At the heart or core of this publication are the true stories about the opportunities and challenges of those who desire or already have affordable housing and who – consciously or not – want a manufactured home of their own. The stories of others checking out or already living in MHVille are to various degrees our story too. We have been on the shopper and the seller sides of the fence. Merriam Webster defines “gonzo journalism” as “journalism that treats a subject in a very personal, unusual, and often shocking way.” What’s so shocking about wanting an affordable home of your own? While there are tremendous opportunities for affordable home seekers, investors, taxpayers, and others in supporting manufactured home living, there are also those who have their own selfish agenda. That case can be made that the second group – from inside and outside of the industry – are quite deliberately undermining manufactured home access and living.
Thus, our own story of desirable and rewarding manufactured home living could prove relevant to millions.
We’ve had to face challenges and do a literal sort of battle in this journey. Frankly, it should not be this hard to have a desirable and affordable home.
The truths about manufactured homes ought to outweigh and overcome any of the fears and misconceptions that cause far too many to shy away from making this journey that my wife, son, and I are traveling along with tens of millions of others.
First Things First
As someone who has owned and lived in several conventional houses, in multifamily housing, in one mobile home and numbers of manufactured homes, our family’s and my experience are relevant.
Obviously, somethings are different for us than they are for you and your loved ones. That means you will have to absorb the lessons and thoughtfully apply them to your own scenario. I’ve made mistakes, you may too. But for those who dig deeply enough, you may learn what is necessary to avoid the traps, pitfalls and swindles while grasping all the good that can be found in a nice, manufactured home in a proper environment.
Before becoming the apparently largest and demonstrably popular trade publisher in manufactured housing, I spent decades in direct hands-on involvement in manufactured housing. That includes experience with modular housing. As industry colleague Al Cole from the finance world who knew me firsthand thoughtfully and publicly said, “Tony has worked in most phases of manufactured housing.”
Restated, my expertise is not theoretical, merely academic, or just journalistic. That’s not to knock those who approach manufactured housing mainly through any of those lenses.
That doesn’t mean I’m a know it all. But my knowledge is extensive. My education, life experiences, and exposure to various legal wranglings make my thinking ‘clinical.’ I’m able to cite sources, and sift through the difference between claims (which may or may not be true), reasonable evidence, and actual facts vs. fiction or hype. So, whatever I don’t already know is rapidly understandable with a bit of research, perhaps conversation with other colleagues, reflection, and discernment. I can also read, watch, or listen to someone (or multiple people) and quickly sense or KNOW who is peddling BS and who is shooting as straight as possible.
My gift to readers like you is to package decades of such insights in a way that lets you discern reality. That means you may avoid missteps and maximize your opportunities.
Let me give you a gem I learned from another pro which proved its worth. Don’t try to rush the homebuying experience. “When I slow down, I go faster” said bestselling author Ken Blanchard. Start shopping months or even years in advance. Sure, there will be times that you just don’t have a year or more to prepare. Even though manufactured homes can be ‘faster’ housing, in the post-COVID19 era, that faster turnaround has slowed down. That’s due in part to factories being busier than before. A home that is already in a seller’s inventory, or a home that is already installed and set up, are routinely the fastest ways today to get ‘into’ a manufactured home. 5 years from now, we’ll see. But today, that’s reality.
Beyond manufactured homes, I’ve also spent several years involved in the recreational vehicle (RV) industry. Plus, I have added years in the trade show field. Couple those experiences with my years in financial services, plus various youthful education, and work items earlier in my life yields a well-rounded professional worldview that is sensitive to the needs and interests of buyers. I find myself able to sit down and converse with ‘everyday’ Americans of whatever background as well as the managers, owners, investors, public officials, media, researchers, educators, etc.
I’ve listened to literally thousands of stories of people from all walks of life who were making their own journey toward manufactured home living. Directly and through those I trained, coached, or managed, I’ve been involved in the sales of thousands of manufactured homes.
But perhaps more important is the fact that while I was an owner in a manufactured home sales center, I can honestly say that our office never had a single call or letter from an attorney that wanted to sue that operation due to an unsatisfied retail customer. Our homebuyers were told what to expect. We explained the paperwork instead of rushing through it. We explained what was or was not covered by the warranty. We prepared customers for REALITY. When you slow down the first part, what follows can go faster.
We worked hard to get some customers financed, including those who were turned down but deserved home loan approval.
But as an example of strange but true, in one case, I tried to talk a lender into cancelling a loan approval we already had for a customer because I overheard a conversation that led me to think that the “deal” may in short order result in a repossession. The shocked lender thanked me for calling and telling them my concerns. But that lender told me they would advance the loan and explained to me why. Okay.
During the years I worked for others, or contracted with others, I saw a mix of honesty and dishonesty.
I witnessed service above and beyond the call of duty.
But I also saw some operations that didn’t want to honor the most basic things in an agreement. Have I seen it all? Hardly. But again, I’ve experience more than enough to see the world from both the customers vantagepoint as well as from that of the retail seller, home producer, lender, insurance company, transporter, installers, service people, public officials, relatives, and friends of those involved in the journey of manufactured home ownership.
For instance. I went out on a delivery and helped do an installation. I personally picked up the blocks, shims, anchors, tools, and other items needed to properly install the home up. I did so alongside the others in the installation team. Meaning, I’ve had my head on the ground looking up at the ‘belly’ or underside of a manufactured home. I’ve ‘pulled’ a home (shouldn’t have, but did) behind the wheel of “a totter.” Without those stalwart souls who transport and install a home, our industry’s marvels would not be possible.
Oddities and Surprises
Some who sell manufactured housing want to hide the fact that a home is a manufactured home. I’m not judging them. I understand both sides of that question. Because there is a widespread misunderstanding and a ‘negative stereotypical’ view of manufactured homes as ‘trailer houses’ (they are not) or ‘mobile homes’ (the two kinds of housing are different but have common points), some sellers want to use a euphuism to describe manufactured housing.
For example. “Factory built housing.” Prefabricated or prefab housing. “Off site-built homes” are some of those alternative terms to manufactured home. But because those same terms can also be applied to modular homes, panelized homes, tiny (or gigantic) prefabs and other forms of non-manufactured housing, the terms manufactured home and manufactured housing do matter.
That said, I do reject the behavior of those who try to make a manufactured home sound like it is a modular home. They are different. One is not the same as the other, despite numerous similarities, there are distinctions too. Manufactured homes and modular homes have a legally specific meanings.
I’ve owned and lived in conventional housing in nice neighborhoods.
I’ve lived in a studio and efficiency that were small – akin to tiny house living (while useful short term, sorry, not my first choice for long-term living, especially for a family).
I’ve lived in land lease manufactured home communities not too long after the mobile home era ended. Thus, I’m familiar with places that might well be called a ‘mobile home park’ that often had that on their sign and business cards.
I’ve been in numbers of factories in various parts of the country.
I’ve visited street retail centers. Or home sales that occurred in a fee-simple development or land-lease community. I have also been to manufactured home communities from coast-to-coast. I’ve been in retail centers and communities in places that included SoCal (Southern California), Arizona, and Texas up into central Canada.
My family and I watched as a ship docked at a port in Hawaii had a manufactured home on its deck.
I’ve not yet been to Alaska, but from the east to the west coasts, and from the southern U.S. border with Mexico up to the northern border and deep into Canada, I’ve experienced manufactured homes firsthand. Many looked grand. Some needed enhanced curb appeal, to put it politely.
I’ve dealt with honest people in ‘the business.’ I’ve also dealt with people who can look you in the eyes, smile, and lie convincingly with great ease.
That paragraph immediately above and others are among the reasons my wife and I launched our two industry-leading trade publications. There ARE good, honest people in this industry. There are also scoundrels who masquerade as advocates of affordable housing when what they are trying to do is monopolize a certain share of the industry. They may seek to consolidate (oligopoly style of monopolization) a slice of the industry for their own interests, and the customer be d—ed as the latest ‘sucker.’
While I believe in getting a good price, for those who can there are absolutely times it is worth while to pay a little more money and buy a home from an honest seller rather than a dishonest person or operation. For those who absolutely need the rock bottom best price because that is all that they can afford, there are specific things those shoppers need to do to protect their interests.
We therefore have hundreds of true stories – thousands of accounts, actually – and experiences. We know the good. We know the bad and the ugly. We name names. Where else can you find that online anywhere else in MHVille other than on MHProNews or here on MHLivingNews?
Before wrapping this installment of a planned periodic series of fact and evidence based but nevertheless firsthand experience influenced (editorial or ‘gonzo journalistic’) style of reporting, let me say what else needs to be said.
Millions of Americans from all walks of life want, need, dream of, and merit a home of their own that they can afford. Manufactured homes make those aspirations possible.
To paraphrase what researcher James A. “Jim” Schmitz Jr. aptly said in his years of research into manufactured housing, to have affordable housing in the U.S.A. today it must be built in a factory. But Schmitz said that to access that affordable manufactured housing you must be willing to fight monopolists in business and their cronies in government ‘service.’ His research, and that of his colleagues, shed light on the challenges that face our industry from outside and from within.
Even with decades of background in this profession, it took me years to finally realize that some of our industry’s biggest problems are internal. Others are external.
But the external problems would be easier to fight if the internal forces that have manipulated this industry into its artificially small size were lawfully tamed.
It is my personal, factually well informed, and expert view that some in our industry arguably need to go to prison for the things that they have done. I may not have said that quite that way maybe 7 years or so ago. But I strongly believe that today one of the best ways to root out the corrupt and unethical is to punish wrongdoing as much as it is legally possible.
Because the facts, evidence, and experience all tell me that dark forces have subverted the most proven form of modern home ownership in U.S. history. They do so because they would rather keep in the industry artificially small, and still profitable to themselves, while creating an artificial barrier that keeps others from entering or expanding in an industry that is much needed and ought to be honestly and fairly promoted. If that were my view alone, some might call me wacko. But there are others who see it similarly. Those words are all based on evidence, facts, and common sense. While I might have come to that conclusion without spending a minute working in this industry, as someone who has spent decades in this profession, and who believes manufactured homes are useful, good, and necessary, it is nevertheless my view that there are scoundrels in our business. They are like weeds choking off healthy and wholesome plant life. Those wrongdoers should like pernicious weeds be rooted out.
No matter what someone may tell you, manufactured homes ARE NOT PERFECT. Manufactured homes ARE NOT IDENTIDICAL to site-built housing. But once you understand the distinctions, then you will see that “You cook, clean, eat, live, and love the same in a manufactured home as you do in conventionally built housing.” © Each of those statements are quite true!
A little information sharing – some learning and shoppers’ understanding of reality – can go a long way to having satisfied manufactured home customers. Shoppers should not blindly trust a seller, especially those with overpromised hype.
There are genuine horror stories, and they routinely come from operations or individuals that lack ethics. But there are plenty of happy manufactured homeowners too.
See the videos, linked reports, and surf the site for more information about the horrors, hopes, and halleluiahs found in MHVille. If you do so prudently, and translate these insights into your own scenario, then you may find your personal journey in manufactured home living to be a more satisfying and rewarding one. ###
Research-Data-Stats – Media & Investigator Resources – Mobile Homes, Manufactured Homes, Manufactured Housing Research – HUD, Univ-Studies, CFPB, Nonprofits, GAO, NFPA – Exec Summary, Definitions, Facts, Trends, More
Official U.S. Census Bureau Cost & Size Comparisons of New Manufactured Homes to New Single-Family Site-Built Homes – Facts for Shoppers, Affordable Housing Advocates, Public Officials, Investors & Researchers
That’s a wrap on this installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, 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
Recent and Related Reports:
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.