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Manufactured Housing: Underutilized and Misunderstood

December 10th, 2014 No comments

What will it take for manufactured housing, the principal source of unsubsidized, affordable homes in the United States, to reach its potential?

Limited and expensive financing options make life even more difficult for the financially vulnerable residents who live in manufactured housing DHS_post_MontanaHome_11.03_.25_nhi=credit-posted-industry-voices-manufactured-housing-mhpronews-(MH) communities. The continuing consolidation of ownership is taking a toll, and the industry just can’t seem to shake the outdated, negative stereotype of a rusted, flimsy structure with a dog chained to the front porch.

Manufactured homes, frequently mischaracterized as mobile homes or trailers—even though once placed, they're rarely moved—house over 18 million Americans. Most are just getting by; the median annual household income of residents is $30,000. The homes are much less expensive to rent or own because they’re built in factories, so they cost less than half the estimated $94-per-square-foot national average for new site-built homes.

Not only is manufactured housing misunderstood, it’s underutilized. “We don’t have enough public housing to fulfill our needs,” says MH industry expert Lisa Tyler of Paris, Tennessee. “Manufactured housing presents a solution. It’s inexpensive, energy efficient, and a great value. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the industry, but a lot of obstacles, too.”

One such roadblock is the way most MH is legally classified as personal property rather than real estate, according to a recent report on manufactured housing from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. That means MH homebuyers pay higher loan rates, 6.79 percent on average, and have fewer consumer protections than owners of site-built homes, who paid 3.6 to 4.2 percent in 2012 for a conventional mortgage with a 30-year fixed rate.

And then there’s the persistent image problem. Industry insiders are dismayed that manufactured housing continues to be stigmatized, despite the fact that factory built homes constructed after 1976 must adhere to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code that provides guidelines and oversight relating to quality, safety, and durability.

“Today, manufactured homes are often built with higher quality, more energy efficient and sustainable materials than site built homes, and many are set in lovely, tree-lined communities with responsible, hard-working residents," says Tyler. “The mainstream media tells us that people who live in manufactured homes are 'trailer trash,' drug dealers, or wife beaters. Sadly, many people still have trouble getting past that horribly unfair stereotype.”

Mom and Pop: Unsung Heroes

Residents and owners of manufactured housing communities are also grappling with a wave of consolidation that began in the 1990’s, and continues unabated. Sun Communities Inc., for example, just announced it bought seven MH communities in the Orlando area for $257 million. So far, investors are mostly targeting larger communities, says L.A. “Tony” Kovach, publisher of leading trade publications MHProNews.com and MHLivingNews.com. “But we’re going to see things evolve over the next five years, as investors come knocking and begin targeting smaller sites, those with 150 units or less,” says Kovach, who's based in Lakeland, Florida.

These sites are traditionally the territory of small, local owners and operators, informally called Mom and Pop’s.

“The majority of parks were created by private owners, who manage this valuable resource for low and moderate income people who want a home of their own,” says Paul Bradley, the founding president of ROC USA, a nonprofit based in Concord, New Hampshire that promotes resident-owned communities (ROCs). “But they don’t get credit for it. These stewards of affordable home ownership are unsung heroes.” While smaller owner-operators have their flaws, “most of them are truly decent people who’ve managed their communities respectfully,” adds Bradley.

Meanwhile, many of these MH owner-operators are looking to retire, or get out of the business due to economic pressures and shifts in the industry. As fewer of their adult children want to take over the family business, more Mom and Pop’s are selling to larger operations, which, in turn, sell to investors. That’s when the fortunes of residents can change quickly.

“The difference between how a consolidator runs a business and how we did is one of values, frankly,” says Marc S. Seigle, a retired attorney and former owner, along with his family, of a MH community in Elbridge, NY. Seigle says they raised rents on tenants from $190 to about $300 over 25 years—just enough to cover inflation, taxes and insurance costs.

“There’s always a great deal of talk about the importance of quality affordable housing, but it’s pretty much eyewash—just talk,” says Seigle. “I saw an article in The New York Timesabout Wall Street investors making their fortunes in this industry. I thought, they suddenly discovered they could do what the rest of the world does with folks who don’t have much clout—gouge them. I’m saddened but not surprised to see it.”

A Better Way

Owner-operators of MH communities who're ready to exit the industry don’t have to sell to consolidators. There’s a better option, says Bradley. Residents can collectively buy the land, and create a ROC. Bradley’s organization, ROC USA, has helped secure community ownership for over 150 resident corporations to preserve and improve affordable communities, and help residents build their individual assets. Impressively, none of ROC USA’s communities have gone bankrupt, into foreclosure, or been resold.

Seigle’s family was the first to partner with ROC-USA, back in 2008. He says they received their asking price, and there was no downside to the deal. “I spoke with a consolidator, and it was quite clear to me they’d jack up the rents if we sold to them,” says Seigle. “The fact I was able to sell to my former customers, so they would have some control and I knew it would be well maintained—made it even a sweeter deal.”

Former MH community owner George Everett was also pleased with his ROC USA transaction. He sold the 32-unit Green Acres Cooperative, tucked deep inside the Rocky Mountains in Kalispell, Montana, to the nonprofit in 2010. “I know many of those who live in the community real well. Ninety-five percent are good, hardworking people who didn’t deserve for a developer to come in and suddenly raise the rent so high they’d have to leave their home.”

“I’m a conservative person, but I’d do it again,” says Everett, a former realtor, and a Republican who served in the Montana legislature for eight years. “I still drive past there and talk with the manager sometimes. It seemed to work out well for everyone.”

dana-hawkins-simons-nhi-org-posted-industry-voices-manufactured-housing-mhpronews-com-75x75-Dana Hawkins-Simons directs NHI's Opportunity Housing Initiative, a project that supports the expansion of long-term affordable housing programs and policies. She is an award-winning journalist and former senior editor of U.S. News & World Report. Reprinted on request, as first published in Rooflines,

(Photo of the Green Acres Cooperative by Lorie Cahill.)

Appalled by Gary Rivlin’s New York Times Article on “The Cold, Hard Lessons of Mobile Home U”

April 8th, 2014 No comments

As an experienced industry professional, former owner of a manufactured home, and academic scholar completing a dissertation on attitudes and perceptions towards manufactured housing, I am appalled by the seemingly acceptable exploitation of low-income residents and lack of corporate social and ethical responsibility conveyed in this article.

Gary Rivlin’s article portrayed Frank Rolfe’s business model and success as the standard for the affordable housing side of the manufactured home industry.

According to peer-reviewed academic research, the negative social construction of low-income families profoundly influence opinions of affordable housing residents (Nguyen et al., 2012).

Contemporary mass media and popular culture, such as Rivlin’s piece, contribute to the negative stigmatization through the depiction of manufactured housing residents as alcoholics, crack heads, drug dealers, wife beaters, sex offenders, and the mentally ill (Kusenbach, 2009).

While Rolfe’s tales of tenants “weirdness” certainly adds humorous entertainment to his lesson of exploiting the poverty class, the damage inflicted through contributing to negative stigmatization of residents is concerning.

Rivlin’s article is a prime example of media coverage that increases misconceptions through inaccurate and outdated information, as well as the omission of information about advancements and improvements.

I am disappointed that The New York Times would contribute to the unflattering depiction of manufactured housing residents and use of deprecating names (i.e. trailer) that reduce social prestige and contribute to negative social perceptions.

According to research by Mimura et al. (2010), accurate media coverage should use proper terminology instead of dated slang words and report truthful and unbiased aspects of the product.

Perhaps Mr. Rivlin should spend some time with one of the industry manufacturers and gain an accurate perspective of the product and targeted consumer market.##

lisa-tyler-walden-university-posted-manufactured-home-professional-news-mhpronews-com-50x50-(1).pngLisa Tyler
Walden University
lisa.tyler@waldenu.edu

(Editor's Note: A broad, industry based response to the Cold Hard Lessons of Mobile Home U, which includes comments MHI's Chairman Nathan Smith and other industry veterans, is found at this link below.

http://www.ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com/sensationalistic-cold-hard-lessons-of-mobile-home-u-new-york-times-article-by-gary-rivlin-draws-manufactured-home-industry-ire-desire-and-fire/

The story linked above, as the second one below, have both been leading reads on their respective sites.

Reader responses to this topic or others of industry interest are welcomed at latonyk@gmail.com or iReportMHNewsTips@mhmsm.com please indicated your topic in the subject line, thank you.)

Manufactured Housing Institute CEO Richard Jennison’s letter to Princeton’s WordNet requesting Definition Correction

April 12th, 2013 No comments

wordnet@princeton.edu 

Research can be valuable and informative if it approaches its subject in a non-biased, factual manner.  Your recent definition of "manufactured home" however immediately casts your research intentions into serious doubt with such prejudicial, outdated, and uninformed terminology.

Official, legal, definitions are available on many state and national government websites and will provide you a more balanced and timely reflection of the state of manufactured homes in 2013.  I request that you update your own definition using one of these, without the insertion of your flawed and outdated misunderstanding of today's manufactured homes.

Should you need any additional assistance in defining manufactured homes, please contact me and I will be happy to provide you with correct information.

Richard JennisonSincerely,
Richard Jennison
President and CEO
Manufactured Housing Institute

(Editor's Note: Dick Jennison's cogent response is published with permission, and is in response to this 'definition' published online by Princeton's WordNet as shown below:

MHProNews thanks MHI's Dick Jennison, Lisa Tyler's (Walden University) heavily documented letter, Georgia Manufactured Housing Association's Jay Hamilton, MHRetailer Jody Anderson and MHC manager James Cook for their published responses to this issue, along with the others who have directly addressed wordnet@princeton.edu to ask them to update their flawed definition of manufactured home. We have word from sources that other efforts will be made to encourage Princeton to update this obvious error.

Until Princeton's Wordnet Team has made a proper update, please take a moment and add your voice to these and other respected industry professionals who have emailed wordnet@princeton.edu asking them to correct their flawed online definition. You could use one of the examples given by others linked above, or write your own, but please do write them.

Our original column that launched this topic on MHProNews is linked here and a different version meant for the public is found here on MHLivingNews) ##

Lisa Tyler – at Walden University – Request for Correction Addressed to Princeton’s WordNet

April 12th, 2013 No comments

Dear Esteemed Princeton Wordnet representative-

 Princeton University is one of the leading educational systems in the country.  The school's reputation reflects the highest levels of academic excellence, prestige, accuracy, and leadership.  Articles written by Princeton educated authors are viewed as the ultimate authority on a variety of topics. In light of the level of confidence placed in Princeton affiliated publications, there is a growing concern in the manufactured housing industry on the Wordnet definition of “manufactured home.”

According to the Google search engine result that cites wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn as the defining source, a manufactured home is “mobile home: a large house trailer that can be connected to utilities and can be parked in one place and used as permanent housing..

Obvious problems exist with this very outdated definition.

It may seem like a cultural vernacular that impacts a small percentage of the population. However, approximately 23 million Americans live in manufactured housing (Wilson, 2012). According to the 2007 American Housing Survey, approximately 8.7 million (6.8%) of the 128 million housing units were manufactured homes (Zhou, 2009). The 2011 American Housing Survey reflects the increase to approximately 9.05 million manufactured housing units.

Comprising the second largest percentage of all housing units in the United States (McCarty, 2010), manufactured housing has been a vital source of affordable housing (Wilson, 2012) and are typical of rural areas (Aman & Yarnal, 2010; Tighe, 2013). Housing experts recognize manufactured housing as the predominant source of unsubsidized, affordable housing for rural homeowners and tenants (Tighe, 2013). Not only does the misnomer influence inaccurate perceptions of the product, it can contribute to the marginalization of a significant population.

There are many peer reviewed works that include definitions available that could be used in place of Wordnet’s outdated version. Following are some examples that you may find useful:

  • Manufactured home: Housing structures produced in factories, then transported to site, and installed on designated lands (Zhou, 2009). Manufactured homes must be constructed to the standards of a uniform nationwide building code known as the HUD code (Dawkins & Koebel, 2010).
  • Mobile home: Slang word for manufactured home. Derived from the original classification of mobile homes as vehicles requiring registration with the Department of Motor Vehicles (Kusenbach, 2009). Prevailing term changed to “manufactured home” in 1981 (Wilson, 2012)

Manufactured homes construction occurs in a factory setting, transported to a dealership in another location to be sold, and eventually placed on site at a third location (Dawkins & Koebel, 2010). The manufactured housing construction process uses similar techniques, materials, and equipment as traditional site homebuilding (Nahmens & Ikuma, 2009). The main differences in the construction processes are location of construction and resources used. Manufactured housing construction takes place on an assembly line in a controlled environment (Nahmens & Ikuma, 2009) while exposure to natural elements determines site built home construction processes. Industrialized construction uses construction crews dedicated to specific processes on the assembly line (Nahmens & Ikuma, 2009), whereas independent contractors complete site built home construction processes at different times.

I hope that enough peer reviewed information has been provided to justify changing Wordnet’s definition of manufactured home. Princeton University and its affiliates greatly influence consumer perceptions of products. The recent economic crisis has resulted in housing changes for many Americans. The need for high quality and affordable housing is a pressing issue that must be resolved. The term “trailer house” was replaced with “mobile home” in the 1950’s (Burkhart, 2010; Wilson, 2012). The 1981 HUD code revision included the adoption of “manufactured home” as the prevailing term (Wilson, 2012). Thirty two years later, Wordnet is still referring to the product using terms such as “trailer house” and “mobile home.”

I respectfully request that the definition be updated to reflect the government and industry recognized term that properly represents the product. In the event that you need further proof to justify requested changes, I have provided a reference list of peer reviewed sources used in this letter.

Lisa TylerSincerely,
Lisa Tyler, DBA (ABD), MBA

References

Aman, D., & Yarnal, B. (2010). Home sweet mobile home? Benefits and challenges of mobile home ownership in rural Pennsylvania.Applied Geography30(1), 84–95. doi:10.10.1016/j.apgeog.2009.09.001

Burkhart, A. (2010, February 5). Bringing manufactured housing into the real estate finance system. Pepperdine Law Review, Forthcoming; Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-06. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=1548441

Dawkins, C., & Koebel, C. (2010). Overcoming barriers to placing manufactured housing in metropolitan communities. Journal of the American Planning Association76(1), 73–89. doi:10.1080/01944360903401052

Kusenbach, M. (2009). Salvaging decency: Mobile home residents’ strategies of managing the stigma of “trailer” living. Qualitative Sociology32(4), 399–428. doi:10.1007/s11133-009-9139-z

McCarty, W. (2010). Trailers and trouble? An examination of crime in mobile home communities. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research12(2), 127. Retrieved from https://atoz-ebsco-com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/Customization/Tab/12486?tabId=5371

Nahmens, I., & Ikuma, L. (2009). An empirical examination of the relationship between lean construction and safety in the industrialized housing industry. Lean Construction Journal, 1–12. Retrieved from www.leanconstructionjournal.org

Tighe, J. R. (2013). Responding to the foreclosure crisis in Appalachia: A policy review and survey of housing counselors. Housing Policy Debate23(1), 111–143. doi:10.1080/10511482.2012.751931

Wilson, B. (2012). An examination of electricity consumption patterns in manufactured housing units. Housing Policy Debate22(3), 175–199. doi:10.1080/10511482.2011.648204

Zhou, Y. (2009). Two essays on American housing markets: The determinants of housing value volatility and the ownership decision for manufactured housing (Ph.D dissertation). Ohio State University, Ohio, United States. Retrieved from http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Zhou%20Yu.pdf?osu1243886980

The 2013 Tunica Manufactured Housing Show was Fantastic!

March 31st, 2013 No comments

What a fantastic turnout for the Tunica Manufactured Housing Show! The optimism of lenders, manufacturers, suppliers, community managers, retailers and association leaders was evident. There was much “buzz” over new innovations in the homes AND the participation of a couple of new retail and wholesale lenders.

I was very impressed by the attendance at the seminars. I overheard a couple of gentlemen discussing how they had been to all of the seminars and gained valuable and useful information that would benefit their respective businesses.

It also seems that manufactured home community management involvement has increased since last year’s show – wonderful news!!!

As the economy continues to slowly recover, consumers will become more aware of the affordable housing options. This shift will help every facet of the industry. More importantly – it will increase consumer awareness and (hopefully) education about the product.

I had the privilege of discussing my dissertation topic with a few fellow Tunica Show attendees. The commonality between the conversations was the need to improve the perception of manufactured housing to accurately reflect the high quality and extreme value the product offers.

Everyone seemed to agree that the biggest challenge was changing the way the general public viewed manufactured homes. While there is no magic cure that will solve issues, having conversations about benefits and challenges can lead to grassroots efforts that spur change. Movement of any kind in the right direction will have a positive impact. After all, our current President achieved his first election through grassroots movements and social media. If seemingly small changes can result in a sea-change of that magnitude, imagine what similar grass roots forward momentum in the manufactured housing industry can do…

One thing I like about the Tunica Show is that you never know who you will run into! I was able to meet “Uncle” Si Robertson from the hit show Duck Dynasty as he was touring the CMH displays. Later that evening (thanks to the awesome folks at CMH), I was able to meet Phil and Miss Kay Robertson AND listen to Phil’s testimony at the CMH Award Banquet & Celebration.

Phil shared that he had toured a manufacturing facility and witnessed outstanding work ethic. Not only did he recognize the value of the product, he appreciated the hard work of every person in the industry.

Talk about a great opportunity to change the consumer perception of manufactured housing! The stars of the most popular television show recognize, understand, and appreciate the product – how about THAT for validation and perception change!

There are lots of positive things happening in the manufactured housing industry. Whether in the developmental phases or getting ready for implementation, there are abundant opportunities for involvement and participation. ##

Lisa Tyler
Walden University
(Editor's Note: Lisa Tyler is a veteran of manufactured housing retail and is currently doing her dissertation en route to her PhD on a topic focused on Manufactured Housing)

(Photo credit: Lisa Tyler (right) with Uncle Si Robertson – left – from Duck Dynasty)

An MH Industry Turn Around Plan, Part II

November 16th, 2011 No comments

An MH Industry Turn Around Plan, Part II

 
In my previous article, I explored the potential benefits of an alliance that included not only industry players, but the involvement of the end user – the homeowner. Regardless of the geographical location and cultural differences in this country, affordable housing is a necessity. Whether a consumer is interested in purchasing a manufactured home on land or renting a site (and/or home) in a manufactured home land-lease community, the end result is the same; occupancy of a manufactured home.
 
Like an uncoordinated kid who accepts being chosen last for a sports team, the manufactured housing industry has all too often settled for being considered the less than optimal choice for consumers. At some point, that uncoordinated kid is going to learn the rules, receive instruction from coaches, gain support from teammates, and develops the skills and passion for success at the game. This hypothetical player is going to seek any available resources – from physical fitness and honing skills to setting personal goals and overcoming obstacles – in order to improve positioning. Obviously, the kid is not on this journey alone – coaches, teammates, parents, and fans play an integral role in turning the “last choice” into the first round pick.
 
In a similar manner, the MH Alliance is taking a holistic approach to providing solutions to the manufactured housing industry. One of the biggest hurdles is gaining support from all industry players. The MH Industry is highly segmented – manufacturing, retail, communities, suppliers, finance and insurance, government entities, etc – all hold separate paradigms. More time may be spent by some blaming the other segments for the industry downturn than is spent pulling together and taking action to reverse the trend. The concept of working together to identify and implement sustainable solutions may thus be overshadowed by the reluctance to change and move beyond one's comfort zone.
 
Sports teams recognize that the weakest link can be transformed into the strongest point through the right drills and effort. Therefore, the team takes a holistic approach by identifying specific problem areas and identifying solutions to increase the level of strength by improving the weakest link. The team members recognize each individual’s contribution and the value that it adds to the team’s performance. The MH Alliance is a collective venue that gives balanced value to every player on the team. The strategy is based on breaking down the walls of segmentation to form a team with a unified approach to problem solving. The only “favored children” ought to be the consumers – the manufactured home owners! – of the Industry's products and services.
 
Using a systematic approach, problems are identified and a collaborative effort is used to develop strategies and solutions. The MH Alliance can benefit manufacturers by distinguishing them as a valid and credible source of a much needed product. Quality control issues have been hammered in the media and public opinion. Industry professionals are well aware that manufacturers are held accountable for quality standards. However, the general public – POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS – are not privy to the same information. Consumer awareness and education is a necessary component for image change, yet the current individualized strategies are all too often ineffective. A more unified effort therefor is a must.
 
Information about manufactured homes are usually gleaned from internet searches or a visit to a retail sales center. Manufacturer participation would be linked to current homeowners through the MH Alliance. Not only would the linkage provide access to potential consumers, it would also improve accountability and provide transparency.
 
Manufactured home land-lease communities, MH Retailers and others would also benefit from the Alliance. Let's look at a quick example.
 
Unemployment, foreclosure, and divorce rates are at all time highs in this country. The commonality between the three is that the actions produce a greater need for affordable homes and rental units. Part of the consumer’s resistance to MH Communities (MHC) is the negative stigmatization that is derived from a lack of consistency among owners or managers. One MHC may require yard maintenance requirements and a neat home site with enforced rules while the other allows a goat to eat the grass or you can see barking dog chained to the steps or a tree. The carrot of access to marketing dollars can be a tool for the MH Alliance to involve community owners and encouraging a set of standards will move the choice far beyond the “trailer park” and “mobile home” mentality. Furthermore, by targeting and driving 1-2 star customers to 1-2 star locations, and driving 4-5 star prospects to 4-5 star locations, consumers will find the 'right lifestyle choice' for their needs, wants and budgets.
 
The same can be done with “street retailers” sales centers. We have all seen the state of the art sales centers with HUD Code and modular homes that look like or are ground set, with great landscaping, furnishings, etc. Such 4-5 star retailers should be the ones to see the 4-5 star customers. Those retailers who have 1-2 star locations will have the 1-2 star clientele driven to their sales centers.
In marketing, one goal is always to match the right product and service with the right buyer. One of the good points that the MH Alliance plan offers is that it will avoid marketing disconnects. This will result in more closed business.
 
A key point to remember is the MH Alliance is more than just marketing or image building. So while this article has focused on that aspect, it is important to remember that issues such as better exit strategies for lenders and home owners, improved financing and much more are a part of the mix. Perhaps we can look at those aspects in a future column. # #
 
Links to comments from Industry Professionals who have participated in an MH Alliance/Phoenix Project GoToMeeting small group webinar.
 
 
(Editor’s Note: All links in this article and some edits were provided by MHProNews.com for context to Ms. Tyler’s article. It is good to recall that Ms. Tyler's perspective includes years of MH Retailing and MH home ownership.)
Lisa Tyler, MBA
Marketing Instructor
Walden University
Planning a doctoral dissertation on manufactured home marketing and image.

MH homeowner and MBA’s perspective on MH Industry Turn-Around

October 22nd, 2011 4 comments

Like many young newlyweds in the south, my first homeowner’s experience was a brand new “double-wide” manufactured home.  In the mid to late 1990’s, owning a home was considered a “right of passage” and I was thrilled that my (now former) husband and I were able to accomplish this goal before the age of 25.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before my enchantment with my new home was overshadowed by the negative stigma associated with manufactured housing.  Feelings of pride diminished as references of “trailer,” “tornado magnet” and “cheap housing” were made.

My employment in the retail division of the industry made me fully aware of the truth, but social misconceptions fueled by the media and peer snobbery made me feel slightly ashamed and inadequate.  It did not matter that our home included a two car garage, concrete sidewalks, large front porch, and back deck that wrapped around an above ground swimming pool.  Society deemed that we lived in a “trailer.”

Years later, when presented with the opportunity to use the equity towards the purchase of a ranch style brick home, we did not hesitate to complete the transaction.

In keeping with the comedic southern tradition of a “mobile home” being lost in a divorce, the division of property resulted in my retention of the brick home which was worth substantially more than the purchase amount.  Of course, the large down payment was made possible only by the appreciation of value and subsequent equity in the manufactured home.  The home deemed “second class” by society was the only thing that enabled my family to afford a socially acceptable conventional house.  How’s that for ironic?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that the first level of human requirements is basic biological needs – food, clothing, and shelter.  This level of hierarchy is followed by safety needs: belongingness, esteem and self actualization needs.  In short, people need to feel a connection with others and want to be accepted in society.  Self esteem needs are fulfilled through social approval and recognition.  The intrinsic need to feel a sense of pride is one of the most motivating and influential factors of decision making.  It is also a necessary component for fulfilling the basic needs of human behavior.  Yet, the feeling of pride about living in a manufactured home is often swayed by inaccurate perceptions and negative stigmatization.

As productive members of society, we work hard to provide necessities for our families.  As parents, we strive to provide a better life for our children than what we experienced.  The misconceptions about manufactured housing certainly impact our children.  After all, who wants “little Johnny” to get off the school bus among whispers that he lives in a “trailer park?”  Or for “little Suzy” to get overlooked for the cheer-leading squad because her parents are “too poor to live in a real house”” It does not matter that “little Johnny” lives in a well kept community with paved roads, maintained yards, enhanced safety through resident screening and visual appeal or that “little Suzy” lives in a brand new “double wide” that was chosen because the floor plan meets her family’s needs.

Social acceptance and pride often trump logic.  Even though it is logical and practical for consumers to choose manufactured homes, the misconceptions and negative stigma can influence how consumers view themselves and their abilities to provide for their families.

How can the industry convince consumers that living in a manufactured home will fulfill the need of self affirmation (i.e. pride)?

What strategies can be developed to reverse the negative stigmatization?

The obvious answer is to change the image of the industry, but that battle cry has only gathered a small portion of the troops.  Despite the significant changes of the last two decades, the consumer’s perception of the product has not changed.

Instead of trying to reinvent the image, perhaps the industry should modify its approach to the consumer.  A collective voice wields more power than an individual voice.  Create a venue that will fulfill the human needs of belongingness and esteem.  Involve homeowners by providing a way for them to connect with others that share the same interests and lifestyles, thus creating a feeling of belonging and acceptance.  Follow in the footsteps of other industries by changing the image through consumer participation.

For example, people of retirement age are no longer viewed as “too old to do anything.”  Instead, thanks in part to the work of AARP, retirees are able to enjoy an enhanced quality of life that includes a wide range of benefits, products and services.

Another example is the insurance industry.  For a small annual fee of $35, members of Farm Bureau Insurance receive benefits such as reduced premiums, discounts on cell phone packages, rental car discounts, access to community room, personalized tax preparation and a monthly magazine full of useful information and ideas.  Insurance is no longer viewed as a hassle, but as a worthwhile investment in which some of the benefits can be enjoyed without reporting a loss.

Would creating an alliance of manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, service providers, and homeowners be the change needed to turn the industry around?  It is certainly has potential.  As a former manufactured home owner, single parent, community member, and consumer I would definitely pay $36 a year to belong to a group that shared interests, understood issues and validated my housing decision.  It is a small price to pay in order to help fulfill the need of pride and acceptance.

The industry players are not the only stakeholders that see the need for an image change.  The stakeholder with the most power to make the change is the homeowner.  It’s time to give them a voice and the tools necessary to make the change.

Having been in the manufactured housing industry for about a decade, I sincerely appreciate the invitation to attend the webinar regarding the MH Alliance/Phoenix Project.  The opportunity provided a wealth of information, including possible resolutions for challenges facing the industry.

Speaking as an MBA moving towards a PhD, from an academic perspective, the MH Alliance identifies the gaps in current system processes and offers a holistic resolution.  The plan is set up to include not only retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, and finance providers, but the group that holds the most power and has the most vested interest – HOMEOWNERS!

As a marketing instructor, I like the outreach involving every facet of the industry, so the MH Alliance will have the ability to turn this industry around!

For years, industry experts have attempted to improve the image of manufactured housing.  While significant improvements in products and processes have been made, consumer awareness and education has faltered.  The collective power of the MH Alliance can certainly change the image of the industry and product, thus making it a contender for a consumer’s FIRST choice in housing, not the last choice.  Great job Tony and all those on board to promote the MH Alliance/Phoenix Project theme! # #

(Editor’s Note: All links in this article were provided by MHProNews.com for context to Ms. Tyler’s article. Here is a link to some recent feedback on the MH Alliance by more Industry pros. http://www.mhmarketingsalesmanagement.com/blogs/daily-business-news/grass-roots-industry-turn-around-plan-gains-momentum/)

Lisa Tyler, MBA
Walden University
Planning a doctoral dissertation on manufactured home marketing and image.