Two of MHIndustry’s ‘black eye’ Images!
COBA7® via community-investor.com Blog # 329 Copyright @ 28 December 2014
Perspective. ‘Land-lease-lifestyle communities, a.k.a. manufactured home communities and ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’
This blog posting is the primary national advocacy voice, official ombudsman, research reporter, & online communication media for all LLLCommunities in North America!
To input this blog &/or affiliate with Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, a.k.a. COBA7®, use Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764
Introductions to this week’s COBA7® blog posting at community-investor.com website:
With every other investment or commercial realty class, one not trained & certified within that income-producing property type is not a professional property manager! Among land-lease-lifestyle (a.k.a. manufactured home) communities, we routinely entrust multimillion dollar operations to minimally trained & non-certified individuals
Tired of being told what you should believe about manufactured housing and or LLLCommunities and related issues and trends? Then encourage those who publish the few remaining print and online trade tabloids, ezines, newsletters and blogs, to ‘journal up’ and provide more facts and less opinion within their pages. Then we all benefit!
One of Manufactured Housing’s Correctible ‘Black Eye’ Image Indicators
Lack of Professional Property Management Training/Certification
First the numbers. It’s estimated there are 50,000+/- land-lease-lifestyle communities (a.k.a. manufactured home communities), of all sizes, located throughout the U.S. Among those 50 thousand unique, income-producing properties, one is lucky to find 153 Certified Property Manager® members of the prestigious Institute of Real Estate Management®, shouldering regional, executive, and asset management level positions with one or another of the 500+/- known property portfolio owners/operators in North America – or an income-producing property owner in their own right. That’s just one CPM® for every 327 LLLCommunities, or three per each of the 49 states where this type investment property is located. IREM® has 8,469 CPM® members @ 12/23/2014. *1
The ‘numbers’ are only slightly better for Manufactured Housing Managers® trained and certified by GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing since designating its’ first MHM® on 5 June 2001. To date, nearly 1,000 MHM®s have been certified! That brings the ‘# of MHM®s per property’ to about one per every 50 LLLCommunities in the U.S. and Canada, still way below our sister property type, conventional apartment communities. There we find the National Apartment Association® training and designating Certified Apartment Manager®s or CAM®s (I was one in 1978). And IREM® has its’ Accredited Residential Manager® or ARM program, also long in place. Few CAM®s & ARM®s, however, are the LLLCommunity business.
And finally, the Manufactured Housing Institute’s, Manufactured Housing Educational Institute, home of the Accredited Community Manager® designation, has certified approximately 200 ACM®s; though hundreds, if not thousands, of LLLCommunity managers have taken one or more of the three requisite levels of training – but failed to qualify for full accreditation. The first ACM® class was held in New Jersey on 30 May 1991, 23 years ago.
So, where does this leave us? Right where we are today, an industry and realty asset class: seriously deficient in an area that, given sufficient training, experience, and recognition, could go a long long way to improving the overall (negative) image of LLLCommunity ownership and management. Right now, for all practical purposes, we do NOT train and certify on-site managers to whom we entrust multi-million dollar income-producing investment properties (e.g.100 rental homesites X $25,000/site value = $2 1/2 million dollars). So, shame on us when well-meaning (untrained) individuals make serious mistakes, cripple their operation, and or mismarket housing product and rental homesites. And where, and from whom, are they to learn about curb appeal, resident relations, and other good business model practices? No wonder we have public image challenges in local housing market after local housing market!
Hence, the ‘big deal’ about professional property management training and certification! Here’re major ways such programs could (should be) helping the manufactured housing industry and its’ investment real estate component, the LLLCommunity:
• Knowledge. Nothing wrong with OJT (‘on the job training’), as far as it goes. But therein lies the shortfall. In many, if not most cases, new on-site property managers replace failed ones, or walk into a position vacancy, with little to no support. Who’s ‘to train’ and assist? A regional VP or PM, or property owner (also likely untrained and certainly not certified) next time they’re in the area, whenever that might be? Only a few of the largest of portfolio firms have crafted in-house training programs (e.g. ‘MHCollege’), some via periodic group training, others via webinars, and some using SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures manuals). So, where does one turn, to truly learn ‘basic PM principles & practices’? IREM®, MHEI, & COBA7®
• Experience. Once professional property management training programs are in place, over time, PM knowledge and on the job experience become valuable and transportable. Yes, that latter part can be a two-edged sword at times; but would you rather have access to – and properly reward, ‘capable, experienced, motivated PMs’, or continue to fish in employment ponds populated by catches of questionable value for your operation? Hopefully the former. At the very least, CPM®, ACM®, & MHM® certification designees demonstrate ‘sticktuitiveness’ as property managers, individuals who’ve taken the time and made the effort, via training and OJT, to learn the LLLCommunity business.
• Attitude & Motivation. It’s the rare PM who is self-motivated enough to craft their own education regimen and truly learn from experiences on-site. However, PMs with professional property management training and certification under their belt, ‘know they’re special’, and generally bring heightened motivation to such positions in LLLCommunities and portfolio oversight.
Taken together, the Success Triangle of Knowledge, Experience & Attitude plays well in the field of professional property management. And it’s much the same scenario, where one finds individuals working in bookkeeping as clerks, with the better, motivated ones, training and becoming certified, via knowledge, experience, and attitude, as Certified Public Accountant®s or CPA®s. Who advises you on corporate tax matters and personal wealth preservation? A clerk or CPA®; a self-proclaimed money manager or Certified Financial Planner®, a.k.a. CFP®? Get the point?
With that said, where and how are YOU going to have your property managers trained and certified, maybe including yourself? Depends on what level and degree of PM training is needed or desired. Also whether one’s property or property holdings are extensive enough to afford the training costs involved leading to PM certification. Note. This latter point is why the MHM® program is limited to one day and only costs $250.00 per MHM®candidate.
In my opinion, the CPM® program offered by IREM®, as expensive and time consuming as it is, is the ‘graduate school’ level of professional property management. MHEI’s three course program for ACM®s, as difficult as it is to find the tri-levels of PM classes required for certification, is the manufactured housing industry’s ‘college course’ level program for professional PMs. And the one day MHM® training and certification program, for entry level managers and property owners, is now administered by the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance®, or COBA7®, a division of GFA Management, Inc.
For that matter, the one day MHM® program is already scheduled for 20 January 2015 in Louisville, KY., and 20 June in E. Peoria, IL. In addition to the one day classroom offerings for portfolio owners/operators and state MHAssociations (along with a profit sharing arrangement), the MHM® program is also available as a correspondence course for individuals. In all instances, the tuition fee is only $250.00 per MHM® candidate. No testing. And for the fee, MHM®s receive a copy of the classic text Landlease Community Management, a monograph of contemporary MHIndustry ‘readings’, and gold MHM® pin and MHM® certificate. A class photo is taken and published in the Allen Letter professional journal. For more information, and to register for MHM® classes, simply phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. The MHM® class is the only PM certification program, among all three, to be taught by a veteran LLLCommunity owner/operator and CPM®Emeritus.
For more information (Ask for brochure), or to register for the MHM® class, phone the Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764. And if coming to Louisville, KY, for the 20 January class, plan to stay over for the annual MHShow on 21-23 January.
1. According to a recent study of its members by IREM®, “…the average CPM®…is 51 years old, with men comprising half of CPM® members, but with women comprising 62 percent of CPM® candidate members. In addition to IREM® coursework, 69 percent of CPM® members & 61 percent of CPM® candidates hold at least an undergraduate degree. CPM® members…typically hold executive or property manager/supervisor roles and supervise a staff of 44 employees. CPM® members…earn a median total compensation of $108,200., which includes a base salary for property management and additional real estate income from sales and leasing commissions.” Quoted from Journal of Property Management, July/August 2014, p.64.
Another Manufactured Housing
Correctible ‘Black eye’ Image Indicator
The Dearth (‘scarce supply’) of Trade Journalists in Print Today!
On the other hand, we have an abundance of quasi pundits (‘learned persons’), op/ed writers (‘opinion/editorial’), even would be muckrakers (Look it up…) published in print and online. What we lack are trained and disciplined trade journalists.*1 In this veteran industry observer’s opinion, the last professional writer to grace the manufactured housing scene with journalistic skill was Bruce Savage – in spite of his (past) apologist role as VP of communication & public affairs, at the Manufactured Housing Institute.*2
This dire shortage of writing talent and seasoned editorial presence on the national manufactured housing scene was driven home recently, when this blog column ‘broke stories’ describing HUD’s renewed interest in enforcing nearly decade old federal installation standards nationwide -and how the Frost Free Foundation might prove to be the industry’s ‘silver bullet’. Plus there was a story about HUD-Code home manufacturers ‘not yet’ reducing home shipment freight charges even though gasoline prices are now below $2.00/gallon (Yes, I know, diesel fuel prices are different).
Anyway, as hard as this blogger tried, both pieces read as op/ed pieces, rather than pure journalistic expose’ or rote. And though blog floggers (readers) responded with “Good follow-up on the FFF”, & “Nice ombudsman action on fuel charges, George.”, the matter got me to thinking, ‘Why are most manufactured housing-related news stories the way they are (slanted or spun), in today’s print and online press?’
For starters, few of our news stories ‘have juice’. This is the inherent, sometimes ill-defined quality of stories to command, or fail to excite, reader interest. It’s why the bromide ‘Bad news and sex sells newspapers!’ exists. So, given scarcity of titillation and excitement, MH ‘reporters’ oft defer to interpreting what hard news is ‘really about’ and what consequences, intended and otherwise, might be ahead. Plus, they’re rarely paid for their input, so it’s ‘too easy’ for personal agendas to taint ones’ stories.
Frankly, throughout the manufactured housing industry we have far too few trained practicing scribes. Think about it. There’re a half dozen individuals today who enjoy national reputations, all cultivated as writers-speakers-product/service vendors. Meaning, you know and ‘read’ them in their proprietary print or online publications, have heard them ‘hold forth’ at one or another national manufactured housing event, and likely buy or subscribe to their products or services. Then you have the nearly dozen individuals who, as one trade media publisher describes them, ‘Simply fill white space between ads’, and have been in place for so long, few read what they pen anymore. Or as media mogul Robert Murdoch famously puts it, “…base (your) decisions on information…from responsible reporting, not the gobbledygook of self-important pundits.” *3
So, manufactured housing news reporting is pretty much a journalistic wasteland. What can be done to change this environment, assuming it’s portrayed accurately, into an enlightened one, where we expect, receive, and enjoy solid news reporting from and about all segments of the manufactured housing industry?
For starters, ‘Get educated’! How many of our industry’s present day ‘writers’ are trained journalists? None, as far as I know, including myself. How to correct this shortfall? Check with local community colleges, various online courses, even local writing groups, to learn or relearn the basics of news reporting and editorial skills. For starters, visit poynter.org/training/online, & spj.org Something else that’d help, is for publishers to start paying writers for submitted material, then hold them to a higher standard than what’s possible when they’re writing for complementary ad space or less. Also get involved in one or more local writers’ groups and submit manuscripts for peer review.
The challenge for us engaged in news reporting and influencing (i.e. op/ed), we must work harder to separate our chaff from our wheat. For example; in my case, work harder to ensure the Allen Letter professional journal ‘reports MHIndustry & LLLCommunity business news’ faithfully, accurately, with minimum comment; same with the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! business newsletter – except there, ‘the news’ oft hasn’t happened yet…Then, attempt to reserve most op/ed commentary for this weekly blog posting at community-investor.com. Will I be successful doing so? Guess time will tell. In the meantime, let me know how we’re doing…And now, what will YOU do at your end, as a writer, a reader, editor and or publisher?
1. journalism: “…activity or job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television and radio” – and now online.
2. Read Bruce Savage’s The First 20 Years!, ‘An historical retrospective, tracing the birth and growth of national advocacy in behalf of LLLCommunities’, PMN Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. 2013.
3. Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty NEWSLETTER, Winter 2014, Vol. 24, # 1., p. 11