SECO19 Important Industry Updates and Takeaways
The 2019 SECO conference provided a wealth of industry knowledge to its 450 attendees. To kick off this year’s event, there were a number of seminars to help educate attendees by addressing questions that many new community owners encounter during initial ownership. Subsequent days offered in-depth information about financing options, rehabbing communities and overall park operation.
SECO19 Presenters and Highlights
Day 1: Educational Seminars
SECO19, the symposium for Southeast Community Owners, began October 8 with a number of educational seminars, the first of those being “Everything Newbies Want to Know, But Are Afraid to Ask”. The seminar honed in on some key issues that attendees new to the industry had questions about such as brokerage, rehabilitating older parks, and purchasing new homes for a recently acquired park.
Other informational seminars included presentations on how to get the most out of social media and digital marketing, tax-efficient business structures and community planning.
These seminars are unique to SECO, and created with the intention of providing valuable information to new community owners and operators. SECO exhibitors and industry professionals addressed queries based on experience and knowledge to improve “newbie” processes and success rates.
Day 2: Community Planning, Rehabs, and Marketing
Presentations on the second day of SECO19 involved many industry veterans, like Don Westphal and Darren Krolewski. Attendees were actively involved in panel discussions throughout the day, and questions were encouraged.
Westphal kicked-off the day with commentary on industry history, including his own career which spans over 56 years. He proceeded to engage the audience with a discussion around comparative pricing, community planning, and design.
On consultancy, Westphal described his experience while planning and zoning Memphis Mobile City which required that the 100-year floodplain elevation be raised.
Regarding this setback, he explained that “Success stories are based on finding a site without a lot of negatives and doing your homework.”
Midday, Jon Harrison of Inspire Communities took the stage with an insightful presentation on rehabilitating older mobile home communities. He aided in the renovation of Coweta Mobile Home Park and provided extensive details about unexpected costs, regulations and what to expect when you update a manufactured housing community.
With work, Harrison and the team were able to install new custom units with porches and gourmet kitchens. The renovation also includes ample parking space and large than usual master suites.
The combined efforts produced a beautiful, owner-occupied community for residents of the Atlanta suburb.
After lunch, and an address on the state of the industry by George Allen, attendees had the opportunity to hear from Darren Krolewski of MHVillage on marketing techniques for the independent community owner.
He advised community owners on the essentials for building a holistic marketing campaign, including informative signage, web presence, communication preferences and attaining maximum reach.
The remainder of the evening included opportunities to meet and visit exhibitors, a reception, and individual, roundtable discussions with the day’s speakers.
Day 3: Economic Considerations, Financing and Wrap-up
The final day’s events began with a presentation on “The Social and Economic Impacts of Bringing Old Communities Back to Life” by Frank Rolfe of MHU. He provided a detailed explanation of the challenges in revitalizing an older community and considerations for new buyers to be aware of.
Rolfe identified several things that new owners should take note of when assuming ownership of a community. He explained understanding your community’s pride-of-ownership, grandfathering, and rent control.
In order to keep tenants up-to-date on current initiatives, Rolfe implored listeners to educate residents on plans for change before updates begin, explaining to listeners that “Sometimes it helps if you tell people what the heck you’re doing.”
The remainder of the day’s events included a session with mini-TED talks, to address attendee-suggested topics in short form. Another discussion around chattel mobile home financing included a panel of experts, like Jerry Bretton, Scott MacFarlane, and Ron Roldan.
The team provided attendees with an extensive breakdown of financing dos and don’ts, and financers for prospective community owners wanting to expand their portfolio.
Bretton advised the audience that his organization, Credit Line says “Roughly 2-3 days to qualify (for financing), but the approval process can take up to 30 days.” He explained that total qualifying time could take slightly more than a month.
The final sessions included an operations discussion about park brokerage and available LLC options for community owners.
Margaret Ann Clark, an experienced community owner from Des Moines, Iowa, commented that “If you bring in a new and home, it’s new now but later it’s just cheap.”
As the week’s presentations came to a close, exhibitors and community owners exchanged contact information and well wishes. This year’s event was a perfect example of the networking required in the mobile home industry.
Attendees experienced the benefits of hearing from educated industry professionals who provided advice to those interested in joining the industry or expanding their book of business.