1) Who, What and Where: (Your name, town and your formal title at Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Association, PMHA).
2) Background: (Educational/Professional snapshot before entering the factory-built housing arena, at or before the Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Association – PMHA).
Besides picking up extra cash waiting tables, my life since high school has been working on behalf of the manufactured and modular housing industries. Prior to working for the association I spent 9 years working for a regional service company (Sentry Financial Services) that specialized in financing and insuring manufactured homes and RV’s.
In 1986, I joined the Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Association monitoring legislative and regulatory issues on the federal, state and local levels and creating educational and marketing programs for the membership. I also managed our regional trade show and a state-wide television marketing campaign to enhance the image of the manufactured housing industry, both which have been put on hold due to the current economic downturn.
Right now most of my non-work time is spent on finishing an undergraduate business degree I started over 25 years ago. When school is not in session, I can be found doing some pleasure reading (histories), gardening, cooking (love to try new dishes), boating with my husband or doing merit badge counseling for our local Boy Scout troop.
4) Your office and members often deal with questions from the media or manufactured home shoppers. What are the 5 common questions or myths about today’s manufactured homes? What are the answers provided in reply to those questions?
What is the difference between a manufactured home and a modular home?This is probably the most asked question we get from consumers, media and even legislators. Many think it is the size of the home that determines what it is – a single section home is a manufactured home and a multi section is a modular home – this is incorrect. When asked, we explain the major difference is the code used to build the home. A manufactured home is built to the federal HUD-code and can come in one or several pieces. (even two stories – Pennsylvania was the first state to build a two-story HUD-code home). A modular home is built to the International Residential Code (IRC) – the same code used for site built homes.
Can a local zoning ordinance prohibit the placement of a manufactured home?No, in 1986 Pennsylvania’s State Supreme Court ruled (Geiger v North Whitehall Township) that if a zoning ordinance allows for single-family residences then they must allow a “mobile home” since it is defined as a single-family residence in the federal HUD-code.
Do manufactured homes retain their value? Even though many people, including those selling the manufactured homes will say yes, we say no. The value of a pre-owned manufactured home is determined by its market location, the age and maintenance of the home and the condition of its surrounding neighborhood or community. To put it in real estate terms – location, location, location. We have pre-HUD homes that are in good repair, located in desirable locations, selling for way more than they were bought new.
Once a manufactured home goes onto private property, it is still a manufactured home?Once a manufactured home is built and labeled, it will always be a manufactured home. Removing the label or simply putting it on private property does not change the fact that the home is a manufactured home.
Are manufactured homes built with the same materials as a site-built home? Yes, today’s manufactured home is built with quality materials, the same materials used in site-built construction.
5) Many industry pros encourage attendance at the RV/MH Hall of Fame. Do you recommend this facility as a place for the public to learn more about the history of manufactured homes? If so, why?
Have to be honest we rarely have consumers asking where they can go to learn more about the history of manufactured homes. But if they did, I would recommend they head west and check out the RV/MH Hall of Fame museum. Though it is more RV oriented it is still worth a stop.
6) Pennsylvania has done manufactured home shows for the public off and on for many years. Please give us a little history on how the shows in your state and how they help the public better understand and appreciate manufactured and modular home construction.
PMHA hosted their first show in 1959 and immediately saw the benefit of opening the show to the public. Being able to see and touch the homes is an excellent way to dispel the myths and educate consumers, the media and public officials on the quality of the homes. The manufacturers put a lot of time, energy and attention to detail into their display homes which was recognized by many consumers coming to the show. We had people come year after year, not to necessarily purchase a home, but to see the latest interior colors and designs.
Public days gave us the opportunity to show case a wide variety of homes – manufactured and modular – side by side. On opening day it was refreshing to feel the buzz of the consumers anxious to see the latest models – I was always impressed by the varied roof lines and exterior designs. We had something for everyone. Once the economy improves it is our intention to resume this tradition.
7) Pennsylvania has factory home plants in your state. What can you tell us about them?
Pennsylvania has a long history of building and shipping manufactured and modular homes throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. When housing was booming we were home to over 20 plants. Today, we have 10 plants building manufactured and modular homes on the same line, 20 plants that build only modular homes and 7 vocational schools that build a modular home. Most of these plants have deep community roots and have been providing Pennsylvania jobs and affordable housing for well over 40 years.
Our member HUD/modular factories are: Champion Home Builders in Claysburg, Colony Factory Crafted Homes in Shippenville, Commodores Home Systems in Clarion, Eagle River Homes in Leola, CMH d/b/a/ Marlette Homes in Lewistown, New Era Building Systems in Strattanville, Pine Grove Manufactured Homes by Pleasant Valley Homes located in Pine Grove, Redman Homes in Ephrata, Ritz-Craft Corp of PA in Mifflinburg, and Skyline Homes in Leola.
Our member modular factories are: Manorwood Homes in Emlenton, Pennwest Homes in Emlenton and Pleasant Valley in Pine Grove.
8) Let’s talk breakfast! Where have you been that you like to go for breakfast that you recommend to your friends? What did you enjoy about the place and what is your favorite breakfast there?
Can’t say I have a favorite breakfast restaurant. During the week I eat at home or at my desk, for those early starts and the weekends, I prefer to make my own. My all-time favorite breakfast is eggs benedict or blueberry pancakes.
9) Associations such as the Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Association often have a code of professional conduct. What can you tell us about that and what advantages, if any, are there to potential home shoppers to check out retailers, communities and other product/service suppliers of an association like yours?
Before my time, the association’s code of ethics was challenged by a retailer wanting to be a member but did not meet the high standards that were set for members at that time. We were fined and forced to eliminate the code. In its place, we implemented our Bad Apple Policy. This program allows industry professionals to log complaints against other industry professionals.
Once a complaint is logged, we verify the information and they are given the opportunity to correct the problem. If they chose to continue to disregard the law then they are turned into the appropriate agency. Our goal is to establish a level playing field for our members which in turn assure consumers they are working with true professionals. This approach also gives existing laws a chance to work – too many times the laws that are on the books are not properly enforced and then complaints are filed causing our legislators and regulators to haphazardly create more laws that don’t necessarily correct the problem, but most definitely adds to the cost of doing business. No one wins when this happens.
We encourage consumers to do their homework, ask the retailer or community owner for references of past customers or take the time to search social media to determine if the company is reputable.
10) Please tell our ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com readers about the consumer safeguards for any buyer of a new, modern manufactured home.
There are numerous laws that protect the consumers – their first step, as I said above, is to do their homework – if they are not comfortable with the people they are doing business with, walk away. I tell my members the same – it is only fair that it goes both ways. I practice what I preach – if I am not comfortable with the person selling me something, I don’t buy from them. Common sense should prevail.
Unlike the site-built side of housing, where consumers rely on the court system, there is not a single process in the purchase of a manufactured home that is not regulated in PA. And every law we work within includes consumer protections.
Manufacturers, retailers and their sales people are licensed with the Department of State. If at any time a consumer is dissatisfied with the sales process they can file a complaint. Complaints on the actual home structure or installation related complaints are handled by the Department of Community and Economic Development. The federal HUD-code has a very succinct consumer complaint handling process. The banking laws in Pennsylvania also protect consumers purchasing lending products.
For those consumers looking to place their homes in land leased communities, there are numerous protections under the many landlord tenant laws which are enforced by the PA Office of Attorney General.
From where I sit, the biggest challenge for consumes and industry professionals are enforcement agencies not doing their job. Bad apples not only hurt the consumer, but they also cause damage to the businesses doing it right.
11) Any closing thoughts, Ma’am?
I have never been afraid to tell people who I work for. As the daughter of a brick and block layer, I grew up in the home building industry so I am not surprised that I found a home in the home building industry. This is a great industry, one I am very proud to be a part of.