Thursday, August 16, 2012

Modular Housing Industry Regressing

Since 2007 when the housing recession began, the modular housing industry has ridden the downward spiral along with all the other builders.  Tract builders began selling off their undeveloped land only to begin buying it back at extremely low prices years later making selling land an actual profit center for them.

A lot a small homebuilders that had gone out of business or started doing remodeling just to keep bread on the table are now looking toward a housing recovery.  Tract builders are gearing up for expansion once again.

What is missing from this small rebound is participation by the modular housing industry.  The NAHB’s Building Systems Councils includes the Modular Home Building Council.  The members in this council meet and conduct business, elect officers, plan for the next meetings but discussing how to market modular housing to new home buyers is left to other folks including the modular factories themselves.

When times were good, the factory owners and managers didn’t think they needed to promote their industry because everyone was building at capacity.  The companies that had several locations throughout the country were hitting on all cylinders in each of them.  Today, those satellite factories are mostly shuttered, many factories have closed their doors forever and the modular industry still isn’t looking to promote the idea of modular housing to new home buyers.

I have looked everywhere for articles about traditional modular home marketing and all I find are the prefab, modernistic and shipping container people marketing their homes.  Blu Homes is always looking for ways to promote their homes.  There are so many articles about the Michelle Kaufmann inspired homes that it is almost getting tedious.  And let’s not forget those old metal shipping containers that are being turned into pretty chicken coops for city dwellers.

So what is stopping the traditional modular home industry from starting a united marketing effort?  I don’t see it happening through any of the industry organizations unless one of them steps up and actively begins going after its members to join in a major marketing push.

But what is really stopping the traditional modular home industry is quite simple.  None of the owners want to contribute to any marketing effort that could possibly benefit their competitors even if it means that the entire modular industry will begin to regress back to the old manufactured housing days of yore.

There are no programs available for educating “new to modular” home builders and no continuing education classes about energy, sustainability or green building methods for builders.  Forget about factories conducting business plan or marketing seminars because they don’t even have them for their own companies.  Most of the seminars available to modular builders piggyback off sales seminars and lectures directed to Realtors, tract builders or the Manufactured Housing folks.

True modular home builders need more than just help on how sell a home.  Hell, I can teach my 10 year old grandson to sell a house. 

Modular home builders desperately need help in running their business and promoting modular living.  What we give them is nothing.  There used to be classes and seminars for PA modular home builders but all that is gone now. 

Is there one organization out there that can step up and take the lead in helping our modular home builders with a national marketing effort and help educate our builders in developing marketing and business strategies?  If anyone has news about such an organization, drop me a line at Modcoach and I’ll promote the heck out of it on Modular Home Builder.

I have asked, no, I’ve begged and pleaded with modular home factories to send me pictures of their homes on the production line, being set or finished.  I get very few.  Ask Nationwide Homes how many hits they get when they send me pictures of their Open Houses and special projects and I write an article about them. I just want new home buyers to see the great modular homes we build. 

Our industry needs all of us pulling together to get the message out and the time is now.


Ibgreen said...

Coach, it has been over 10 years since I attended the Modular housing training institute in Williamsport PA. Have they modified the curriculum to address any of the non-marketing, green building points you hit in this article? I have a friend that is well versed in marketing for developers, production builders and modular. The modular company they worked with had them provide a detailed plan of strategy before signing a contract (that they did in good faith). Only to have them sever the relationship and fail miserably in implementing it themselves.

wsbobbitt said...

Coach - do you hear that? That's me standing up leading a STANDING OVATION for your article!

Sadly I do not think you will find a trade assn currently doing those things you espouse in your well written article. Perhaps there will be a new group that will be made known soon that will answer your challenge.

Sanbury said...

Trying to accomplish this goal on West Coast by bringing together GC's , Factories and others in industry to promote modular construction as a better method of construction by forming the West Coast Off Site Construction Association,

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the blog post (and will be back for more) and just finished visiting the links to the mfrs noted. I am a designer and am researching modular homes in the hopes of designing one and building it (preferably in multiples as a small residential compound). Of all those links, Nationwide offered the best variety of attractive designs and though traditional overall, it includes a number of appealing vernacular styles that could be easily adapted to my vision. Unfortunately, Nationwide does not seem to have a presence in Louisiana. What is also unfortunate is the other mfrs are so grossly lacking in style and imagination, stuck in a 1960's ranch style contractor mode. So, I will keep looking.