Saturday, June 9, 2012

Monkey See - Monkey Do is Alive in the Modular Housing Industry

A member of management for a modular home factory sees that one of their competitors is introducing a new line of homes designed to appeal to ____ (put in your own words).  That person says to everyone that will listen that the competitor will have the market cornered unless the factory acts now to introduce their own competitive line of homes.

If someone with authority like the owner, president or general manager buys into this idea, it's Sadie bar the doors!  The head of engineering will be told to start designing a competing line of homes and when it is done all the sales people will be told to go out there and sell, sell, sell, which rarely happens.

This scenario happens more often than we care to admit.  I’ve seen factory after factory whip out fully designed homes designed for niche markets that nobody wants or needs.  There have been “affordable” homes that aren’t, energy efficient homes that look like 1970’s single wide mobile homes, luxury models that a factory has never built before but are sure they can and my favorite…a line of homes designed for baby boomers that neither wanted those homes nor asked for them.

If a factory wants to build more homes maybe they should take pictures of finished homes that were actually built for customers and show them on their website.  Pictures of real houses are worth a thousand words and always generate more interest than even the best CAD renderings. 

Here’s a question for every factory sales manager.  If I were to ask each one if they had pictures of every completed home they built in their factory, I would be surprised if more than one or two had them.  Getting the modules out the door and hoping that there are no service calls is Goal #1.  Taking pictures of finished houses that can be shown on the company website is Goal # 310.

Instead of trying to copy what another factory is doing and maybe not very well, maybe the factory should take a look at what styles and types their finished homes are and start duplicating them.  There is a pattern to the houses that a factory produces simply because the number of authorized modular builders is relatively small for each factory.  Builders tend to want to do the same types of house over and over.

I knew a builder in the late 90’s that would build almost nothing except two story, 5 window, center hall colonials.  He built between 15 and 20 a year and his customers were his biggest referral base.  He had it down to a 21 day turnaround from delivery to turning over the keys.  That model is still one of the best floor plans sold by our industry.

So the next time you’re tempted to jump on the next best thing since sliced bread, stop and ask your fellow factory people if they think it’s a good idea or will it become just another expensive plan book that sets on the builder’s shelf gathering dust?

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