Of What are WE Afraid & Unafraid?

‘Of What Are WE Afraid & Unafraid?’

Mystery Shopping, Dodd – Frank Fallout, Future of HUD Code Housing, & More


Mystery Shopping. Landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners/operators, portfolio ‘players’ and sole proprietors alike, rarely have their valuable income – producing properties professionally ‘shopped’. Why?

It’s been said of Mickey Mantle, and now a world famous golfer, known for their perennial leg injuries, ‘They’re billion dollar talent on dime store legs.’ Same metaphor appears to apply to most properties in the LLCommunity realty asset class! We routinely put multimillion dollar investments into the hands of oft untrained; rarely certified; frequently underpaid; and loosely – if – that, job performance evaluated (By independent, third party Mystery Shoppers with no personal or job security axe to grind) on – site management and sales staff! Think I exaggerate? Ask yourself, if a community owner: ‘When did we last train and certify (e.g. ACM or MHM designations) our managers, as well as home sales staff (e.g. PHC designation), and have the property and or sales centers professionally ‘mystery shopped’? Your answer disturb you enough to right those wrongs?

What’s it cost to do so? Between $500 and $1,000 per property for a comprehensive evaluation and written report, effected by a capable, experienced, motivated Mystery Shopper (or firm) who ‘visits’ the subject property(ies) by telephone; via the internet – if there’s a dedicated website; and, in person, to conduct anonymous, unscheduled ‘interviews’ with appropriate staffers, after touring the property documenting (photographing) marketing, resident relations, curb appeal, and rules/regulation shortfalls.

Why isn’t Mystery Shopping the job performance evaluation as routine for the LLCommunity asset class as it is for the conventional apartment property type, and builders/developers of site – built housing? In a word, ‘professionalism’, or lack thereof. Within the apartment management, and housing sales disciplines, it’s commonplace to regularly measure, and accordingly adjust, off and on – site marketing measure effectiveness (e.g. Does your staff keep a record of incoming telephone inquiries & visits to the property? More important, are these tallies studied weekly and used?) , as well as OJT performance of leasing and sales teams. In my opinion, there’re additional nefarious, not – so – obvious reasons to ‘not shop’. In the first instance, regional and executive property managers frequently ‘fear’ having their assigned properties ‘shopped’, because results, first time around, are rarely ‘pretty’. In fact, they’re downright awful. All sorts of ‘problems’ with marketing – or, as it turns out, lack thereof; obvious symptoms of sour resident relations, lousy curb appeal (unforgivable), even selective enforcement of rules/regulations becomes glaringly evident. And guess whose fault that is? So, we’re talking job security here, and not just for the on – site sales and leasing staff. Another reason? Frankly, it’s downright difficult to find Mystery Shoppers who know and understand the basics, let alone nuances, of LLCommunity property management and new/resale home sales, even finance. And guess what? That’s not going to change anytime soon, if the major property portfolio folk don’t ‘get on the stick’ and have every one of their income – producing properties professionally ‘shopped’ at least annually – preferably, several months before their local housing market’s leasing and sales season begins.

What to do? Hire a professional Mystery Shopper to visit and evaluate your properties! Contact MHI/NCC and request they address this performance evaluation void at a future meeting. See if the National Apartment Association has a list of Mystery Shoppers who might be comfortable learning the LLCommunity business. Maybe even hire and train your own in – house ‘shopper’. Better yet, talk to Michael or Tim in Florida, Candy in California, Curtis in Texas, Greg in Oregon, John in Chicago, ‘Mac’ or me in Indiana. Need contact information? Let me know via (317) 346-7156.


Dodd – Frank Fallout. Geesh! This bill isn’t even law yet, and finance – related businesses are closing, simply to avoid having to put up with the more onerous of its’ proposed/planned regulations. Already, ‘former employees’, perhaps even potential borrowers, are paying the price for what, to many of us, appears to be excessive regulatory reach into the financial sector. Here’s the plaint of one blog flogger (i.e. reader) writing to us this past week…

‘Dodd – Frank forced us to close our mortgage company in ___________ , and lay off several employees. Reason? Our capitalization with _______________(a major bank) as our JV partner, was slightly in excess of $1,000,000. We were not a broker, but a direct lender, using the bank’s money. Under Dodd – Frank, unless you have a ten million dollar capitalization, you get classified as a broker. And as a broker, you have additional disclosures, the required language of which pretty much scares your customers away to a direct lender. So, we are out of business. Multiply that many times, in every community in America. An apt example of ‘the law of unintended consequences’, as well as job and prosperity killing legislation!’ (lightly edited. GFA)

Remember last week’s blog expose’, describing how the Dodd – Frank bill is maybe the ‘final nail in the coffin of chattel finance’, where manufactured housing is concerned? Whereas the necessity of added fees, will necessitate a minimum manufactured housing loan of $78,000.00., to simply ensure the return of basic and added fees to a chattel lender. And outside certain high – priced local housing markets, how many times do we see manufactured home loans, especially on resale homes, in excess of $78,000.00?


Speaking of the future of HUD Code manufactured housing. During discussions this past week, attempting to match FEMA’s recurring need for emergency shelter for disaster and storm victims, with manufactured housing in general and Community Series Homes (‘CSH’) in particular; with, tens of thousands of vacant rental homesites in landlease (nee manufactured home) communities, across the U.S., the following paragraph popped up, summarizing one of the unfortunate stalemates that continues to stymie our industry/asset class in Washington, DC.

‘As long as HUD continues to consider the MHIndustry as being in the ‘trailer business’, by dint of their relating to us in terms of the 37 year old HUD Code, we ARE temporary housing – as defined and required by FEMA, towed to installation sites on a steel chasis! However, when HUD finally and fully implements provisions of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 – now in bureaucratic limbo for 11 years, but designed to position ‘manufactured housing’ on par with site – built housing, we’ll likely loose the negative stereotype associated with temporary housing!’ GFA

There you have it in the proverbial nutshell. Guess the obvious question that begs answering is this: ‘What are our two national manufactured housing advocacy bodies, in Washington, DC., doing to see that MHIA@2000 is finally and fully implemented during 2011?’ What’s the above – referenced ‘FEMA, CSH, LLCommunity discussion’ all about? Again, look back at the Open Letter to the MHIndustry, in last week’s blog posting at this site. To participate, contact Spencer Roane via spencer@roane.com


Triple Anniversary, International Networking Roundtable. Last week’s blog posting titillated you with a smorgasbord of timely, cutting edge topics scheduled for this year’s annual Roundtable event, 14 – 16 September at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa on the western outskirts of San Antonio, TX. This time around? Let me ask you: ‘Where else, during 2011, even 2012, will MHIndustry aficionados and LLCommunity owners/operators, hear the likes of Joe Stegmayer (Cavco Industries & MHI chairman), David Lentz (American Land Lease), Joe Adams (Housing Marketplace), Lisa Brechtel (MHI’s NCC exec.), Spencer Roane (Pentagon Properties), Don Westphal (LLCommunity rehab specialist), David Gorin (RV guru), Earl King (underground leak detector), Suzanne Felber, Lifestylist®, Ed Hicks, Donna Rishel, Greg Harmon, Stephen Wheeler, Pat Ford, Jack Johnson, Mike Bowen, Dr. David Funk, Jeff Mishkin, Susan McCarty, and your truly? Answer: Nowhere else! And don’t forget, we’re celebrating three anniversaries this year: MHI’s 75th, Roundtable’s 20th, & NCC’s 15th! Be there! After last week’s blog posting, we received a dozen requests to receive invitations to the Roundtable. How ‘bout you? Are you on the short list? Be sure; call the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156.


Manufactured Housing Manager professional property management training and certification class scheduled! At the request of many of you reading this weekly blog posting, we’ve scheduled the popular one day MHM class, to be hosted by the New York Housing Association, on 20 July 2011. Interested? Contact Nancy Geer via (800) 721-HOME or (518) 867-3242 to register and obtain local hotel information. Retirement Estates of Big Flats, in Horseheads, New York, is the host LLCommunity where this superb educational event will be held, from 8AM thru 4PM. Cost? Only $250.00 per MHM candidate. For this, you receive a copy of the asset class classic, Landlease Community Management, a monograph of contemporary MHIndustry ‘readings’, gold MHM pin and MHM Certificate! To date, nearly 1,000 MHMs own/operate LLCommunities throughout North America. And this is the only professional property management certification class taught in the U.S. by a LLCommunity owner, & Certified Property Manager®Emeritus, of the prestigious Institute of Real Estate Management®.

Ask your state MHAssociation exec or governing board, to schedule the one day MHM professional property management training and certification class in your state! When a class contains more than ten MHM candidates, the association is rebated $50.00 per student; so, with a class of 25 (max size), that’s a potential of $1,250.00 income for the association. And if the class is held on – site, like the one in New York, other than promotional mailings, there’s little cost to the state MHAssociation. Phone (317) 346-7156 for details.


Still looking! At one time or another, we’ve all heard about, seen, bought, even used weather radios, smoke alarms, burglar alarms, radon detectors, and on and on. Well, several years ago, when weather radios were all the rage at MHI meetings, I opined the perfect, needed device, for voluntary installation and use inside HUD Code manufactured and modular homes, as well as in site – built homes, is a hardwired – with battery backup, electronic device that ‘triples’ as a weather (tornado alert) radio, smoke alarm, and intrusion device! Well, guess what? Still waiting for such a multipurpose device to appear on the national housing market. Anyone out there, reading this blog, have a line on such equipment? If so, please let me know. Why? A national market awaits! Call MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764.


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 Carlson’s Automated Builder magazine.

If you’re an Allen Letter professional journal subscriber (as most readers of this weekly blog posting are); you know, from the ‘2nd annual Official Manufactured Housing Resource for Print & On – line Media, plus Social Networking Web Sites’ directory, enclosed with May’s issue, that The Journal, the Allen Letter professional journal, and the Allen CONFIDENTIAL!, after 1 August will be the three remaining, subscriber – supported, national print trade publications, supplemented by five online newsletters and ezines, including this weekly blog posting. For a free copy of the above – referenced directory, call (317) 346-7156; and while you’re at it, if not already a subscriber to the Allen Letter professional journal, do so @ $134.95/year. The ‘Do – it yourself Guide to Social Media’, featured in the directory is incomparable, and was prepared by Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber or The Home Idea Factory.


George Allen, CPM®Emeritus & MHM®Founder
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024, Indpls, IN. 46247 (317) 346-7156.

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