The Nation’s Most Veteran Manufactured Housing REIT Continues to Grow in Size and Sophistication. UMH Properties 50th Year Anniversary Celebration includes ‘#UMHStrong’ Training, Manager Meeting and Open Space Pace at Freehold Raceway
It’s evident early on at the annual UMH Properties meeting that the nation’s most seasoned manufactured housing REIT has what people these days call “a good culture”.
Nearly 150 employees flow into a Radisson banquet hall in Freehold, N.J. It’s 7 a.m., and the breakfast buffet is open before business begins.
UMH managers clamor in interchanging groups to greet each other and swap stories. It’s a gathering that occurs at least once a year. And it’s obvious that everyone knows each other, save a few newcomers including me.
There are a lot of hollered jokes, laughing, hugs and robust claps on the back.
Everyone is happy to be sharing the same space again. And isn’t that what it was called 50 years ago, when UMH formed? Before it was called “good culture”, it was “people who were happy to share the same space again”. This is one of the many celebration-worthy aspects of the UMH Properties 50th Year Anniversary of providing quality, affordable housing.
The New Guy at The Table
A few of the other newcomers took seats at the table where I sat alone, taking notes and snapping photos.
Jon Johnson and Roger Eubanks of Anderson, Ind., represent Red Bud Estates, an all-ages community with more than 600 home sites. It is one of two communities that are among the most recent in an ever-expanding portfolio.
The purchase of Red Bud Estates and nearby Camelot Village was made three months prior, accounting for UMH Properties’ 113th and 114th community in Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
“We have a really nice community,” said Eubanks, the sales manager for Red Bud and Camelot Village. “We’re getting a lot of new homes. We’ve had eight go in and there are more on the way. And we’re building a new sales center, which will be complete in the fall. It’s really going to be amazing.”
His colleague, Justine Paschal, is the community manager for Camelot Village. The transition to new ownership has been a lot of work, which is to be expected, she said. However, she and her residents are grateful the former property owners, Rubin and Margaret Stephenson, sold to an ownership group with vision.
“We have some ‘pre-HUD’ homes being replaced with new homes, mostly from Champion,” Paschal said. “UMH really does provide a lot of support for us, and allows us to do everything possible to provide a positive experience for our residents.”
Eugene Landy Entered the Manufactured Housing Industry in 1968
UMH Founder and Chairman Eugene Landy has 150 employees, special guests and VIPs in town for the annual meeting. Three generations of Landys have helped to pull the event together, and the company founder was excited to greet and see everyone. He also looked forward to a conversation with Joe Stegmayer, CEO of Cavco Industries, Inc., to talk about the future.
Everywhere you look, in every industry, Landy says, there has been astounding innovation.
“It’s very encouraging to me when I hear that Amazon is talking to this builder, and Google is talking to that builder,” he said. “I think when these people really get involved we’ll see some significant change. When you can find a good way to put even $1,500 worth of technology into a home, that will be the beginning of something new. It will be the beginning of a whole new housing market. We’ll have entertainment, security, communication and individualized climate control ready to go. That will be something.”
In addition, Eugene Landy is keen to talk about the possibility of designing a new kind of trans-Pacific ship specific for carrying homes to island nations and other far-flung and underserved locales.
On the UMH Founder
Gina Beasley, a UMH vice president, marvels at the board chairman’s energy and passion for the industry.
“He is such a wonderful man, and he has so much knowledge to share,” Beasley said of the UMH founder and chairman. “He came into the manufactured housing business in 1968, and still comes into the office every day.”
Today Eugene’s son Sam Landy is the president and CEO for UMH properties, and he’s hired and groomed much of the current UMH leadership.
Beasley herself started as a community manager, moved to regional manager and today is the company vice president.
“Sam really believes in his team. He told me I had everything he needed, and for someone to have that kind of confidence in you and provide support the way the Landys do, it’s worth more than anything.” Beasley said.
Holiday Village in Nashville, Tenn.
Claudia Edwards has spent more than 15 years with four companies in the manufactured housing industry. She has managed communities from Georgia to New York.
“I’ve never worked with a company like UMH,” said Edwards, who manages Holiday Village in Nashville, Tenn. “I enjoy every day I come in to the office, the people I work with and our residents.”
Built in 1963, Holiday Village is in the heart of Nashville, so close that the horizon is dotted with the Nashville skyline. UMH purchased the all-ages property with 267 homesites in 2013.
“When UMH closed on the property, they had a letter prepared for each of the residents. It was an introduction letter, a welcome letter to the UMH family. That meant the world to me, because I’d never seen anyone do that,” Edwards said. “Gina and I hand delivered every one of those letters directly to residents.
“At that time,” Edwards continued. “The previous owner hadn’t repaved a street in that community in 30 years. Now we’ve redone nearly all of our streets. The last one is getting done this year. We had the entire old galvanized water system pulled out and replaced. We put up a privacy fence and we spent more than $100,000 on trees alone. It’s really been an amazing transformation.”
“We’re really proud of our managers, and the team here has done a great job to get them the resources they need to be successful. I am very impressed by the training we are providing today.” – Sam Landy, President and CEO of UMH Properties.
#UMHStrong in its 50th Year in Business
UMH Properties has been in an assertive growth pattern since 2010. In that time, 88 properties have been added to the portfolio. Eight have been added in the last 12 months, UMH Vice President Brett Taft said.
And in the UMH Properties 50th Year Anniversary, there are no signs of slowing. Moreover, the company motto for its 51st year is #UMHStrong.
“We’re selling more homes than I’ve ever seen,” Taft said.
Three Objectives in UMH Properties 50th Year Anniversary
“We have three objectives,” Sam Landy told his team Friday morning. “High occupancy, high value and high efficiency. Those are the things we do every day.
“We’re great at the turnaround property. We’re great at upgrading that property, and when we look around the country there still are a lot of communities that need upgrades,” he said.
With a range of $750 to $1,800 per month on the high end, Sam Landy said UMH Properties is the housing rental solution for thousands of people.
“We provide an incredible product at an incredible price,” he said.
Employee Tenure and Retention at UMH Properties
Chris Lindsey, vice president of sales, has been with UMH for more than 30 years. Lindsey began her career as community manager in Memphis, Tennessee. Throughout her tenure with UMH, she has been promoted to regional manager, regional VP, and vice president of sales, a position she has held since 2005. In 2017, Lindsey had the prestigious honor of being inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.
“UMH has grown exponentially over the past several years,” Lindsey said. “And with this growth, UMH has maintained its culture of family. The Landys have done a tremendous job leading the company to greater heights, while creating a legacy that we are all proud of. I am very proud and thankful to be a part of such an amazing company.”
For Midge Brooks, the manager of Spreading Oaks in Ohio, the annual UMH managers’ meeting is more than a work trip, more than a training exercise.
“This is almost a family reunion for us. We’re one of the original 28 communities,” Brooks said of communities that were part of the portfolio before assertive acquisition began in 2010.
“It’s amazing to see how we’ve grown. Every year there are a few new people here that I make a point to go meet, to get to know, because they’re new to the family.”
UMH Properties Has Been in Strong Acquisition Mode Since 2010
Jason Farmer is regional manager for operations in Michigan and Indiana. He came from restaurant management, starting a new career in property management.
“I will never leave this company,” he said. “Just because of the owners. I could be offered a million dollars for something else, and I wouldn’t take it. That’s how strongly I feel about the opportunity I’ve been given.”
Vice President of Operations Jeff Wolfe started working at UMH cleaning and cutting grass as a high schooler in the mid-’80s. Others, like mortgage loan originator T.C. Sheppard, had an even less conventional entry.
“Technically, I started working with UMH at 15 years old. I played the Easter Bunny at Memphis Blues, but officially I’ve been with UMH for five and half years” he said. “Gina Beasley had me come in and help set up for open houses, and she showed me the ropes at a young age, while instilling the values of UMH and the Landys. Years later, in 2013, Chris Lindsey contacted me to come take care of some IT work at their Memphis offices and shortly there after, she offered me a job.
“I didn’t have to think about it because I already knew the type of company UMH was from growing up around it, and hearing Chris and Gina talk about,” Sheppard said. “UMH is an incredible company to work for and everyone feels like family.”
“Our managers work extremely hard and we want to be able to make marketing something that is easy for them.” – UMH Director of Public Relations Kristi McGovern.
UMH Properties Puts Focus on Marketing Initiatives
Abby Goldberg, UMH marketing director, and Kristi McGovern, UMH public relations director, visit new communities to help them get up to speed. They train each manager on sales and staging homes, as well as how to advertise and market their homes. McGovern said they also help to ensure each community is up to UMH standards and is branded with UMH colors and marketing materials. Additionally, the two often return to help community staff set up for open houses.
“You can’t turn around a community without going and spending some time there,” Goldberg said. “You have to see the community, get a feel for its location and the residents. That’s how we get started on a marketing strategy specific to that property.
“We like that success story that comes with rehabbing a community,” she said. “When we buy a high vacancy community and spend a couple years of resources toward making it a low vacancy community, that’s what we want to be able to talk about.”
Cedarcrest Village in Vineland, N.J., is a community Goldberg refers to regularly, as an illustration for how resident referrals can be a boon to business.
“We have a resident there who loves his community so much that he bought a home up the street to move his daughter in, and then had his granddaughter move in next door,” Goldberg said. “I think he has four homes in Cedarcrest now.
“We have a integral team that goes in to new high vacancy communities turning them around and bringing them up to UMH standards,” she said. “This can be a long process at times, but is well worth the result in the end. This team includes many of our vice presidents, Brett Taft, Bob VanSchuyver, Jeff Wolfe, Gina Beasley and Jeff Yorick.”
Open Space Pace in Freehold, N.J.
Central Jersey has a history with race horses, specifically Standardbred pacers for harness racing. Each year, the Landys and other area residents gather in central Freehold for the Annual Open Space Pace, a parade and races at the Freehold Raceway less than a mile from town, to raise awareness and funds for land preservation, specifically as it relates to horse breeding and training.
Sam Landy and Beasley mounted “Harry” and “Grey” respectively, to usher in the seventh year of the event. Behind them was four blocks of classic cars, including a rare 1964 Studebaker Avanti. Also, there were myriad high school marching bands, children on dressed-up bicycles and yet more horses. Parade horses were in costume as giraffe, zebra and peacock to fit the year’s theme “It’s a Zoo Out There”.
Marge Hill, a resident of Old Bridge who works in Freehold, said this year was the first she’d been able to actually attend the parade rather than peering through the storefront window on Main Street.
“I got to take my grandsons out,” she said. “They’re usually walking in the Memorial Parade for Boy Scouts, so this one they get to sit and watch. It’s a good day to be out,” she said.
Freehold Raceway Open for the Day
The gates were open as the procession to the track concluded. The day was free to the public, including a full day of racing. One of the drivers was Harry Landy, Sam’s son. He guided his aggressive starter “Newbie” to a first-lap lead before being overcome by the heavy favorite “Foiled Again”. The winner and sure-fire hall of famer won more than $7 million last season.
And, of course, in the UMH Properties’ 50th Anniversary, the racetrack grounds were used to profile the latest product, a single-wide home from Eagle River Homes and a multi-section home from Redman Homes.
Each of the homes was put on site in a steady rain. But Saturday turned into an ideal day for the Space Pace and touring homes. Additionally, each home is set for delivery to UMH properties in Pennsylvania, where it will be made available for a new community resident.