MHP Brokers Tips and Tricks Podcast, Lance Latham Interview In this episode of The MHP Broker’s Tips and Tricks podcast, Maxwell Baker, president of The Mobile Home Park Broker, interviewed Lance Latham, president of the Alabama chapter of the Manufactured Housing Association. This is part of Max’s informative series of podcast discussions with MHA leaders across the country. This and every Tips and Tricks podcast episode are brought to you by The MHP Broker’s’ proprietary Community Price Maximizer. Use this four-step system to get the highest price possible for your mobile home park or RV community when you sell it through The MHP Broker. Guaranteed. Ask Max for details.
Here Are the Show Highlights:
Reach out to Max to learn more about the accomplishments of MHA chapters and trends in the mobile home park industry. You’ll also find out how to sell your property for the best possible price. Just drop Max a line at email@example.com or give him a call at 678-932-0200.
Power Quotes on This Episode:
(On Alabama’s leadership in building manufactured homes.) “Only Texas builds more homes than we do.” (Lance, 2:20)
“We have a sister company called Mobile Home Wholesalers. We wholesale used homes to park owner and we’re noticing that the new home pricing is actually cheaper than the one– or two–year–old homes, as the pricing for used home is just, for some reason, still elevated. But, from what I’ve been seeing and hearing from some of the park owners, the new home pricing is finally starting to come down as the cost of goods is starting to level out a little bit.” (Max, 3:15)
“Used homes are about a third of the installations we see in the state.” (Lance, 4;28)
(On problems with manufactured home installers.) “…it is both a quantity issue and a quality issue.” (Lance, 8:01)
“…(installers) who are willing to go out and work and hustle for the business can pretty much write their own paychecks right now…there’s a lot of money to be made if you’re willing to do the work…” (Lance, 10:10)
“I think there’s a lot of first-time homeowners, a lot of young couples, for example, a lot of retiring couples who want to downsize, who might not have ever thought about a manufactured home, but with the market being the way it is right now, I think they might start looking at us. I think that we need to be ready to kind of meet that need.” (Lance, 11:06)
“Our biggest political issue tends to be zoning problems.” (Lance, 11:38)
“…the greatest compliment I’ve ever received in this job was when somebody on Facebook accused us of false advertising because they didn’t believe the picture, (that) the home was an actual manufactured home.” (Lance, 13:35)
Hello and welcome to the mobile home park brokers tips and tricks. This is the podcast where we talk about mobile home park investing, because that’s what we’ve been involved in for the last decade. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Here’s your host, Maxwell Baker.
00:22 Maxwell Baker
Hey y’all, welcome to another beautiful episode of the mobile home park brokers tips and tricks podcast and today I have the honor to have the president of the Alabama Manufactured Housing Association, Lance and Lance, I am very excited to have you here. We’re doing like a roundtable with some of the leaders in the manufactured housing association to really help bring attention and attendance to what y’all are doing. Lance, would love to hear a little bit about you and kind of what y’all are working on and really just the overall kind of agenda that y’all have and excuse me, I did not give y’all Lance’s last name, it’s Latham. So, Lance Latham, welcome to the podcast.
01:11 Lance Latham
Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. Max. My background has been in politics, I worked for the legislature for about five years, it was Chief of Staff. During that time, then kind of got recruited to come work for the industry. In the association, I was the deputy director, now the executive director, been here for about six years. So that’s kind of my background and how I got into this. And so, you know, a lot of our work is on the political end of the spectrum. That’s why they wanted me with my legislative experience, but also have a great deal of marketing training, as well and we do a lot of communications to help push the industry to homeowners and help people make more money. Ultimately, that’s the job. That’s what we’re here for.
01:49 Maxwell Baker
Awesome! What’s going on with the Alabama market right now? Do you see anything happening and I know with, you know, Clayton mobile home taking a bite out of most of the manufacturing industry, and I think they produce like 62% of the brand-new mobile homes are manufactured housing nationwide. I know they bought River Walk Riverstone manufacturing I forget what plant that was over there on the west side of Alabama but, what’s going on in Alabama right now for manufactured housing?
02:20 Lance Latham
Sure, well, every part of the industry is in our state, from communities and retailers and so on, we are kind of a manufacturing state, only Texas builds more homes than we do…
02:30 Maxwell Baker
02:31 Lance Latham
…and so, we’ve got 17 plants in the state.
02:34 Maxwell Baker
02:34 Lance Latham
Yeah, that’s a lot of manufacturers, a lot of suppliers who support the manufacturers and we sell them, of course, all over the southeast and even a few parts in the Midwest and up near DC in that area. So, it’s a huge industry for us, especially in that northwest part of the state. A lot of retailers throughout state as well, that we support, we’ve been trying to expand into the community market more reach out more to the communities in the coastal areas, or like Florida, for example, places like that and put them in touch with our manufacturers. So, it’s an exciting time in our industry, the sales have been through the roof. You know, I think the market starting to slow down a little bit, which is probably a good thing but, it’s a solid business right now in Alabama.
03:15 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, and that’s one thing I was watching. We have a sister company called mobile home wholesalers. We wholesale used homes to park owner and we’re noticing that the new home pricing is actually cheaper than the one or two year old homes, as the pricing for used home is just for some reason still elevated; but, from what I’ve been seeing and hearing from some of the park owners, the new home pricing is finally starting to come down as the cost of goods is starting to level out a little bit. Have you seen any or have any thoughts on what’s happening there?
03:51 Lance Latham
Yeah, I think the supply is starting to even out. For a long time, we were up to a year behind on meeting…
03:57 Maxwell Baker
03:58 Lance Latham
…orders and needs. A lot of that was due to supply shortages that every industry, not just ours was dealing with also labor shortages, a lot of those issues seem to have worked out. Now I think there’s a strong supply there to meet the demand. Most of our retailers, they went from having maybe only even just two or three homes on their lots to now having a full lot or close to it.
04:19 Maxwell Baker
04:20 Lance Latham
So, we’re in good shape there and that is of course going to bring the price down because the laws of supply and demand the more there is something you know, the less it costs.
04:27 Maxwell Baker
04:28 Lance Latham
We’re getting to that point, used homes are still a big part of the market in Alabama. Used homes are about a third of the installations that we see in the state. A lot of those are more individuals selling their homes or like you said people selling the home to a community or doing a rent to own type situation in a community. Not so much from the dealerships. Although, there are still some dealerships that do used homes, but most of them are selling newer homes now.
04:53 Maxwell Baker
Okay. Yeah, we’ve noticed that here in Georgia out of like, there’s like 200 and there’s a lot we’ll just leave it at that dealers and only like a handful of them sell used homes. So, it’s similar like that in Alabama, where most of the dealers don’t really mess with the used home market too much or more of the new side. Okay. Moving on to my other question here, What are the top three things that you think are the most important for manufactured housing right now in Alabama?
05:23 Lance Latham
Well, by far the most important thing right now in the state, and frankly, throughout the country, or at least certainly in the southeast, is we’ve got to get more people working in the industry in the installer segment, if you were to go to one of our continue education classes that the RSAA does, most of the guys in there are gonna be closer to 60 than they are 30. You know, there’s a lot of them…
05:44 Maxwell Baker
05:44 Lance Latham
…getting aged out and we’re not seeing as many young guys getting into it. So, that becomes a problem when you don’t have enough installers. It doesn’t matter how good the quality of the home is, or how good a job the retailer does, cutting the deal, if there’s nobody to set the home up when it’s ready. So, if we get to a point where we don’t get more people in the installation segment industry, then what’s gonna happen it’s going to end up being licensed contractors having to do that job, and then the price is gonna go way up and that affects, of course, the affordability of the homes. So, we have put a lot of effort and as an association into trying to help recruit people into the installer segment of the industry, we’ve partnered with our community college system…
06:24 Maxwell Baker
06:25 Lance Latham
…as well as with Clayton and some others. We’ve developed actually a program, a certificate program that people can go through and I kind of equate it to like to go into law school before you take the bar or medical school before you take that licensure exam. People can go through it, it’s kind of a bootcamp, things that can be done in the evenings or weekends and fairly quickly, and then you can go take your tests for the commission and get your license and get to move and so that’s a big area for us.
06:49 Maxwell Baker
Let’s dissect that a little bit. Because here in Georgia, we’re struggling with the same thing.
06:54 Lance Latham
06:55 Maxwell Baker
That is the hardest part of the used home business because I’ma be real blunt, most installers are cowboys and cowgirls. It’s hard to get them to come and move, usually there’s 90 days or 120 days to come out and, you know, sometimes, you know, it’s hard to get them to really just do the work right. That’s been the struggle is a lot of them can dictate what they can do, what they’re willing to do. I mean, here’s a mover, who is the most professional mover I’ve met, well shows up on time, does a great job but, he charges $10,000 or a single wide for 50 miles, and he’s out of Athens. We’ve had to use them from time to time but, it’s only because he’s the one of the few ones out there that is got a website has got a receptionist that picks up the phone when you call. So, there is a massive gap. It’s very interesting that you say that because it is a huge issue for us here in Georgia and it’s interesting that it’s happening to y’all as well in Alabama.
08:01 Lance Latham
Well, you definitely hit on the other motivating factor behind us supporting this program and getting this thing put in our community college system, because it is both a quantity issue and a quality issue 70% of customer complaints typically go back to an installation issue where you know, oftentimes it was a settling issue or something of that nature. So, manufacturers are spending 10s of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions on warranty issues that can be avoided if we can get better installations. So, like you said, a lot of these guys, you know, it’s their wives and girlfriends who are doing the business side, and they just go out and set up the home. It’s not that they’re not good at what they do but, it’s just they’re a small mom and pop type operation. So, we’ve got to get more people in it. We got to get them better trained in some cases, to do the job and it’s a critical need in the industry.
08:51 Maxwell Baker
I’d love for you to share with me once we finish up our podcasts here, like colleges that you have teamed up with, because we might see if we can push some people over there from it’s really needed here in Georgia as well. So, if we can mimic kind of what y’all are doing. I think that’ll help the industry as a whole.
09:11 Lance Latham
Absolutely. We definitely, I think get the curriculum. I don’t have it, but I can get it, I believe and share it with your community college system if y’all want. We’re actually, our state just last year created, I think it’s called the innovation depot but, essentially it’s a way to use in the community college system get resources throughout the state to where they’re needed. So, now we started with one community college Bevel State. Now with this program, we’re going to be able to put it out statewide to wherever there’s needs. So, when you set up in Dothan down in the southeast, we can do that. Go through a couple of weeks of the program, move it up to Huntsville in the north and do another one if we need to. So it really it’s wherever we need it to be or it will be very shortly.
09:49 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, I’ve been told that it’d probably run because the insurance is probably the biggest expense for movers or installers but, people are making like with the demand of demand I mean, they’re pushing like $500,000 in revenue in the first year, at least here in Georgia. I don’t know how it is in Alabama. But wow, is that pretty in line with what y’all are seeing?
10:10 Lance Latham
I don’t know the exact dollar amount but, I know that guys who are willing to go out and work and hustle for the business can pretty much write their own paychecks right now, or at least they could as of a few months ago and you know, there’s a lot of money to be made in it if you’re willing to do the work, the problem is…
10:24 Maxwell Baker
10:24 Lance Latham
…it’s just hard to find people who are willing to do the work.
10:26 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, definitely. What about the other two things that you see right now, as far as the most important?
10:32 Lance Latham
Sure. Well, one we kind of talked about here, which I think is expansion, with the price of site-built housing going up and up and up. Even though now it’s kind of starting to come down a little bit, there’s still a lot of people who’ve been priced out because of the higher interest rates and things of that nature. So, expanding who we appeal to, is a key thing for us going forward and to other markets as well. I think for Alabama, you know, there’s a lot to be said, for tying into the community market, I think there’s a lot of community owners out there who are looking for some houses, maybe they bought an older Park, and they want to upgrade some of the houses or some of the facilities.
11:05 Maxwell Baker
11:06 Lance Latham
So, you know, building a better relationship with our manufacturer members can be to everyone’s benefit. So, that’s an area for us as an association and as an industry to expand but, also just as a whole, I think that customer base can really expand. I think there’s a lot of first-time homeowners, a lot of young couples, for example, a lot of retiring couples who want to downsize, you might not have ever thought about a manufactured home, but with the market being the way it is right now, I think they might start looking at us. I think that we need to be ready to kind of meet that need.
11:34 Maxwell Baker
11:35 Lance Latham
So, and that’s something we put a lot of emphasis on. In fact, we’re actually partnering with the University of Alabama and Auburn University as a corporate sponsor and giving away a chance to win a $75,000 down payment towards the purchase of a home, whether that’s a tenant who’s doing a rent to own and community, or a person buying from a dealer.
11:52 Maxwell Baker
11:53 Lance Latham
So, that’s a big deal that we’re trying to do to get some visibility for the industry and maybe get some people thinking about manufactured homes who perhaps weren’t thinking about it. Then the other part of that, too, is our biggest political issue tends to be zoning problems and so…
12:07 Maxwell Baker
12:08 Lance Latham
…getting these local zoning board members and local city councilors to see the quality of the modern homes that are coming out or even some of the older homes if they’re being taken well care of, you know, that’s an image issue as well, that can help us free up some areas, not so much in the rural parts of the state but, in the suburban and urban areas where there’s a little more resistance because people are afraid of the effects and their property values and things like that. We can kind of help fix some of those stereotypes by just showing them the image of the homes, letting the home speak for themselves.
12:38 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, I know, with Spencer Rhone here in Atlanta, they had a Senate bill that came out 383 I think it was back in 2009 that basically eliminated age restrictions and size restrictions for the whole state of Georgia. I don’t really know if you all have done that or haven’t done much research on it because I know every county has got different ordinances.
13:02 Lance Latham
13:02 Maxwell Baker
Do y’all have any feedback on what’s going on with that in Alabama?
13:06 Lance Latham
It really is a city-by-city kind of basis. Some of them are friendly, some of them not as friendly. The counties are for the most part pretty friendly.
13:15 Maxwell Baker
13:16 Lance Latham
Municipality is a very strong political entity here in Alabama. So, there’s the whole catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar or whatever is but anyway, trying to rather than trying to browbeat them with legislation that they might resent. Even if you win, it could create a better, another problem for them later on the backend.
13:35 Maxwell Baker
13:35 Lance Latham
You know, trying to convince them otherwise. I mean, one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received in this job was when somebody on Facebook accused us of false advertising, because they didn’t believe the picture, the home was an actual manufactured home. So, I really do believe if we just let these elected officials walk through a home and see the home, you know, absolutely keep your aesthetic standards for the neighborhood, for the community. I have no problem with that. But to rule it out, because it’s X amount of years old, or because it’s simply a mobile home, manufactured home, whatever they want to call it, you know that is, frankly, in my opinion, a form of discrimination, and it shouldn’t be allowed but, you know, we got to we got to work on changing their minds.
14:15 Maxwell Baker
14:16 Lance Latham
It’s a war for lots of minds, I suppose you could say.
14:17 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, and that kind of leads into my next question is what your thoughts are on the political climate…
14:23 Lance Latham
14:24 Maxwell Baker
…with Manufactured Housing?
14:25 Lance Latham
Yeah, in Alabama, other than these local zoning issues that we sometimes deal with it really is very friendly. At the state level, it’s very friendly and our federal delegation, our congressmen and senators have all been very supportive as well. I’ve had only a handful of bills I’ve really tried to push and, in those bills, I’ve only had two total votes against me. I don’t mean they voted against the bill, I mean to individual lawmakers who cast the vote no against my bill. So, we’re fortunate and I can’t say that that’s all credit to me as a lobbyist because it’s not it’s just we’re an important industry in the state. Our lawmakers know it, and they support us. So, a lot of the lobbying work we do is more trying to fix a bill before it gets too far in the process and becomes a problem.
15:09 Maxwell Baker
15:09 Lance Latham
Then also keeping an eye on things that affect the business community as a whole, that affect manufacturing as a whole, that affect landlord tenant issues as a whole. You know, a lot of times the bill that affects you is not one that specifically says manufactured housing or mobile homes or whatever. It’s one that affects, you know, a policy of how a company can handle things. For example, gun policies, we had this last legislative session, and I’m a big 2A guy personally, I own eight guns.
15:38 Maxwell Baker
Ay man, Yeah (Laughs)
15:41 Lance Latham
But I think we can also agree that, you know, probably the assembly line inside a plant is probably not the best place for a guy to have his nine-millimeter we don’t need guys get into a fight and start pulling out their guns, you know, I mean, leaving…
15:51 Maxwell Baker
15:52 Lance Latham
…them at the truck is fine. So, or at least the business owner should have the right to decide how they want to handle it on their property. So, we’ve fought for keeping those kinds of protections. When you say, Why does manufactured housing care about guns? Well, it’s the business climate, we’ve passed legislation to protect our community owners who had dealt with issues of people trying to get around the pet policies by going online and buying a vest and putting it on their, their animal or going online and printing out a certificate. That’s not a legitimate thing and trying to get around community donors pet policies by doing these things. So, there are limits as to how far we can go with it because of the Americans with Disabilities Act but, we were able to pass legislation that says essentially, if a person doesn’t have a disability that is clearly visible, then you can ask them for a note from a certified professional via a social worker or a doctor or what have you, that says, Yes, this person has a need, because, you know, nobody’s trying to take away a veteran’s support animal that helps them deal with the post-traumatic stress or any other…
16:51 Maxwell Baker
16:51 Lance Latham
…or any other person who’s got a legitimate need but, you know, if it’s someone who just wants to get around no Bulldog policy, then you know, shouldn’t be able to go on Amazon and buy a vest and put it on your bulldog and get around.
17:02 Maxwell Baker
I’ve seen some of those fly by night, quote unquote, doctors that are from California, and well basically you pay him 100 bucks, and they’ll write up, you know, a notarized document for you to, you know, present to a park owner. I’ve actually seen it, you know, meet with park owners over the years, they get creative. So, that’s great to hear that you guys are, are really fighting for the park owners here to really help, you know, make the community safe and make sure everybody’s following the rules that they have for their community. Okay, so moving on to the next thing, is there any interesting bills and manufactured housing right now that you’d like to or can talk about?
17:44 Lance Latham
Thankfully, it’s fairly quiet at the moment, because it’s an election year. So, they’re all focused on their campaigns and we’re not at the moment in a legislative session. So, we’ll have to see what comes once February & March get here but, at the moment, I’m not hearing anything. So, at one point, we were hearing talk about legislation that might affect liability insurance limits for some of our members and I think that we’ve kind of been able to kind of address that issue. The problem with it is that it would paint a big target on our members backs for lawsuits for frivolous lawsuits if you start requiring them to have a significantly higher amount of liability insurance than…
18:22 Maxwell Baker
18:23 Lance Latham
…what is really needed. So, we’ve been able to work with a lawmaker who was interested in that bill. I think that it was never really a high priority for him anyway, thankfully but, I think we’ve kind of addressed those issues there. So that’s one where, you know, we kind of headed off at the past and kept it from becoming an issue and as a lobbyist, you know, 90% of my job is the stuff you’re never gonna see if you do hear about something, it’s probably because I haven’t done my job well enough, and it got through the cracks. So, it’s kind of hard to prove that something didn’t happen. But that is a lot of what we do is trying to keep things from happening in the first place. So right now, not a lot of that, that we have to worry about…
19:00 Maxwell Baker
19:01 Lance Latham
…coming to 2023 I don’t believe but we always keep an eye out for bills related to tornadoes or bills that are trying to limit where homes can be placed and things of that nature.
19:09 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, cuz I know up north, they’ve got a lot of restrictions on rental increases and whatnot. I know Virginia just had something where they had to basically cap how much you can raise the rents on Manufactured Housing and Communities, I think Florida’s that way as well. So, if we can prevent that that would obviously be great for the park owners. (Laughs)
19:31 Lance Latham
Well, thankfully, I don’t think we’ve had too many instances of people trying to prevent rent increases. I think the Apartment Association would probably want to partner with us to try and fight that if they did, and I don’t see that getting any traction here but, the issue that we have had, has been with the COVID relief money that was meant to help with people paying their rent and stuff. It’s just been so very slow in Alabama getting out to the point that we’re almost about to have to give a huge portion of it back to the government because they haven’t spent it within the timeframe that they were supposed to. So…
19:59 Maxwell Baker\
20:00 Lance Latham
…being landlords paid for back due rent has been an issue politically that we’ve been dealing with but, we’ve done just about everything we can short of going over there and cracking the literal whip on some people’s backs. (Laughs) So, that’s another issue there but not a legislative one more just a policy one.
20:15 Maxwell Baker
20:15 Lance Latham
Red tape one.
20:16 Maxwell Baker
Yeah, no, I hear ya, Lance, that pretty much wraps up the little quick blurb that we’d like to do and kind of explain what’s happening in Alabama. If somebody wants to join the association, ie park owners out there in Alabama, more really pretty much anybody that interested in Alabama business for manufactured housing, how would they go about signing up and contacting you to be a part of that,
20:40 Lance Latham
Certainly, they can start by looking at our website and go there alamha.org, we have a form on there you can fill out or you can get our contact information off there and call us if you wanted to. We have a Director of Member Services, Linda Drumheller, who her whole job is taking care of our members and staying in touch with them and helping them navigate through any processes they’re dealing with. Also, through our website, we have a lot of, for our members only, resources like sample lease agreements and pet policies and all those kinds of things that are of interest to community owner members, for sure. So that would be the way to go is through our website, and $75 per location per year to be a member for a community.
21:21 Maxwell Baker
Yeah. And then outside of the other items that you mentioned with documents, what other benefits to community owners get for being a part of the association?
21:30 Lance Latham
Sure. The marketing side of things that I’ve mentioned, everything we do is meant to steer people towards our members be they retailers or community owners and we do a lot of free marketing for our members to push people to them. Obviously, the political representation is a big part of it and then the access to these resources. We also put out statistical data that’s relevant in terms of shipment numbers, production numbers, installation numbers, sales numbers each month we put that out so things that would be of use to them for sure. All that is an exclusive benefit for our members.
22:00 Maxwell Baker
Love it. Awesome, Lance, we appreciate it. You have any closing statements here before we sign off?
22:06 Lance Latham
No, it’s a great industry to be a part of, I love it. It’s you know, not a lot of people get to be a part of actually helping other folks achieve the American dream and that’s what gets me excited every morning to get up and go to work.
22:16 Maxwell Baker
Nice, man. Hey, y’all, thanks for listening. As always, this episode is brought to you by the community price Maximizer it is our proprietary system that will guarantee you a higher price when you exclusively list your community with us. (678) 932-0200 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening, and y’all have a great week be well.
Lance Latham graduated from the University of Alabama in 2006, where he double-majored in History and Political Science, and again in 2008, with a Master’s degree in Communication Studies. During this time he taught public speaking at the University as an adjunct instructor and volunteered on political campaigns throughout the state.
In 2008, Lance became the Deputy Campaign Finance Director for the Bobby Bright for Congress Campaign, which went on to be ranked by the national press as one of the 5 most competitive Congressional campaigns in America that year.
Following the Bright Campaign, Lance moved to Montgomery where he worked as a governmental affairs and political consultant for numerous campaigns, organizations, and businesses.
From 2012 until 2017, Lance served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Craig Ford, the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives. In 2017, Lance joined the Alabama Manufactured Housing Association as Deputy Director, where his responsibilities included lobbying the State Legislature and managing the Association’s public relations and social media operations. Lance became the Executive Director of the Alabama Manufactured Housing Association in 2021.
Since 2016 Lance has held a license in property and casualty insurance in Alabama, working through the Ford Insurance Agency in Gadsden to provide numerous friends and family members with home, auto, business and other lines of insurance coverage.
Lance is also the owner of Latham Communications, a consulting firm based in Montgomery, Alabama. His areas of expertise include communications, governmental relations, organizational and business consulting, and political campaign management.