Friday, July 1, 2016

Tract Site Builders' Dirty Little Secret

There are many things that go into home safety from a physical security perspective (by that I mean keeping the bad guys out). Lots of time goes into adding/using deadbolts, choosing specific exterior door hardware, enhancing window locks, using electronic garage door access, etc. Other items include adding exterior lighting, security system signs, and even fences. However, what homeowners never seem to think about is the exterior wall of their home.

Typical Tract Built Home

Before anyone builds or purchases a home, the builder has already decided on how the structure will be built and what materials will be used. Since most people that are buying a home aren’t home builders, they don’t think twice about the process. In fact, I bet most people skip right over the structural specifications part of their contract. In their minds there is a building code, local building inspectors, and a warranty. If anything goes wrong, that’s what the warranty is for. It all sounds good except that all of those things are geared toward building a home that meets the minimum standard and costs the least amount to provide. After all, no one sees OSB or plywood. Most home buyers care about upgraded flooring, high-end kitchen cabinets, or tiled showers.

The building products industry is always changing and new products are coming out all the time. Years ago a new product entered the structural sheathing market. Structural sheathing is the material that goes around the exterior of your home. In the past it was either plywood or OSB. It was about ½” thick and was nailed to the 2×4’s or 2×6’s that made up your exterior walls. It was rigid and solid. It was typically covered with siding, stucco, or brick. In any case it was a solid barrier between you, your family, and the outside world.

Several years ago a new product became available. It was essentially 1/8” thick cardboard. It was manufactured using technology and strands that allowed it to meet building code for structural strength, it resisted moisture, and had an R-Value rating. In addition it was light, easy to manage, and could be cut with a box cutter instead of a saw. A modern product that saved in labor costs for installation.


When a product comes out that is marketed to builders with advantages such as costs less, saves labor, and has X benefits; many builders will jump on board and start using it in the construction of their homes. In the case of this new product, many production builders (builders that build tract homes or build in subdivisions) made it the standard sheathing product for the exterior wall of every home they built.

Labor savings are great! However, if the builder can cut the sheathing material with a knife, so can I…and so can anyone else. Just imagine, I don’t have to break a window or kick in a door. Quietly I can cut through the siding of your home, cut through the 1/8” cardboard sheathing, push aside the insulation, cut the drywall and… ta-da… I am standing in the living room of your new home! Now imagine if this was the bad guy and you, your spouse, and your kids are sound asleep. It really is kind of scary. Yet this is how a large percentage of homes are built today and the majority of home buyers never even think about the potential impact on their family’s safety and security.

As a custom modular home builder, we choose to use OSB on the exterior of all of our homes. Not just the corners but the entire exterior of our homes. It provides the structural strength we need to transport our home modules to our home sites. It also gives us the peace of mind that we are doing the right thing for the families that allow us to provide them with their new home.


Hi, I am Ken Semler the founder of Express Modular. I am passionate about this industry, our company, and the products we provide. Modern modular construction provides the ability to deliver healthy, safe, and energy efficient living spaces. I am a licensed builder/contractor in almost every state and believe that modular homes are the best way to provide virtually unlimited design flexibility at the greatest value. Relaunches As A Social Network For The Design-Obsessed

Dwell, the shelter magazine is refocusing its website as a community-driven collaboration tool for modern design fiends. Move over, Pinterest?

Plenty of websites offer design inspiration, like Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz, and the thousands of blogs on the web. But most of them are fire hoses of information, lumping everything together—a nightmare if your tastes run modern. An homage to Liberace in a feed next to a Lautner? Preposterous.

Dwell—full disclosure, I was an editor at the magazine until mid 2015—has released a newly designed website that aims to be a one-stop discovery and collaboration platform for modern design fiends and professionals. Think of it as the lovechild of Pinterest, Medium, and Quora—but for serious design snobs.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article

Scott Stroud Leaving Builder Radio

Dear Modcoach,
After 8 years hosting BuilderRadio, I’ve moved on to something new... and very exciting!

It was not an easy decision – through BuilderRadio I was able to share valuable sales and marketing techniques from some of the most intelligent thought leaders in our industry with you and for you. It was never about the money (we accepted very little advertising and only promoted our own educational programs – most of which were free!)  To me, it was about sharing gems of truth that you could put to immediate use and get instant benefit from.
So, why am I leaving BuilderRadio after 360+ episodes?
Believe me, if I didn’t have something at least as exciting and valuable to share with you, I wouldn’t be writing. In fact, I’ve cofounded a new company with my friend Jeff Prager to offer new, fresh and even more valuable business-building resources to small and medium sized businesses – and I want you to be a part of what we’re sharing.
The new company is Cash Flow Engineering, LLC, and it’s all about how to use non-financial data – marketing, sales, pricing, estimating, scheduling, etc. – to drive consistent, predictable and sustainable cash flow.
Think what it would mean for your business (and your family) if you always knew that money would keep flowing into your bank account – if you had the power to ‘turn on the faucet’ every time you saw a need for additional cash flow… That’s EXACTLY what we teach business owners how to do!

To acquaint you with the value of applying cash flow engineering® in your business, we’re hosting a FREE webinar on July 12:  25 Ways to Increase Cash Flow NOW!  It will air live at 2pm EDT | 12N MDT, and will be well worth your time to attend.
Just for registering you’ll also get two free bonuses: 1) A special report: 5 Big Myths That Are Killing Small Business in America, and 2) our Cash Flow Tip of the Week as my gift.
Just like I’ve been doing for the past 8 years, I only share resources that I’m convinced you’ll appreciate and be able to put to immediate use.
Thanks for your past support, and I look forward to continuing to share exceptional tips that will put more money in your pocket every week.
Again, Thank You!
Scott Stroud
Author | Speaker | Consultant
(606) 416-2078

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Plant Prefab raises $3 million from Venture Capitalist

Plant Prefab wants to make it easier for people to build homes within urban neighborhoods and cities, and it has raised $3 million to do just that. The investment, led by Obvious Ventures, will go some way toward helping the company scale, bring on more talent, and improve existing systems.

A spin-off of LivingHomes, Plant Prefab is a design and development company that builds sustainable and prefabricated homes. It was founded by Steve Glenn and aims to deliver low-cost homes in half the time and with less waste than you’d get using a traditional general contractor who was based on-site. The company produces single or multi-family homes that are high-quality, customized, durable, sustainable, and healthy.

The vision is to target those in more urbanized areas and give developers better tools when dealing with “mom and pop” general contractors. Plant Prefab is going after the urban infill market, which deals with developments sitting on vacant or underdeveloped land within an existing community.

“The market is growing rapidly because the world is becoming more urbanized,” Glenn told VentureBeat. “We need responsible ways to deal with the fact that more people are being born. Where are you going to be housed?” He said smart urban planners are thinking about ways to make cities more responsible, including putting people near jobs and commerce. Plant Prefab builds homes that can easily be inserted into urban infill areas.

Plant Prefab currently builds homes out of its 61,000-square-foot factory in Rialto, Calif. and is working on other development projects, as well. Glenn said that his company has a “pretty sizable book of business” — north of $12 million — and has done work in cities such as Los Angeles. The latest round of investment will come in particularly handy at the factory, as it will pay for the human element — those who do the construction in the factory as they would out on the site.

CLICK HERE to read the entire VB article

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Foremost Homes Embroiled in Custody Battle

A building eyed by the Greencastle-Antrim, PA School District for its administrative offices is snarled in federal lawsuits related to the $3 million sale of Foremost Industries Inc. in 2015.

The school district recently withdrew its $570,000 offer to buy the office building at 2375 Buchanan Trail West near Greencastle, Pa.

Court records said the new owners of Foremost Industries claim the former owner, Ralph C. Michael of Greencastle, PA misled and defrauded them.

However, Michael said the new owners, GLD Foremost Holdings LLC and Daniel Gordon, started dismantling the company before the sales purchase agreement was executed, and that he only received $1 million of the $3 million purchase price.

The two sides also dispute Michael selling real estate to his daughter and son-in-law before the company’s ownership was transferred.

Because of ongoing litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, a county judge on April 1 upheld a “lis pendens” on the real estate. That notice is comparable to a lien in that it notifies third parties that their interest in a property is subject to court action.

“The lis pendens prevents petitioner from entering into a purchase agreement with any prospective buyer, as it places a cloud on (the Greencastle property’s) title,” attorneys for GLD Foremost Holdings LLC wrote in a petition for the notice to be lifted.

Court of Common Pleas Judge Shawn D. Meyers wrote in his opinion that “the title to the real estate in question is sufficiently involved” in the disagreement. As of June 26th, there was no word as to what has been resolved.

“There is an ongoing dispute in the federal courts as to who owns Foremost and the real property titled in the name of Foremost,” Meyers wrote.

The Foremost modular home factory and state of the art panel plant are located on a property at 6100 Buchanan Trail West near Mercersburg, Pa.

"Aging In Place" Products You Probably Never Heard Of

Small Items Make A Big Impression

An article by Valerie Jurik, CAPS and a speaker at the Midwest Modular Boot Camp

Have you ever lost a new home or a modular addition because the customer had special needs and your standard plans or product wouldn’t work for the client? Maybe it seemed too expensive to both you and your customer?

When I had my construction company in NC I ran into customers that wanted a solution but didn't have the knowledge of what to ask for. They knew going upstairs had become an issue, or their bathtub had become too risky to get in/out of, or getting into the house is getting more difficult due to the steps, bad legs and so on. What about someone falling so much because they’re a night walker?

Over the many years of doing home assessments, I found that there are few products that make the top 10 list for my clients over and over again.

These products are known to some of us but not to all. I thought to write this month about 4 products that I feel you could use in your tool kit of information. Knowledge is POWER!

1. Tub Cutout:
When you have a customer who is looking for a bathroom upgrade but has a hard time with the $5000+ for a complete roll-in-shower, the tub cutout has been a homerun for me. I was able to do everything else in the bathroom AND give the family a solution to a big concern of theirs.
**The link is to only show you what the product looks like. The website is Senior Safety Pro and I do not endorse any one company**

Working with people who use a walker, wheelchair or simply have a need for a wider doorway are always shocked when they are told about the $500+ cost. Truth be told, when I first saw a local construction guy open a doorway he had an electrician with him. Seeing that the light switch needed to be moved, along with a few pieces of wood, some framing…the new doorway soon appeared. Years later, I’m always one who will give the customer a great cheaper solution from my product tool bag and it's inevitable that I will get the bigger job and their trust. When a doorway needs to be about about 1-2” wider, check out these hinges. You can buy them at Roses Medical  When I last bought them I paid 3/bx $20  Sign up as a dealer.

Toilevator Toilet Base Riser
3.  Toiletvator:
When raising the toilet makes sense for a quick solution, forget the old raised toilet seat. Start thinking of raising the entire toilet! This product creates 3.5” of height, a pleasant look and NO need for a plummer.  Cost: under $100 unless there is a need for over 500lbs in weight. Saves the customer on buying a new ADA toilet.

Home stair safety - PathLIghts System
4.  Pathlights:
Lighting up any dark space is a big win for anyone.  Pathlights turn on and off by themselves due to movement. No electrical work needed. Great for children and night walkers.

Below is a link that has 6 Ideas on what to do on the outside of a home that will make a HUGE difference for everyone!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

STACKit Design-Build Acquiring Virginia Homes

STACKit Design-Build announced today it has entered into a binding Memorandum of Understanding with the owners of Virginia Homes Manufacturing Corporation in Boydton, Virginia to purchase the company.

Virginia Homes factory

Virginia Homes has built over 17,000 homes since it began in 1969” said R.T. Arnold, founder of Virginia Homes.  “The company has a strong team, a steady stream of existing business, and tremendous new opportunities.  I am confident of its continued success.”

STACKit Homes

“As part of the sale, additional working capital will be used to expand production,” said STACKit Senior VP Russell Hruska.  

“Recent factory closings have left a lot of builders without a manufacturer, and Virginia Homes is one of the few remaining operations capable of high quality work.  We anticipate hiring a number of additional skilled personnel from recently idled facilities to propel the growth.”

STACKit Homes 

STACKit Homes

“It is an honor to undertake a leadership role at Virginia Homes,” said Dan Hobbs, the newly designated COO.  “Mr. Arnold has established a long history of producing excellent homes, and we plan to continue and build upon that foundation.  In addition, Marvin Thomas has done an exceptional job of stabilizing the company and attracting new business from builders in the mid-Atlantic region.  

We will add new technology such as the ability to produce wider modules, concrete foundation technology ( ), and utilization of steel wall panel systems.  We are also working with Intexure Architects, , to expand our offerings of available homes and add additional capacity for high end custom homes.  Intexure brings innovative design solutions and smart floor plans focused around modern life.

The transaction is expected to close on or before mid-July.  Prior to that time, representatives of STACKit will be working with Virginia Homes to expand production and prepare for a smooth transition.

For further information, contact Dan Hobbs, 601 291-4082

What Gen X and Millennial Modular Home Buyers Want

New home buyers born from 1965 to 2000 belong to two generational groups, the Gen X buyers born between 1965 and 1979 and the Gen Y (Millennials) born from 1980 to 2000. While these two groups don’t seem to share a lot in common, they do tend to want the same things in their new custom modular homes and you need to keep up with them

When IKEA began their invasion of the US home market with their knock-down furniture and cabinetry many considered them cheap and thought their products were only for the budget minded home buyer. Oh how times have changed.

Both the Gen X and Y buyer is actually looking for a cleaner uncluttered look in cabinetry and the IKEA type fixtures are very appealing to them. Many are buying function over beautiful oak and cherry cabinets in both the kitchen and bath. Make sure both your showroom and your factory have these types of cabinets available. Having kitchens that look like their parent’s kitchen is definitely out for most of them.

Formal dining rooms are another waste of time for both of these groups. There really isn’t much appeal to this feature. Give them a kitchen to hang out with their friends where conversation and mingling rules the day is what they want. You will find a lot of them don’t even eat meals in the kitchen, choosing instead to eat in front of their TV while using their tablets and phones. Your grandmother is rolling over in her grave about now.

Adding to the lose of the dining room is the addition of an open floor plan where the kitchen is the hub. The cooking process is no longer segregated behind walls and doors. It has now become communication central.

Another distinction the Gen X and Y groups bring along when looking to build a new modular home is the need for an office. More of them are working from home and that trend is growing. It really doesn’t have to be called an office. Call it a Flex Room. With high speed Internet and WiFi routers, any room can be an office and that is why you need to address this area as a Flex Room. Office, game room, nursery or even storage are all reasons this room could change its primary use over the years.

Name any Gen X or Y’er that wants to do home maintenance and I’ll show you an old soul. Today’s homes, cars, electronics, lawns and even their pets’ maintenance is handed over to others. When talking to them about their new home don’t be surprised that wood flooring instead of carpeting is chosen and granite countertops over Formica. These groups don’t want to be slaves to their homes choosing not to spend their weekends completing “Honey-do” lists. They want weekends to themselves and are willing to trade having maintenance done for them over doing it themselves. Why didn’t I think of that?

Many of them have also dumped in-house cable and phone lines completely. Everything comes from their Internet connection. I talked with the cable company repairman that came to my house a couple of months ago about this change. He informed me that when he does an install for a new home that in many instances all he does is run it into the house and drop about 10’ of cable. The Homeowner plugs it into the router and and everything in the house is on WiFi.

The Internet is as important as food and water to these generations.

The Gen X homebuyer wants to keep their energy costs down while the Millennials, who have grown up with the real effects of global warming, not only want to keep costs down but also want to protect the environment by going green. You, as a modular home builder, need to focus a lot of your marketing on this topic. Your factory’s standard and optional features should also reflect their need for green and you need to know about the latest HVAC systems, structural systems and options available to help them keep a low carbon footprint.

The days of builders selling “green-wash” are over. Your Gen X and especially your Gen Y buyers really do know a lot about what they want before they even meet with you.

Today, most modular home builders and factory management are Boomers and early Gen X’ers. We really need to learn what the Millennials are looking for in their new modular home.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Harvard's "The State of the Nation's Housing 2016"

The State of the Nation's Housing 2016 report release event at The National Press Club, Washington D.C., on June 22, 2016. Featuring Diana Olick of CNBC moderating a panel with with Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, Stuart Miller, CEO of Lennar Corporation; Mayor Setti Warren, Chair of the Community Development and Housing Committee of the U.S.

Take an hour and watch this video about their report:

You First....No, You First.... No, I Insist, You First….

Today, especially on the East Coast. most modular home factories are stuck in a standoff with their competitors.  

To the builder, they all look alike with similar plans, pricing and support. Similar plans, pricing, warranties, features such as colors, delivery time, installation, availability and distribution methods keep most modular home manufacturers in the standoff.
It all starts with the home.  They are all basically made the same way with the same materials and costs.  You may think that your home is unique, but your builder probably doesn't see it that way.  Small differences won't get a builder to switch.  They may only help a builder who has switched to your factory justify their decision.

Framing lumber, insulation, roofing shingles, furnaces, drywall, faucets and probably even your homes are viewed by your builder as not that different than your competitors. When a new homebuyer sees the shingles, they don't know or care what brand it is. When an architect specifies a certain material, they care more about the material than the manufacturer.

Modular Home Manufacturers are all focused on lowering production costs instead of innovation. No wonder their homes are all similar. They also provide similar levels of customer service that are measured in terms of "good enough", instead of "outstanding".

Certainly there are some modular home factories that have moved away from the standoff but they are mostly boutique manufacturers that specialize in certain types of homes such Blu Homes, Method Homes and Huntington Homes.  

Pricing is definitely in this standoff. No factory wants to be the first one to raise prices even when they must. You don't see many companies saying, "We cost more and we are worth it".  This pricing parity only reinforces that the one factory’s home is the same as another.

This standoff mentality also keeps the factories focused more on each other than the builder or that unexpected new competitor who may disrupt the standoff and make their product and approach irrelevant. Think of a new type of competitor, like Blueprint-Robotics.

All things come to an end.  What will be the outside event, company or person who will resolve the standoff?