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Seattle Times announces State Investigation of Warren Buffett’s Clayton Homes, as expected – Analysis

February 5th, 2016 Comments off

TheyreBackSeattleTimesLogo-creditSeattleTimesTheirBack-creditDailyBusinessNewsMHProNews-com-As part of the Seattle Times‘ ongoing year-long rant on Warren Buffett’s/Berkshire Hathaway-owned Clayton Homes and their affiliated lenders, Mike Baker and Daniel Wagner have succeeded in drawing Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s attention and his state’s Department of Commerce. This is resulting in a bill to investigate the sales, financing and repossession of manufactured homes.

This latest reprise of their ongoing saga was anticipated by MHProNews, as shown by this link from Jan. 30, 2016.

In a series of previous articles, Baker and Wagner have accused Clayton Homes of discriminatory lending, predatory lending on the poor, and trapping the unsuspected in high-interest loans with an eye on repossessing the manufactured home (MH) once the borrower falls behind on payments.

Steve Lefler, vice president of Modular Lifestyles, Inc. – part of the Newport Pacific family of companies – observed, “Recent defective construction and DOJ investigation on loans I have to say, Clayton may revisit their staff and operations activities. Reputation and public perception are hard to re-claim after these types of accusations.”

Lefler is far from alone among industry professionals in his concerns about the the implications and types of consequences from these articles by Baker and Wagner. Long time industry veteran Marty Lavin voiced his observations and concerns in an OpEd, linked here. Numerous off-the-record comments about this topic have come into MHProNews.

Baker and Wagner

What has been described as their brand of “advocacy journalism” has resulted in calls by some Democratic leadership in Congress to investigate the MH industry, and Clayton Homes in particular, since they are the target of the Seattle Times/BuzzFeed News reports and the dominant producer and lender in the MH industry. Clayton Homes and their affiliated lenders are part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway, which in a heated election cycle, makes for a stronger draw in readership.

Washington state Commerce Director Brian Bonlender says the stories could offer some solutions to the state legislature during its long legislative session in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, passed by the House and awaiting consideration in the Senate, is referred to by Baker and Wagner as “an industry-backed plan to roll back consumer protections.” The duo painted Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway “mobile home” (sic) units as being the main winners if the HR 650/S 682 becomes law.

In a story picked up by Nanotech News, The Boston Globe, The Miami Hearld  and dozens of other media outlets, MHLivingNews publisher L. A. “Tony” Kovach takes a critical look at how Baker and Wagner, utilizing a wide swath brush, paints Clayton and Buffett as vampires, sucking the life blood from consumers.

Take one famously folksy billionaire, add a pinch of cherry-picked stats, stir well with a cast of wronged Native American, black and Hispanic homebuyers and you have the latest tag-team assault on the Warren Buffett manufactured home empire.

What could be more clickable holiday fare than the new installment in a yearlong campaign by two reporters who have pretty much made a career of throwing dirt at one of the richest men on Earth?

How about a tale of bilking poor minorities out of billions of dollars amid an atmosphere so steeped in racism it makes kindly Uncle Warren look like an overseer at Tara in Gone with the Wind?

Who cares if it’s not true?” The entire Nanotech News item is linked here.

Kovach did an analysis on that issue for MHLivingNews.com, which the Seattle Times and BuzzFeed have yet to address. See that report, linked here.

The Seattle Times video relates the story of one couple who allegedly were taken advantage of by Clayton and their lender. That video is below.

As a thumbnail analysis of their video, as heart-wrenching as this kind of topic may be, carefully reviewing it actually undermines some points Baker and Wagner are trying to make. Many individuals, couples or households have life events that can lead to a default on a house, manufactured or site-built: divorce, job loss, ill health and death. The interest rate wasn’t the key factor, based upon the information in their own video.

Another point their dark, somber and one-sided video avoids entirely is that no manufactured home lender wants to pick up a multi-sectional home, save as a last resort.  The losses on a repossession like the one described can be so great, lenders would much rather work it out with the borrower if that is possible. Without question, there are lots unsaid in this Seattle Times video report.

Additionally, the couple’s home was in a remote location, as they stated, which could mean there may not have had comps around to support a land/home kind of loan at that time.

The Seattle Times video and related articles are, Kovach and others assert, created to provide an entirely unbalanced view of manufactured home living and lending, as quality affordable lifestyles.  The evidence for this in their own video, because there is no opposing or balancing viewpoint shared.

Yet the Government Accounting Office’s 2014 report on manufactured housing graphic below dramatically demonstrates that even with a higher financing rate than conventional lending – which is caused in part by no access to secondary markets, and no federal backing of the loans – the monthly payments for a manufactured home are lower than other forms of housing, because of the dramatically lower cost of the homes.

monthly-housing-cost-2011-manufactured-homes-vs-other-housing.

Graphic credit, GAO report on manufactured housing.  The entire GAO report, along with examples of why the reforms sought by the MH industry of CFPB regulations are indeed a consumer benefit, can be found at the link here.

The Other Side of MH Living Baker and Wagner Avoid

A very different image of manufactured home living emerges from videos that Inside MH has produced, which spotlight home owners, professionals, and experts discussing the appeal and value of manufactured home living. Two of many examples are below.  The first is from a couple living in a land-lease, the second is with a realtor who has sold hundreds of manufactured homes and who’s husband is a custom builder. 

Advocacy Journalism?

Behind-the-scenes of the Seattle Times/BuzzFeed, PBS NewsHour or related stories are efforts by non-profit groups to derail Preserving Access. An in-depth video interview with Marty Lavin, JD – an award winning MH lending expert – about facts relating to the legislation is linked here.

Informed sources tell the Daily Business News/MHProNews  that another installment of the Baker/Wagner duo is expected soon. ##

(Image credit: Seattle Times logo, which is their property, used here under fair use guidelines. Halloween “Their Back…” lettering, by MHProNews.)

matthew-silver-daily-business-news-mhpronews-comArticle submitted by Matthew J. Silver to Daily Business News-MHProNews.

Gizmag says top sustainable housing includes prefabricated homes

November 28th, 2014 Comments off

top-sustainable-models-includes-prefabricated-homes-credit=gizmag-posted-daily-business-news-mhpronews-com-Having a sustainable green home in today’s housing market can mean more than just having solar panels. It can often mean technology and better quality building components.

With sustainability and energy key buzz words, homebuyers are often looking to minimize environmental impact and total financial outlays. This can be done by using sustainable technology and materials, resulting in a boom for those seeking to drive architectural innovation.

According to a survey by Gizmag  of sustainable homes, a new line of high-end prefab houses called Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes (PATH) are emerging.

Designed by renowned French designer and architect Philippe Starck who recently teamed-up with Slovenian prefab firm Riko, one such PATH home line features multiple shapes and sizes, and a bold exterior boasting plenty of windows. Optional features using sustainability includes a roof-placed solar array, roof-based wind turbine, rainwater collection and filtration system.

The Fall House located on California’s Big Sur coastline, was designed by San Francisco’s Fougeron Architecture. This stylish home is also practical. The two story home has energy efficient windows includes automatic windows. A copper facade twill weather and patina over time given exposure to nearby ocean air. The copper is also offers a degree of fire-protection.

The Waste House gets its name because it was built from mostly re-usable materials that came from household and construction waste. For example, materials utilized in Waste House originally came from such items as toothbrushes and used carpeting. It is a sustainable construction project installed at the UK’s University of Brighton.

The Tighthouse is said to be the first certified passive house in New York City. Tighthouse is actually a 100 year old row home. Now completely renovated, it features energy efficient building materials, including solar panels and a heat ventilation system.

These are just a few examples of innovative pre-fab and remodeled housing which can be stylish and energy efficient for their home owners.

Factory built housing professionals tracking developments in green building, such as California based Modular Lifestyles off-grid homes, will want to explore how trends continue to evolve and impact the market and thus the manufactured and modular housing industries. ##

(Photo collage credit: Gizmag)

joseine-josie-thompson-writer-daily-business-news-mhpronews-com50x50-Article submitted by Josie Thompson to – Daily Business News – MHProNews.  

Improving Manufactured Housing’s Image to Increase Sales

June 18th, 2013 Comments off

manufactured-home-living-news-modular-lifestyles-cavco-industries-_001

With image being a key component to selling more manufactured homes to cash and credit worthy buyers, that may explain the growing daily commentary in favor of the start of the ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com image campaign. Nancy Geer, Executive Director of the New York Housing Association said: “Manufactured Home Living Website is a great resource for homeowners and consumers.  It has a large content of articles and videos to please any interested reader.”

Steven Lefler, Vice President of Modular Lifestyles stated: Given our industry has had a history and the perception of an image problem…The efforts of the industry to change are just beginning…Your website begins the process, nice job!” Scott Stroud, of BuilderRadio applauded the effort with this comment: “Tony – Hats off to you for taking the lead with this great image-building website. Anyone who visits manufacturedhomelivingnews.com must be impressed with the true state of the MH industry today. I won’t say that “image is everything,” but this will truly take buyers perceptions to a new high. It’s good for the industry and everyone associated with it, and you set a bar that others will certainly strive to meet. A big THANK YOU from us all!” Previous comments published with the okay of those who made them are found in this news article, entitled Williams, Allen and others give thumbs up. The publisher of the new platform reminds readers that more pro industry, consumer focused articles, featured homes and other related plans are in the pipeline.##

(Photo credit: Cavco/Modular Lifestyles)

Modular with solar power selected for Green Home Tour

August 24th, 2011 Comments off

Award-winning Modular Lifestyles has had the home in the photo to the left selected for the 3rd Annual Upcoming Ojai Valley Green Home Tour held October 1, 2011. The home passed the stringent So Cal Edison “CA Advanced Home” program standards. Modular Lifestyles VP, Steven Lefler, told MHMSM.com that “We are honored of its (the home’s) inclusion and have secured…a 2012 Nissan EV “Leaf” to be parked in its driveway for visitors to marvel at our home’s ability to offset the cost of electricity as well charge this electric vehicle from its solar power. A true futuristic way of living by driving a electric car and producing your own electricity. We believe this is the future of proven affordable solar powered green housing using an innovative factory with a HERS rater instead of traditional site built construction.”  The insert at the bottom right corner of the photo is of the home’s rooftop solar panels.

(Photo credit: ModularLifestyles)