Starkey Mortgage/Phoenix Housing to pay North Carolinians $4.4M

MHMSM.com presents Factory Built Housing Industry News at Noon with Erin Patla.

Coming up – Floor plan program attracts Auto, RV and Marine dealers,
Manufactured Housing Retail Flooring also available

But first…these stories:

Starkey Mortgage/Phoenix Housing to pay North Carolinians $4.4M

by Lee Weisbecker – Triangle Business Journal

Plano, Texas-based WR Starkey Mortgage LLP, has agreed to pay $4.4 million to 171 North Carolina homeowners in connection with the sale and financing of overpriced manufactured and modular homes, state regulators say.

The company has 10 branch offices in North Carolina [NC], including one in Raleigh.

The homes were sold by Phoenix Housing Group Inc., according to the North Carolina Office of the Commissioner of Banks and the NC Attorney General’s office.

In addition to the homeowner refunds, Starkey has agreed to major changes in its management and operations, provided nearly $300,000 in additional refunds to other borrowers and has made a $361,000 contribution to the state’s foreclosure prevention program.

“This settlement shows that lenders supporting and benefiting from fraud will pay a steep price,” said Mark Pearce, chief deputy Commissioner of Banks.

Investigators allege that Starkey collaborated with PHG to provide financing for consumers purchasing inflated manufactured and modular homes through PHG employees without proper mortgage licenses. They also say Starkey employees or agents placed inaccurate, positive rental histories on consumers’ credit reports to boost the consumers’ credit worthiness to qualify for loans, and extended credit to consumers without due regard for their ability to repay the loans.

Among the corporate changes announced in this agreement, regulators say, the CEO of Starkey has resigned and that the company has removed its president and hired outside counsel to serve as a compliance watchdog for the firm.

Recovery does not affect all industries or workers equally

Morton Marcus, Evansville Courier and Press

“The economy is terrible and it’s getting worse,” Simon Schlep insists as he buries a pierogi [peer-OH-ghee] in ketchup.

“No!” I shout, too late. “No one puts ketchup on a pierogi; not here in Whiting, not anywhere that civilization thrives.”

Simon looks around before asserting, “Who says? There aren’t any rules for this festival. I like ketchup, I eat ketchup.”

“Let’s sit over here,” I say, pointing to one of the few open benches. After I devour my stuffed cabbage, but before I attack the sauerkraut and sausage, I ask, “What’s this about the economy?”

“It’s horrible. Too many people unemployed for too long. No jobs. Nothing happening,” Simon says.

“You’re right, but you’re wrong,” I say. “The economy is growing again; slowly, yes, but growing. Indiana’s unemployment rate is down from 10.8 percent a year ago to 10.1 percent; the number of persons unemployed in the state is down by 8.6 percent.

“The simple fact is that we are having a recession on top of the continuing restructuring of the economy that has been going on since the 1980s. In the past 10 years we’ve added the equivalent of 10 million full-time jobs while losing 4 million in manufacturing.

“The financial boom/bust has devastated one of Indiana’s signature industries,” I add.

“Hmm?” Simon says.

“Manufactured housing,” I say, savoring a cheese pierogi. “Everyone points to the auto and RV industries, but manufactured housing has been particularly hard hit over a long period of time. When the financial markets decided to support almost any kind of housing mortgage, they didn’t include manufactured housing. It was the conventional site-built home that got all the money. Manufactured housing units produced in the U.S. fell from 373,000 in 1998 to 147,000 in 2005. Then, once the conventional housing market failed, manufactured housing fell to fewer than 50,000 units last year.

“Indiana’s production in 2009,” I continue, “was down to 8 percent of what it was in ’98 when we accounted for 10 percent of all the U.S. production. Recently, we’ve been only 6 percent of a severely shrunken U.S. output.”

“But it will all bounce back, according to your rosy view of the economy,” Simon snarls.

“Maybe and maybe not,” I say with certainty. “There are so many homes on the market at very favorable prices that manufactured housing is not as competitive as previously. “Plus, lenders are still reluctant to put money into the market for any loan that doesn’t appear to be a sure thing. Yet …”

“Ah, here comes the famous other hand,” Simon says.

“Precisely,” I say. “Hard times may push more people toward manufactured housing, but it’s a difficult call. There’s been a major decrease in plants producing manufactured housing, but that does not mean only the least efficient have been eliminated from the market.”

“And it all means what?” Simon asks.

“Continued confusion,” I say. “Parts of the economy will pull out ahead leaving others in the dust. Consumers are ready to spend; just look at this eager crowd. But a recovery does not put you back where you were. Just as not all firms or industries are restored to some former glory, not all pierogis are created equal. Let’s go find some more.”

IN MARKET NEWS: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday the economy is improving, but high unemployment and a weak housing market are still weighing on consumers. His words didn’t seem to stop investors from giving Wall Street a jolt into August. Stocks increased more than 200 points Monday as strong earnings reports, growth in manufacturing increases and additional spending on construction reassured investors. Contrary to the expected .5 percent decline, construction spending grew 0.1 percent in June, according to Commerce Department data.

Also Monday, the Institute for Supply Management reported its manufacturing index slipped to 55.5 in July from 56.2 in June. That marked the third straight month of declines. Still, a reading above 50 indicates growth and the index has been above that level for the past year.

The Manufactured housing composite gained just under one percent for the day. Most manufactured home stocks on our watch list moved ahead with the markets. Equity Lifestyle Properties was up more than three percent to close at $54.86 per share. Meritage Homes, Skyline Homes and Sun Communities were all up more than two percent. Palm Harbor Homes was an exception, down more than two percent to $2.20 per share.

Composites for companies in building materials were up more than two percent. Lumber and wood production was up 3.6 percent and residential construction was up more than 2.5 percent.

“Up next, Floor plan program attracts Auto, RV and Marine dealers,
Manufactured Housing Retail Flooring also available”

But first, this podcast of News at Noon is sponsored in part by: Precision Capital Funding, on the Web at CaptiveFinance.net. Precision Capital Funding earned the MHI 2010 Service Supplier of the Year Award.

For more information, email Kenneth Rishel at kennethrishel@captivefinance.net or call 217-971-3968.

Floor plan program attracts Auto, RV and Marine dealers,
Manufactured Housing Retail Flooring also available

A pilot floor plan financing program offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration is still available to the manufactured housing industry until September 30, 2010. Automobile dealers, along with marine and recreational vehicle businesses have already taken advantage of the program. Gain important information about what the program is, how to access it, and why this would be advantageous to your business as manufactured home retailers.

Grady Hedgespeth, director of financial assistance at the SBA, explains the program [insert audio clip]

Read the full story Wednesday on MHMSM.com.

On behalf of Production and IT Manager Bob Stovall, Editor L.A. Tony Kovach, Associate Editor Catherine Frenzel, INdustry in Focus reporter Eric Miller, and the entire MHMSM.com writing and support team, this is Erin Patla. Gday!

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