Washington Post Mobile Home Park Article


#1

In case you didn’t see this one:

Also mentions Frank.

Thought I would share here.


#2

It would be interesting if the journalists who write this stuff would bother to research the industry first. When the New York Times was going to write a similar article, we offered to let them come to Boot Camp and then agreed to let them live in one of our park-owned homes for a week. The writer, Gary Rivlin, ended up being a huge fan of the business model and called it the “greatest thing in affordable housing when the nation’s need for low-cost places to live has never been greater” https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/magazine/the-cold-hard-lessons-of-mobile-home-u.html
That was mostly due to the unparalleled happiness of our residents with the value of their housing choice. Gary did his research before writing a “slam” article on our industry, and he was honest enough to acknowledge that his initial impression was wrong.

Of course, that was back in 2014. Sadly, in today’s polarized media, writers don’t do any actual research on what they write about, preferring to go with the same worn-out narrative that appeals to what their reader base wants to hear. Anyone that has been in a YES community knows that they are great operators – among the nation’s best – and the claim that they are offering a deficient product is laughable. The writer had obviously never been in any of the communities in question, and was just regurgitating what some unhappy customers told them. YES has about 100,000 residents in their communities, yet the article was based on complaints of less than ten unhappy people, which represents .0001 of their customer base, The Post has roughly 400,000 customers (based on their current circulation numbers) and I’m pretty sure I could go out and find 40 that hate the paper. So what does that prove? Nothing. I would also add that the writer apparently didn’t understand that the bad looking homes with poor mowing in the photos are – based on the captions – owned by the folks who are complaining, and not the park owners. Aren’t these the same folks that are whining about being fined for being late on rent, not mowing and not keeping up their property? Would anyone not fine them based on what you can see in the photos alone? Is what you see in these photos fair to the neighbors or is YES right to demand they be better neighbors for the good of the general community? Can any rational person see this any other way?

It was also comical that they used my worn-out “chained to their booths” quote for this story (nearing a decade old). It is a basic fact that the cost of moving mobile homes tends to make about 98% of them stationary. This is a terrific feature of our business model: probably the steadiest revenue stream in all of real estate. If anyone bothered to listen to the recording of the transcript of the interview the “Waffle House” quote soundbyte originated from, they would find it came from me trying to explain to the writer the difference between steady revenue and risky revenue. I tried to give the writer a visual example of how basic business works (since they acknowledged that they needed help) and I explained that restaurants have the highest failure rate of any investment – since you never know if any customers will come in the door – but mobile home parks have the lowest loan default rate because we are like a “Waffle House where the customers are chained to the booths”. I’m in no way embarrassed by this now iconic quote as it’s 100% accurate as far as economics are concerned. Is what makes this quote shocking the use of “Waffle House” since they have pretty bad food? If that’s the problem you can simply substitute Lawry’s Prime Rib, because it doesn’t change the underlying business principle. Who would mind being stuck in the booth at Lawry’s? I certainly wouldn’t.

Of course, what I find really objectionable about this article is that it misses the entire point on park owners increasing rents and trying to maximize net income. And that’s simply the fact that unless rents go up substantially, you will see an avalanche of mobile home parks re-developed into apartments or other uses. It’s happening all over America. Why would anyone keep a prime piece of land a mobile home park at a national average $280 per month lot rent when apartments in the same markets average over $1,000 per month more? The answer: nobody would. Without higher rents, mobile home park residents become gradually homeless, as the wrecking ball brings new development. Additionally, without higher rents, no park owner would inject the large cap-x needed to maintain infrastructure in some properties. We are the only source of non-subsidized affordable housing in the U.S. yet, like Rodney Dangerfield, we never get any respect.


#3

Residents complaining about couches and other trash laying about the park??? So who does Peter Whoriskey think is the cause of that? The owners aren’t trucking in garbage to spite the tenants.

And the MHAction lady saying the loans should be going to help the tenants buy and run their own communities! You can’t make this up. But it’s the Washington Post so you can’t expect a real example of journalism there.


#4

They mention settling of the mobile home but it is the homeowner’s responsibility to re-level their home and no where does the article mention that! This type of article gives our industry a terrible reputation.