Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Delays and Service Issues Force Modular Builder Back to Site Building

A builder just sent me this message from a modular home builder that has decided to go back to on-site construction.
"I'm not new to modular, I've done 15 of them. I just set one in August. The service stunk and I had to wait too long. I'm going back to framing"
That's something none of us in the modular housing industry ever wants to hear especially from one builder to another. 

But you have to wonder about the two things that he said are driving him back to framing.

First let's take a closer look at service. There are actually two types of service. The first is service before delivery. If he had problems working with the sales rep, the engineering department, the sales manager or the shipping department which caused the delays, that is one area the factory needs to work on. And quickly.

Sales reps that don't stay on top of things at the factory for their builder should be retrained to ensure the builder's questions are answered quickly, all changes are noted for the engineering department, special order items are listed and final reviews of the house are made with the builder.

The builder didn't mention how often these things occur but honestly, if a sales manager allows this happen on his/her watch, they better look into working with the sales rep one on one.

The second type of service is after the house is delivered. I know a lot of modular home builders take pictures of everything outside and inside the modules when the shipping wrap comes. Your smart phone will hold more than enough pictures to cover anything the factory service department needs to correct.

However if those modules are set in place before you start taking pictures the problem becomes suspect especially for missing or broken items. Were the appliances and trim taken during the first night on the jobsite? It could become a blame game at that point.

If the builder has legitimate problems that need to be corrected by the factory service department and the factory begins arguing about it, I wouldn't blame him at all for bailing on modular. 

But if the builder exasperates the problem beyond reason for the factory or wants the factory to make repairs for problems caused by the builder himself, the factory has every right to not service the home. Of course the builder will blame the factory and our industry then gets a bad name.

Now let's look at delays. Here we see four potential areas that may or may not be within the factory's area of responsibility.

First there is the delay because the sales rep or the engineering department simply can't get the work out fast enough to suit the builder. Nobody's fault...maybe.

Lately the modular housing industry has begun a love affair with big commercial projects like hotels, large condo and townhouse contracts and even dormitories. If a factory lands two or three of them, each 100 modules or more with definite completion dates attached, it's possible that a builder may see their customer's home delayed a month or more.

And lastly, it may be because a state's Plan Review Department is taking a month or more to have their plans approved for production. Since no factory wants to piss off those people everyone walks softly around this issue. 

And finally there are the "special order" items and options. Your customer wants Pella special order windows in their chalet. That adds time over normal delivery times. Then one is either broken on delivery or the wrong color. Reorder and wait another 3 weeks. Delay!

Builder wants factory to install customer's special ceramic tile ordered from Italy but he and his customer didn't order enough and the shower is only 3/4 installed. And who is to blame if the tile is stuck in customs for 3 weeks? Delay!

For a modular home builder to simply say delays and service are forcing him back to site building is way too broad a statement. Reading through the above list there are really only a couple that might not happen if he stick built it. Most or the problems are common to both.

Saratoga Modular Homes Shows Why Customization is Very Much Alive and Growing

When I was sent an email from Saratoga Modular Homes containing pictures of this beautiful modular home they recently finished I knew I had to share them with everyone. Custom modular homes are alive and thriving in New England and along the East Coast.

Saratoga Modular Homes specializes in the design and construction of custom modular homes, multifamily and commercial projects.

CLICK HERE to see a beautiful custom modular home.

They are a sister company to Saratoga Construction LLC, one of the leading custom home builders in Upstate New York, and offer complete turn-key construction packages in the Capital Region, Adirondacks, and the Mohawk Valley.

MHBA Announces Modular Home of the Year at Yearly Summit

Located lakefront in Cassopolis, MI, the two-story system-built Stone Lake Manor from Heritage Custom Builders and manufacturer Ritz-Craft has been named the 2018 Modular Home of the Year.

The sprawling 4,312 home uses every inch of its half-acre lot on the shore of Stone Lake. The six-bedroom and 4.5-bathroom home features an alluring 1,850 square feet walk-out lower level. Living, family and recreation spaces are ample, and the custom kitchen exudes luxury living. Mike Coeling of Heritage Custom Builders in Paw Paw, MI and Marshal Erb of Marshal Erb Design in Chicago, IL collaborated to create the original design. All seven sections were delivered on the same day. Construction was completed roughly 19 weeks after groundbreaking, not including the landscaping and pool.

The magnificent Stone Lake Manor represents the very best of the modular home industry for the year. “All the parties involved in this project displayed a high level of collaboration, you could not ask for better homeowners to work with, and our onsite team of craftsmen pulled all the finishes and details together,” said Tim Cassidy or Heritage Custom Builders. “The fluidity of our Chief Architect design system and the efficiency of Ritz Craft modular construction, paired with the willingness and creativity of Marshal Erb Design, allowed us to make this beautiful home a reality.”

The Modular Home of the Year is voted on by the public selected from the twelve prior Home of the Month winners. For more information on these awards and previous winners, check out: http://www.modularhome.org

New Job Listings for October

The Active Candidates section below represents candidates looking for new career opportunities.
The Open Positions section represents companies, who are looking for candidates to fill their open positions.
Contact Lynn Gromann at 888-831-0327 or Lynn.Gromann@LGARecruiters.com 
if you would like further information on an available candidate or on an open position.

Active Candidates

People puzzle piece


General Manager - 20 years HUD /MOD experience, prefers SE
Operations / General Manager - 10 years industry experience, with diverse background, prefer in or around TN
General Manager / VP Sales - 20 + years HUD / MOD, prefer South


Sales Rep - experience in Park Models, HUD / MOD, wants PA
Sales Rep - 20 years MOD / Commercial MOD, Midwest, no relo
Sales Rep - 16 years Commercial MOD / MOD - Prefer PA
Sales Rep - 27 years MOD - New England only
Sales Rep - 21 years MOD and Commercial - New England only
Sales Rep - 20 years HUD / MOD - only PA
Sales Rep - 8+ years Commercial MOD - prefers SE or West
Sales Rep - 27+ years Residential MOD - wants northeast
Sales Manager - 25 years MOD / HUD / wants SE or close
Director of Sales & Marketing - 28 years MOD experience, wants SE, S, SW


VP of Manufacturing - 26 years Commercial MOD - no relo, will commute
Production Manager - 26 years HUD / MOD, wants TX
Production Manager - 26 years HUD / MOD - Northeast


Engineering Manager - 11 years HUD / MOD, wants PA or commute
Design Manager - 3 years industry experience, wants West Coast
Engineering Manager - 17+ years HUD / MOD - wants DFW area only
Manufacturing Engineer - 13+ years MOD / HUD experience, AZ, CA
Engineering Manager - 20 years MOD experience, NE and wants Mid-Atlantic


Service Manager - 36 years HUD / MOD - wants East Coast
Service Manager - 29 years HUD / MOD experience, PA, possible relo


Director of Materials - 40 years HUD / MOD - wants Midwest or Southeast
Estimator / Project Manager - 3 years Commercial MOD - close to GA

Open Positions



Division Controller - MOD / HUD - Southeast


Materials Manager - MOD - Rocky Mountain Region
Materials Manager - Commercial MOD - Northeast
Materials Manager - MOD - Northeast
Buyer - Commercial MOD - Southwest


Production Manager - HUD / MOD - Southeast
Production Manager - MOD - Rocky Mountain Region
Plant Manager - MOD - Southeast
Production Manager - Commercial MOD - South
Production Manager - Multifamily MOD - Rocky Mountain Region
Production Supervisors - Commercial MOD - Northeast
Process Improvement Manager - Commercial MOD - Southwest
Project Manager - Commercial MOD - Southwest
Project Manager - Commercial MOD - Northeast
Production Manager - Commercial MOD - New England
Plant Manager - Residential MOD - Upper Midwest
Production Supervisor - Commercial MOD - Northeast


Engineering Manager - HUD / MOD - Southeast
Drafters - HUD / MOD - Southeast
Quality Assurance Manager - Commercial MOD - Southwest
Quality Assurance Manager - MOD - South
Quality Assurance Manager - Commercial MOD - Northeast
Quality Assurance Manager - Commercial MOD - South
Revit Designer - Commercial MOD - West
Asst. Structural Engineer (EIT or PE) - Northeast
Team Lead Drafter - HUD / MOD - Northeast


VP of Business Development - Commercial MOD - South
Sales Rep - MOD - South
Sales Rep - HUD / MOD - Upper Midwest
Sales Manager - Commercial MOD - Northeast
Sales Rep - Commercial MOD - NYC
Sales Rep - Residential MOD - Pacific NW
Sales Rep - Commercial MOD - Northeast
Sales Rep - Commercial MOD - New England

Friday, October 12, 2018

Code Compliance Depts vs Modular Housing Industry

Heading into the MHBA Summit this week and reading that Plan Review people were going to speak about the Current Regulatory Landscape I wasn’t going to miss another session of them blaming the modular industry for massive delays in getting submitted plans reviewed and approved.

Photo Courtesy of Prince George's County.MD

As I sat there with my coffee and bowl of free Hershey Miniatures I waited for NY’s Dept of State speaker to once again defend their slow approval times.

For the first 15 minutes I began formulating another article about there being no improvement since last year. Then Don Thomas started telling us that plan approvals had dropped to a manageable 2 weeks. What! Did I hear that correctly?

He told everyone, both factory attendees and builders, that once a plan is received and logged in it should take about 2 weeks +/- to return it approved. Even though they are still shorthanded they have improved things that much on their end.

So why are so many factories and builders still complaining about their process.

As Don Thomas continued speaking about the process he began giving example after example of Third Party agencies missing key information on the plans, checks not being received with plan submissions, required notations missing, wrong IRC reference numbers used, PE’s submitting wrong calculations, mail sent to the Dept of State’s main address instead of Plan Review’s address and so much more.

It was at this point that I began to realize that even though both the factory and Third Party agency did their jobs it might not be enough. It simply makes no sense to have to pay someone to review other’s work and then have that work reviewed again just to make sure everything is correct on the plan submitted to the state.

Now I began wondering why so much required information is submitted either incorrectly or missing entirely.

It’s not like the state people are finding major building code violations making the project unsafe. Rather it’s the submitted plans are redlined and returned because of basic clerical errors, sometimes up to 80 on a single house plan.

Builders ask "why did the state hold up my plans for 8 weeks before they approved them?” but should they really be asking their factory to see their returned plans listing clerical error after clerical error that caused the delay in the first place.

Screaming at the state isn’t the answer. Yelling at the factory isn’t either. It appears a vast majority of the time it’s just plan old human error or omission that is the culprit.

Atlanta’s Cortland Partners Ready to Buy European Modular Factory

Atlanta-based Cortland Partners — which owns more than 49,000 apartment homes in the U.S. and has offices in Shanghai and the U.K. — is in talks to buy a stake in an undisclosed European modular homebuilder, Cortland CEO Steven DeFrancis told the audience Wednesday during the Bisnow Multifamily Annual Conference Southeast at the W Hotel – Midtown.

“We are looking at modular development,” DeFrancis said. “It is much more accepted in the U.K. than it is in the States, but we do think that's the way the world is going.”

When asked after his speech, DeFrancis said the decision on the investment is imminent.

“It's either going to happen or die in the next 10 days,” he said.

Modular construction in Europe is not a new phenomenon. But unlike in the U.S., where it is relatively uncommon and focused more on stick-framed apartment projects, modular developers in Europe use concrete and metal frame construction. Each unit is assembled in a factory, brought to the development site where a concrete core is erected and the units are stacked around it to create a residential tower, DeFrancis said.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

MHBA Summit Attracts Great Lineup of Vendors

This year’s Modular Home Builder's Association Annual Summit in Hershey saw the largest crowd ever with many of those attending wanting learn more about the advantages of modular home construction. Lots of networking, great presentations and of course lots of chocolate including a delicious Chocolate bread pudding and even chocolate shampoo in the hotel rooms.

Jonny Walker with BlueLinx

The other thing I was so impressed with were all the vendors, both repeat sponsors and new ones showcasing their products. If I were still a builder instead of a blogger, I would have spent so much more time at each of them.

Here are just a few of the people that helped make this year's Summit a success.

Jeff Hunt with Heister House Millworks

Stephan Constant with Lifebreath

Bob Mariotti (left) with Mariotti Building Products

Mike from Qoora Cladding

Peter Jones from Citizens Bank

I’ll have more news very soon of what happened at the MHBA Summit including the House of the Year, the new slate of officers and the presentations.

The UK Desperately Needs New Ways to Build Offsite Homes

The percentage of homes built offsite remains low due to concerns from housebuilders, but with new government thinking MMC could provide urgently needed housing.

We all know there is a severe housing shortage in the UK and the number of homes we require to meet the needs of the nation seems to change daily, especially since the Office for National Statistics has just revealed that it may have overestimated the country’s requirements for accommodation.

Nevertheless, around 300,000 new homes per year is the current consensus and it is just not going to happen. To put that into perspective, the latest planning pipeline report by the Home Builders Federation shows that 391,000 homes were granted planning permission last year, more than double the 183,570 actually built.


Colorado Developer Using Modular to Battle Affordability Housing Problem

Some Colorado developers are showing a growing interest in factory-built modular housing amid the affordability crisis in the Denver Metro Area. Developer Adam Berger is currently working on a duplex project in Aurora on North Alton Street with completion set in a few weeks, leaving the total time for construction at around two months.

"Part of the reason why we can do it so quickly is because essentially everything in the unit is finished,” said Berger.

The home segments are built out of state with surfaces in place and shipped in to install on site. A crane lifts the modulars up and puts them in place for workers to make connections to the foundation.