Thursday, February 16, 2012


As time goes by and my mind starts to mature, certain things start to become a little clearer.  Things that only maturity can bring like why I need to know where all the McDonald's restrooms are when I travel and why the vast majority of site builders won't give modular home construction a shot.

So here in no particular order are my 8 Reasons Why Site Builders Won't Try Modular.

  1. Change.  This reason alone could take up an entire article and still not get to the heart of the matter.  People are reluctant to change.  Fact.  If a builder is not forced into switching for a building method that has served them well to an unknown why should they?  There's no learning curve if they don't switch.
  2. Arrogance.  I've talked with hundreds of site builders over the years and even the most interested of them are not above telling me that even though they know that modular would be a great way to build, they cannot resist telling me that they could always build a better home than one from a factory.
  3. Control.  Many site builders like to be in control of all phases of their business.  They feel they must visit the jobsites as often as possible and a lot of them still like to "make sawdust."  How can these builders be expected to relinquish any amount of control to a factory?  They can't and they won't.  If one of these builders actually becomes a modular home builder you have to pity the factory that gets them.  It will be phone call after phone call about every little detail until the house is delivered.
  4. Expectations 1.  Builders expect the home they receive from a modular home factory to be just like what they build.  It won't be.  It's actually built better than a site built home using about 20% more lumber.  Building methods vary from factory to factory and I have yet to see any of them match the techniques of one particular builder.  Here is where change comes back into the picture.
  5. Expectations 2.  When trying to bring a site builder into the modular factory fold, there are a lot of things said to the prospective builder by the sales rep, the sales manager, owner and even by the workers in the factory who make statements that might have a little bit of truth but in reality they tend to puff it up beyond what is possible.  Builders never forget these statements and will throw them back in the factory's face at the worst possible moment.
  6. Timing.  Here is a tricky one.  The sales rep can only catch the site builder in several stages.  First, the builder is very busy and really doesn't want to listen to the spiel.  Or secondly, they are extremely slow or possibly without any homes to build and when the sales rep calls there is a rush to modular to bring in leads and save the builder from closing their doors and going to work for their competitor.  Even if this builder comes on board, they will never buy more than one or two houses a year.  The third stage is the builder that has a prospective new home buyer that wants a modular home and can't be talked into site building.  Again, unless the site builder is really open to modular, this will be the one and only modular they buy.  The fourth stage is the hardest to get to and the most rewarding.  This is where the sales rep has laid the ground work by meeting with the site builder showing the benefits of modular, having the site builder wanting to visit the factory and slowly bringing about the necessary changes for the site builder to embrace this "new to them" method of selling and building homes.
  7. Rumors.  This is one of the site builders best defenses for keeping the sales rep at bay.  Every time the rep contacts the builder, they are told about all the problems that a "buddy" had when he/she switched to modular.  This is a big "NO" to overcome in trying to bring a builder into modular.  It doesn't matter if there is any truth to the rumor, the builders will convince themselves that it is true.  
  8. Commitment.  If a site builder were to switch to modular, the factory and for that matter the entire modular industry, is put on notice that if the builder has too many problems with modular construction, they will go back to what they know building.  Going modular is only as good as the last house the builder received.  It really doesn't matter that the builder has a reputation for building a below average quality site built home, the modular home they buy must be perfect to make up for their poor reputation. 

For every hundred site builders out there, only one or two will actually make the switch to modular this year.  This is a tough way to make a living for sales reps and their factories.  Not only do they have to convince the builder to listen to them, they have to overcome the reasons above.

No wonder every factory would rather go after builders that are already working with a competing modular factory.  All those reasons were eliminated earlier in the process.

It's time to go forth and work on bringing in new site builders into our industry or we will always be left with our 4% share and limited prospects for increasing it.


Anonymous said...

I like the Rumor part of your list. I was just thinking about the last time a sales rep called and asked if he could talk to me about trying a modular home. The first thing I said to him after I said no was that I heard that most factories don't actually inspect their houses before they are sent to the builder.
The builder always has to fix a lot of the factory's problems and mistakes. I don't know where or from whom I heard it but it was enough to make the sales rep go away.
Just a content site builder with no sales rep bugging me.

Anonymous said...

Having spent many years on both sides of the modular home industry, I have said for years that the best way to get more traditional site builders to go modular, is by educating the general public to the point where they are demanding modular construction. Unfortunately, no one factory or individual is going to accomplish this. It must be done through an industry lead marketing campaign, where all those involved in our industry get together for the good of the industry. Hope I see it in my lifetime!