The housing crunch is hitting another side of the modular housing business very hard, the modular set crew. If your factory has a "factory" set crew, make sure you don't make them angry when they're setting one of your homes. They might not come back.
If you don't have access to a factory set crew, you are at the mercy of the few remaining "good" set crews left. They are disbanding like cockroaches in daylight.
Red Barnette, owner of Modular Home Set, a Rock Hill, SC business that contracts with modular home dealers to assemble houses, lost half of his staff when his work load dropped from one house every week to less than one a month. Four of his employees quit because there wasn't enough work. A fifth was laid off.
"I did have a good crew. But I understand they've got families and mouths to feed. They had to move on," he said. "Right now, we're just trying to make it through the hard times. That's all you can do.
"This whole thing is so far above us. We don't have anything to do with it," Barnette said from the roof of a garage he was building. "If people can't get credit, we can't build houses."
I watched a crew set a house the other week in Virginia and from what I saw it looked like the men were "day laborers" sitting on a street corner earlier in the day. Only the head guy on the job and one other man had any experience in setting houses. The others couldn't speak English which made it hard for the foreman or the Dealer to get them coordinated in their tasks. But before you say that they are taking our jobs, the head guy said he couldn't find anybody else that would take just one day's work.
They didn't do a bad job. It's set. But I didn't see them use a "come along", insulate between the sections, properly fasten the house to the foundation or clean up the site after the set. I talked to the Dealer and he was just happy to find a crew to put up the house. He and his partner were going to spend the next day making sure it was weather tight. Thank goodness it didn't rain overnight.
If your sales are down 75%, so are the Set Crew's business and a lot of them have turned to remodeling, so they can't just drop everything and work for you for a day or two. This will correct itself when the economy turns around in a year or two. Until then, GOOD LUCK!