Reminiscing: ‘What Can Happen to One During Nearly 50 Years in this Business
Blog # 453; Copyright @ 2 July 2017; at community-investor.com/blog
Perspective: ‘Land lease communities’, previously manufactured home communities, & ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.
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INTRODUCTION: The next three months promise to be the most exciting ones of all 2017! On 7 August, at RV/MH Hall of Fame, in Elkhart, IN., these two events will occur:
• MHAlive! Think Tank, 9-11AM. Letters, including two pages of preliminary MH & LLCommunity issues and matters, have been sent to the dozen individuals committed to attend. If you’d like to be included in the max of 25 expected that morning, phone (317) 346-7156 or via firstname.lastname@example.org Yes, both national advocates have been invited; now awaiting their answer. Copies of the finished product will be sent to them after the MHAlive! Think Tank session.
• RV/MH Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, 5:30-9:00PM. Hope you plan to be present to fete 10 RV & MH industry pioneers and leaders; including Michael Sullivan, CPM from CA; Spencer Roane, MHM from GA; Christine Lindsey, MHM from TN; and David Gorin from VA. For more information and to register, phone (574) 293-2344. Record attendance expected at this year’s event! Don’t miss it!
And then comes the…
• 26th annual Networking Roundtable, 6-8 September, in Indianapolis, IN., at The Alexander Hotel. See attached brochure for agenda. Some very special features this year, but you’ll have to be present to experience them! For info, phone (317) 346-7156. And there are still some sponsorship opportunities available. Did you know? Top notch sponsors have their names and contact information highlighted in the annual ALLEN REPORT? That’s ‘free advertising’ all year long!
Now that’s probably the longest INTRODUCTION to any blog posting I’ve penned to date (nearly 500 of them!). Here the ‘fun begins’, as I share a few of my most memorable experiences as a property manager, land lease community owner, author, and management consultant, during the past nearly 50 years! And if you like them enough, and tell me so, I’ll pen a few more for you next week. Tell me via email@example.com
What Can Happen to One During Nearly 50 Years in this Business
A couple weeks ago, in a weekly blog posting (#451) here at community-investor.com, I announced a new book I’m authoring, for planned ‘free’ distribution to attendees at the 26th annual Networking Roundtable in Indianapolis, IN., 6-8 September 2017. Titled SWAN SONG, and subtitled: ‘George Allen’s History of the Land Lease Community Real Estate Asset Class, 1970-2017 & Manufactured Housing Shipments, 1955-2017’, this project tapped ‘big time’ into memories and instances of ‘unintended consequences’.
How so? Well, as I researched personal and corporate historical material, decade by decade, I kept bumping into, and reminiscing about, really unusual property management encounters and ‘one of a kind’ consulting assignments, relative to our shared experience with land lease communities . Now, some of these tales will likely wind up in the aforementioned book, but most will not. So, thought I’d take a few minutes to titillate you with a few of the stories, in abbreviated fashion:
• An early experience, circa 1978, had to do with an on-site manager who, when evicting (a.k.a. ‘bagging out’) a tenant from a rental (then) mobile home, found his bathtub filled with water and a school of large catfish swimming around inside. Next to the tub was a baseball bat. Conclusion? Hungry tenant sprinkled bread crumbs atop the water, stunned a surfacing catfish, then filleted and fried it for dinner. I have the photograph to prove it!
• Two years later I worked briefly, for a novice-but-claimed-to-be experienced realty investor, who put $1,000,000.00 cash in escrow, to buy four (then) mobile home parks. The deal failed shortly thereafter; he left town, and a decade later, murdered several attorneys in downtown San Francisco before committing suicide. Why? Believed ‘everyone’ had betrayed him during the past ten years, and this was his revenge. I was on his ‘hit list’, along with several other manufactured housing notables, including a future REIT CEO.
• Within days after Hurricane Andrew, during early 1990s, I was hired, by a property portfolio owner, to visit his destroyed Florida manufactured home communities in Homestead. Enroute, all interstate road signs and light poles were gone, and exit names had been spray-painted on off-ramp road surfaces by national guard soldiers. Singlesection manufactured homes had been storm-rolled against a perimeter fences and were often stacked three high. Even concrete block motels had their roofs blown off completely. And 18 inch diameter, tall pine trees were denuded of all their limbs, large and small. Have the photos!
• Mystery Shopping assignments always spelled adventure! One time, in Denver, I encountered a late model Mercedes Benz ‘up on blocks’ and without tires, in a manufactured home community. When I told the property owner, he replied: “Oh, that shows how we cater to a higher class of homeowners!” Or the time I walked into an Information Center, only to see the manager I’d been hired, a year earlier, to remove from another land lease community! He recognized me swell, but didn’t harbor any hard feelings. Whew!
• How’d that firing occur? A Chicago-based owner hired me to remove this manager, who’d threatened him, out of his Indianapolis manufactured home community. Now, this was an effective but gruff manager, so I found him a like property management position in Illinois; sent him for an interview, and he was hired. And I collected my ‘removal’ consulting fee. A ‘triple win’ for all!
• One New England owner believed it more effective to leave street potholes in place throughout his land lease community, than to install speed bumps. When I challenged him about the matter, his response was: “You don’t see anyone speeding in here do you?” No.
• And then there was our (business partners & me) first (then) manufactured home community purchase, back in the early 1980s. We paid $400,000.00 cash for a foreclosed 500 rental homesite Midwest property, with only 100 rent-paying homeowners in place. Two years later, now with 200 homeowner/site lessees in place (i.e. 40% occupancy), we sold it begrudgingly (Because we had no desire to sell yet), to a California investor who had become ’emotionally attached’ to our property. The Dr. agreed to pay us what it’d be worth at 100% occupancy, at current rent, and 40% operating expense ratio! So, sale price was $2 1/2 million dollars! When we acquired that property two years earlier, at ‘closing’ the seller (bank) threw in (gave us) 35 acres of nearby farmland, on which the property’s wellhead sat, because their staff had neglected to include it the property description – and we didn’t have any additional funds. Soon afterwards, we hooked up to nearby city water, and sold the farmland for $200,000.00+/-.
• Our second acquisition was almost as unusual, if not lucrative. Bought a 135 rental homesite Illinois community, with only ten homes paying rent, for $135,000. (With $10,000 down payment, and an interest only mortgage for 12 months). Three years earlier, the land lease community had been 100% occupied – until the sole major employer closed their local factory, ’emptying the property’ of tenants. I filled 100+ potholes with asphalt patch that first summer, and enlisted homeowner/site lessees to recruit new move-ins (family, friends, & co-workers). Together, we took the property to 75% occupancy, before raising rent for the first time, several years later.
• Then there was the first book I wrote and self-published back in 1988: Mobile Home Park Management. No traditional publisher would touch it for the subject matter. But thanks to guidance in Dan Poynter’s Self-publishing Manual, and John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, we presold the entire first print run before I drove to Ohio to pick up the books from the printer/binder! And the rest is history. Eight editions later, it’s now Land Lease Community Management, and the basic text for the Manufactured Housing Manager (‘MHM’) certification program. Publishing Rule of thumb worth remembering? Traditional publishers pay 25%+/- royalties to a writer or co-authors, while self-publishers pockets 100% of their royalties (i.e. net profit), but are responsible for 100% of book marketing and sales! Not a casual task. Now you know….
Oh there’s so much more I’d like to share with you, but this will have to do for now.
Like the time Carolyn and I were accosted by a motorcycle gang as we Mystery Shopped the community in which they lived. Or the time we were identified as ‘shoppers’ simply because the manager saw me walk around and open the passenger door for my wife. And on and on…Maybe in another blog posting – if you ask.
George Allen, CPM & MHM
COBA7, a division of GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247