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Trailer Home Sales Collapse As Repossessions Soar

Trailer Home Sales Collapse As Repossessions Soar...

Hundreds of thousands of lower-income trailer-home owners face tough times ahead as the economy slows and the results of poor lending practices become evident.

Trailers, also called manufactured homes, made up more than half of all new homes sold in 1997 and 1998. From 1991 to 1998, annual sales of the units more than doubled, from 174,000 to 374,000.

But the wheels began coming off around the turn of the century, when it became clear that Green Tree Financial and other lenders had written hundreds of thousands of loans on terms that made it nearly impossible for the homeowners to meet their monthly payments. Tens of thousands have already defaulted and been evicted and it's expected that hundreds of thousands more will follow.

Consumers who default on their loans not only lose their homes, they wind up with huge debts and ruined credit.

The go-go years in manufactured homes were driven by loose accounting practices, inflated reports to investors and high-pressure sales tactics at the local level. Green Tree and other lenders began offering 30-year loans instead of the 15-year notes that had been standard in the business. The longer mortgage lowers the monthly payment slightly but more than doubles the cost of the loan.

Many consumers who bought mobile homes looked only at the monthly payment and did not realize they were committing to a 30-year loan on a temporary structure, what accountants call a "wasting asset."

Trailers are vehicles, after all, and they depreciate nearly as fast as cars and trucks, having practically no value after ten years, whereas traditional single-family homes nearly always appreciate, becoming more valuable as time goes by.

With interest rates of 15 percent or more on 30-year loans, trailer home buyers wind up being "upside down," with a debt that far exceeds the value of their home. This makes it impossible for them to trade up to a largerr home, refinance or take out a second mortgage when their financial situation changes.

Green Tree is now Conseco Finance, the lending arm of Conseco, a large financial services company headquartered in Indiana. Conseco now has serious problems of its own and is saddled with $26 billion in loans on trailer homes. It expects to take huge losses on the trailer loans and is also facing problems in its insurance division. Many Wall Street analysts are predicting the company will slide into bankruptcy later this year. Its stock is down 92 percent from its peak in 1998.

The company says it is working with borrowers who run into trouble. But even so, it concedes that it will repossess one in five of the new trailer homes it finances, The New York Times reported. It expects a default rate of 50 percent on the loans it writes on repossessed homes.

Meanwhile, sales have fallen back to 1990 levels. Only about 180,000 are expected to be sold this year. The resulting glut further erodes the resale value of existing units.


Poulan Pro, WEED EATER, Husqvarna and Jonsered Lawn Tractors Recalled

Fuel Leak Hazard

Poulan Pro, WEED EATER, Husqvarna and Jonsered Lawn Tractors Recalled...

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2001 -- WCI Outdoor Products is recalling about 35,000 lawn tractors to replace their 2-gallon fuel tanks. The tank in the lawn tractor can crack and leak fuel, posing a fire hazard.

WCI has received 76 reports of the fuel tanks on these lawn tractors cracking. No injuries have been reported.

The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The recall involves lawn tractors sold under the brand names Poulan Pro, WEED EATER, Husqvarna and Jonsered. They have the manufacture ID number and serial date codes listed below, located under the tractor seat on the fender.

MFG. ID Number
Service Repair Center
 Poulan Pro PR1742ST(A)(B)(C)(D)

 (800) 849-1297
 (800) 358-1097
 WEED EATER S165H42(A) (800) 849-1297
 Husqvarna YTH1542(A)(B)(C)
 (800) 438-7297
 Jonsered JNA1542(A)
 (877) 693-7729

Department, home and hardware stores, including authorized dealerships of the brand names listed, sold the recalled tractors from November 2000 through September 2001 for between $1,000 and $2,000.

Consumers should stop using these lawn tractors immediately and contact the appropriate service center listed above for a free repair. For more information, call WCI Outdoor Products Inc toll-free at (866) 284-8872 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.


Super FuelMAX Marketers Settle FTC Charges

The marketers of the Super FuelMAX automotive fuel-line magnet have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their claims were unsubstantiate...

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2001 -- The marketers of the Super FuelMAX automotive fuel-line magnet, advertised as providing dramatic fuel-saving and emissions-reducing benefits, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their claims were unsubstantiated.

It's the latest in a series of cases involving unsubstantiated fuel economy and engine performance claims. The FTC previously halted allegedly deceptive advertising by the marketers of Dura Lube, Motor Up, Prolong, Valvoline, Slick 50, and STP engine treatments. Earlier this year, the agency sued Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and its Oil-Chem Research Corp. subsidiary to halt false and misleading advertising for zMax auto additives, including claims that zMax increases gas mileage by a minimum of 10 percent.

The settlement would bar the Gadget Universe catalog and its CEO from misrepresenting the actual benefits or efficacy of any supposedly fuel-saving or emissions-reducing products for motor vehicles. It would also prohibit misrepresentations about testimonials, endorsements, tests, or research.

According to the FTC complaint, Esrim Ve Sheva Holding Corp., doing business as Gadget Universe, and its CEO, Alexander Elnekaveh, advertised and sold Super FuelMAX through catalog sales and on their Internet site. Advertising for the device claimed, "Here's one the big oil companies don't want you to know about," "SAVE UP TO 27% ON GAS," and "The Super FuelMAX . . . clamps onto my fuel line, and two powerful neodymium conductors use the scientific principal of magnetic resonance to give me better fuel burn. A certified EPA laboratory reports an amazing 27% in increased mileage and 42% reduction in harmful pollutants." Graphics in the ads showed unruly fuel molecules lining up in straight columns and rows after passing through the Super FuelMAX.