Realtor.com says that Kristina Smallhorn goes by the moniker, “Your Real Estate Whisperer.” She tells those pondering the housing markets ‘secrets’ and insights that others may not realize.
Manufactured Home Living News (MHLivingNews) stumbled across Smallhorn’s video last night, and we knew right away that we had to share it. Not because we think she’s made is a perfect video, we don’t think our own videos are perfect. But we give her and the manufactured home retailer she puts on camera for her video interview an ‘A for Effort.’
Her heart and mind seem to be in the right place. For example, she makes the point that mobile homes and manufactured homes are not the same thing.
As a disclosure, it is possible that we’ve met Smallhorn or Gary Millet Senior at an event like the Tunica Manufactured Housing Show. We meet tons of people, get emails, calls, and social media contacts from more, and can’t say with 100 percent certainty that we have or have not met these professionals. That said, we don’t know them on a personal level, nor do we have any financial ties with either one.
Millet said on camera that he is a manufactured home retailer who’s been in the industry for some 42 years. A quick Google search revealed this in Real Estate Rama from Dec 29, 2018, “Today, Governor Bobby Jindal…Appointments to the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Commission: … Gary Millet, Sr., of Gonzales, is the president of Rollin’ Homes…”
Here’s their video below, and we’ll share some thoughts on this in a few moments. Smallhorn’s YouTube page says, “5 Biggest Lies About Manufactured (Mobile) Homes When purchasing a manufactured or what some people call a mobile home you’re going to hear some flat out lies that can sound like facts due to the fact that they have been said so much they have to be true in most peoples eyes. I was able to meet with Rolling Homes in Prairieville and speak with the owner who has been selling and lived in manufactured homes. We address the 5 biggest lies that are spread about manufactured homes so you can make the best decision for your family.”
As noted, we’d do some of this differently, starting with how the video opens in front of a home that has no foundation enclosure. That said, there is authenticity to their video. Here is an infographic that we’ve done that clarifies some of the terminology and provides third-party facts and insights for those who may be first time readers here.
Here is a pictorial of how we define the manufactured home market, entry level and more residential style manufactured homes.
Why Spotlight Kristina Smallhorn’s Video?
There are several reasons we are spotlighting real estate professional Smallhorn’s video.
First, let’s note that her video was posted on YouTube on November 12, 2019. As of the time this article is being written, it has had 39,878 views. That number of views dwarfs all of the videos that the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) supported ‘story telling videos’ they and Next Step produced in the last 2 years combined. More on that below, following another disclosure.
I’m a former MHI member of some 7 years and was elected during that time to serve as a board member of their Suppliers Division. I got along fine with people, that’s what you do when you are in business. During much of that time, it was my goal to get MHI to do something serious about public education. I was invited to speak to several MHI meetings, one of those is below on the topic of engaging the news media.
That’s said to make this next point from the perspective of someone that knows the MHI system from the inside.
Smallhorn’s video begs several questions.
- Why was MHI so slow to do any kind of serious promotion of manufactured homes?
- Why is the “real estate whisperer” Smallhorn’s video getting more views than all of MHI’s video has, and in a much shorter timeframe?
- Why didn’t MHI promote the work that we have been doing to educate the public, affordable housing advocates, researchers, and professionals for years, even though we were MHI members?
- As Kevin Clayton, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway owned Clayton Homes, said in a video posted nere the end of the page linked here points out, “Warren” Buffett told him that they have plenty of money to do what they want. Are we to believe that Clayton can’t hire someone to successfully promote a clear understanding of manufactured homes?
Put differently, why is there a need for Smallhorn, or even MHLivingNews for that matter? If MHI and Clayton truly want to educate the public, then millions of manufactured homes would be sold. An engineer and his wife that we interviewed make that point in the video interview below, and like Smallhorn and Millet, they were not given a dime to say what they did. They just wanted to tell their story. The same is true for the public official we interview above. She was happy to sit down and tell her expert view on manufactured homes, as an inspector.
For accuracy, it isn’t as if MHI or their leaders never said or did anything to promote our pro-manufactured housing industry work. There are a number of nice messages from their leaders, written and video. But that fact too also begs questions. Since they knew and praised our work, why did they do so little beyond giving some words of praise to promote it?
Hold that thought, as we dip into some facts.
From the MHI website, we see this page which has a press release dated November 15, 2017.
Next Step and MHI Launch #ForeverHome Story Campaign
Multimedia campaign highlights manufactured home owners and families across the country
Next Step has both a for-profit and a nonprofit side to it. We’ve interviewed Stacey Epperson, she is a friendly professional who seems to care deeply about manufactured homes, even though some years ago she hated what she thought of as ‘mobile homes.’ That said, Next Step gets ‘support’ from Clayton Homes and MHI. MHI never did a page like that one for us, even though we offered many things at no cost to them. Why did they not do it? Hold that thought.
It is an easy to make point that MHLivingNews has done far more and better work to promote a proper, fact- and evidence-based understanding of manufactured homes than MHI has done in the last decade.
Some things only become clear in hindsight. Who says? Someone that we don’t endorse, Warren Buffett. But we believe in separating the wheat from the chaff. If you stumble across a typo here (it happens…), we hope you will overlook that chaff in order to get to the wheat that we have to share.
While we think some of Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway’s business tactics are purportedly unethical and perhaps illegal, that doesn’t mean that Buffett hasn’t said some insightful things. There are several examples of that, and the quote below from Buffett is one of them. When we look back at history with clear eyes, we see things we didn’t see in the moment.
Here is the screen capture of the MHI/Next Step/Clayton Homes supported videos, which can be accessed from the MHI website.
Why is it that MHI-Next Step-Clayton supported videos have only had a tiny fraction of the views that Smallhorn has in a few days?
If you watched those MHI-Next Step-Clayton videos, they are quality productions. The quality of the production is candidly better than Smallhorn’s, but Smallhorn’s comes across as authentic. Perhaps that helps explains why her videos are doing numerous times better on YouTube than the ones by MHI-Next Step-Clayton?
Again, accuracy is important. Clayton Homes produces their own videos too. They are high quality, and some have hundreds of thousands of video views. Collectively, they may have millions and millions of views on YouTube. Which begs the question. Why is it that Clayton sells so relatively few manufactured homes?
One possible answer is troubling.
MHI and Clayton posture effort. At least at this time, they can’t be seriously considered as trying to boost manufactured housing’s proper understanding or sales to their true potential, which may be 10 to 20 times or more their current sales levesl. Why would I, as a former MHI member, make that statement?
- Because Buffett led Berkshire owns dozens of newspapers – the BH Media Group. They’ve done little to promote a useful understanding of manufactured housing. One could make the case they’ve done more to harm the industry than help it.
- Buffett’s donations include money to nonprofits that when you follow the money trail supports the Tides nonprofit. The Tides in turn funds MHAction. MHAction attacks manufactured housing professionals on several levels, some of it is justified, but needs more nuance. We make a bright line distinction between ‘white hat brands,’ and ‘black hat’ operators. It is hard to see that nuance in MHAction’s work. They specifically attack several firms by name, and give their reasons to do so, fine. But they fail to make the bright line point that the bad behavior of a few doesn’t make everyone in manufactured housing a bad actor. That would be unfair to the thousands of honest, hardworking, and ethical independent businesses out there.
- Among the videos online that mocks manufactured housing, Warren Buffett, and Clayton Homes is the one by HBO’s John Oliver. John Oliver’s video – found posted in a report linked here – cites MHAction’s co-branded with two other nonprofits ‘white paper.’
- Summing that up, Buffett’s and Berkshire money and resources have on several occasions – that’s example of MHAction material being used by John Oliver is just one – has done some good, but has arguably done far more to stir up a negative impression of manufactured housing.
That begs the question, why would Buffett do such a thing?
It’s debatably devious, but here’s the diabolical logic of it. Since Clayton is the largest brand in manufactured housing production, making Clayton Homes look bad makes all of manufactured housing look bad in the eyes of a casual observer. Because Clayton and Berkshire have deeper pockets, they can weather the damaging impact of negative news storms far better than a smaller firm can.
Then, when you look at the history of Clayton since Buffett has bought them, there is a periodic firestorm, not unlike the John Oliver video. Is that coincidence? Or is that part of the plan?
Here are just a few quick examples of that claim.
- FEMA manufactured homes made by Clayton Homes that stirred up negative news.
- The Haitian earthquake crisis that caused negative stories for Clayton Homes, which reportedly supplied defective housing.
- The Seattle Times series that ripped Clayton, and has as recently as 2018, for allegedly discriminatory (racist), predatory lending, and other problematic business practices.
- Even their Knoxville hometown TV news channel ripped Clayton in the report posted below. There are more examples. Of course, Clayton denies any wrongdoing.
Rephrased, there is serious evidence that Clayton Homes, with Buffett and Berkshire’s help, has been purportedly building a monopoly over manufactured housing and they’ve done so in part using arguably deceptive and devious ways. Yes, in the eyes of the law they are innocent until proven guilty by trial, plea agreement, or beaurocratic process.
Understanding that picture as an industry member for decades took me several years. It only takes you as a reader a few minutes to grasp it. Then, it is up to you to test that hypothesis to see if it holds true or not.
That said, here are just some of the video interviews we did that use facts and experts to make points like Smallhorn’s.
We produced the video interviews above and below that accurately sets forth the facts through interviews and illustrations.
Did MHI lift a finger to promote those? Not that we could find. Why not, since we were MHI members and they praised our work? Do you see the disconnects on their end? How can they claim to be promoting the industry when they tolerate bad behavior by some of their key members?
The Solution to the Internal Industry Problems Facing Manufactured Home Owners?
The evidence and the facts presented on MHLivingNews has been shared with public officials. The ones we’ve spoken with find it compelling. Based on my understanding of the public officials, investigators, and lawmakers we’ve spoken with, there are now several probes underway. What happens to those is not easy to say, because we are talking about one of the world’s richest men and one of the U.S. largest conglomerates, Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn owns Clayton Homes and their affiliated lenders.
One assistant attorney general that called me said that she sees the potential for several legal violations, including, but not limited to, deceptive trade practices. In my mind, that should include MHI. They claim to be doing something that they are either totally inept at, or they are posturing for effect.
There are many forms of deception. One is called paltering. It is a mix of truth and falsehood. Some might call it spin, but each is a similar notion. It is a method of tricking someone.
I’ve written for and been interviewed by mainstream news sources. Our work and/or this writer has been favorably mentioned by numerous third-parties, such as the National Association of Realtors. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) cited MHLivingNews in a footnote of their 2014 white paper on manufactured housing. Some of our research and documentation we published have been read into the Congressional record. I’ve lived in all kinds of housing, including years in manufactured homes. I’ve worked in this industry in retail, in land-lease communities, with manufactured home builders, lenders, etc.
Smallhorn is pretty much right. The evidence widely supports her.
Our position has been consistent since before we launched MHLivingNews, or the professional/investor site MHProNews. Manufactured homes properly understood are the most proven solution to the affordable housing crisis. They cost less than conventional housing and are stronger and more durable than most people think.
That said, MHI is clearly not doing their job well. Given the amount of staff and budgets they have, it is hard to imagine that it is an accident. They are educated people there.
Which brings me back to this point. They are posturing efforts to promote the industry, while a relatively small number of firms consolidates the industry. Rephrased, the industry is being monopolized. Who says? It is demonstrated by the evidence of their own public statements.
That’s not fun to say, but that’s where the evidence leads us. That evidence includes publicly trade firms like Cavco Industries, whose former Chairman, CEO, and President – Joe Stegmayer – stepped down under the cloud of an SEC investigation. Even while being investigated by the SEC, Stegmayer remains MHI’s Chairman? What sort of trade organization is that anyway?
- Nathan Smith – SSK Communities
- Tim Williams – 21st Mortgage Corporation
- Joe Stegmayer – Cavco Industries
- Tom Hodges – Clayton Homes
Those are the current or most recent chairmen of MHI. Every one of them has some sort of seriously negative news about them, state/federal investigations, and credible allegations of wrongdoing. What sort of trade organization is MHI anyway?
We think the evidence makes the case that it is a corrupt nonprofit.
But don’t let the corruption of a few ‘black hat’ organizations keep you from considering what Smallhorn quite rightly says is an important affordable housing option. Please, apply the principle of separating the wheat from the chaff. Clayton has given away a few homes, fine for those that got them. But they get a tax deduction for that and free marketing. Does a giveaway make them a white hat?
We have several mottos or tag lines. One is “We Provide, You Decide.” © We believe in manufactured homes based on the evidence, interviews with a range of homeowners, professionals, experts, plus decades of experience. Third parties have praised our work, including Jim Clayton and people at MHI, but perhaps more important – people outside of MHI.
Don’t let the bad behavior of the few bother you to the point that you let them stop you from doing business with a white hat brand in the market you want to buy a home in. The research is clear, and Smallhorn’s video is just part of the wide range of information that makes it clear that manufactured homes can be a good option for millions. “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Manufactured homes, lifestyle news, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.