Uniprop was founded in Birmingham, Michigan in 1974 as a diversified real estate investment and property management firm. Initial equity capital was provided by individual “qualified investors”. The firm’s first investments were in office buildings, manufactured home communities, and other income producing properties.
In 1978, Paul Zlotoff performed a strategic review of the company’s portfolio and identified manufactured housing as an attractive niche in the investment real estate market. Gradually, Uniprop shifted its focus to manufactured home communities. Over the next several years, the company identified opportunistic acquisitions and grew its portfolio to forty-five manufactured home communities in twelve states, making it one of the largest privately held companies in the industry.
In the mid-1980’s, Uniprop pioneered equity capital formation for manufactured home communities through two publicly registered limited partnerships. First, the company raised $30 million in equity capital (Uniprop Manufactured Housing Income Fund I) with E. F. Hutton as Sales Agent for limited partnership interests sold to the public. Subsequently, Fund II was taken to the public market and raised $66 million in equity capital. Full SEC reports in accordance with Sarbanes-Oxley were prepared by Uniprop for decades.
In the subsequent decades, Uniprop diversified. Today, property types include Class A general office, medical office, commercial land development, residential land development, and retail. The total portfolio value is approximately $300 million with modest leverage. The principals maintain a substantial liquid net worth with minimal recourse obligations. Recurring property management fees fund all day-to-day operations. Thus, the company is not under any pressure to make new investments. This strong capital base has positioned Uniprop to take advantage of market opportunities.
To fund its growth, Uniprop expanded its sources of capital over the years. The company was the first to tap the CMBS (Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities) market for mortgages secured by land-lease manufactured home communities. Goldman Sachs was the lead underwriter. Uniprop currently has a borrowing and depository relationship with Comerica Bank and several other regional and community banks.
Uniprop continues to focus on its mission statement: “Best Practices, Best in Class.” The company focuses on its core operations to provide the highest level of customer service at the property level. This commitment includes continuous training, standard operating procedures, and independent monitoring of performance through objective assessments.
The current portfolio enjoys above-average rental rates and cash flow. While other companies focused on growth, Uniprop maintained a disciplined acquisition plan and emphasized day-to-day operations; it would not overpay for acquisitions. It is easy to buy; it is hard to manage.
As the market has self-corrected, as it always does, Uniprop is now seeking disciplined growth, which means paying a reasonable price for well-located assets in markets with strong underlying fundamentals.
In 2009, Uniprop launched its entry into private equity, focused on acquiring lower middle market, North American businesses with simple operating models and histories of financial stability. Uniprop now owns multiple operating companies, spanning a diverse set of industries across North America.
Uniprop has forged strong private equity and real estate platforms, along with a capital base that allows it to pursue high value acquisition opportunities. The company employs seven people at its main office and hundreds of employees across its multi-state footprint. The team includes industry executives with years of experience in asset acquisition, property management, land development, construction and disposition.