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Manufactured Homes? Mobile Homes? Housing? Factory-Built Homes? What Should We Call our Homes?

July 13th, 2015 No comments

Hollywood,

For forty plus years, the MH industry has tried to change the mobile home perception and sophisticate the MH product by changing the name.  When business was sooo good, newbie MBA’s came in and screwed  things up as that was their job which was to make changes and expose what is wrong.

The new group along with industry insiders claimed that the name “mobile home” was not proper.  They said the name is disgraceful and trashy like “trailer.” Industry vets went along with new culture hires and agreed to the name change. The purchasers or those who live in the MH didn’t care at the time and still don’t. 

We changed the name to manufactured housing and after decades of pounding manufactured housing into the public’s mind, most new MH purchasers and MH dwellers still used the term mobile home, so then we decided to change the name to just housing and that did not work as there was no identity to our product, so then some geniuses said to change to factory built homes and so on and so on – so many names.

Its-EvolutionaryTrailerHouse-MobileHome-ManufacturedHome-modular-manufacturedhomelivingnews-comWB-660x330

The image above was not part of Barry Cole’s Letter to the Editor, but the graphic  is linked to an article which is related to this topic. Barry’s article also follows others on the subject from our June Issue Featured Articles.

Still after 4 decades, the public still relates to the mobile home name and per all data, mobile home is used on the internet as much or more than manufactured housing.  Thus, we should never down grade the mobile home name of past which did so much good during a very special time in our industry and especially with so many MH customers still living in them.

So what do we do?  You and I have had numerous conversations as to industry concepts and image and that is why we both have always used the name MH.

You are correct in using MH for the industry’s product name in all of your writings.  It is much easier to say, write and change to.

The recreational vehicle changed to RV and everyone knows the RV name.  The same should be used with MH.

Keep up the good work by using MH in your publications and you will realize more and more using MH.

Barry

barry-cole-rv-mh-hall-of-fame-manufactured-home-insurance-services-mhisBarry Cole

Manufactured Housing Insurance Services (MHIS)

RV/MH Hall of Fame Inductee – Class of 2014.

CMHI’s “Jack E. Wells Memorial Award” for distinguished service to the manufactured home industry.

Past Chairman RV/MH Hall of Fame

(Editor’s Note: this message to L. A. “Tony” Kovach (whom Barry and some other industry pros like to refer to as “Hollywood”) is an on-the-record commentary  by Barry on the article, linked below. Numerous other ‘off the record’ comments have come in as well. As always, your comments – on or off the record – are encouraged.)

http://ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com/cancer-cures-and-todays-mh/

A Cup of Coffee with…Barry Cole, is linked here.

The Manufactured Home Windstorm Story Not Told ~ Lives saved with Proper Installation

January 7th, 2015 No comments

Jasper County Mississippi was one of three counties targeted by one or more EF2 tornadoes over the weekend of January 3rd. Thirty-Three homes were destroyed in these weather events. This is certainly tragic, and news. Of course the media outlets focused on the “mobile home community” where six of the homes were destroyed. These six homes were all reported by local media as “mobile homes.”

First, why did the news media focus on the 6 ‘mobile homes,’ vs. the dozens of conventional houses that were destroyed. Is that media bias?

tornado-southern-plains-houses-damaged-nbc-news=credit-posted-industry-voices-mhpronews-

The NBC news report on this previous southern tornado incident – shown in the photo above- includes these comments:

For three days this week, dozens of twisters raked across the South and Plains, killing 38 people and destroying hundreds of homes.”

So why didn’t the Mississippi news media in this recent incident focus on the dozens of conventional houses destroyed? Why did their coverage focus instead on ‘mobile homes’ destroyed?

conventional-house-left-roof-flies-off-mh-right-hurricane-wind-test-manufactured-home-livingnews-credit=nbcnews-today-show-(2)

Manufactured Home on right was the least expensive home in that market area,
while the conventional house on the left that loses its roof and suffers major damage
cost about 4-5 times as much as the MH.
Still photos credit: NBC News/IBHS Hurricane Wind Test video.

To be fair, it is entirely possible that all six of these older factory built houses reported by the MS media were in fact “mobile homes;” meaning pre-June 15, 1976 houses built in a factory. There have been no mobile homes built in the U.S. since June 15, 1976!

The likelihood that all 6 of those MH’s were ‘mobile homes’ is limited. Perhaps 20%-25% of the factory-built houses in use in the U.S. today are truly “mobile homes,” meaning built pre-1976 federal construction standards. Those national safety and construction standards are proven to make modern manufactured homes (MH) as safe or safer than conventional construction, so long as they are properly installed.

Those federal standards, commonly called the HUD Code for manufactured homes, upgraded the homes and turned pre-code ‘mobile houses’ legally into ‘manufactured homes.’

Manufactured homes” isn’t just a nicer, fancier or newer name for a mobile home. The new name reflects an improved way of building the homes to make them stronger, safer and better! That’s good for consumers and for the MH industry too.

tornado-OK-5-20-2013-manufactured-home-posted-mhpronews-com

Why is one house crushed and the neighboring one damaged but structurally
intact? Many times the answer is proper MH installation.
Moore, OK May 5, 2013. that destroyed hundreds of conventional houses,
as well as dozens of mobile and manufactured homes.

But even a good product has to be properly used. A good manufactured home has to be properly installed. In some areas, manufactured homes didn’t have state or federal standards installation until the last decade or so.

12MSdamage-weather-com-industry-voices-mhpronews-

Photo above from recent MS tornadoes. Notice that the home, even though it rolled,
someone could have survived inside it. Do you see any anchor straps on this house?
In fact, even without straps, there were no deaths in this incident. Credit – Weather Channel.

anchoring-manufactured-home-credit-miami-herald-posted-industry-voices-mhpronews-

What is likely is that these six homes in the MS incident had improper or no tie down installations. Why do I say that? Simple! Because the community owner’s manufactured home was clearly unmoved in that same tornado, as the same news video footage revealed.

The home that survived that MS tornado had relatively minor damage and was reported as still very much livable. It was apparently ‘tied down.’ So what about the others right next to that properly installed home?

Here are the most reasonable scenarios on the 6 “mobile” or manufactured homes that were destroyed:

  • The mobile or manufactured homes had improper installation and/or no anchors/strapping. Anything not anchored to the ground is likely to go flying – or in the case of a house that weighs as much as 30,000 pounds for a single section – may roll or get badly damaged.
  • The houses had improper additions attached to the mobile or manufactured home. Hurricane wind studies reported by IBHS and NBC News indicate that 80% of all MHs lost in hurricanes are not the failure of the home itself, but rather are damaged by faulty add-ons that in turn cause a part of the home to open up to severe winds that then further damage or destroy the home. Wouldn’t that principle also apply to tornadoes?
  • As an interesting side note, a town in FL is considering a law requiring outside Air Conditioners on conventional houses to be properly installed, because those ACs that aren’t tied down are often picked up by high winds – and when they go flying – are dangerous!
  • High winds and tornadoes aren’t a manufactured home issue, it is a proper installation issue!

The second bullet applies the same to conventional housing as site built housing.

Notice that this hurricane wind test was performed in a special facility by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).   The house on the right is ‘fortified,’ the one on the left is regular site build construction. The same sort of thing can happen with a tornado. Who says? This video of a conventional house in Iowa capture by a bank ATM camera! It shows a conventional house swept away in seconds by the tornado winds once contact is made.

When we look at the video of the 6 destroyed MHs and the one that survived provided by the news outlet, you can faintly see the strapping under the home still standing. By contrast, we can’t see ANY strapping or evidence of anchors from the video on the 6 destroyed homes.

site-built-houses-moor-ok-ef5-tornado-did-worse-than-manufactured-home-credit-ok4-posted-cutting-edge-blogmhpronews-com-

This tragic MS story could have been educational, not just sensational. The media could have said, the lesson here is that a manufactured home that is properly installed is no more vulnerable to a tornado than a conventional house.

Then, the media could have said, if you own a mobile or manufactured home, why not use this tragedy as a reminder that it is pretty low cost to anchor your home properly, vs. the terrible loss that could take place if your home has no anchors.

Today and for many years, manufactured homes have to have proper installation as mandated by the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA 2000). The media and public officials should note that the MH industry WANTED these standards, the industry asked for this law! Which means, as an industry we want our home owners to be safe and have the most possible peace of mind!

Perhaps good reporters need to learn a bit more about current best practices and that the HUD Code for manufactured homes now nationally blankets the manufactured home industry coast to coast. Maybe the media and their news directors need to read the reports and watch the testing videos that show the strength of properly installed manufactured homes in high winds.

Maybe, just maybe, the media needs to quit focusing on events that shine an implied bad light on a large section of the housing industry and instead re-focus on how more families are becoming home owners with quality built manufactured homes, at a fraction of the cost of “site built” homes.

No house above ground is completely safe in a tornado. But there are plenty of examples of manufactured homes that survive right next door to some that don’t. The difference? In many cases, the answer is clearly the quality of the home’s anchoring/installation.

An improperly installed manufactured home won’t stand up to a tornado of any real magnitude, then again, neither will “site built” homes.

The media should make sure of their facts before they report and should always use the proper terminology. The report as it stands leaves more questions than answers. The media shouldn’t target manufactured homes, when site built houses are just as vulnerable, and at times, more so.

One bit of good news they got right in the report is that there were no serious injuries or fatalities, and when it comes down to it, that is the most important news information that we can get. ##

victor-frost-fairfield-homes-land-texas-posted-inspiration-blog-mhpronews-com--150x150Victor Frost

Fairfield Homes and Land.

Who Represents Manufactured Housing?

November 11th, 2014 No comments

Call me a geezer from the distant past? It’s true. My MH career started and ended back in the days when our industry was a scattered flock, competing madly for market share with little concern for industry strategy, making profits hand over fist.

manufactured-housing-mobile-home-shipments-graph-chart-calculatedrisk-posted-masthead-blog-mhpronews-com-

That ebullient era came to a crashing halt with the Seventies’ problem. Faced with the industry’s first real crunch (shipments cut in half, dropping to five times what they are today), combined with ongoing regulatory pressure, we united under HUD’s banner. We changed our product’s name to “manufactured housing” (whatever that means) and went on to further difficulties. That gut-wrenching and controversial change solved no problems and made no one happy. The glory days were over and survival days ensued.

True, there were some product improvements, but they piggybacked on some decades of learning curve product improvements and efficiency gains. Our product delivered pretty darned good value for the bucks as early as the Fifties, and never stopped getting better. Consumer Reports did an analysis and could find no watershed product improvements that accompanied the name change or the advent of HUD.

The products of the leading companies, pre and post-Seventies, were rather boring and undifferentiated, as happens in leaderless, price driven industries. Manufactured homes and the mobile homes preceding them were startlingly different from “real houses” but looked as alike as peas in a pod—or a row of cheap tract houses.

Any manufacture that attempted to break the mold was crushed by industry reliance on a narrow range of specialty building materials from large suppliers who dominated the industry and played a key role in making our low priced homes economically viable. Our industry’s lack of vision and strategy earned us a lousy image. I shoulder part of the blame. I was there and should have done better. Shame on us all.

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Image credit – FlickrCreativeCommons.

Ah well, that’s ancient history I mention here because it resulted from a lack of industry strategy, which in turn, sprung from a distressing lack of leadership. There were good companies with good leaders at the helm, but no one—company or person—could be said to be the industry leader. The largest producer commanded something like a ten percent market share. The elephants were small, and marched with trunks locked to tails.

Leap forward a few decades to today. We find:

  • A continuation of steady product improvement
  • A growing production cost advantage over stick builders
  • A little more differentiation in product variety and appearance
  • Ever increasing regulatory dissatisfaction
  • Ever diminishing financing options
  • Ever more restrictive zoning
  • A market one tenth its peak size in units
  • Three profitable manufacturers dominating the industry

Whoa! Look at that last item! Which of those or any other companies can be said to be the industry’s leader? Each appears to continue marching behind the other, just as those smaller elephants did back in my day. The industry remains, as far as I can see, leaderless.

Back in the Seventies, lacking industry leadership, the Mobile Home Manufacturers Association stepped in to assemble such industry strategy as could be found and put it forward to HUD or whoever. Today we don’t even have that. Our shrunken industry is represented by dueling associations without consensus.

Tony and others have suggested retired veterans like me should speak up—show some spunk. Help set some direction for the industry. Provide the benefit of our experience. I suppose there are plenty of us willing to do what we can. But this poster came from Tony, too:

doing-things-same-way- charles-kettering-light-bulb-poster-mhpronews-com-

This struggling industry faces problems that no one should expect to be solved by hewing to voices from the past alone.

That’s why, when I wrote the next to last draft of my recent book, I omitted strategy proposals, even though strategic planning was once my career. My old (older even than me!) boss said, “You can’t stop there! You’ve got to tell ’em how to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in.”

Fair point, and I do love such challenges.

But it was wasted effort. I can’t solve today’s problems. The hole we find ourselves in has gotten awfully deep.

It’s time for a leader to step forward, cut through the chatter and unite this industry behind a viable strategy. It ain’t going to be any of the associations that purport to represent the industry. And it ain’t going to be me.

Any candidates out there?

Yoo hoo!

Yoo hoo.

Yoo who? ##

bob-vahsholtz-author-dueling-curves-battle-for-housing-posted-industry-voices-guest-blog-mhpronews-com-manufatured-housing-professional-news-75x75-By Bob Vahsholtz, author of… 

A home built in a factory can be a home just like a site built?

November 11th, 2014 No comments

A recent court decision – linked below – has me scratching my head in bewilderment?

http://www.mhpronews.com/blogs/daily-business-news/jdsupra-spotlights-the-6th-circuit-ruling-in-bennett-v-cmh-homes-are-manufactured-homes-a-consumer-product/

  • Senator Moss stated in 1974, that a house would not be a “consumer product” because it is not “tangible personal property.” The Sixth Circuit, expanding on that understanding, held that the Bennett’s’ manufactured home was not a house-trailer or a mobile home designed to be moved; rather, it remained permanently on the land and was taxed as real property.
  • Further, because the triple sectional was as large and looked like a “regular house,” dictionaries for the words “consumer” or “consumer goods” described products that were expendable or replaced, quite different from a dwelling.
  • Judge Stranch dissented, taking issue with the majority’s distinction between “manufactured homes” and “mobile homes.” Stranch said so-called “mobile homes” are not built to be actually mobile, opining that the factory built home industry coined the term “manufactured home” to replace “mobile home” in response to negative stigma against “mobile homes.”

We were always lead to believe a mobile home or manufactured home is never permanent, it is a consumer goods or personal property. It has been a long held belief. The banks do not lend on it due in part to this one definition.

After many years, just when you think it is; it turns out it just ain’t so.

The mobile aspect came about because it is built in one place and transporting it to another location where it will reside. Many years ago these homes were much smaller and could be towed by a car or truck, a “Trailer.” I do not like it here, I am moving, give notice hitch it up and leave.

That image is still with us today even though it has no truth to it.

The homes today require semi-trucks to hitch it, to move it, after the demolition of the accessories and the home’s preparatory work needed to get it to be transported. The money to move it is expensive.

Where are these old mobile homes going anyway when a homeowner wants to leave a community?

Most Land Lease Community (LLC) owners do not want old mobile homes coming into their community so they are refused. They do not even have the distinction of being “Cool”or “Classics” as a desired retro home by the public.

I do not know about you but I have seen many a mobile home sitting for years in an LLC community never leaving its lot location. The term most used by LLC owners is, “Sell it in Place.” It is practice encouraged by management. It makes me think they are permanent because of selling it in place!

The LLC community owners are adamant it stay not wanting it to leave. The LLC owners do not want empty spaces due to the impression of blight and lack of interest in their community. They always hope that Dealer down the street will replace it sometime. It is a better belief to keep the light “On” and stay in place than having an empty lot.

used-mobile-homes=credit-steve-lefler-posted-industry-voices-mhpronews-com-4

The future for manufactured homes with this court decision could be the very change that impacts the old time popular belief and could change the image and acceptance of this home product. The idea of a consumer product nameplate placed upon someone’s home coupled this common-sense decision often effect old time beliefs to change. ##

Steven-Lefler-Vice-President-Modular-Lifestyles-posted-on-mhpronews-comSteven Lefler, Vice President, Modular Lifestyles, Inc.(888) 437-4587.

Dueling Factions

September 2nd, 2014 No comments

In this time of industry crisis, many thoughts arise regarding strategy and direction, but there has been seemingly little effective action. A couple of old friends from my days in the industry, plus one new friend, Dr. David Funk, asked me to see if I could help things along by putting matters into historical perspective.

In my early days when the MH industry was breaking sales records every year (I’ve been retired for more than two decades), we were leaderless—in discord. No manufacturer originated more than ten percent of shipments. Those heady times ended with a crash—a major housing crisis.

Faced with ruin in the seventies, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, community owners and the like pulled together behind a focused plan of action. It was a widely debated strategic decision to enhance industry credibility by accepting HUD supervision of a national building code for our product. There was plenty of dissent, but the plan had broad support. It was nominally led and presented by MHMA (the Mobile Home Manufacturer’s Association, the predecessor of MHI).

Wrong course? Maybe—we cannot know—but it attained consensus; we worked together and made it happen. A bit of a miracle, considering a long history of bickering and lack of leadership.

These days, we face a bigger challenge and yet … where’s today’s consensus? What’s the strategy? Where’s the leadership? You have a strategy, I have a strategy and yonder fellow behind the tree has a strategy, but what emerges is discord.

In my naïveté as I stepped back into this largely consolidated industry, I thought a leader would step forward, rally the troops behind a plan of action, and get on with developing our great potential. Strangely, that has not yet happened. As Rahm Emanuel said, and Tony quotes:

Never let a good crisis go to waste …

We’re wasting this crisis by fussing over “who’s right” instead of debating “what’s right.”

you-never-want-a-serious-crisis-to-go-to-waste-rahm-emanuel-president-obama's-chief-of-staff-image=wikicommons-(c)2014-lifestyle-factory-homes-mhpronews-com (1).png

Editor's Note: this is the MHProNews poster Bob Vasholtz is referencing,

the article and context it was used in is linked here.

“What’s right” is hard to say, but easier than finding broad agreement. No clear consensus seems to emerge from our diminished industry represented by multiple associations. None of them seems to have a handle on “what’s right,” though there seems a general agreement that the others are wrong and one organization (guess which) should lead the charge. It looks like we’ll not be singing Kumbaya real soon, so how about we start by tuning up Jim Krueger’s 1977 lyrics:

There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy
There’s only you and me and we just disagree

Nothing wrong with disagreement. There are many viable ways to tackle a problem and finding the best can be a stiff challenge, requiring many inputs—thoughtful discussion among all guys who are betting their companies on this industry’s future.

Underneath the rhetoric there is probably an industry consensus that no one has managed to dig out, articulate, and work into a viable strategy. There seems to be no vehicle for doing so. We’re all on the same side, and yet can’t seem to band together and work toward a mutually acceptable way forward. Wow.

It sorta reminds me of national politics. The Republican party caters to the radical right, Democrats the loosely left and the sensible consensus is leaderless.

Rick Rand has a great idea to pull the factions together, shake ’em in a sack, and see what emerges (my words, not his!). I’m on record in support of Rick’s idea, but suggest the challenge is … difficult. It has been my observation that industry progress tends to be incremental with breakthroughs few and far between. How and where, for example, might our scattered and somewhat contentious flock even gather so discussions can begin? How can we, this industry, get past internal politics and start the ball rolling? We’re a young and feisty bunch competing in a turgid housing market. Where, exactly, do we begin to get a handle on a viable and agreeable strategy?

Tony suggests in these pages, “Perhaps we need a few dozen retired guys—or those so financially comfortable—that they don’t fear speaking out publicly on touchy issues that matter to our industry.”

Well gee, I’m such a veteran, happily retired, having no skin in the game and representing no one. I’d be pleased to join with similar voices and see what we can conjure. Thomas Jefferson said:

Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.

I’m an ol’ Kansas farm boy, have my grandpa’s anvil in the barn and can still swing a hammer. Let’s get on with it!

While Tony’s idea is terrific, I wonder if a gaggle of geezers of good intent can do much beyond early steps in the direction of uniting our industry voice toward a viable strategy? Without unity, the problems of a leaderless industry drag on and strategy does not emerge. Agreeing upon one viable association seems a good place to start such useful discussions while reducing internal conflict. Maybe that should be at the top of the agenda for such a senior-citizen forum?

In support of Tony’s and Rick’s ideas, and with incremental progress in mind, here’s another suggestion. Conduct a survey of all segments of the industry, trolling for consensus. Put forth a professionally-written survey, geared toward one question: Which single association or group should speak for our industry in dealing with the important questions we face today—and why (or why not)?

To still protests, the survey must be inclusive, fair and objective. Who can do that? Foremost has long been respected as a provider of solid industry data and could probably do it well. The results, if clear, would be hard to deny, leading toward consolidation. They might sponsor such research in lieu of their next MH survey. The results could be of historic importance.

As with Rick’s conclave and Tony’s summit of the aged, the outcome of such a survey should not be expected to result in a shiny new industry strategy. First we need positive steps for getting back on track—taking what Peter Drucker called results oriented action, toward our industry’s great potential—at minimum, enabling us to speak clearly to confused Washington bureaucrats.

One step at a time along our learning curve. It’s kinda dumb to be racing off in different directions when times are tough and we most need to pull together. ##

bob-vahsholtz-author-dueling-curves-battle-for-housing-posted-industry-voices-guest-blog-mhpronews-com-manufatured-housing-professional-news-75x75-Bob Vahsholtz is the author of DUELING CURVES The Battle for Housing Bob can be reached at kingmidgetswest@gmail.com. Web: www.kingmidgetswest.com.

(Editor's Note: All opinions expressed are those of the writer, and may or may not represent the views of this publication, editor or our sponsors. Other points of view are welcome. OpEds or Letters to the Editor on industry related issues may be sent to latonyk@gmail.com or tony@mhmsm.com, thank you.

As a point of fact, Bob Vahsholtz clearly agrees on some things, disagrees on others, with L. A. “Tony” Kovach's editorial perspectives. Alignment with Masthead view points is not required for publication! :-)

“What’s Happened to the HUD Code Manufactured Home Industry?”

July 9th, 2014 No comments

Many years ago, a famous Movie Cowboy, Mayor of Beverly Hills, Editor of the Saturday Evening Post and Entertainer, Will Rodgers said, “If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?”

Manufactured housing has seen its media image perpetuated and the public perception remains consistently tarnished for quite some time. The HUD Code manufactured home (MH) appears too often to be viewed by government, Realtors  ® and the public as not being desirable. The MH Industry has seen its home production decline and new MH Communities (MHCs) have declined as well. Many of these existing communities are tired with no “Innovation” or “Cool” factor for prospects.

On this date in 2014, along comes the “Tiny House,” a version of the factories “RV Park model.”

The “Tiny House” is less than 400 square feet. It sits on a trailer frame; it has wheels and a hitch. It appears to be of the same type of construction as a RV Park Model or a small HUD Code manufactured home. Media professionals like “Tiny Houses” for stories and about those who live in them. See example below.

tiny-houses-steven-lefer-industry-voices-posted-mhpronews-com

Wow, the media’s attention is so positive to the “Tiny House” that it far exceeds that of the old and tired HUD Trailer/Mobile Home industry. TV shows with Bob Vila endorse it and A+E TV Network will begin showing “Tiny House Nation” July 9, 2014 at 10 ET/11PT on their home product.

The articles point to how “Cute” and functional this small single wide home is; and how they even have a “Cool,” “Hip” factor with “NO” negative publicity. It's astonishing. These homeowners and their tiny houses brag about the size and in some cases folks live in 120 square feet, which is no bigger than a backyard shed. A woman in the article below left a MHPark to live one, ouch!

I understand “Four Lights Tiny House Company” will be attempting to build a “Village” for people to live in a community of them. What? How? Is this not an RV Community? If you are part of the HUD Code Manufactured Home Industry, I am sure you are not aware of this image change nor have the leaders of the industry addressed or invited these competing folks to their convention. Are they part of the HUD Industry or do they prefer NOT to be? It sure makes me wonder?

credit-tiny-house-nation-series-graphic-Wednesday-july-9-10et-11pt-

Image credit FYI.TV

Here are three links for you to ponder!

http://www.deadline.com/2014/02/ae-lifestyle-network-fyi-sets-first-slate-launch-date/

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/12/31/2857011/bette-presley-arroyo-grande-house.html

http://www.bobvila.com/articles/tiny-house-village/

Where and what happened to the HUD Code Manufactured Home Industry? ##

steve-leflervicepresident-modular-lifestyles-industry-voices-mhpronews-com75x75-Steven Lefler
Vice President
Modular Lifestyles, Inc.
(888) 437-4587
Dual DRE and HCD Salesperson
Advanced Green Building Professional
CEC Solar Wind Retailer/Installer

http://www.modularlifestyles.com

(First image supplied by Steve Lefler)

(Editor's Note: MHProNews strongly believes that accurate terminology matters, and as was noted with Ken Haynes' Industry Voices guest column today, the thoughts and statements made above are solely those of the writer.

Further, there are points in this commentary that are broad statements that could be construed as technically inaccurate, was used as hyperbole and thus depending on the context, should not be taken literally. Steve Lefler well knows about the recent positive press from CBS News or the Boston Globe, among others, touting the value of today's manufactured home.

Those who know Lefler's noteworthy work in net-zero and near-off-the-grid factory built homes makes him a pioneer, and that has lead him to a level of what might politely be described as frustration with the industry-at-large and its leaders for not promoting our factory-built home product, as his column above suggests.

As a recent Masthead blog post – Manufactured Housing's Declaration of Independence – underscored, market facts tell us our industry ought to be booming.

As on any issue of industry relevance, MHProNews accepts submissions of articles that may represent similar or other viewpoints. Subject line, “Letter to the Editor” or “OpEd for Industry Voices blog” can be sent to latonyk@gmail.com.

Moblehome, not Mobile Home

July 9th, 2014 5 comments

Does it not roll off your lips? Moblehome. It has a certain rhythm and melody to it. You can say it as one syllable, and not sound like an idiot.

Moblehome, as in a noble home, not a mobile home.

At one time HUD code homes were the only manufactured homes. Not any more.

Man-u-fac-tured-hous-ing, does not roll of your lips. In fact, it is quite laborious to say, with six syllables and no rhythm nor melody. It’s antiseptic. Moblehome is poetic.

Mobile Home is 100% all-American.

I know it’s crazy and against the grain, but I was in it long enough to spout off about it.

Mobile Home should not be a four letter word anymore.

I started in the mobile home finance business working for GECC in Dallas, in 1971, directly for Harry Gilmore, who worked for Fred Wiesenberger, who worked for Scott Conroy, my maternal uncle. Sometime prior to that, Uncle Scott had convinced General Electric to create a “Special Products” division of General Electric Credit Corporation, now GE Capital Corporation, for the sole purpose of offering wholesale and retail financing for mobile home retailers on a national basis.

At the time there were few national lenders, all full recourse, and limited to 84 month retail installment contracts.

I was a mobile home account manager handling about 1500 owners. I managed anything and everything to do with the financed home (primarily collections) from point of sale to completion of contract or repossession, by phone or in person at the residence.

Anyone who was in the business in 1971 knows exactly what kinds of mobile homes were offered to the public. It was not pretty, and in some cases, downright scary.

We all see, on a regular basis, unless you live completely in an urban environment, the vestiges and remnants of the sales heydays of the early 70’s.

There are hundreds of thousands of trailer houses and mobile homes across this country, from coast-to-coast and border-to-border, still in use, well after their intended life span, all pre-HUD, half of them currently uninhabitable by today’s standards, a fourth of them uninhabitable upon leaving the factory, and a fourth of them, like Rollohome, built exceeding the HUD code before there was a HUD code.

The HUD code created a new nomenclature, which has been described by Allen Wallis of

the Natural History Magazine as having four phases;

  • from 1928 – 1940 the travel trailer period;
  • from 1941 – 1954, the house trailer period;
  • from 1955 – June 14, 1976, the mobile home period; and
  • from June 15, 1976 to now, manufactured housing.

Since 1976, we, as an industry, without exception, no matter what sector of the industry one is involved with, as a group, were on a single mission; trying to eradicate all previous terms when describing manufactured housing built to HUD code specifications. It is a valiant and endless chore, perpetually trying to reach the general population, and primarily, our regulators and legislators.

Yet here we are, in 2014, and I still hear on local broadcasting; “trailer,” “trailer house” or “house trailer” and “mobile home,” rarely “manufactured home.”

On national broadcasting, one hears mobile home, an occasional trailer house or trailer park, and rarely, manufactured home.

I see National, State, and County elected officials being interviewed, saying trailer house and mobile home, never manufactured home. Sometimes they will call a HUD home a modular.

I cannot count the times an RV has been referred to as a mobile home, whether it’s a trailer or a motorhome. Motorhome, mobilehome, what’s the difference? Ignoramuses! Are the FEMA trailers ever called anything but the FEMA trailers, even though half of them are HUD code homes and not travel trailers. I doubt you will ever hear, “FEMA manufactured homes.”

I am not saying we have failed, but we sure seem to have a long way to go, after already working on it for 40 years. I have called and emailed I don’t know how many TV stations and networks complaining about their cavalier use of “trailer house” for the last 30 years, although I haven’t called lately. I don’t work in the business any longer, but I do follow it and I do try to educate morons from time to time.

The fact is, the general public has not embraced the term manufactured housing and probably never will. HUD Code manufactured homes are called about everything but manufactured homes by the general public and public officials.

Not mobile home, moblehome, or if you’re nutty about spelling, mobilehome, but one word and when we say it, we are not talking about your grand dad’s mobile home, we are talking about a state of the art, preferred single family residence, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying give totally up on trying to get the general population to say

manufactured housing, but it’s a slow boat to China. I personally like to say moblehome and I make it perfectly clear I am not talking about a trailer, although the steel is always there, so technically, it’s a trailer with a house on it that trails behind a tow vehicle at some point in its life.

At least we are not called come alongs. ##

ken-haynes-jr-new-mexico-manufactured-housing-association-past-president-manufactured-housing-living-news-com75x75-Ken Haynes, Jr. Please see his commentary on the literally historic and very relevant today document attached to Drawn Quarters – Then and Now.

 

 

(Editor's Note: MHProNews strongly believes that accurate terminology matters, so the thoughts and statements made above are solely those of the writer.

Further, there are points in this commentary that are broad statements that could be construed as technically inaccurate, and should not be taken literally, eg; “half of them currently uninhabitable by today’s standards,” should be read as hyperbole to make the author's point, rather than taken as fact.

As on an issue of industry relevance, MHProNews accepts submissions of articles that may represent other viewpoints. Subject line, “Letter to the Editor” or “OpEd for Industry Voices blog” can be sent to latonyk@gmail.com.) 

MHGrassroots: A Call to Action

June 17th, 2014 No comments

As I sit comfortably in a 737 at 30000 feet coming back from a thought provoking meeting at the MHI Expo in Las Vegas I don't have to go in great detail on how the world has changed since 2001.

From how we fly, how we communicate, and even how we conduct business, it has all changed in ways none of us truly imagined then.

Every day I read more about how a government I have grown up loving, is making changes that contradict the core beliefs and attributes it was built upon. With that said, let's look at a few issues that have faced, primarily as it relates to the manufactured home market in the past 15 years.

In Texas we were asleep at the wheel in 2001 when House Bill 1869 took effect. I was but one of the many independent dealers who were wondering how this could have happened. I even looked Gov. Rick Perry in the eye and told him point blank that this bill would cost Texans jobs and would reduce home order sales, which in turn would force the closing of several fine manufacturing plants.

Unfortunately I and those around me were right. Even though the TMHA through a lot of hard work was able to have this poor piece of legislature repealed in 2003, the damage was already done.

I won't go into the specifics of the law itself, but I will say it was a killer from day one. If you have any questions about it, just Google it. I have heard the experts’ state that 85% of the independents who were in the market at that time were wiped out by this law and the recession that hit us in 2008. And guess what. Those folks are gone, probably never to return again.

So let's take a look at where the train came off the tracks.

We were too late to stop one train simply because we weren’t aware it was heading for the station.

If we want to be successful in the legislative arena we have to stop the bills before they get that close to the tracks. We, the industry as a whole, must be vigilant in being aware of any laws, in every city, county, state and federal arena that could negatively impact not only us, but the people around us.

This means we have to know, and have a relationship with, the people in charge. Governor Perry signed that bill even after I told him the truth. Why? Simple, he didn't know me from Adam. No relationship equals no traction. We have to build those relationships in order for our voices to not only be heard but to be accredited.

How was it fixed? A grassroots effort. From the ground up. TMHA called upon every member….who in turn called on every state senator and state representative to repeal a bad piece of legislation. And it worked! Why? Because the industry stood up as a whole, and worked together for the common good of all. I call this a victory for the good guys.

Let's look at another victory.

Last year I received a phone call from a landlord who was my ‘competitor’ in Plainview, Texas. I use that word competitor only because we are after the same pool of customers. I call him a friend.

Basically this city was in the process of creating a city ordinance which would require an inspection on every rental inside the city once it was vacated by a tenant. Never mind the fact that this would be in direct contradiction to the HUD code on a manufactured home. Every house, apartment, and mobile home would have to be brought back to current code if this law passed.

This would mean thousands of dollars spent to update every unit.

One unintended consequence of this law would have forced the citizens to pay rent in excess of three times the current rate.

Another would have riddled the city with homes to be demolished due to the repair cost being more then the value of the home.

Yet another would have been a mass exodus of good paying tenants to the surrounding communities which didn't have this law.

So how did we stop this calamity before it was passed like Texas House Bill 1869?

We showed up in droves. There was standing room only at every hearing. Meetings with every city official we could get and we killed it before it could even be heard by city council. How? It took one phone call from each of us who took the time to make that call. And another victory ensued.

So what does all this mean to you, the reader?

It's time. It is time to make a difference and make a call of your own.

I know you are busy, but don't blow this one off.

Dodd Frank and the SAFE Act are not going away. So what are you going to do? I am calling not only those of us in the industry, but all of us.

The government doesn't need us, but this country does. We are this country's answer to affordable housing. But if the people can't get financing for that home what good are we to them?

If you don't know who to call that's ok. Call your state association. If you are not a member, sign up. If you are a member, get active. Make a difference. You can. ##

shawn-fuller-d-r-housing-new-deal-texas-industry-voices-manufactured-housing-mhpronews-com-75x75-Shawn Fuller
D & R Housing, LLC.
New Deal, TX 79350

What More Can We Accomplish After This Year’s Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Congress and Expo?

May 13th, 2014 No comments

Like many others, I attended the 2014 National Congress & Expo two weeks ago in Las Vegas. I also chose to attend the National Communities Council Spring Forum held all day Tuesday prior to the opening reception. There were some exceptional programs! The attendance was very high according to reports from MHI. While there was an eye brow-raiser (or two…) on the agenda, off-agenda items that were pretty interesting and overall the Spring NCC Forum and MHI's Congress and Expo featured seminars with speakers focused on current industry topics and issues. Numerous vendors on hand shared their services, displayed their products and provided opportunities for deal making.

What should not come as a surprise was the number of new individuals who attended the Congress.

Many professionals from all facets of the housing, finance and investment sectors were on hand to listen and learn about the manufactured housing industry. This is another great indication on the positive future for the industry.

Today, there is something in the neighborhood of Two (2) Billion Dollars chasing the manufactured housing industry! That's Billion with a capital B!

Those dollars may or may not be invested in our sector; only time will tell. What we need to realize is that there is capital willing to invest and grow in manufactured housing. With new capital much can change, improve and set the stage for a brighter future of the industry.

Yet, even with the large amount of new capital looking to invest in the industry, manufactured housing will still be a very small piece of the roughly One (1) Trillion Dollar annual U.S. housing market.

The questions I continue to ponder are;

  • what can we do to grow the manufactured housing industry’s share of the overall housing industry?

  • How do we get to the root of the obstacles that continue to impede the MH Industry’s growth?

Flying home after Congress and Expo, those nagging questions bugged me. Below is a thought that came to mind that may provide a profitable starting point.

Why not host an – August 2014? – organizational networking/deal making opportunity event that is Trans-Associational?

Why not consider a location near a fine newer MHC property that breaks the stereotypes – such as Saddlebrook Farms in Grayslake, IL – where the potential for new development could better be understood by those who only know the 1 or 2 star MH properties? Would love to hear suggestions on other possible sites that fill the bill.

That property would also feature great looking, residential style product that is ground set, so this would shatter the 'mobile home' image for potential investors who only know the entry level product.

As you can see, I am not suggesting replacing any current event, such as the upcoming MHI annual meeting, NCC Fall Leadership Forum or other association or industry functions.

Rather I am suggesting something totally fresh and different.

Let’s bring the stakeholders and potential investors to the table at the same time with professional facilitation and the opportunity to participate.

The focus of the meeting would be how to get those multi-billions moving ahead, as well as advance the MH Industry as a larger and viable part of the overall housing market.

What makes this concept different than other current programs is that interested parties are invited regardless of current relationship issues or biases. Bringing goal and solution oriented individuals from differing backgrounds, all committed to growing the manufactured housing industry could be groundbreaking.

Please do not misunderstand; while I'd like to be involved, I am not volunteering to take the lead in this event due to my current business obligations. I am putting the idea out in this public forum for discussion.

The way this gets done is for

  • commercial real estate brokers and appraisers,
  • commercial RE lenders and brokers,
  • MH finance companies (personal property and Mortgage lenders),
  • Any – or all – HUD Code manufactured housing and modular builders,
  • developers
  • Suppliers and other service vendors

to pay for the costs of the meeting, mixers and main meals.

Pick a place that is nice clean convention location, and keep the entry fee really low.

Let's put an asterisks next to this one. What if we make it easy for the hundreds (or thousands?) of owners of MHCs who are looking to exit due to age, health or other reasons to come at a pre-event day to discuss their properties face to face with those who may want to buy them?

Might this be a good way to facilitate the capture of more of that circling capital which would also facilitate the improvement of languishing communities and the sales of more homes in them?

There also ought to be an ability for the event organizers to bar this or that person or group at will, so that the Ishbel Dickens/NMHOA or Industry naysayers don't get in. That keeps this focused on business and solutions.

Just think about the number of organizations who would want to take part in an event of this nature. Here are a few who I believe would join the effort.

rick-rand-industry-voices-mhpronews-com

There probably are others who should be included on this list. These are the organizations that came to my mind while thinking about who the stakeholders are in the future of the MH Industry.

One more critical point. Let's tackle the creation of a vibrant, efficient resale market for manufactured homes. This is absolutely critical for the future of our industry, the benefit of our residents and lenders as well as our homes' broader acceptance.

By being trans-associational, this could also prove to be fertile ground for meeting with and recruiting new members.

As to a target date, based on the interest being shown about the industry, sometime in the near term would be better than delaying. By doing it in the summer, a successful meeting could position the 2015 trade shows for dovetailing with this concept.

The location must be close to a major airport so that there is easy access to the event. As noted, having some newer and older MH communities nearby would be beneficial so that participants can take a charter actually view the new homes and better understand the true breadth of the MH product and variety of community lifestyles.

I believe that an event like this will assist in not only promoting the Manufactured Housing Industry but also could be a catalyst for additional new capital investment and future financing opportunities.

We must not lose sight of a key goal of the meeting; how to advance the MH Industry as a larger and viable part of the overall housing market.

Please feel free to comment below or email me with your thoughts. The future of the MH Industry is ours to create. ##

rRck RandRick Rand is the president of Great Value Homes, and has been involved in small and large scale MHC operations. You can contact him at:
Richard J. Rand, President, Great Value Homes, Inc.. 9458 N. Fairway Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53217-1321,

414-352-3855
414-352-3631(fax)
414-870-9000(cell),
RickRand@gvhinc.net

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.)