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Lending Is the Key to Selling Manufactured Housing

June 24th, 2011 1 comment

In a conversation with Industry In Focus Reporter Matthew Silver for  www.MHMSM.com, Mark Dillard, Executive Director of the Manufactured Housing Institute of South Carolina (MHISC), Dillard said lending is the biggest piece of the puzzle in terms of selling manufactured housing.

“We’ve been going to regional credit union association meetings and trying to reach a couple dozen people at a time. There are always a few people who show interest, and out of that we often will get one person who is ready to jump in. Credit unions don’t typically hold the paper when they make loans. Some of the mainstream lenders, like CU and US Bank are encouraging credit unions to make the loans, and then they buy the paper if the bottom line looks good to them,” he says.

“A lot of the retailers have a relationship with the banks in their towns so we put together a power point presentation that the retailer can present to lenders, and leave it with them. It’s everything from the lifespan of a modern day manufactured home to the quality features and construction techniques that go in to making them,” he added.

He says a lot of people outside the industry tend to think manufactured housing is still in the Dark Ages. They do not realize the technology that has made advances in medicine, construction, electronics, automobiles, energy efficiency, and so on, has come to the manufactured industry as well. He notes, “But the bottom line is, whether they can make money. We’re going to combine forces with some of the credit union reps and retailers and go talk to the banks.”

He says a couple of months ago representatives from Wachovia Bank came to the office. “It’s been a while since a big bank like that has come to us,” he noted. “They’ve been purchased by Wells Fargo and they gave us the impression that manufactured housing is going be a significant part of their portfolio.” When you get several lenders competing for loan business, that can help spur the industry.

Recently, the association has been running TV ads in larger markets, promoting the energy efficiency of manufactured housing while showing some very attractive homes. The calls came to MHSCI. The pitch is consumers can receive a $750 tax rebate from the government for buying Energy Star appliances. ”You hit close to home when you talk to people about saving money on their energy bills and getting a check from the government,” says Dillard.  It was a grant from the South Carolina Energy Office through the U.S. Department of Energy. “Whether or not they take an interest in the energy savings, people are at least seeing a very positive image of a manufactured home,” stated Dillard.

“Getting people inside a manufactured house is the real coup. They get inside and see the island in the kitchen, and the Jacuzzi in the bathroom, and the fireplace, and you can see the surprise on their faces,” he notes.

Another initiative Dillard is pursuing involves insurance companies that insure coastal areas. He says the whole U.S. Southeast coastal communities provide a challenge to insurers, whether it’s site-built or manufactured homes or commercial buildings. “In our previous initiative we took executives of national insurance companies on factory tours to show them houses being built, so they could see firsthand the  construction techniques and materials used in building manufactured homes.

“For our current initiative, we discovered in talks with the state insurance department that many people buying property insurance are over insured. We’re putting together a pamphlet to distribute to retailers for consumers to understand how they may save money when they buy property insurance,” he says. Insurance companies move in and out of the state on a regular basis, which keeps the premium high. “The state director of insurance has offered to contact insurers who do business in the southeast and suggest they do business here because we have a high density of manufactured housing,” he states.

South Carolina has just over 20 percent of its population living in manufactured housing.

He says one of the helpful things in this work is the resource of other associations.    “When you talk to other state directors, it’s almost like you’ve met your long lost twin. We all have similar issues and challenges, and even similar days at work,” he notes.

But he also adds that the last ten years have been especially challenging in the industry. He says twenty years ago if a problem came up, you had resources to deal with it. These days with a shoestring budget you have to be creative and resourceful.

In noting that one in every five South Carolinians lives in manufactured housing, he says, with a laugh, “It just shows what a good executive director I am.”  # #

Contact Mark Dillard at www.mhisc.com.

Sherry Norris (AMHA) Reports on Alabama’s Tornado Recovery Efforts

May 13th, 2011 No comments

Editor’s Note: Following is an exclusive interview by Industry in Focus Reporter Matthew Silver with Sherry Norris in Alabama as that state recovers from the tornadoes of April 28.

In a conversation with MHMSM, Sherry Norris, Executive Director of the Alabama Manufactured Housing Association (AMHA), says the Federal Emergency Management Agency had the foresight last year to build manufactured housing units in preparation for future disasters, and stage them at Selma, Alabama.

Norris heard there are over 2,000 homes that are now in the process of being moved to the northern Alabama area where they are needed.

She says, “Some people are living in tents.  I heard of one family who was trying to build a shelter out of the debris of their home.  Those people need one of our houses ASAP.”

Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who represents District 4, where all the state’s manufactured housing plants are located, and Governor Robert Bentley, are insisting the replacement homes used for the victims of the tornadoes are from Alabama manufacturers.

FEMA has asked Norris to obtain figures from manufactured housing retailers in the state for an inventory of available homes once the units from Selma have been distributed.

Norris says the replacement homes are not the ones you might see on a retailer’s lot, but are three bedroom, one bath single sections, fully furnished and ready to be hooked to utilities.

Norris further stated FEMA is also preparing for the hurricane season, so the houses now being used will need to be replaced.  The flooding of the Mississippi may even require additional homes to be built.  # #

Sherry Norris, Executive Director of the Alabama Manufactured Housing Association (AMHA), snorris@charter.net, (334) 244-7828, www.alamha.org