Foremost Receives Marketing Award of Excellence presents Factory Built Housing Industry News at Noon with Erin Patla

Coming up, NAHB Applauds EPA’S Decision to Delay Lead [led] Paint Certification Enforcement

But first…these stories:

Foremost Receives Marketing Award of


The Insurance Marketing Communications Association (IMCA) has honored Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Foremost Insurance Co. with a Showcase Award of Excellence, in the category of Publications, for the company’s “Manufactured Home Market Facts Report.” The report featured results from a market study that Foremost sponsored to increase knowledge and information on the factory-built-home market. The results provide insight on existing manufactured homes and the people who live in them.

IMCA also recognized Foremost’s 2009/2010 Trade and Consumer publication advertising campaigns in the Print Product or Image Advertising, In-House- and Agency-Produced categories.

Have homes, will travel

With its way of building structures off-site, modular company aims to shake up the industry

By NANCY SARNOFF, Houston Chronicle

During a downpour on a recent morning, construction workers were busy putting up a series of buildings in Navasota, a small town about 70 miles northwest of Houston

The rain didn’t keep the crew at home that day, nor was it slowing the progress of construction. That’s because the work was being done in a 250,000-square-foot warehouse.

“This is a great day to build,” joked Rodney Boehm [beam], chief operating officer of GroundForce, a company that builds modular homes and commercial buildings on wood and concrete slabs and then delivers them on special movers to sites across the state.

Just 2 years old, GroundForce hopes to change the way many homes and commercial structures are built through its off-site construction and delivery systems.

The company said its building process takes less time, creates less waste and costs 10 to 15 percent less than traditional construction.

“It’s not your usual manufactured housing,” said Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University, who has studied modular construction techniques and visited the GroundForce factory.

Vanegas calls it “permanent modular.”

That’s because the structures are built in controlled environments on concrete foundations meant to last 40 to 50 years.

“I was very impressed to see some of their final products, which you would not be able to guess are modular,” Vanegas said.

GroundForce, which sells to the residential, commercial and educational markets, recently signed a deal with Houston-based Trendmaker Homes to build a line of country homes called Texas Casual Cottages in the Hill Country.

Floor plans range from a 450-square-foot guest cottage to a 4,500-square-foot farmhouse. Prices reach more than $300,000.

Trendmaker is selling the homes to buyers who own property in rural settings where it often takes longer to build because the locations are so remote.

GroundForce will deliver the homes in sections, and Trendmaker will complete them with porches, roofing materials and some interior finishes.

The homes offer features including metal roofs, large porches, pine floors and wood walls, along with modern finishes like open family room and kitchen combinations, large bathrooms and walk-in closets.

“It’s built just like a stick-built home. It just happens to be built in another location,” said Steve Drake, a Houston-based financial consultant who owns one of the homes in Round Top.

Using same materials

Modular building has been around for decades but has often been associated with double-wides and cheap, temporary structures.

“Modular has a bad connotation. People think of trailer homes,” said Boehm, explaining how the company uses all the same materials and techniques as traditional on-site construction.

Pushing the envelope

Vanegas said the company is “pushing the envelope” on an industry not known for its technological breakthroughs.

“It’s definitely an option that offers tremendous opportunities to customize, get things done faster, and more affordably,” he said.

GroundForce has 50 employees, including 35 factory workers. The company builds 30 to 50 homes and commercial structures in Texas a year, including convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, medical offices, and school science and learning labs.

The company would not release financial details, but Boehm said the company is profitable.

Kenneth Neatherlin, who grew up in the residential real estate business in Houston, formed GroundForce and patented certain key aspects of the process.

His grandfather ran a house-moving business, and Neatherlin later started his own home-building company that he eventually sold.

He bought the factory in Navasota because he couldn’t find the right property in Houston.

The warehouse sits on 55 acres, giving the company plenty of room to grow.

Done in 125 days

Neatherlin says the company can complete a building and deliver it in 125 days with few change orders.

The manufactured buildings have other benefits, too, including certain tax advantages through a shorter depreciation time than permanent structures.

Eventually, the company hopes to recruit other builders to sell its homes.

“At some point we’ll simplify our system such that other manufacturers can license our system,” Neatherlin said.

MHMSM Markets Report—Major Housing

Industry Stocks Experience Strong Gains

Stocks closed solidly higher on Wall Street Wednesday with the DOW moving up 274 points and back above the 10,000 benchmark to close at 10,018.28. Major housing industry stocks also experiencing strong gains. Skyline Corp. boosted its share value by more than six cents, closing at $17.74. Equity Lifestyle Properties moved up to close at $48.69. Sun Communities rose just short of five percent and closed at $27.00. Other MH industry stocks also moved into positive territory. Both Sun Communities and UMH Properties are in positive territory for the year.

In other investment news, the financial magazine Smart Trend released its ranking of the top five companies in the Residential Real Estate Investment Trust industry as measured by dividend yield. Sun Communities ranks first with a dividend yield of 8.7 percent, UMH Properties ranks second with a dividend yield of 6.9 percent, and Associated Estates Realty ranks third with a dividend yield of 4.9 percent. Not too far behind, American Campus Communities and Home Properties have dividend yields of 4.7 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

When the stock market opened this morning, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were noticeable absent. Ordered to delist by their conservator, the Federal Housing Finance Administration, Wednesday was their last day on the New York Stock Exchange. The two companies have been under conservatorship since September, 2008. Beginning today, Fannie and Freddie will start trading on the over-the-counter bulletin board under the symbols “FNMA” and “FMCC.” At the close of trade on their last day on NYSE, Fannie shares were off 17 percent at 25 cents, and Freddie was down 5 percent at 34 cents.

“Up next, NAHB Applauds EPA’S Decision to Delay Lead Paint Certification Enforcement

This podcast of News at Noon is sponsored in part by – Lifestyle Driven Designs by Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber. Furniture, Decors and Model Homes designed for your budgets and your customers’ lifestyles. Contact them on the Web at or or call 214-941-8341.

and “Now, back to the news…”

NAHB Applauds EPA’S Decision to Delay

Lead [led] Paint Certification Enforcement

June 21, 2010 – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to delay enforcement of the new Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule will provide much-needed time to get more remodelers and other contractors trained—and for EPA to get the word out to consumers about the importance of hiring a certified remodeler, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“EPA listened to our concerns and did the right thing,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones, a builder and developer in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

In revised guidance released on June 18, EPA acknowledged that remodelers in many parts of the country have been unable to obtain the required training to comply with the rule—a problem that NAHB has urged the agency to solve since the rule was announced two years ago.

The issue came to a head in May after floods devastated parts of Tennessee and there weren’t enough certified remodelers to complete much-needed home repairs. NAHB and its state home builders association proposed a delay in enforcing the rule—a decision EPA consented to in its letter on Friday.

While remodelers, electricians, heating and air conditioning technicians and other contractors must adhere to lead-safe work practices, including special equipment filters and a ban on open flames, EPA will not take enforcement action against firms that have been unable to obtain certification until Oct. 1 of this year.

Individual contractors must apply to enroll in a training class by Sept. 30 and complete the training by Dec. 31, 2010.

“This rule potentially affects about 79 million homeowners. That’s how many homes were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned,” Jones said. “We need significantly more contractors certified than the 300,000 who have taken the training course, and we also need to make sure that affected homeowners understand the importance of hiring a certified contractor.”

Homeowners can find a certified firm at cfpub.epa.govslashflppslashsearchrrpunderscorefirm.htm. Remodelers can search for an EPA-approved training provider at cfpub.epa.govslashflppslashsearchrrpunderscoretraining.htm or contact their local home builders association at nahb.orgslashlocalunderscoreassociationunderscoresearchunderscoreform.aspx to find Certified Renovator training sessions.

“On behalf of Production and IT Manager Bob Stovall, Associate Editor Catherine Frenzel, Industry in Focus reporter Eric Miller, Editor L.A. ‘Tony’ Kovach, and the entire writing and support team, this is Erin Patla, G’day!”

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