthquakes & Other Disasters: Are you Prepared?

by C. William Dahlin, JD  As reported by major media outlets, a 6.0 earthquake hit Northern California  in late August on a Sunday. Read more

COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT & FAIR HOUSING (LEGAL)

Pool and Spa Safety

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by Kathleen Bianculli While the end of summer is drawing near and pools in some areas will be closed for the season, in many areas of the country the pool never... Read more

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“How Sweet the Rose” - Senior Housing Communities - Advertising Do's and Do…

“How Sweet the Rose” - Senior Housing Communities - Advertising Do's and Don'ts

by Nadeen Green, JD While a rose may smell sweet no matter what it may be called, names are in fact labels. Using the wrong label when you market your senior... Read more

COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT & FAIR HOUSING (LEGAL)

A Breakthrough in Manufactured Home Loan Financing! Discover the One Step P…

A Breakthrough in Manufactured Home Loan Financing! Discover the One Step Program!

by Jerry Bretton In our previous report on SUN, we mentioned that Mountainside Financial has been making loans on manufactured and mobile homes for 14 years. Read more

FINANCING

Are HUD Practices Making Manufactured Homes Less Affordable?

Are HUD Practices Making Manufactured Homes Less Affordable?

by Ron D'Ambra Let's start by saying that, from a business perspective, MORE government involvement is not always viewed as a good thing. Read more

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3rd Annual Open Space Pace - September 20th, 2014 – Freehold New Jersey

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by Sam Landy Dear Friends, UMH Properties and Monmouth Real Estate Investment Corporation (MNR) sponsor The Open Space Pace at Freehold Raceway September 20, 2014. The event begins with a 10:00 am parade of... Read more

GENERAL MANUFACTURED HOUSING INDUSTRY TOPICS

A Cup of Coffee with… Sheila Dey

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GENERAL MANUFACTURED HOUSING INDUSTRY TOPICS

5 Reasons for MHPros to Attend the 2015 Louisville Manufactured Housing Sho…

5 Reasons for MHPros to Attend the 2015 Louisville Manufactured Housing Show

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The High Cost of Low Volume MH Sales for Retailers, Communities, Factories …

The High Cost of Low Volume MH Sales for Retailers, Communities, Factories and others

by L. A. “Tony' Kovach We will demonstrate that the cost of not selling more homes is always high.  Capital is tied up in your inventory, location, general overhead, personnel, marketing,... Read more

GENERAL MANUFACTURED HOUSING INDUSTRY TOPICS

Lead, manage or get out of the way

Lead, manage or get out of the way

by Tim Connor, CSP The world is changing at the speed of light. Everything is being touched by this accelerated pace of change. No person, entity, industry, profession, and no part... Read more

MANAGEMENT

Knowledge is Potential Power - 4 Steps and 91 words = Enhanced Manufacture…

Knowledge is Potential Power - 4 Steps and 91 words =  Enhanced Manufactured Housing  Professional Success Infographic

by L. A. “Tony” Kovach We'll share an infographic that explains in 4 easy steps how any MH Industry professional can learn more to earn more. Here is the infographic... Read more

MANAGEMENT

ZigOn Qualities of Success

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by Zig Ziglar Dr. William "Bill" Ross was truly one of a kind and was known for his sense of humor and his zest for life. He had exuberance for... Read more

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS, MOTIVATION and INSPIRATION

Four Ingredients for MH Sales Success

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by Tim Connor, CSP There are four significant areas when it comes to consistent high sales performance. They are: Self-image and self-esteem. Read more

SALES

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MHLIVINGNEWS.COM FEATURED HOME OF THE WEEK

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2015 Louisville Manufactured Housing Sho…

2015 Louisville Manufactured Housing Show is filling up fast and early!

Attendees, mark your calanders now, pre-registration will open on October 1, 2014. Exhibitors, Reserve your space now.  See download linked here.

the MHMSM Team 02 Sep 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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the MHMSM Team 05 Aug 2014 Corporate Press Releases

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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…

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