I know, I’m preaching to the choir, but the numbers don’t lie: 9% of new home starts are manufactured homes. An additional 3% are modular. That’s a combined 12% market share.
We can do better.
We “insiders” know – and builders and developers are rapidly realizing – that manufactured and modular homes offer distinct advantages over site-built: faster to build, better quality, better value. The message, though, isn’t reaching the public as quickly as it should. And the fault is our own.
Take a look at the messages that consumers get regarding our homes. Do you see the advantages being promoted, or are we still talking (I’m being blunt here) about how cheap our homes are to get into? Granted, our prices are an amazing selling point ($70,600 average cost of a new manufactured home in 2017 versus over $296,000 for a site-built home). But focusing exclusively on price ignores a basic fact: more often than not, people buy what they want, not just what they can.
The factory-built housing industry is uniquely positioned to offer people homes that they want to live in. The Tiny Home phenomenon is proof of that. These homes capture the imagination of people that want more practical homes that sync with a “freedom” lifestyle; that incorporate innovation and technology with natural elements and conservation of space and resources… the things we’ve been building into our homes for decades! Consider this list of “Top 10 Most Innovative Homes” and you’ll see a list of features that you are probably already doing (or can easily offer) that inspire the imaginations and actions of homebuyers.
The question is, other than price, how do we present our product as homes people want, not just what they can afford – the real benefits we should be addressing? If we begin telling people (or better yet, showing buyers) why they would love living in a factory-built home, no matter the cost, we will start creating an emotional connection and desire that will impel new buyers to consider our homes for reasons other than price.
And in my opinion, we have a lot to talk about!
Older buyers need homes that require little upkeep. Younger buyers insist on homes that allow them to spend their time in recreation rather than home maintenance. Display your homes as offering low-maintenance living. Remind buyers of your warranties, and offer extended warranties to provide peace of mind.
We can dominate this sector by building current technology into our plans. Charging stations, WIFI, and USB plugs are over a decade old. Solar connectivity, SmartHome® technology, security systems and “Alexa-ready” homes are expectations homebuyers are adopting, and benefits we can offer at a fraction of the cost or site-builders.
Energy Efficiency / Sustainability
Sure, you offer energy efficient homes, but are you helping your buyers understand the energy conservation that goes into the construction of a factory-built home as compared to a site-built home? Labor savings, energy savings and limited waste all contribute to the overall benefits inherent in our homes.
I have a Google Alert set to inform me of any articles published regarding factory-built homes. I’m continually alerted to articles regarding Net-Zero homes or innovative homes that achieve Leed Platinum status. Invariably, the builders and architects are using manufactured and modular construction to achieve these. Hey, it’s what we do, so brag about it!
Aging in Place
There is a current need for an estimated 5 Million homes to accommodate families with at least one disabled family member. That could keep the remodeling industry busy for years… or we as an industry can feature universal design as a standard benefit, making all of our homes more livable for everyone and giving buyers a home that will allow them more freedom and flexibility.
Yes, style. The curb appeal has been our “Achilles Heel,” but we can get over that. If builders can make storage containers seem practical, innovative and stylish, we can too! In fact, clean, angular lines are the hallmark of contemporary design (see the article on innovation cited above). We have some work to do to get our exterior styling where it needs to be to become truly desirable. On the other hand, our interiors are spectacular and incorporate the best design/engineering in the housing market.
I write this confident that we as an industry are on the brink of becoming “discovered” as the answer the home buying world is looking for. Like a diamond in the rough, we just need to change our message to get buyers to see our homes as they truly are – the home that meets both their needs and wants.