San Antonio company selling mobile homes through ‘virtual dealership’

  • By Alberto Pina
  • 14 Jun, 2017
By Peggy O’Hare, Staff Writer For The San Antonio Express-News | June 13, 2017
Photo: Alma E. Hernandez /For The San Antonio Express-News - Leroy Chavez, a client of Braustin Mobile Homes, “tours” his future home using a pair of virtual reality goggles at the Geekdom office space in downtown San Antonio, while company President Alberto Piña watches. The company makes most of its sales online and over the phone.
Inside the walls of the ultramodern Geekdom office space downtown, surrounded by hip techies and entrepreneurs, brothers Alberto and Jason Piña are focused on providing a basic type of housing that gets little respect — mobile homes.

Since launching Braustin Mobile Homes in January, the brothers are using virtual reality goggles, drones and e-commerce to provide customers a more progressive and consumer-friendly shopping experience than one typically encounters when buying a home.

The brothers’ goal is to put as many working people as possible into quality, affordable homes. They proudly proclaim they can do that at a price of $28 to $29 per square foot, while the average cost of new residential construction in San Antonio runs around $115 per square foot.

“Not everybody in our town can live in the Stone Oak area, you know,” said Alberto Piña, 31, the company’s president and co-founder. “I guess we just don’t think you need to be a six-figure earner to become a homebuyer in this city.”

Unlike some of their competitors, the Piñas post prices on their website for all of the mobile homes they sell.

Most of their sales are made online or over the phone.

“With the millennial generation being the dominant buying demographic in this space, we’re used to buying on Amazon or buying on eBay,” Alberto Piña said. “We just figured ‘Why not move that to the manufactured housing industry?’”

So far, Braustin Mobile Homes — a small operation with only four employees, including the Piña brothers — has sold 10 homes for a total of $546,273. The company expects to sell five more homes by the end of June.

The company sells homes statewide. It can also help customers secure financing to purchase a mobile home.

“There aren’t too many lenders that loan on manufactured homes,” Alberto Piña said. “The ones that do, we have working relationships with.”

The Piñas’ company operates under a “virtual dealership” concept. Customers can use virtual reality goggles to tour the floor plans for different mobile homes and get a visual of what their home will look like once it’s finished.

Customers also can take “virtual tours” using their cellphones, tablets or computers.

This approach allows Braustin Mobile Homes to keep its overhead and its prices low.

“We’re consistently selling the same home from the same factory for $5,000 to $10,000 less just because we don’t have to pay for 50 (dealerships) across the state,” Alberto Piña said.

“I’m not sure if we’ll ever get to the point where we have a physical dealership. Because then that drives our overhead higher.”

While the company doesn’t target homebuyers of certain income levels, its customers typically have been low- to middle-income earners, the Piñas said. Many of them are buying a home for the first time.

“The majority of our customers are just the salt of the earth — blue-collar, hardworking people,” said Jason Piña, 29, the company’s vice president of sales. “With our upfront pricing, we really provide a different opportunity for them.”

Some customers have already chosen the land where they want to build their home when they approach Braustin Mobile Homes. Others ask the company to help them find land that will make a suitable homestead.

The Piñas hired White Cloud Drones, another company housed in the Geekdom office, to capture aerial footage of raw land being transformed into a home site complete with a foundation, water and septic services, electrical services and a driveway. That aerial footage will be made into an educational video for customers.

Braustin Mobile Homes also partnered with an investor who purchased a rundown mobile home park south of San Antonio off Texas 16. That space is being renovated into a place where customers can physically walk through stock models of mobile homes sold by the company. It will open next month.

The consumer experience becomes more important with larger purchases, such as buying a home, said Tony Ciochetti, a professor of finance and real estate at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“People are making probably the biggest investment they’re going to make in their whole life — and they tend not to do that in a flippant mode,” Ciochetti said of buying a home.

Posting prices online is “a phenomenal marketing technique,” Ciochetti said. The drone usage brings a different perspective to the buying and selling process, he added. “That technology is creeping in everywhere,” he said.

All of the homes sold by Braustin Mobile Homes are made at a factory in the Central Texas town of Belton.

The Piñas say they’ve found their prices are most competitive in West Texas, where customers have told them other mobile home dealers are charging $20,000 more for the same home model.

“Our overall goal is just to help as many people as we can achieve the goal of homeownership … Get out of the rent race and build their own equity, get their own place,” Alberto Piña said.

Braustin Mobile Homes

By Jason Pina 19 Jun, 2017
Federal regulations require all manufactured homes to be built to a certain code, so most homes are structurally built the same. Because of that, people will purchase the less expensive starter home as their first place to live instead of buying a fully customized budget breaking house.

These home owners are smart, and realize there is no need to pay for the fancy bells and whistles that skyrocket the cost of their home, especially when they can do most of the work themselves with a little bit of time. In their mind it is best to choose a cost effective starter home that fits their budget and then add on the upgrades as their wallet and schedule allows. 

Our team at, Braustin Mobile Homes , has put together the 6 most popular DIY upgrades for mobile homes that really make them stand out.

1.) Decks and porches
By Alberto Pina 14 Jun, 2017
By Peggy O’Hare, Staff Writer For The San Antonio Express-News | June 13, 2017
By Ernest Gomez 06 Jun, 2017
With companies like Amazon, E-bay, and Car-vana , everything these days is moving towards the virtual experience. It didn’t always use to be that way though. Before the “Easy button” you had to decide to buy something, get up, get dressed, drive to the store and deal with a sales person. It was high pressure and at the end you sometimes wondered if you got the best deal.

Today virtual shopping is common place, but it wasn’t always so. When Amazon first came out they themselves didn’t expect to make money for the first 5 years. Virtual shopping was a new concept and they knew it. Consumers are creatures of habit even if there is a new, better way. New ideas take time to catch on, especially when it comes to folks parting with their hard-earned money.

Nowadays most folks are busy with work, family, or just wanting to relax with whatever free time they do get. They expect a buying process to be streamlined, efficient and designed in a way that can be done in the comfort of their home. Old school high pressure sales tactics are quickly becoming a thing of the past as consumers demand better.
Virtual stores created the ability for people to either buy what they already wanted at the click of a button or allow them for search for the best price on an item hassle free. In today’s market, convenience and comfort are the key to earning someone’s business.

Ecommerce has changed entire industries and the home buying experience is right there in the mix. Articles by the New York Times and The Washington Post have shown that stick built homes are using this approach to cut cost, and improve the home buying experience. New technology now gives potential home buyers the ability to look at homes from a different city, state, even country from the comfort of their couch.

Some companies in the factory built housing industry have begun to offer the same opportunity. While these companies still offer the traditional methods to physically see and feel the home in order to gauge the quality of the manufacture, they also allow customers to walk through homes with VR goggles like those offered from companies like Merge VR . This allows these companies to showcase a wide variety of model homes without the expense of all that inventory. In turn, that allows potential home buyers to get a lower price on their new manufactured home.

Just like any new idea, this concept will take time to gain traction, but its already in motion. Virtual dealerships such as Braustin Mobile Homes have worked with a number of families entirely online and over the phone to help them save thousands of dollars on their brand new manufactured home. By using new technologies, they work with folks to help them customize, build and deliver their new home direct from the factory to their home site.

Shopping today is in the consumers’ hands more so than ever before. Companies like Blockbuster have become relics of a past generation. The home buying process still has some archaic practices, but a brave few are dropping the stone axe and rock wheel for a way that allows them to better serve their clients by focusing on helping them instead of selling them.
By Jason Pina 25 May, 2017
The path towards owning a manufactured home can often seem like a very long and confusing road. There are so many obstacles you need to watch out for. Once you have the home chosen, you are ready to find the perfect location for your family to live.

To make this part of the process as easy as possible we at Braustin Mobile Homes put together the 8 most important questions to ask before you move into any community.

1) What are the promotions you all offer to new residents?

Almost every mobile home community offers some sort of promotion; you just need to know what to ask for. The most popular specials are below.

• Community pays for hooking up your electric, water, sewage, and AC disconnect box.
• Lower lot rent if you sign a longer contract
• Free skirting
• Free stairs or decks

If they don’t offer this work for free ask them who they recommend to do the job. These parks have had hundreds of homes moved into their location over the years and know who the best contractors are to do a good job and keep their renters happy.

2) What are the requirements for putting a home in this park?

It is easy to get excited about finding the perfect community to put your home and then be blindsided by the expensive requirements to live in the community. Often these additional costs are not something the bank can add to your loan last minute so it is best to find out ahead of time. Some parks require hard board skirting, decks on the front and back of the home, or even gardens in yard.

With these additional add-ons most communities give a timeline for when the work needs to be done. This can range anywhere from 30-120 days.

It is important to find out what the community wants the homes to look like. Do they have requirements on the year the home was built, exterior material, window placement? Find out before you put any money down on a home or waste hours or shopping. 

3) What happens when my contract runs out?

You may get an incredible deal for your first year of renting but if you aren’t careful to read the fine print and pay attention, there may be a giant price increase waiting for you that you unknowingly agreed to. If you plan to stay in the same community for many years you can probably sign a longer contract and get a discounted monthly rate.

4) Can I take a tour of the pool, playground, and common areas?

We all know that one friend where every time we go to their house the first thing they say is “Sorry for the mess, usually its clean.” It isn’t a coincidence; their house is never clean. Home communities are the same. If their community and common areas are not taken care of to your standards when you come to view the property, don’t expect there to be any difference when you move in.

5) Do you all allow pets?

Most communities have restrictions on the number and type of pets you are allowed to bring into the community. Some will only allow pets if they are considered “service animals” and will need documentation to prove this.

6) Who takes care of the hook ups?

People are so excited about picking out a new home, choosing their upgrades, and colors that electric, water, and sewage connections are completely forgotten about. Contractors can take a few weeks to complete this work and you do not want the home to get there and have no plans on how to hook it up so you can begin living in the home.

Communities either do the work themselves, require an approved contractor to handle the job, want the company that sold the mobile home to do it, or leave the decision up to the tenant.

*Make sure to ask the community management if there are any permits you need to take care of in order to get your water and electricity turned on.

7) After I finish the application, how soon does the home need to be moved into the community?

Coordinating the home building and there being a space available in the community can sometimes be a difficult task. That is why it is important to find how soon the home must be in the community after you complete the application for the home location.

If the community will only hold your location for 21 days but the home factory is saying it will take 60 days to have the home built you need to let the community management know so you all can come up with another plan that works for both of you.

8) Do you all give referral fees?

Once you move into your amazing home in your perfect location there is no doubt that you will have a friend or family member that will want to live in the same community. Be sure to find out what referral fees the community offers for you bringing business their way. It is pretty common for you to be offered up to $1,000 for your help.

Thank you for reading. If you have found the perfect spot to place your future home or have any questions and need an honest team to help you out with the home buying process please visit our website at to view our publicly posted, upfront pricing.
By Ernest Gomez 23 May, 2017
Do you find yourself thinking, “I wish buying a mobile home was easier?” Buying a new home is certainly a journey, but that doesn’t mean it must be a difficult one. Below are some tips and warnings to help make this process a little bit easier and enjoyable.

1.) Shop Around

Times have changed and now you as the buyer have all the power. Use this to your advantage. Shop around online and visit several locations that catch your eye before you make a buying decision. It is important to price compare and dig into the details as to what exactly is included in that price. This is an exciting journey for you and your family, but try your best to not let your emotions get carried away. Take your time to do your research and do not allow yourself to get pressured. Remember its your home not theirs.

2.) Negotiate Price Not Monthly Payment

Mobile home companies are not the bank. Only a licensed loan offices can give you a true monthly payment. Estimations can be given but only a loan officer can give you the detailed information you need to make that educated decision. It is important as a potential home buyer to negotiate the actual price of the home and not the monthly payment. Since most companies in the factory built housing industry do not publicly post their pricing, it can be easy for a sale rep to increase the price of your home to meet your desired monthly payment. If you get the best price on a model you are interested in, then your monthly payment will be the lowest it can be on that home.

3.) Do Your Research

Information is out there, so trust the people who put the info in front of you freely. Nowadays the internet will tell you just about anything you need to know. Research not only where to get the home but the company that is selling the it. All homes are built to the same Federal HUD standard so what really makes the difference is going to be the company who sold it to you. Read the customer reviews . Not just the good ones, but the bad ones too. If a user gives a 1 star with no review it can be fair to assume a troll is at hand. If there is a bad rating with a valid negative review, that is something to look into further. Read to see how the company responds to the reviews, especially the negative ones. This will give you insight into how that particular company deals with problems.

4.) It Doesn't Cost Money to Talk To The Bank

Banks do not charge to run an application for a loan. There’s a long-standing myth that when buying a mobile home, you need to put money as a deposit/fee just to have the bank review you app. It’s just not true. The only case where you may want to put down a deposit is if you are wanting to purchase a stock model. In this case, you may be able to take the home off the market by putting a refundable deposit down with the company. It is best to keep your money in your pocket until you are comfortable with the final numbers from the bank and the company selling you the home.

5.) There Is No Such Thing As A Stupid Question

There is no silly question when it comes to deciding on the right home. If folks had all the answers then manufactured home retailers would not exist. It’s a house not a t-shirt after all. So don’t feel embarrassed or like you are a bother to the person who is helping you with one of the most important financial decisions of your life. A reputable dealer should freely answer any questions you may have. If they themselves do not know the answer, then it is fair to expect them to find it and get back to you. Asking questions not only helps you get the answers you need, but also helps you learn a little more about the company you are looking to do business with.

6.) Listening To “Uncle Joe”

Everyone has that one person who has bought a mobile home before and thinks they know how it is or how it should be. We live in a world of change and almost every industry goes through them multiple times a year. From an application form update to updated pricing, the manufactured housing industry goes through a lot. Your family “expert” may have insight as to what they went through when buying their mobile home, but to know exactly what is needed from the other side is a whole different story. Don’t allow others opinion let you miss out on a great home or working with the right team.

It is important to remember is that this is your family’s home. While you may not be the expert, you owe it to them and yourself to make the most educated buying decision you can. Do all the research you can both online and in person with a potential seller. For more information on the home buying process, download our FREE Home Buyer’s Guide by clicking the link.

As always, our team is happy to answer any questions you may have to help you make the right decision for you and your family.
By Ernest Gomez 12 May, 2017
Dear “Home Shopper” Me,

  It’s been 3 yrs now since you got to spend the first night in your home with you new wife. It’s been such a crazy ride. Who knew that just 3 years could bring so much change, joy and concern. I know you are stubborn and hard headed but I also know that you just want what’s best you and the Mrs. So listen up because what I am about to tell you will help keep you on track for what you both want in life.

About 5 months ago you started looking into a place to live. You both know living with 7 other people as newlyweds is not going to work for either of you. You’re going to consider apartments and see that it’s just not worth it. $1,100 a month for a 1 bedroom is just not worth it. Stick built house’s will come up but you already know that to be stuck in a 30 yr mortgage is not going to work. Especially when your wife loves to travel. That is her #1 desire other than being a mom and your wife. (You really are a lucky guy!)

You both will ultimately decide to stick to what you know - mobile homes . It just makes sense. You love the country life and space. Your parents purchased a manufactured home and never had problems paying the bills and keeping the lights on. You were never rich but they made it work. It’s going to take time so don’t get frustrated. You already know that your wife is a thorough person. That is going to help you both so much.

After what feels like forever you will finally find the right company and the right home. It won’t be the home of your dreams, but hey, you two are just starting. Remember your goals and starting with a fancy home and bill to match is not one of them. You will find a home that gives you exactly what you need and a monthly payment that you can afford comfortably.

The monthly bill will come every month like clockwork. Your wife knows the numbers so just keep working hard. Life is going to get interesting. Your lawnmower will break after you spend $500 to buy it. It’s going to be another $200 to fix it. But it will be ok. Although your wife isn’t working, you will be able to pay the bills because you choose to go with an affordable mortgage. Don’t worry about the lawn mower, she has been putting away money for “what ifs” like this.
You will start to build your deck and realize you need more material. Don’t worry, your bills will be low enough to account for that. Your wife is awesome and keeps things in order. She will soon be able to work and start looking for a job. Even better news…she will get the job, not far from you, which works because you will still only have one car.

She will only keep the job for about 6 months. Although it’s not very long, you will know and see that it’s not good for her. She will ask you if she can quit. Just say yes. Your job alone will be enough to pay the bills for now. You may eat a little less fast food, but you need to stop that anyway. Keep your head up. You have family that works at Bill Millers and they will help her get a job there. Just don’t forget you only have one car.

You will be turning 30 soon and won’t want this to be a typical birthday. You will plan a big trip. You and Liza will go to Russia, Turkey, Israel and Egypt. You will be very happy that you choose to go with a mobile home as opposed to renting or a stick built house. Enjoy every second of it.

You’re going to have to get surgery due to a work incident. Your wife will tell you that’s the last straw and insist that you quit. DO IT! You hate that job anyway and it will lead to one of the best decisions of your life. You will find your true calling helping families get into a home just like the guy who helped you and her.

Your wife will get the job. You will finally get that second car, but your wife will wreck the older car. She will be ok, just a little shook up. Don’t worry. You will have savings because you decide to buy the manufactured home yall looked at. You will be able to get a very simple car cash from a trusted friend. It won’t be pretty, but it will work like a charm.
The journey isn’t over. While you will enjoy what you do, the place where you work is going to go through a lot of changes. Several of your team mates will be laid off and you will find yourself wondering where the vision you all were chasing went. A couple of your old team mates will reach out to you. You are going to get an opportunity to start something from scratch. A brand-new company from the ground up. Take it! Your wife will be able to cover the bills. You will have an opportunity that you have always wanted. Make the most of it!

It is not going to be easy. You will have fun, but things will be very tight financially at first. There is light at the end of the tunnel. That will get more and more clear as you progress. While I didn’t tell you everything that will happen, just know you will make the right decision. You will decide to get that starter home. Anything else will prevent you from having the opportunity to travel. You will be glad you kept your mortgage low when you pursue your dream of starting a company. Your team will make front page news and momentum will quickly build. You’re in for a wild ride. Enjoy every minute of it.


Homeowner You
By Alberto Pina 02 May, 2017
San Antonio’s real estate market is hot – it ranks eighth on real estate website Trulia’s list of markets to watch in 2017 . That demand translates into a lower inventory of affordable entry-level homes. With San Antonio’s population projected to grow by 1 million by 2040, the need for affordable housing will be even more pressing.

That’s why Alberto Piña and his brother Jason founded Braustin Mobile Homes . Informally known as the “mobile home geeks,” the Piñas launched the unconventional startup in January as a way to help entry-level buyers achieve their dream of home ownership at considerable cost savings.

By leveraging technology, Braustin Mobile Homes has introduced what it believes is a disruptive model for selling mobile homes, creating a virtual mobile home dealership on the eighth floor of Geekdom that will be one of the featured stops on the upcoming SA Tech Trek April 25. The Rivard Report spoke to Alberto Piña about the housing startup.
By Jason Pina 02 May, 2017
I was lucky enough to work with one of the most amazing teachers in Texas, Karyn. She called in and said she had a piece of property in Harper, TX that was empty and she wanted to put a home out there. Somewhere in the conversation she mentioned to me that she had tried a few other times to complete the process but never had any luck. She kept getting her hopes up only to be disappointed and turned down by the banks. Her kids would have fun with her and call the property “Never Never Land.” They didn’t believe a home was ever going out there
After working together for a little while we discovered that Karyn had some credit scores she needed to bring up to be approved for the home. I put her in contact with the credit repair company we used and she took it from there. The credit company was amazed at what a pleasant person Karyn was to work with and how fast she was able to get what they needed to help bring up her scores. They had never met someone who would respond so quickly and was able to get everything needed without having to remind her. 

Within a month I received a call from Karyn saying her credit was up and she was ready to move forward with the application. I sent her the paperwork right away. She emailed back the completed application within the same day, something incredibly rare in this industry. The bank took a few days to respond but when an answer came it was a denial, again. The score the bank was looking at was too low.
I was dreading the phone call and having to hear the disappointment in her voice. Making that call is never fun but this time I felt exceptionally bad because of how hard she had been trying to help her family. She was working two jobs in an attempt to achieve their dreams. 

Being the fighter she is, Karyn tracked down the contact information for the bank and called the loan officer to figure out a solution. She found out the bank could look at another credit score to try to get her approved. She gave them the go ahead and had to wait a few more days to find out if she was approved. 

Finally the email came to me from the bank saying that she was going to be able to get her dream home after all. I knew she was working but I couldn’t wait to call her, I was too excited. When she answered I asked if she had a minute to talk. She said she was teaching class but had a moment to speak. You could hear the defeat in her voice; she knew the bad news was coming.

I exploded with excitement and told her “You did it Karyn, you freaking did it! You are getting this house. There’s no more Never Never Land.” The amount of joy that came out of her was amazing and my eyes started to water the second she started crying. Her refusal to accept failure, and determination to succeed finally led up to this incredible moment.
When we spoke later in the evening she said she was in the front of her class when she started crying. Her daughter happened to be one of the students in the room as well. I wish I could have been there to see that moment of pure happiness. 

As we continued picking colors and ordering the home nothing changed about Karyn. She was still the most kind and pleasant person to work with and was able to put her home on her beautiful piece of land surrounded by mature oak trees. Till this day she is still one of my favorite, and definitely my most memorable client. 

In any industry there are days where you deal with irrational customers that aren’t appreciative and take your time for granted but it’s the memories of working with someone like Karyn that really stick to your heart and make all the long hours and difficult times worth it.
By Ernest Gomez 27 Apr, 2017
Most folks have seen the Wizard of Oz. A famous scene is when Dorothy’s house lifts off the ground and swirls through the air landing on the wicked witch. Despite the potential for mutual destruction when directly hit by a tornado, when there was a tornado warning in San Antonio, meteorologist Steve Brown didn’t say to leave your stick built house, but to leave your mobile home.

Safety is a concern no matter what type of home you live in. Manufactured houses must travel 70-80 mph down the road and that's as fast as a small tornado. That’s even before the home ties down to Federal HUD regulations.

If you don’t believe it, check out this video presented by In this video a large military plane is backed up to a double wide home and cranks the propellers full blast. Federal regulations of Wind Zone 3 are built to keep a home safe up to winds of 110MPH. After that well neither site built or tie downs can keep too much safe or intact. Take the case of Jasper, Mississippi.

Jan. 3rd, 2015 a EF-2 tornado struck this city and destroyed a total of 33 homes. Only 6 of them were mobile homes. Those 6 were located in a mobile home community and these homes may have be considered a mobile home dated pre-1976 before the federal government stepped in to regulate construction standards in the industry. The park owners manufactured home only sustained minor damages. Nearby, dozens of site built homes faced damage. High winds are not a manufactured home issues it is an installation issue.

In the case of Moore, OK an EF5 tornado with winds over 200 mph and a mile wide destroyed a city and left disaster in its wake. A video of the aftermath can show a path of destruction among site built houses. While correctly installed manufactured homes stayed intact.

Right in our backyard Feb 19th 2017, 3 tornadoes hit San Antonio Texas . Although Steve Brown urged folks to leave their manufactured homes. no reports show Mobile homes destroyed. There were however, over 100 cases of stick built homes, apartment complexes and other commercial buildings being destroyed/damaged.

At the end of the day both types of housing are at risk when a tornado hits. When manufactured houses are built and installed properly, research has shown them to withstand severe winds and storms on a regular basis. As for winds of 120mph, it doesn’t matter if its site built or manufactured - there will be damage.

The need for affordable housing is on the rise. Longstanding opinions touted as facts prevent folks from seeking out a solution to home ownership that fits their budget. The stigma and stereotype of mobile homes being tornado magnets or unsafe structures just isn't true and its time to educate folks on this safe and affordable alternative to renting.
By Jason Pina 19 Apr, 2017
In the past 20 years our city has seen a dramatic increase in the quality of communities for San Antonio Mobile Homes. With the older site built neighborhoods sky rocketing in prices and land sometimes being difficult and expensive to prepare, mobile home community owners have really taken it upon themselves to improve their locations or build brand new communities that are much more desirable to live compared to the older mobile home parks in the past.
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