Empowered Buyers Are Forcing The Manufactured Home Industry to be Better
When I started in the San Antonio factory built housing industry in 2012 one of the first lessons I was taught from my manager was too NEVER refer to the homes we carried as “mobile homes.” It was a forbidden label that gave customers an idea of old and poorly built shacks. The new term was “manufactured homes.” I vividly remember sales reps arguing with potential buyers about the names of the homes. Should a customer make the dreadful mistake of referring to the product as a “mobile home” they would get a 15 minute history lesson on the dates and reasons why the name had changed.
So why the bad wrap?
It is important to come to terms that at one point and time, mobile homes were poorly built . Although started in good faith to provide affordable housing for the flood of service men returning from WWII, manufacturers and retailers quickly found ways to cut corners at the expense of the quality of their product. There were the rare exception, but overall the industry ran wild with companies taking full advantage of their customer base.
Profit over quality is one thing, but when companies began to put profit above safety, the government was forced to step in to bring order to an industry in chaos. In 1976 The Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act was passed. Commonly referred to as HUD Code , these new covenants regulated design, construction, fire resistance, energy efficiency and quality.
Why didn’t society notice?
A simple name change was not going to alter the perceptions people had developed of the industry. They had these negative images in part due to the fact that the companies that sold these homes would take complete advantage of people and would vanish once they had their money. They were so worried about filling their own pockets that they didn’t take time to make sure to inspect the customers land and double check that they knew exactly what they were getting in their purchase. Company reviews weren’t available back then so old sales dogs, with their box set dress shirt and tie, would say and do anything to get the sale. Often times this meant placing a home on a poorly made foundation or none at all which would cause the home to shift in such a way where walls would start to crack and things would fall apart.
The poor image that was a “mobile home” had nothing to do with quality past 1976, but rather the terrible customer service after the sale. Should you need the simplest of issues fixed the company would completely turn against the customer and treat them like they were the problem. Even though the company made verbal promises to get the sale, they would make sure to point out later that none of that was in writing on the contract. For first time home buyers who didn’t know to look for this stuff, it was devastating.
So what is the solution?
Factory built housing provides a fantastic solution to the affordable housing crisis that plagues this nation. How then, do we achieve mass acceptance of this idea – EDUCATION!
The industry needs to make a stand and focus on educating potential home buyers. To focus more on teaching folks the difference between a chattel and an FHA loan. To tackle some of the mobile home myths such as depreciation and these homes being “tornado” magnets.
If the majority of the customers who purchase these homes refer to them as mobile homes, then only by accepting that and showing that we as an industry can be better will we make a difference in how one perceives our industry.
The name doesn’t matter
Call them mobile homes, trailer homes or manufactured homes, it’s all the same thing. What is most important is that this industry IS changing. Not because of a name switch but because the internet has empowered all of us to do our own research and come to our own conclusions. Companies that continue to make the mistake of underestimating the intelligence of their buyers will soon learn that the internet has turned the tables in our industry. The ability for customers to look at company’s reviews and go to websites such as Ripoff Report or Better Business Bureauhas completely changed the game. Those sales centers that treat people with the honestly and respect they deserved will thrive. First time home buyers demand better of our industry and we at Braustin Mobile Homes are happy to answer the call.