There are doubters and skeptics about a range of issues when it comes to manufactured housing. Understandably so. Perhaps no product that has so many millions of customers has so much controversy surrounding it.
To clarify some of those issues, this MHProNews report and analysis will focus on a simple yet profound way of determining what’s right and what’s wrong in MHVille, which 2 decades ago looked poised to be MHNation.
First, let’s look at existing housing and single-family housing data, with the sources for each graphic below are as shown.
Next, let’s at manufactured housing data, which will be followed by comparisons from the RV and automotive industries.
In stark contrast to the struggles of manufactured housing, are the far more robust results of other industries. Facts are nettlesome things to those who want to obscure reality.
What Insights the Above Data Supports
MHProNews and our MHLivingNews sister sites have provided decades of research provide third-party support for manufactured housing. That research covers more than 2 decades of often university level studies, nonprofits or reports for federal agencies.
The collection of pro-manufactured housing evidence is nothing short of impressive.
It is no secret that manufactured housing suffered a slide in the late 1990s and during the early years of the 2000s during finance/repossession related issues. But by 2003, Fast Company and others believed that the industry had hit bottom.
2003 was the year that Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway made the move to buy Clayton Homes, Oakwood Homes and related lending.
Many cheered the move. But in hindsight, was it such a good thing for the industry at large? The data is unmistakable. Facts alone say “no.”
Which begs the question. How does one explain that profound and sustained slide in new manufactured home production and shipments? Or the failure of manufactured housing to recover, as other big ticket industries have managed to do?
That last question is why the RV, automotive, single-family and existing housing sales or shipment data comparisons are useful. They provide an objective outside cross-check at how manufactured homes have fared by comparison to other forms of housing or other big-ticket sales that are routinely financed.
As MHProNews has previously reported, manufactured homes in 1998 outsold RVs by a margin of some 3 to 2. By 2018, RVs were outselling MH by some 5 to 1. How does one explain that dramatic shift?
MHProNews’ Analysis and Commentary
The troubling answers may be hiding in plain sight. First, consider Warren Buffett’s well documented preaching of the economic principle of the moat.
Then consider the report and associated data and video linked below. Note to all readers, newer and longer term. Without carefully viewing the video at the end of the report linked below, one arguably can’t understand why manufactured housing is underperforming. But that video interview of Kevin Clayton must be viewed with this notion in mind; some of what he says is true, some of what he says is arguably a head-fake. Once that is understood, the light bulbs will start going off.
More recently, MHProNews has provided what is a purported prima facie case for perjury and related improprieties by the Berkshire Hathaway influenced Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) trade association based in Arlington, VA. See that report below.
Just days after the report linked a whistleblower’s package of documents was anonymously provided to MHProNews that squarely pointed toward alleged improprieties by MHI’s new CEO, Lesli Gooch.
MHI’s Gooch, their Executive Committee (MHI Board of Directors of BOD), and their outside counsel were asked about those documents. They were asked about allegations of perjury and related issues. Others were too. There has been no comment from MHI, the MHI BOD, Gooch or attorneys. But there have been comments from others in the industry, that tended to cut against MHI.
MHI and key ‘big boy’ inside firms have touted their “CrossModTM homes” plan. But on its face, the plan didn’t make sense from the time it was first announced. In fact, it was a mishmash that arguably contradicted several MHI claims.
MHProNews pointed to specific evidence of paltering in their promotion.
Silence from MHI and their leaders, which included an appearance on Capitol Hill of Skyline Champion reading a statement that also included purported paltering and puzzling statements about their “CrossModTM homes” scheme, err, plan.
Recall that it was MHI leaders not so long ago praised this publication and also routinely provided prompt replies on our trade media’s questions to them.
These facts beg several questions. Has MHI created promotional materials? The answer is yes, as the infographic above or the video below reflect. But the follow up question is how effective have they been?
As useful as that video might be, it has had very few views, which is true of all of MHI’s videos.
MHI is either sophisticated or inept, take your pick. Their leaders are highly intelligent; routinely well educated. Are we to believe that with all of their access they can’t get good existing laws enforced?
The next question is, how effective have MHI been at raising evidence that might be useful for countering the image issues that face the industry? Or how effective have they been at promoting the good laws that if they were fully enforced would arguably begin a boom for manufactured housing?
The screen captures below reflect the troubling reality that on their own website, items that would logically help are entirely missing from MHI’s own website.
Recall that MHProNews has been doing this test for about a year. MHI’s outside counsel has said that they monitor our website, which is fine, but that arguably means that they know about these reports. There is no plausible deniability.
By contrast, the smaller and producer focused Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), whose website has not existed nearly as long as MHI, has numerous mentions of the same term. How can one explain the difference, other than the notion that MHARR wants the law known and enforced, while MHI apparently claims to but in fact doesn’t?
Without going as deeply as this report into the details, former MHI members followed Neal Haney out of MHI for their years of failure to provide measurable results.
Controversial MHI member Frank Rolfe repeatedly ripped the trade group for failing to defend the industry.
In the video below, Rolfe softened the statement that previously ripped MHI, but still made the same point. They repeatedly fail to do what their own prior chairman said needed to be done. They can’t have it both ways.
Now the irony is that Rolfe, his partner Dave Reynolds and their investors have themselves been the subject of controversies. But what does this dizzying array of data and quotes mean?
The evidence to properly promote manufactured housing has long existed. A common tool for marketing, in politics, or any field is to call out third-party witnesses or endorsements to support your contention. If you want to promote something and there are laws on your side, you logically would ask to have those laws put to work. The fact that MHI has repeatedly failed to do what they previously did before the Berkshire era began is a vexing reality check for their leaders and followers alike.
[After years of references by MHARR and months or relentless hammering by MHProNews, MHI finally published the below for their members. But that too is not on their website, it was only in their email. So, it is still arguably a head fake for their own members. That would make it a deceptive trade practice, right?
The comparisons at the top of this report made to other aspects of the housing industry, or to other big ticket sales, begins to shine a clear light on just how badly MHI’s so-called leadership actually is in practice. But in fairness, there are MHI members and staff who are not doing what a few black hat leaders arguably are. When their leadership structure is carefully viewed, it is shocking how often they are involved in problematic reports.
The only way to effect positive change is to understand the cause of a problem and then to dare to challenge the status quo with the truth. Even Clayton’s home town media spotlighted some of the controversies.
But what VW’s media woes, or that of Clayton and others reflects is that bad news may not be as harmful to a big corporate giant as it would be to a smaller firm.
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.Soheyla is a co-founder and managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn here and here.
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.