Equity Lifestyle Properties, Earnings Call INSIGHTS: RV Dealerships Pilot Program, Financing Market Looking Up

On Tuesday, Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc. (NYSE:ELS) reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

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RV Dealerships Pilot Program 

Eric Wolfe – Citigroup: So the program that you’re piloting with the RV dealerships, I’m just wondering if you could tell us what the timeline is for scaling that program, and whether you’ve made any changes based on the initial test that you’ve done and the feedback from those dealerships?

Thomas P. Heneghan – Director, President and CEO: It’s still in its initial stages. I think a total of a few hundred zone part memberships have been issued under those dealership programs. We are primarily working with dealerships in Southeast Florida, and we have recently started something up in the Northeast. We survey every customer through that and by and large what we are getting from those surveys is making us feel very positive about the program. 90% of the customers indicate that they would refer customers to the dealer as a result of getting this product with their RV. The average amount of money that a customer thinks he is going to save as a result of getting this with his product is somewhere in the neighborhood of $800 to $900 a year. So, there is some value that is going with this that the customer perceives. We are also seeing the type of customer is a higher quality customer on a average coming through the RV dealership than you would see typically with the volume coming through our RV sales. There is about 40% to 50% of these customers are actually buying Class A RVs which are the higher dollar ticket items. So, the results to-date, make us feel positive about the program. We have recently started to negotiate with some of the dealers about wholesale pricing relative to those products and we have strong interest from other dealers to participate in that program, but we have yet to enroll any other customers or dealerships into that program. I think we want to make sure we get the training downright so that if we implemented it in a larger scale we are servicing that customer correctly and we are servicing that RV dealership correctly.

Eric Wolfe – Citigroup: Got you, and what sort of I guess training would be involved with something like that? You’re saying training the dealerships and having them go through the programs?

Thomas P. Heneghan – Director, President and CEO: There’s two types of training. Training the dealership, so he knows how to feature benefit the product, right, describing the product, describing the properties, describing the experience that a customer could get using our facilities, the Thousand Trails facilities, so there is some awareness that a RV dealer has to have in order to feature benefit the product to his advantage for his customer, and then there is just the knowledge of the product itself in terms of the restrictions that are contained within that product. It does have a three concept for the customer in terms of his usage in the properties, but there are some restrictions in terms of consecutive night stays and such.

Eric Wolfe – Citigroup: Got you, and Tom, I know, you didn’t mention it on this call, but on prior calls, you’ve sort of said that the acquisition environment just isn’t that robust right now, so I’m curious, the last two quarters, you’ve taken out excess proceeds on, I think, four loans, and you just mentioned that you’re going to do another, why are you trying to build liquidity if you don’t really have much to put it towards other than, I guess, just paying off debt later on?

Thomas P. Heneghan – Director, President and CEO: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question, I mean, I wish I could plan my capital raising events based on my needs, but what we have seen just generally is it’s kind of a binary marketplace out there, it’s kind of a risk on, risk off. There has been some choppiness with respect to capital availability basically through all the different facets that we look at. CMBS has been on again, off again; I would say right now it’s pretty robust, the same has happened with respect to life companies, and the same thing has happened with the GSEs as it relates to our sector, and we’re mindful of that. So, we have an opportunity given the strong demand for putting loans out to do some what we believe is pretty good executions. Our problem is that creates some additional cash on our balance sheet. We are extremely mindful of that. We’ve also said that we see some opportunities in the potential acquisition environment, but they generally the ones that you could probably get at an attractive price are in the all-age sector, and we’ve kind of to-date have shied away from that site. I totally appreciate what you are saying, but I would generally say, this Company has always fashioned itself by having balance sheet flexibility and we are not always sure when those opportunities will arise, but being in a position to execute on those opportunities has always been something that we’ve been very mindful of. So, I understand we have got that very flexible balance sheet and the opportunities are not clear in terms of our pipeline so to speak, but you never know what might pop-up that we could take advantage of.

Financing Market Looking Up 

Andrew McCulloch – Green Street Advisors: Tom you mentioned an improvement in the financing market for both chattel financing and rental homes. Can you just expand on that?

Thomas P. Heneghan – Director, President and CEO: There is a bunch of things going on. First, I would say there is traditional guys who have been in the business for a while. They will still do chattel financing basically with recourse to the community owner. In addition, there is a couple of new entrants in the marketplace that are providing a service to community owners because of some of the restrictions now imposed by the SAFE Act on lending. So, they are providing a lending service and in connection with that lending service that paper by and large goes back to the community owner, but they will buy some of that paper based on some criteria. It’s essentially cherry-picking the loans, but you are seeing some activity where people are coming in and as a result of providing this origination service, they’re looking at the flow of paper, and they’re seeing, gee, some of this stuff I’ve pay. Again, I admit it’s cherry-picking and most of it goes back on to the communities books or related entity, but it is happening, and then lastly we are seeing some activity coming in – it’s mostly balance sheet lending where lenders will come and lend against a rental inventory of homes, again neither of these are very attractive to us given our cost of capital and the balance sheet recourse nature of this stuff, but we’re seeing some movement in that direction, and one of the larger lending platforms in the business has recently started, I’d call it a pilot program where they will in essence put homes into communities with the goal of selling those homes to customers, and then dealing with the community owner in terms of potential site rent negotiation as to making sure the monthly payments work for the customer buying the home, when they look at both the housing payment and the land rent payment. So, you’re seeing a lot of people sniffing around some big institutional money, I’ve had conversations, and some of the traditional guys are trying to figure out how they can participate in what is overall a pretty strongly improving demand for the manufactured housing product.

Andrew McCulloch – Green Street Advisors: Interesting. Thanks for that color. Can you just expand on that a little bit, what does it mean for home sales, are you seeing a pickup in demand?

Thomas P. Heneghan – Director, President and CEO: We’re not seeing much in terms of home sales, in terms of pickup in demand. If you looked at our – the resale activity that we control within our properties, 963% of that activity is cash, average price points of $20,000. If you look at the used activity you are going to see a similar thing. If bifurcated that activity between all-age and age restricted, what you will see is, related to pricing, as the pricing goes up in the all-age community, the reliance on third-party financing increases and as it goes closer to say $5,000 to $10,000 you will see much more cash activity, but at a $20,000 price point or $30,000 price you are going to see a lot more finance sales. Whereas, in the age restricted properties, its cash all the way through the stream. You will see $40,000 to $50,000 resells that are all cash.

Andrew McCulloch – Green Street Advisors: On the two RV loans are those – I think it is 5.1 average rate, are those rates representative of what you can get in a market today or are those two forward rate locked as well?

Marguerite Nader – EVP and CFO: Those rates were part of a blend and extend of an existing financing. In the market right now in RVs, we see rates ranging from 4% to 4.5%.

Andrew McCulloch – Green Street Advisors: What about core age (indiscernible) manufactured home community?

Marguerite Nader – EVP and CFO: Around 3 and 3.25 to 4 to 4.25.

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