“Catastrophic” “Expensive Dog Food” “Least Liked Industry…Ever Studied” Joanne Stevens, Warren Buffett, Marty Lavin, Roper Report – Years of Costly Manufactured Housing Institute “Failures”-Facts & Analysis


In an undated document from the commercial real estate broker Joanne M. Stevens website that refers to the Roper Report are some interesting pull quotes. “Have you heard about the Roper Report? That’s the study that the Manufactured Housing Institute [MHI], our industry trade group, commissioned to tell the industry what our problem is? (Like we don’t know). For $250,000 (the cost to study the industry) the Roper Report discovered the following (based on interviewing homeowners of Manufactured Homes)…” Stevens said: “Lack of information [by the general house-seeking public] was a problem [that was keeping manufactured home industry sales down] that the Roper Report pointed out.” She said there was a lot of complaining and concerns that she was hearing: “The vacant [community] sites will fill. All we have to do is wait-maybe. Many worry that the manufactured home is getting a bad image because of the difficulty in reselling a manufactured home and that our business may never get back to normal.” While Steven and Marty Lavin both noted the negative points that Roper references, which John Grissim author and journalist that calledThe Roper Report’s “catastrophic” findings,” she also said this: “Anyway, here are some real and refreshing points from the Roper Report that no one seems to be talking about. As you read these you’ll notice a couple of things. One, this is not new information. You already know this.” Stevens shared those items, among which is a fact MHProNews has previously referenced in different forms, but has not specifically done for some time. Per Stevens, citing Roper “NOTE: the baby boomers population will grow by 20 million over the next 15 years.” Those boomers were and are prime time candidates for manufactured homes. However, during the last 15 years, hey never arrived at manufactured home sales centers and communities in anything like the normal numbers that pre-HUD Code mobile home business once enjoyed. Nor did retiring boomers come in the volume that post-HUD Code manufactured homes once tapped retirees.  The evidence-based argument could be made that the total annual sales nationally to those 55+ during many of the years prior to 1999 could now dwarf the entire production of our industry in most of the 21st century. These are among the facts that come to light when looking back at documents and commentary relative to the once highly discussed Roper Report.


Duty To Serve, “Complete Waste of Time” per Tim Williams, CEO/21st Mortgage; POTUS Trump, Warren Buffett Insight$

Roper cited researched facts. MHI cited Roper, as did Stevens, Lavin, and Grissim among those who Stevens said were among the professionals “talking about it [i.e. the Roper Report].” But what Stevens said that was quoted above, that then (circa 2005) were beginning to worry if the industry would be making a comeback is noteworthy. This is how long term thinking plays out in the real world. The vacancies of the early 2000 became part of the issues that eventually drove numbers of land-lease community owners to sell. That was the bleeding edge that moved sellers into what became the consolidation wave in manufactured housing that has only picked up speed since her comments then.

  • Another Stevens observation then was that Roper essentially said nothing new. “The image of MHs has substantially improved due to product improvement,” said Stevens citing Roper.
  • But what wasn’t happening, as Stevens – and Lavin in far more detail – explained – was a surge in sales during an ongoing affordable housing crisis.
  • So, Stevens and Lavin hit themes that were in some ways akin to what then MHI VP of communications and media relations, the now late Bruce Savage had to say. There was a mix of dark and light that was claimed by Roper. What was to be done about it? Lavin, Savage, and others argued that part of the solution should be an authentic national image campaign, one that would mimic the GoRVing effort that turned the RV industry into a giant relative to modern manufactured homes today.




Stevens may have penned that commentary on Roper prior to her firm begin acquired by Berkshire Hathaway.  The date of the Berkshire takeover of the operation Stevens is in is not readily apparent on their website. Stevens is known to specialize in the listing and sales (commercial real estate brokerage) of manufactured home communities. For whatever reason, while she offered a free copy of the research, when MHProNews asked her for a copy of the Roper Report, days later, there was no response. Perhaps she was concerned what might happen next if more were to emerge about what Roper and related behaviors revealed?

By contrast, when longtime MHI member Marty Lavin, J.D., was asked to provide a copy of the Roper Report to MHProNews, he did so in short order. Lavin, for those new readers who may not know or for others who need to reminder, has been a well-known manufactured home (MH) retail finance expert, prior land-lease community owner, and before then part of a volume MH retail sales operation. Lavin is correctly seen by those who know as an industry success story, though he admits his pockets are not quite as deep as Buffett’s.

Not only did Lavin provide the MHI PowerPoint presentation made based on the Roper Report, but he provided the Savage article on it linked above. He further provided a classic Lavin article, which will be the focus of a planned upcoming report that will once more reflect how long standing several of our industry’s travails have been festering.

Let’s make the following bullets about the Roper research derived from the various cited sources before proceeding.

  • Roper was a mixed bag.
  • There was some frank and sobering news about dissatisfied manufactured home buyers, based on apparently improper post-sales service. As Savage and others have noted, some of that occurs in site-built housing too. When the specifics are noted, not to over or underplay the issues, for accuracy what a consumer report described as a “major” issue may not have been an expensive repair at all. For example, water leaks following delivery – while certainly an important issue, need not become a major problem, so long as they are addressed in a timely fashion.
  • The MHI commissioned Roper research also noted that the image of manufactured housing was improving. Millions – perhaps tens of millions – of potential buyers could be had by the industry, per Roper.
  • What Roper recommended was an industry image and education campaign. More specifically, what Roper recommended was a campaign that would boost all segments of the industry.  In hindsight, that may have been its downfall at MHI, as various insiders state directly or subtly that MHI is working for the consolidation of the industry by its dominating brands.
  • Those points noted, what makes Roper relevant today is that it pointed to problems as well as solutions.  Several of the recommendations are as valid now as then. If the useful parts of this report were put to work, regardless of how MHI’s powers that be felt about it, the potential for robust growth is evident. Because the affordable housing is in more of a crisis mode today than then.


In hindsight, Lavin’s sarcasm was apparently not aimed at the industry per se, but rather at MHI for failing to do what it claims to do. Lavin clearly stated at various times that he wanted to see manufactured home industry growth. But he wanted to see that growth based upon ethical, sustainable principles.  NOTE: Several of the illustrations shown in this report can be opened in many browsers to reveal a larger size image. To open this picture, click the image once. When the window opens, click it again to reveal the larger size photo. Use your browsers back key to return to the article.
As the population has grown since then, the top line potential has arguably grown too. To put this differently, this MHI commissioned research reveals that there are tens of billions of dollars in untapped opportunities for manufactured home professionals today. It ironically highlights MHI’s own failures, which means it highlights the apparently corrupt practices that are occurring among MHI leadership. NOTE. Several of the illustrations shown in this report can be opened in many browsers to reveal a larger size image. To open this picture, click the image once. When the window opens, click it again to reveal the larger size photo. Use your browsers back key to return to the article.


When MHI rolled out its plan to do new research that resulted in the now apparently flawed and failed CrossModTM scheme, someone commenting on the MHI scheme after Lavin lashed it asked: is anyone “…eating this dog food?” It wasn’t the broad concept of industry growth that Lavin lashed. Rather, it was that MHI has done such research before and it went no where good.


Note the second point about LOCAL Marketing. MHProNews has argued for well over a decade that local marketing can change the perception without any need for changing it on the national level. An illustrated example of a project where that was done is linked here. https://www.manufacturedhomepronews.com/masthead/looking-back/ NOTE. Several of the illustrations shown in this report can be opened in many browsers to reveal a larger image size. To open this picture, click the image once. When the window opens, click it again to reveal the larger size photo. Use your browsers back key to return to the article.


As a flashback to Lavin’s fact- evidence- and reason-based “DÉJÀ VU AGAIN? A New Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Initiative” circa February 2017 regarding industry research and the results, part of what he said was this.

MHI has a mission to assist the MH industry to prosper.  Growth is certainly a key component of that mission, and if we are in a slight upward hump in sales now, in comparison to our pre-1998 performance, we are but a shadow of our former selves, down by 75% or so.”

The Roper study was to be the linchpin for an industry image campaign.  Surely that was badly needed at that time, and still is.  What remains to be seen is whether the course of this initiative ends differently than the Roper effort, which ended badly.”

Lavin rhetorically – perhaps sarcastically – asked “what has changed so much in the 10-12 years since the Roper study was concluded?  Finally, is the initiative once again the springboard to the fabled “Industry Image Campaign,” or headed to something else?  One wonders.” That proved to be prescient. Like MHProNews, Lavin was skeptical about the MHI plan. Lavin framed his skepticism differently than this publication did, but both had some common points.


This report was posted Feb 21, 2018. It predicted that the so-called ‘new class of homes’ could be a ‘Trojan Horse’ for manufactured housing. If one measures performance by new homes shipped, that concern has proven to be true. How could we know almost 2 years in advance where the industry might be today? Because we know the industry from the inside, not just as publishers – but as performance based professional service providers. The MHI plan – supported by Clayton Homes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was arguably flawed from the outset. https://www.manufacturedhomepronews.com/manufactured-housings-trojan-horse/


That included the doubt that MHI’s effort would in fact benefit the industry overall, or might it actually harm manufactured housing independents?

Said Lavin: “In view of the history on this thing, it is logical to be skeptical of the entire process.”


Lavin is a unique personality. The video interview that the still above was captured was in he and his wife’s 3 story home in Burlington, VT. Some MHI members were upset at the time that video was shown, in part because Lavin was so ‘business casual,’ but also because he contradicted segments of the MHI party line. Among those upset? Then MHI VP Lesli Gooch, who voiced her dismay to this writer in a public setting in Boca Raton, FL with several other MHI members nearby listening in on the exchange.  Gooch has since become “MHI 2.0” CEO.  MHI 2.o – is that shorthand for twice as corrupt?
There are ethical and unethical ways of earning money.
MHProNews has advocated from our earliest days, and this author in articles for the MH Merchandiser years before MHProNews was ‘born,’ that education and image building were both necessary for industry growth. Frankly, in hindsight, it was naïve to think that the industry’s leaders did not realize this too. Indeed, not only had they seen it in articles by Lavin, Kovach, or others, but also in reports like the one they commissioned from Roper. Let’s sum that up for clarity. There is simply no way that MHI and their corporate leadership were unaware of the realities of what was necessary to tap into potentially millions of more buyers. Additionally, MHI leaders could not be unaware of what were creating negative perceptions. When someone realizes that MHI member brands are often the ones stirring up the bad news reports about the industry, one must objectively wonder. Is MHI both ignoring the right things to do, as well as deliberately doing wrong behaviors that each effectively limit the industry?


Lavin reminded/informed MHProNews readers that: “I was very much involved in the Roper effort, which died an ignoble death…”

MartinMartyLavinJDInsideSpySeaDiningArea“…when you find out from the public that the MH industry is the least liked industry Roper ever studied, where do you go from there?  And, what has changed since Roper reported these facts to MHI membership?

  • Have fewer communities closed since Roper, putting their residents on the street?
  • Have rent increases in communities been muted?
  • Has financing the home purchase become easier since Roper time?
  • Have loan interest rates decreased substantially on new MH home purchases?
  • Does the news media paint any glowing MH articles other than the standard “man have you seen those new trailers lately? They are gorgeous!”  I’ve been observing that one since 1972, with little positive response form the buying public, except during periods of loose/defective retail financing.  Too many sure went wild with that one.”


Lavin’s lash did not stop there. Keep in mind that the context was MHI’s much ballyhooed “research” that eventually produced the new class of homes” which was producing so low a sales result that it was rebranded by Clayton-backed MHI as “CrossModTM homes,” which despite more focus group research still did not take off in sales. The Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA) and MHARR repeatedly ripped the scheme. The concerns of both rivals to MHI proved far more accurate than MHI’s claims did.







So, it was not only Lavin, and years before, Stevens and Grissim – that called into question several aspects of MHI’s indicatives. MHProNews’ analysis, and the thrust of Lavin’s, have both proven to be spot on. Lavin ripped MHI’s plan as “Great and expensive dog food.”


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That full-length interview is linked here. https://www.manufacturedhomepronews.com/exclusive-insights-on-controversies-interview-with-25-year-industry-leader-mark-weiss-president-ceo-of-the-manufactured-housing-association-for-regulatory-reform-mharr/


Some industry builders in the Drucker Study are people known to me.  I like them and they are intelligent folks.  But, one concept that emerged from Roper is a deep seated belief in the industry that you don’t do anything to help your competition, even if it might help you.”

Bingo. Rephrasing Lavin, these may seem to be nice, likeable, and intelligent people.  But Lavin said Roper those corporate leaders that are MHI powerhouses proved that ”a deep seated belief in the industry that you don’t do anything to help your competition, even if it might help you.” Lavin didn’t use the term ‘the moat,’ but he is describing aspects of how the moat works in manufactured housing. One of the tools of the moat-builders is apparently MHI.


See the full context in the ‘read hot’ report linked here. https://www.manufacturedhomelivingnews.com/warren-buffetts-moat-per-kevin-clayton-ceo-clayton-homes-interview-transcript-video-affordable-housing-and-manufactured-homes/
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And it was obvious in the Roper effort that the “don’t help competition” … was “alive and well in the final decision to let Roper die peacefully.”


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Lavin’s not speaking out of school. After all, in 2011, some 6 years after Roper and about the length of time prior to the scheme that eventually became CrossMods, Kevin Clayton said that the industry was ready for an image campaign. But in that same interview, Clayton – in talking about the Buffett moat method, which Kevin referenced and praised, also said that they planned on making it hard on independents.


MHI said in recently pleas to non-members to join because this is a critical time to support the industry by supporting MHI. But what Roper, Stevens, and Lavin – among others – revealed is this. MHI had opportunities to grow the industry for the benefit of firms of all sizes. MHI declined to do so. They can dance and prance or romance all they want with their photo opportunities. But time after time, what they reveal is their own lack of doing what they know needs to be done. This pattern benefits consolidators, but harms independents and consumers. It is important to note that those who benefit are also the dominant ones on the MHI board of directors. https://www.manufacturedhomepronews.com/masthead/wrath-of-khan-critical-time-supportmanufactured-housing-industry-says-manufactured-housing-institute-claims-protecting-your-business-and-expand/


These statements with the relevant insights routinely belie MHI’s claims that they are working for the interests of all in manufactured housing. MHI’s claims to be working for all segments of the industry is a demonstrable lie.  Nor do they and their attorneys challenge it, when invited to do so. Why not? Because the truth – however painful to some – is what it is.


Note that among the very benefits that manufactured housing traditionally offered was that it was ‘faster’ than site building. Of course, it may not be faster to buy a manufactured home and then have it installed than it is to buy an existing home of any kind of construction. By accident or design, several of the large MHI dominating brands have slowed down deliveries. There is evidence that this need not be so. Is this the latest tactic to harm independents?


Lavin tied in financing to the Roper and the CrossMod concerns. So did pro-MHI member Andy Gedo, who admitted that financing was a moat that gave Clayton a barrier of entry. But it was also Warren Buffett himself who expressed his moat thesis. It was Warren Buffett who said early on that Clayton (their related Berkshire-owned lenders) would portfolio their loans. It is only once such items are known that much of the “deception and misdirection” in manufactured housing becomes clear.


Bat Guano – “The government wants high quality, low cost housing and manufactured housing provides that product.” – Warren Buffett, per Manufactured Housing Institute; Examining Statements on Manufactured Home Financing


Lavin said the following among many possible memorable pull quotes. Note, perhaps Lavin was being rhetorical. Or perhaps on some level he was hoping that MHI would do what they claim to do. But either way, Lavin’s inquiries and points reveal time and again that MHI postures one thing, while doing another.

I strongly suggest that as this [new research] effort proceeds forward, if it does, MHI determine two things quickly:

  1. Are builders willing to take important actions to help the industry as a whole even if their competitors will benefit?
  2. How will this be financed and paid for should it move forward?”





FollowThe MoneyPayMoreAttentionToWhatPeopleDothanwhatTheySaySpySea72MartyLavinYachtManufacturedHousingINdustryProMHProNews
Lavin receiving that Totaro Award. That is his personal yacht.


I know Mr. Jennison wants to show the MHI membership he is taking bold moves to help the industry, especially as he seems somewhat under attack recently.”

I want to avoid seeming negative on this whole Drucker thing, but that is the problem with old age.  When young and I saw a ball bearing rolling across a table I wondered whether it would hit the ceiling, walls or floor.  I didn’t know then.  Well, the ball bearing always hits the floor, I know that now.” Meaning, in a satirical if not sarcastic jest conveyed there was no thought in Lavin’s mind that the current (then new) MHI research initiative might do something new, different, and perhaps positive. Instead, he expected the MHI effort to “always hit the floor.”





Lavin’s final plea to MHI was almost wistful, given that he didn’t expect the new plan to go any further than the Roper did. Which is why he called it Roper II.

Those points noted let’s sum this up as follows.


Additional Related Thoughts, Analysis Summary, MHProNews Conclusion

There are three things that keep manufactured housing underperforming. They could be summed up as follows.

  • Zoning/placement issue.
  • Lack of competitive financing, especially with regards to personal property (chattel, home only) loans on manufactured homes.
  • Image/education issues.

In reviewing Lavin’s research, claims, and rather harsh contentions about MHI and its effectiveness – much of which was developed from first hand, insider perspectives as well as third-party research such as Roper and others – Lavin and others could be summed up in this manner. None of those 3 areas has seen significant improvement in the Berkshire Hathaway era of manufactured housing. In fact, several MHI members – Joanne Stevens, Kenny Lipschutz, Sam Landy, Curt Hodgson, Frank Rolfe and others have directly or indirectly ripped the association for failing to do what they claim to do.

It is no surprise that MHARR, MHBA, and this publication’s editorial stances have similarly documented and contended that MHI’s staff are either among the most incompetent advocates for affordable manufactured housing and/or they are under instructions to do things that appear to be useful, but when carefully examined over time and in the rear view mirror they routinely reveal that the various postured MHI efforts were just for show.

Meanwhile, those MHI efforts resulted in a steady consolidation of the industry into the same hands that are leaders on their board of directors, and who were positioned among the voices behind research studies such as Roper I and what Lavin sarcastically but aptly called Roper II (i.e. what became the CrossMods initiative).

But there is another sobering takeaway that should not be missed.  It is this.

Following the Roper Report, other than a brief uptick due to FEMA orders, manufactured housing continued into its decline to record low levels.

Following what MHI claimed was the momentum from their Drucker research that yielded the now apparently failed CrossMods scheme, manufactured housing once more went into a dip.

Meaning, in both instances, the MHI plans resulted in a decline in new home shipments instead of growth.

These are factual conclusions that are difficult for objective thinkers to ignore.

Then, recall that on the other issues beyond marketing/education/image, first peering at zoning and placement – per some of MHI’s state affiliated MHEC loyalists – has worsened.

Then, despite years of hype that something was going to happen on FHFA and financing, what occurred on more competitive personal property lending? Absolutely nothing.

Ironically, if someone pulls direct quotes in context from MHI’s own leaders, they have at various times recently (2020-2021) and/or in recent years have admitted as much.

It is almost as if someone was taking these research reports and inverting them or ignoring the parts that could benefit the industry’s growth.

Stevens, perhaps before the Berkshire buyout of her firm, was both hopeful yet dismissive of the possible good that might come from Roper. Let’s not forget that post-Berkshire buyout of her firm, Stevens de facto ripped MHI, as was revealed in the quote below from MHReview in reaction to the Congressional probes into predatory behavior in manufactured home communities.



To recap, Stevens said about the Roper Report? That’s the study that the Manufactured Housing Institute [MHI], our industry trade group, commissioned to tell the industry what our problem is? (Like we don’t know).” Let’s not forget that when the Drucker research was rolled out, there was a walk out reported by numbers of attendees. Some MHEC members said before and after the Drucker research some things rather similar to Steven’s observation. Paraphrasing, they know what is needed, and the research was just wasted time and money. That proved to be quite right. MHProNews was alone in reporting that, and was alone in reporting what another state association (MHEC) executive said about such research. Namely, that research groups often produce what the commissioning party wants to hear. That was arguably proven quite correct following the release of the Drucker research.

While Kevin Clayton and others with MHI touted what great new opportunities the “new class of manufactured homes” that eventually became “CrossModTM homes” would be, the outcome was just as disappointing as Lavin’s analogy of the steel ball “always hit the floor” remark proved to be. They hype and expectation’s set were never met with reality.

But people like Ohio Manufactured Home Association’s Tim Williams nevertheless had the nerve to stand up and claim that Lesli Gooch and her leadership was the best that the industry has ever seen. Pardon me? Based on precisely what metric? The most photo and video ops with the fewest positive measurable results?

Lavin merits the last quoted words.

MHI has a mission to assist the MH industry to prosper.  Growth is certainly a key component of that mission, and if we are in a slight upward hump in sales now, in comparison to our pre-1998 performance, we are but a shadow of our former selves, down by 75% or so.”

The Roper study was to be the linchpin for an industry image campaign.  Surely that was badly needed at that time, and still is.  What remains to be seen is whether the course of this initiative ends differently than the Roper effort, which ended badly.”

CrossMod has not ended – yet, but it should. The longer that fiasco continues, the more it acts as a drag on mainstream HUD Code manufactured homes. It was always a ruse. It was always a head fake. If it ever produced results, it would only be to those who could afford to market the product like a conventional housing. Their own results from a CrossMods advocate have confirmed that finding.




  • MHI has squandered some 21 years since “Enhanced Preemption” became law.
  • MHI has squandered some 13 years since the Duty to Serve Manufactured Housing finance was made law.
  • On paper, MHI and MHARR sound alike on these issues. But in practice, MHARR is authentically fighting for these, while they are being foiled by MHI.


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Ghorbani nailed it when he said, summing up, that MHI claims to be representing all segments of the industry, okay. So, let MHI live up to their own words. Let them be responsible for all that they claim to be fighting for (which is apparently a ruse).



Lavin, Weiss, Ghorbani, Hardiman, and others that MHProNews/MHLivingNews has reported on since the cat started to slip out of the bag with the Jennison/Gooch head fake some 6 years have made the obvious points. MHI postures with routinely poor actual results for the independents of the industry. Thus, as Lavin said, MHI only works for all when the interests of the big boys happens to match those of the reset of the industry. That’s ever more apparently true. ##





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Goch is a paid mouthpiece for MHI. This pull quote from a letter from Goch is fascinating. On the one hand, Goch says that MHI is working for the interests of all, and wants all points of view. But then, Goch threatens in writing an then MHI member who dared question the association. They can not have it both ways. Part of the irony is that in hindsight, as the evidence mounts, it becomes obvious that MHI has postured efforts for almost 20 years, since the start of the Berkshire era of manufactured housing began. Coincidence? Or just part of a broader plan that has benefited a few at great cost and harm to the many?
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Our thanks to you, our sources, and sponsors for making and keeping us the runaway number one source for authentic “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)

All on Capitol Hill were welcoming and interested with the discussion of manufactured housing related issues on our 12.3.2019 meetings. But Texas Congressman Al Green’s office was tremendous in their hospitality. Our son’s hand is on a package that included a copy of the Constitution of the United States and other goodies. MHProNews has worked with people and politicos across the left-right divide.

By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.

Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.

For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.

This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.


Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach


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