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At Least 8 Ways to Contact MHC Owners...
Sun 07/27/03 07:28:59 pm
by George Allen

When in Doubt, Check Him Out, the perennial best selling paperback by Joseph Culligan ($19.95 at bookstores), teaches single women how to effect financial, marital and legal background checks on their male friends. The book is also a key  resource for identifying manufactured home landlease communities in states without official ‘mobile home park’ lists (yes, that’s how the property type is still referenced by most state regulators). But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves….

           

There are at least eight ways to identify MHCommunities and connect with their respective owners/operators throughout the U.S. and Canada! But first; who generally wants this difficult to find information? Here’s a sampling of clients to whom we’ve ‘taught this drill’ over the years:

 

·        Would-be investors. In case you don’t know it, it’s been a solid sellers’ market out there for a long time; most recently since 1994, when MHCommunity national average physical occupancy hit 95%, and Wall Street ‘discovered’ the asset class as four firms went public with IPOs.*1  Today’s would-be investors include individuals or couples (i.e. ‘Mom & Pop investors) about to retire and desiring a semi passive investment, Young Wealth Builders (i.e. consolidators or portfolio accumulators) and just about anyone else enamored with what they read about the significant ROI potential and recession proof nature of this income property type, including refugees from Wall Street’s devaluation purgatory during 2001 & 2002.*2

·        Lenders & loan brokers with money to lend, mortgages to originate and underwrite for acquisition and refinance purposes. This general rule prevails: Need $1,000,000.00 or less? Look first to local lenders, partners, especially sellers willing to carry back the financing of a transaction. Need more than a million dollars? They’re more than 30 lenders out there who claim to specialize in MHCommunity financing! They’re profiled each Spring in an  annual National Lender’s Registry published in The Journal; ‘free reprint’ source cited at the end of this article.

 

·        Vendors of a wide variety of products & services likely of interest to MHCommunity owners/operators! Here’s a sampling of promotions from this past year alone: water & utility submetering equipment suppliers, along with specialized installation & billing services; property management software customized to the asset class; manufactured housing aftermarket suppliers of skirting, steps, awnings, replacement windows & doors; precast concrete storm shelters disguised as front porch/steps for manufactured homes; and, again, lenders offering acquisition and refinance mortgages.

 

·        Researchers attempting to learn more about manufactured home owners and the MHCommunity lifestyle, residents’ demographics and product preferences. Another bevy of researchers collects and publishes income property benchmark statistics of interest to would-be investors, present owners/operators, and Wall Street analysts and reporters. Contact PMN Publishing for access to this data, along with OER (operating expense ratio) and ‘cap rate’ data.*3

 

·        MHTrade associations recruiting new industry members, or with wares to sell, e.g. HOW TO books; standard forms; marketing aids; property management supplies; and lately, certification training (i.e. either the ACM or MHM designation, on the national level) for on site and regional property managers, and property owners.

 

Enough already! How does one connect with individual MHCommunity investors and property managers; portfolio owners/operators throughout North America? Well, let’s start with the easiest and most inefficient means: classified and display ads in the MHIndustry’s two commercial trade publications: The Journal and Manufactured Home Merchandiser (a.k.a. Merchandiser) magazines. Both pubs pretty much tap the same market segments @ 17,800 - 18,429 subscribers apiece, respectively. The Journal boasts the lowest CPM (i.e. advertising cost to reach 1,000 subscribers) @ $103.54; whereas the Merchandiser’s CPM is $157.36 to reach 1,000 subscribers. A third publication, Modern Home magazine, an in house organ of the Manufactured Housing Institute, has a CPM of $237.63. Either read the ads in these magazines to learn who ‘some of the players are’ or place ads in same, soliciting lists of properties for sale - if that’s what is being sought.*4

 

Then there’re commercially-marketed lists of MHCommunities! Just beware these are usually just compilations of names and addresses culled from telephone Yellow Pages from cities across the U.S. and Canada. How comprehensive are they? There are 50,000+/- MHCommunities throughout the U.S.; how many are included in the list(s) you’re considering? Usually just 12 - 18,000.  Another key factor: 85%+/- of the 50,000 MHCommunities (78-80%+/- in Florida & California) number fewer than 100 rental homesites apiece in size. So, you’re really looking for a national ‘property list’ containing between 10,000 - 40,000 entries. And don’t overlook the obvious! Collect telephone Yellow Pages directories from target cities and compile one’s own list of properties to contact.

           

The oldest, most comprehensive but frustrating sources of names/addresses for MHCommunities and their respective owners/operators are the dozen or so official ‘state lists’ available for a price. This property type is regulated on the state level in approximately a dozen states, most notably those in the Midwest, plus Florida and California. Here the challenge is to identify the appropriate state agency to contact; usually a department within the state board of health. Easiest way to find out, is to ask a MHCommunity owner/operator in the targeted state; or the MHAssociation executive director tasked with serving MHCommunities (in some states there’re two or more such MHAssociations….) In the latter instance; the state MHAssociation exec may well be a source for the ‘official state-generated list’, just be careful they don’t sell you an outdated edition. And while at it, ask if their MHCommunity membership roster is available free or to purchase. If so, be aware that only a small percentage of MHCommunities in a given state (i.e. 25%+/-) will be dues paying members of the state trade association…most  smaller ‘Mom & Pop’ properties can’t afford the dues, or are passive investments whose owners don’t see value in joining  unless there’s a pending legislative or rent control challenge. While you’re at it, join! MHAssociation membership is one of the best ways to get to know the potential customer base, if a vendor; and prospect for investment property opportunities, if in an acquisitions mode. For a list of most state MHAssociations, contact MHI @ (703)558-0400. Or contact the MHIndustry’s primary source for such directories (in this instance, all MHAssociations, including Canadian province MHTrade groups), listed at end of this article.

           

What to do in the majority of states sans formal lists of MHCommunities? Depends on your chutzpah and willingness ‘to work’ for the information! In the first instance, identify the state executive (i.e. ‘decision-maker’) heading some sort of Department of Economic Development  agency, and make a ‘presumptive request’ for such a property list from him/her. And follow-up until you get it…. In the second instance, buy a copy of When in Doubt, Check Him Out. One of the appendices in this book is a state-by-state list of all the county boards of health throughout the U.S.. In states without an ‘official list of MHCommunities’, begin contacting county boards of health for their lists of this property type.

           

The second best means of contacting portfolio owners/operators of MHCommunities is to join the National Communities Council of the Manufactured Housing Institute! In this instance, nearly 50 of the 500+ known portfolio owner/operators are direct dues-paying or state-representative members of this lobbying group successor to the Industry Steering Committee. For information, contact the telephone number cited earlier and ask to speak to Mike O’Brien. (703)558-0400

           

Another way for vendors of products and services to get their name in front of decision makers at most MHCommunities is to be listed in the Directory of Product & Service Vendors Servicing the Manufactured Home Community Industry! There are 50 or so categories of products & services of interest to property managers supervising this income property classification. For more information, use number listed at the end of this article. There are also directories of real estate brokers and lenders/brokers specializing in the asset class.

           

Being featured in the Allen Letter is yet another means of contacting MHCommunity owners/operators. Most portfolio investors subscribe to this monthly newsletter and expect, in part, for it to inform them of new products and services they should consider. While paid advertising isn’t accepted, Allen Letter subscribers are encouraged to submit press releases, Infomercials and lagniappes (i.e. ‘freebies’) for consideration and possible inclusion in future issues. For information, contact (317)888-7156.

           

Finally, there’s paid access to the Master List of MHCommunity Portfolio Owners/Operators. Just about everyone ‘in the business’ is familiar with the annual Allen Report (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among Major Portfolio Owners/Operators in North America!’). Well, the annual Allen Report - as well as other statistical gathering efforts, is based on information supplied by the 500+ portfolio owners/operators comprising the aforementioned Master List! To get ‘on the list’, an investing entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or REIT) and/or property management firm must own and/or fee-manage a minimum of five MHCommunities or 500 rental homesites in MHCommunities. On the average of one-to-two times each month, would-be investors, lenders, vendors and/or researchers  easily access these 500 owners/operators by direct mail! To learn how to do so, use contact number at the end of this article. Want  to meet and network with many of these portfolio owners/operators? Consider attending the annual International Networking Roundtable. Generally, one has to already own one or more MHCommunity to be invited. Contact PMN Publishing for details.

           

So there you have it, at least eight different but effective ways to identify and connect with most MHCommunity owners/managers throughout North America! Several present day REITs grew their portfolios using several of these methods during the mid-1990s. Young Wealth Builders still do, and several of the industry’s most successful lenders use the Master List method annually, to keep their institution’s name in front of portfolio folk who need acquisition and refinance capital on a regular basis.

           

How to learn more about cited MHDirectories and Master List avenue just described? Call (877)MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 (Your #  for all things manufactured housing!) Same number for PMN Publishing, and subscriptions to the Allen Letter and the Allen CONFIDENTIAL!           

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

1.  IPO = initial public offering (of stock)

 

2.  ROI = return on & of one’s investment

3.  OER = Operating Expense Ratio; ‘cap rate’ = income capitalization rate.

4. Trade magazine contact information: The Journal @ (800)869-0471; Merchandiser @ (312)236-3528; Modern Home (bimonthly) @ (866)677-3996.


George Allen, CPM. is a 20 year consultant to the MHindustry, He has managed, fee - managed and owned MHCommunities since 1978. he has written three books about the industry and his monthly columns are carried by every major MHindustry trade publication. He may be reached via Box #47024, Indianapolis, IN 4624 7 (317)888- 7156.

George Allen`s Web Site
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