“Compared with the unregulated mobile/trailer homes of the past, the manufactured homes built after 1976 have a higher level of safety, durability, and quality, and the small fraction of homes damaged during hurricanes attests to their safety and durability. New design features and multi-section homes are increasingly giving them the look of traditional site-built homes. These safety standards and improved features should lead to the increasing acceptance of manufactured homes as a safe, durable, and affordable type of housing.”
– Scholastica D. Cororaton, Certified Business Economist (CBE), National Association of Realtors ® (NAR).
Scholastica “Gay” D. Cororaton, CBE, took a statistical dive into the manufactured housing industry in a report published in the National Association of Realtors ® (NAR) related Realtor University ® Journal of the Center for Real Estate Studies publication for May 2018.
“Manufactured housing is an affordable housing option, especially among lower income groups. Households who obtain chattel financing for mobile/manufactured homes and who rent the land will tend to spend less on housing expenses (mortgage, interest, mortgage insurance, taxes, land rent) compared to households who obtain mortgage financing for the mobile/manufactured home and the land, even if chattel financing (interest) costs are higher (because the loan value is higher in the latter). However, if the house-hold already owns the land, then mortgage financing for the manufactured home only is less costly than obtaining chattel financing. However, taking account of both the appreciation in the value of the land and the cost savings, households who lease the land will likely accumulate less wealth compared with households who own the land.”
As the above pull-quotes reflect, “The Market for Manufactured Homes,” is a arguably a good reflection on Cororaton, the NAR and in many respects for manufactured housing too.
She told the Daily Business News on MHProNews yesterday that this was her first serious foray into the world of manufactured housing.
Most of her nomenclature was well done, which sadly can’t be routinely said about much of the mainstream media, or other researchers. Overall, she produced a largely positive, useful document.
That said, there are some errors, which we will explore.
The Review Plan
First in reviewing NAR’s “The Market for Manufactured Homes,“ this analysis notes the largely-solid information from Cororaton’s research. There are potentially some areas that one might discuss the why, behind the what, which will be addressed briefly further below. But in fairness to Cororaton, that could be viewed by NAR as going beyond a strictly data-driven report.
That said, this review will spend significant digital ink looking at a few data and graphical points that were errant, and how that came to be.
The purpose for correcting-the-record is to support the accuracy about the bulk of her data for manufactured housing, pure and simple. It is not to undermine her largely valuable work.
Accuracy matters, a point which Cororaton gracefully agreed to by email and telephone yesterday.
As prominent Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) member Frank Rolfe told MHProNews last year, the manufactured home (MH) industry is in serious need of accurate information.
Lenders, investors, and reporters are all looking for accurate information, said Rolfe (note: that same point is true for affordable housing advocates, public officials, and obviously home seekers). Rolfe’s comments were part of a conversation separate but related conversation to the report featuring him and others connected with MHI, found at this link here.
Accuracy, Accountability and The MHI Connection
Before taking a brief look at the important NAR research on manufactured housing, some background is useful.
Two Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) staff members, plus an MHI paid consultant, were identified by NAR’s Cororaton report as having provided her data, as well as for reviewing early drafts of the information Realtor University ® published.
“…Jenny Hodge, Vice President – Research & Market Analysis, Kara Beigay, Senior Director of Government Affairs, and Marc Lifset, Consultant, of the Manufactured Housing Institute for their invaluable comments on the earlier draft and industry insights,” said Cororaton‘s acknowledgment footnote.
All three MHI team members were electronically contacted by MHProNews to check to see if they had noticed any factual errors. MHI’s current and prior chairman were also CC’d.
The previously responsive MHI – which for years gave timely replies to MHProNews – did not respond to our inquiries on this issue.
By contrast, NAR’s Cororaton was prompt in her reply, and open to an immediate discussion of any concerns about factual errors.
What’s fascinating is that as of this date and time, this largely useful report is entirely absent from a Google search result for “The Market for Manufactured Homes,“ and the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). Nor is it apparently on the MHI research page of their website.
Further, why has there been no effort by MHI to promote a largely useful third party NAR report?
That absence, and the NAR reported absence of any follow up by MHI to have the glitches corrected, are both revealing. They beg questions like these:
– Did MHI review the work they participated in, once it was published by Realtor University®?
– Since MHI staff and their consultant reportedly reviewed the draft, was there no one among them who found these errors?
– If MHI reviewed and found the errors noted, why did they not contact Cororaton, and ask her to effect corrections?
– Since the bulk of Cororaton‘s NAR research is useful, why hasn’t MHI put out press releases, or other media outreaches, to promote this information? Especially since it could arguably win over converts to manufactured housing? See the dearth of references from Google on this topic, in the screen capture, above.
– Perhaps as important, why hasn’t MHI done a similar level of scholarly research, or commission truly useful third-party research?
For an association – MHI – that claims to represent ‘all aspects of factory-built housing,’ how is it that they routinely fail to properly protect and promote the industry?
After some years of internal and external pressure on MHI, in fairness, they have produced a few articles, controversial advertorials, and arguably meh videos. But these have gone largely unused, seem to be ineffective – based upon shipment data – and often contradict known facts – or even other MHI ‘data,’ as MHProNews has previously documented.
That debatable point brings serious minds back to the point Rolfe raised. Namely, that the HUD Code manufactured home industry needs dependable information.
Cororaton and the NAR Research
The impression from the NAR economist was that she understood the concerns MHProNews raised, and that they would be addressed.
Rephrased, Cororaton was professional, and appeared to be sincerely interested in better understanding the reality of manufactured housing (MH). She said she wants to get the facts about the MH industry’s stated accurately.
The impression from Cororaton was that no one from MHI had contacted her with any factual concerns.
As noted, her report clearly says she valued the 3 MHI team member’s input, and she holds only herself responsible for any factual errors. Classy, and that’s the mature, educated, and professional posture.
- That said, why doesn’t MHI have a similar attitude about accountability and accuracy?
- Why have they for some two years, failed to take ownership of demonstrable failures and fact errors, and make their own corrections?
- Why have they failed to engage with this pro-industry trade media?
It’s the failures of MHI, which reportedly led 2 state associations to leave their membership, and more recently, to start their own national association.
The Specific Concerns
The first error in the NAR report is relatively minor, which Cororaton quickly acknowledged.
The date that the manufactured housing industry’s standards went into effect is June 15, 1976. Mark Weiss, JD, President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) confirmed that date for the NAR economist, and cited relevant part of the law.
Quoting Weiss’ message to Cororaton:
Regarding the below, thank you for your interest in manufactured housing, although I must concur with trade publisher Tony Kovach’s initial point. Specifically, per 24 CFR 3282.1(a), the effective date of the federal (HUD) manufactured housing standards was June 15, 1976, not June 16, as stated in your article…”
Cororaton was but a day off on the start-date for manufactured housing. Not a huge issue, but facts are facts. Accuracy on details arguably undergirds the rest of a document’s research. She was matter of fact, concurred, and thankful for the correction.
Another issue in her report – and a more serious one – was the graphic and related data below.
It is the first map in the NAR report, and thus, significant in that it can set the tone for the accuracy of the rest of her research. The first clue was Hawaii, which caused a deeper look at the rest of their data.
The Realtor University ® data indicated that several states have a larger percentage of manufactured homes than they actually do.
That stands in contrast to the CFPB’s white paper, which is a document that was a resource for the NAR report. MHI’s consultant, Marc Lifeset, certainly is familiar with that CFPB white paper, because he’s previously told MHProNews as much. No doubt others at MHI know the CFPB white paper too.
This percentage of homes error by state error is a more serious oversight, as public officials and others from or familiar with those states are likely to notice those factual glitches.
Why didn’t MHI notice these apparent factual errors?
Vital – 5 out of 5 Stars in Importance – Related Discussion for Manufactured Housing
Among the most important items discussed with Cororaton during a 90 minute call was the following. It relates to the discussion of the factors that cause appreciation and depreciation of any housing, including manufactured homes.
This NAR economist and this writer walked through what are the factors that cause appreciation and depreciation in all housing, including conventional homes or manufactured homes. We agreed upon the following (not in a specific order of improtance):
– Condition of the home,
– Local economy (jobs, opportunities),
– Supply and Demand, and
– Availability of financing.
Because financing is an ongoing issue for manufactured housing, the support for resale values – especially for resales in land-lease – are not as robust as they are for homes on privately owned land.
Cororaton agreed that the contraction of financing options caused conventional housing values to crash in the 2008-2009 mortgage/housing crisis. As lending began to return, conventional housing resale values rose.
When that same principle is applied to manufactured housing, one of the key reasons why manufactured homes don’t always appreciate the same as conventional housing comes into greater focus.
Conventional housing can be purchased and financed long term far more readily than manufactured homes. That’s true, even for conventional housing on a land-lease, in states like Maryland, Hawaii, and in parts of the Chicago metro, among others. Long-term mortgage financing has been done on land-lease too, for manufactured homes. But its not something that MHI has actively pursued for years, per several sources. Why?
In practice, it’s been well over a decades since an MHI task force dove into mortgages on land-lease. The tests, per sources, were successful. So why was there no robust follow up?
It is an advantage for manufactured housing to have both chattel (home only, personal property) lending options, and to also have mortgage options that operate at parity with conventional housing.
This is a crucial topic to home buyers and sellers, yet it goes largely unmentioned in MHVille trade media, save here on MHProNews. It’s the kind of topic that a truly growth-oriented, post-production association should be promoting.
So why isn’t MHI pursuing it?
Could it be because MHI’s top two lenders – 21st Mortgage and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF) – are both Berkshire Hathaway owned? And wouldn‘t more real estate type financing potentially impact a profit-center that Warren Buffett has often bragged about in his annual letter to shareholders, and touted elsewhere too? See related linked reports, at the end of this post for more details.
Part One – the Bottom Lines
Gay Cororaton did an overall fine, professional report that was data focused. She explained that the point discussed above about financing access and resale values was not part of the scope of her initial data-based report. That’s understandable.
Cororaton indicated that she would see what could be done to correct the fact errors, and that she plans to revisit manufactured housing in her blog posts.
The National Association or Realtors ® (NAR) dwarfs MHI, and the entire manufactured housing industry in size and scope. That said, there is much that the MH Industry could learn from NAR.
As thousands of daily, long-time, detail-oriented industry readers of MHProNews know, this publication routinely cites NAR for their valuable research.
We specifically cite Dr. Lawrence Yun, PhD, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President. He’s arguably an accuracy and analysis rock star.
The hope should be that NAR’s and Cororaton’s anticipated revised work on manufactured housing provide fuel for more evidence-based interest, investments, and embracing of the manufactured housing solution to the affordable housing crisis. Manufactured homes are a solution that’s been hiding in plain sight, a mantra started on MHLivingNews, and since picked up by others in and out of the MH industry.
Further, perhaps the NAR research will inspire in Arlington, VA a desire for greater accuracy, accountability, and willingness to correct errors.
As almost every industry veteran can confirm, when someone ‘stumbles upon’ the truth of manufactured housing – vs. the myths and misconceptions – professionals and the home buying public alike are impressed with the value found in modern HUD Code manufactured homes.
The path to growing the industry to a potential of some 500,000 to 1,000,000 (+/-) or more new HUD Code manufactured homes a year must include fact-reason-and-evidence based education.
MHI, and all others, are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. On that point, Rolfe is right. Accurate facts, defense, and proper engagement of the industry with the mainstream media and researchers very much matters.
Cororaton’s full report by NAR is found linked here, beginning on page 48 to page 78. “We Provide, You Decide.” © (News, analysis, and commentary.)
(Third-party images are and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
Updated, added related resource:
Tony is the multiple award-winning managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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