Sunday, March 6, 2011


Home Shows are so predictable.  One of the first booths my wife and I encountered today was a real estate company.  You guessed it!  There on the table were refrigerator magnets and promotional pens.  The Realtors working the booth were drinking lattes and talking with each other.  I stopped to see if anybody would at least say hello.  Nothing.  So I grabbed a Hershey Kiss and moved on.

A couple of booths away I came upon my first banker booth.  Why do all the female bankers that work these booths look 6 feet tall and have blond hair?  But they came out of their way to engage me in conversation telling me about the advantages of their great 1% savings rate.  I moved on.

Remodelers were everywhere.  I talked with some that had been new home builders but switched to remodeling to keep the lights on.  Now they are saying they may never go back to home building.  It's easier for homeowners to get equity loans than for new home owners to get mortgages.

But what really got me scratching my head were the 3 modular home builders I talked with.  I explained who I was and what I write for the modular industry.  That's when the flood gates opened.  All three said that they are experiencing a good spring.  Lots of leads and houses to build.  Then the conversation turned to how their factories were doing.

The first one told me he had just changed factories last month because his sales rep had lied to him about a house that was to go to production and he found out the rep hadn't even completed the order and the house would be 4 weeks late in delivery.  Talking to the factory owner proved useless.  Adios Amigo!

The next one bought 2 houses last year from a factory in the south and when problems arose with some of the workmanship, the factory told him to go ahead and fix it and they would pay him for his repairs.  No payment after 5 months.  He has moved on to another factory and is getting ready to sue for the $1,800 in unpaid repairs.  He hopes this one will be better.

The last one watched his factory, North American Homes, close and then restart again with the homes being built by another factory, New Era Homes. Both of these companies are part of Champion Homes.  I asked if he was happy with New Era and he was.  He's afraid to look at another factory because of all the things he would have to change to make the switch.

Three builders and all three were busy but none of them were particularly happy with their factory.  When I asked what they would like for the factory to do to help them, only one had a good suggestion.  He buys from a factory that holds builder roundtables and is very impressed that the factory actually listens to them and makes a lot of the changes they suggest.

I just boils down to the factories doing things right, the first time and on time.  Keeping promises. 


Anonymous said...

The plant I buy from is afraid to have a round table discussion. I have suggested this several times. What are they afraid of? Maybe the truth, then improvement, and finally a happy customer with an improved product. Just food for thought.

Heywood said...

Good article Coach. The old tired mentally of the manufacturers is the reason this industry will have great difficulty positioning itself to become a legitimate housing option for the remainder of the 80% of the home buying public that would never consider modulat.

Anonymous said...

Our division has annual, open-dialog round tables, with most commenting they are the best they attend. We hold full-day sales seminars, ongoing in-field training, provide solid literature and marketing support, and constantly ask for honest feedback. We've made over 100 improvements to the product in 30 months - nearly all based on builder, service, or driver feedback. Still - every day a retailer will ask for $500 discount to match brand x. How do we balance the perception that we're trying to make our partners successful, but it is quickly forgotten when it's time to buy a home?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 1:26.
Tell that builder that he will re-coup his $500 plus through savings on service and installation and customer referals!
Also...your feedback failed to include customers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 3:23,

You are absolutely correct, and we are looking at ways to gain better feedback from customers as well as prospects who didn't buy. After every service call, we do contact the customer to review the repairs and the delivery of our service, but that isn't the appropriate time to discuss what they like or don't like about their home. We need to be aware not to get too far between the builder and the customer either.

We're open to ideas!

Lamar said...

Coach, We must have been at the same home show. My friend Bruce and I filled a cloth recyclable bag with nothing but magnets, promotional pens and small note pads. I will have enough pens and paper to leave Bruce notes around the house for the next 3 years. We ended up fighting over the last Hersey Kiss at one of the stands but Bruce was nice enough to give in and give it to me. What a guy!!

Yes, I do agree that the trend of these home shows is leaning more towards those remodeling than that of new construction. As a florist, I make alot of deliveries and see alot of remodeling going on at homes. In fact I just got money from the bank to remodel my home. Bruce and I want to add a sun room with a hot tub and a small green house. These home shows provide so many ideas.