Dan Leighton: All right, welcome back, everybody, to EZ Homes University. In today’s episode we’re going to be sharing about the importance to have relationships and really good relationships with mobile home parks. So let’s start off with a story. It’s 2009, and Dan and I have been incorporated for a couple years. And we bought three homes in a community, and they were good deals, I remember. We shared with the community manager that we bought the homes, and he invited us to come to their corporate office to talk about them.
So Dan and I meet outside in our cars, and we’re about ready to go in. And I’ll never forget, a guy pulls up in a Mercedes, parks — silver hair, white beard, gray suit — and walks in with a briefcase. I just remember my stomach falling and going, “Dan, my gut’s telling me that’s an attorney.” And you looked at me like, “You think so?” And I go, “I don’t know.” We walk in, and there’s the owners and Mr. Graybeard there. I remember them shaking our hands and introducing us to their attorney. And literally, I could feel my Adam’s apple go right to my stomach, like, “Oh my gosh, what’s happening?” I looked at you, and I remember, you were just stoic. You were like a stone wall, like, “Ok, I know what’s going on here, and we’ve got to hold ourselves up here.”
Dan Paton: It was going to be my Spartacus moment. I was no Spartacus, let me tell you.
Dan Leighton: But I just remember they had made us an offer. The attorney started talking, had all his legal documents, dropped them in front of us. And they were going to buy the homes for just a couple of thousand bucks, and we would have taken a pretty good loss on that deal. I’ll be honest – fear, anxiety, stress – thousands of things going through my head, and I don’t know what was going through your head at that time, but I doubt if it was that Spartacus moment.
Dan Paton: It was feeling extremely vulnerable. Exposed. These guys have us, and, geez, what are we going to do about it? Then thinking about the longevity of our business, our livelihoods. We were still both working our regular day jobs at the time, so we did have something to fall back on, but there were the legal ramifications potentially. As we did more digging after we left that meeting, we started planting even more fear seeds, I guess you would call them. And we started creating some stories in our heads of the worst possible outcomes. We talk about worst outcomes when we buy a home, well this was “worst outcome” possibilities if we didn’t cooperate with these guys.
Dan Leighton: The whole reason why they did this was because we weren’t licensed. We’re in Michigan. You have to have a manufactured housing license to do this, and we didn’t. And they looked us up, because you can do it online, and they found that we didn’t. And they basically said, “If you don’t sell these homes to us, we’re going to sue you and we’re going to report you to the state.” So we talked to a friend of ours who’s an ordealer and he planted the seed of “You know, there’s a ten thousand dollar fine for each act.” And we were counting how many we had done, and before I knew it, I was thinking “Do they have extra large tall orange suits in prison that’s going to fit me?” I went down that tunnel so fast. I was shocked. So I remember afterwards, we took the documents, walked out, you drove down to an attorney, and then the whole fiasco began, which was months and months of sleepless nights, conversations with our wives, you, and I, just trying to keep ourselves propped up.
Dan Paton: Emotional conversations, tearful conversations. And writing lots and lots of checks to our attorney.
Dan Leighton: We did. And it cost us, in the end, over forty grand. But it was a life lesson that I really think made us who we are today.
Dan Paton: It completely turned our business around.
Dan Leighton: It did. We went and got licensed. And I remember sitting in Lansing, Michigan, as they were giving us our license, and we were like, “Phew, we did it! We got our license.” But we were still writing checks and still in issues with the legal ramifications. And I remember one of our other broker buddies called us up and we quickly told him, “You better get legal.” Remember that?
Dan Paton: Right.
Dan Leighton: And he went out, and he did. So, the contribution is that this company did really set us on the straight and narrow. Matter of fact, the fun story of how this ended is one of the brothers is actually a friend of mine now. I met him at a retreat at part of a men’s group, and he’s one of our top donators now. Talk about going full circle. Matter of fact, that company has given us a wonderful opportunity to invest in an investment within their parks, which I would’ve never thought would’ve happened, would you?
Dan Paton: It’s almost a decade later, and yeah, about three weeks ago they presented an offer to us. We haven’t put that into motion just yet, but it’s a pretty substantial offer, to invest in some of their portfolio.
Dan Leighton: It is. And – going back to them – I told him that we knew it was personal for them, and we apologized, and just really got that it was something they had to do to protect their investment, their parks. And that was a lesson that really was a trajectory of our company going forward. Let’s do things right. Let’s not take shortcuts. Let’s have integrity in our business. Let’s be able to put our heads on our pillows with confidence, because there’s a lot of people that don’t sleep well at night. I don’t know about you, I sleep really well at night.
Dan Paton: I do. I do, and I don’t worry about things, because we’re doing things right. We’re legal. We’re licensed in many other states around the country. We’ve also been able to figure out where we can do homes in states where you don’t have to be licensed, necessarily, but you’re limited to do maybe one, two, or three or four homes.
Dan Leighton: Yeah, exactly. And having a conversation with those state officials, like going right to the top and asking them, and getting clarity – they were just grateful, to say “Thank you for calling!” And by the way, one of them even said, “Oh yeah, we had an old law that you couldn’t buy any, now you can buy five a year!” We’re like, “Oh my gosh, I would’ve never found that out!” Or if you did, you would’ve had to go online and dig up all the legal stuff.
Dan Paton: And typically, getting licensed in a state, there’s a fee for obtaining the license, they range anywhere from maybe a couple hundred dollars to five or six hundred dollars for a two or three year license, so they’re nominal expenses, they may ask you to buy a bond for another couple hundred dollars, and you’re licensed!
Dan Leighton: It’s really worth it, because now you can really buy in confidence. But as we get forward and share more about our affiliate program, you’re going to be able to work with us, with our knowledge, if you choose, with the states that we have knowledge in and have licenses in. We’ll be able to guide you. And that’ll give you guys all the confidence in the world to move forward because without it, you’re kind of walking on eggshells.
Dan Paton: Yeah, we don’t want you to have those sleepless nights that we suffered through. There’s no need to do that.
Dan Leighton: Yeah, you don’t want it, your family doesn’t deserve it, and using our story is hopefully some markers that you’ll follow and not go down that same sleepless night or watching that guy walk in with his briefcase and know “Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen here.” Use our experience for your benefit, and we’re just grateful and appreciate that you guys are watching.
Dan Paton: And by the way, to you two brothers, we know who you are, and you know who we are, you scared the heck out of us, but we really appreciate where this all ended up ten years later, so we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you very much.
Dan Leighton: And thank you everybody for watching EZ Homes University, and we’ll catch up with you at the next episode.
Dan Paton: See you!