For several years, the so-called “big boys” that Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) award winner Marty Lavin, JD, said worked only for their own interests had only the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) as regularly and directly engaged association or nonprofit as an ally.
While MHARR has been and continues to be an outspoken advocate on behalf of manufactured home independents and consumers, they are strictly speaking a HUD Code manufactured housing producers organization. MHARR themselves have for some years advocated for independent retailers, communities, lenders, suppliers, and others to organize.
While MHI has at times postured a willingness to work with MHARR, it has been years since that type of pro-industry independent engagement has seriously occurred. There have been what could be described as head fakes or red herring efforts by MHI to ‘work with MHARR,’ when they’ve routinely done – per informed sources – quite the opposite.
Among manufactured home industry trade publications and bloggers, only MHProNews and MHLivingNews purportedly dared question or report on the problematic, or years of self-evidently failed ‘initiatives’ of MHI. Those MHI initiatives magically seemed to work for the benefit of larger companies while often undermining or hurting the interests of smaller ones. Is that mere coincidence or is that by design?
Similarly, bigger brands such as Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) owned Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corporation, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF), Skyline Champion (SKY), or Cavco Industries (CVCO) had only MHARR, MHProNews, and MHLivingNews for pushback. The larger MHI National Communities Council (NCC) communities briefly had the National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners (NAMHCO) has a counterweight, after two community-focused state association affiliates broke with MHI/NCC over what they said was MHI’s failure to perform.
NAHMCO Recap and Updates
But for whatever reasons, NAMHCO hired as their lobbyist former MHI Vice President Tom Heinemann. Later, NAMHCO, MHI and Warren Buffett bucks beneficiary Prosperity Now allied on a bill that was opposed by others in the industry and went nowhere. More recently, NAMHCO has largely gone dark, never having even built their own website.
Politico and Pro-Publica both reported that “Mr. Tom Heinemann terminated an engagement in which they represented National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners on Aug. 25,” 2020. Does that signal an end to that era?
NAMHCO having contradicted their original mission to stand apart from MHI, having hired a former MHI staffer who has recently “terminated” their relationship. Thus, their future representing independently owned communities is at best obscure.
Meaning, once more it is MHARR, MHProNews, and MHLivingNews that are de facto engaged in manufactured housing related issues on behalf of independently owned or ‘mom and pop’ type operations.
Berkshire Brands and Bucks…
Berkshire bucks and/or Buffett’s dark money trail has been traced through nonprofit ‘donations’ to MHAction, Prosperity Now, and others in ‘advocacy‘ on behalf of consumers that often has the side effect of hurting manufactured housing independents while mysteriously failing to benefit the consumers they claim to advocate on behalf of, as the reports like those linked here and below reflect. Note that none of the facts and evidence in these linked reports have been publicly challenged by MHI or those named and involved. Repeated invitations to debate the issues have gone unaccepted. The only public debate by a pro-MHI member – Andy Gedo – resulted in him throwing in the towel in the face of evidence.
In fairness, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has been a useful advocate for independently owned smaller companies in general. On issues like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, NFIB did yeoman work. But they don’t dive into the nuances of manufactured housing industry issues and HUD Code industry politics. In a direct contact with NFIB, they informed MHProNews that on industry specific issues they routinely advise their members to work with a specialized trade group. NFIB are a useful ally, but they don’t get into the weeds of manufactured housing specific issues.
While all broad brush summarizing necessarily lacks nuance, the above is a reasonable summary of the state of the HUD Code manufactured home industry and its dwindling numbers independently owned locations, with regards to trade associations and trade media. Or as Warren Buffett bluntly put it, there is class warfare and his class, the wealthy class are winning.
On paper there are several investigations reportedly underway at the state and federal levels. MHProNews and our MHLivingNews sister-site has been virtually alone in reporting on these on the business side of manufactured housing industry circles. A more recent report than the one below is found at this link here, which reveals that a state AG is probing what appears to be another MHI/Clayton connected firm.
With much of the media and Big Tech in the hands of what Buffett called “my class,” the progress on such issues is glacial in pace. Meanwhile, “Buffett’s Buffet” is steadily operating to ‘expand the moat’ that Kevin Clayton admitted to in a video recorded statement several times in the report linked here.
With the so-called swamp or “deep state” of Washington, D.C. able to keep much of the Trump Administration first term in office tied up with questionable if not illegal investigations against the 45th president and several of his people, it is no wonder that the federal government’s direct involvement in issues like antitrust, SEC, RICO, or other possible claims has been muted to date.
The most notable investigation that has been made public has been that of Cavco and their former President, CEO, and Chairman Joe Stegmayer. SEC filings suggest that quiet battle between Cavco and the SEC are still underway. For those that need the reminder, Stegmayer was a Clayton Homes division president.
Against that Backdrop, Enter Pissed Consumer…
For years, the Pissed Consumer website has periodically featured an angry consumer sounding off against Clayton Homes or some other manufactured home industry brand. Pissed Consumer co-founder at CEO Michael Podolsky became interested in doing a periodic series of video interviews with MHProNews co-founder L.A. ‘Tony’ Kovach on manufactured housing related issues.
Their first video and transcript in a planned series is linked below.
That video is aimed at consumers who might be considering a manufactured home. Because MHI or other videos by big boy brands and their backers tend to focus on themselves instead of independents, the Pissed Consumer videos offer manufactured home independents an opportunity to have third-party content that is pro-consumer and which is favorable to ethical independently owned businesses.
As a close viewing of the content reveals, consumers doing business with independents are encouraged over Clayton Homes or other large MHI member brands.
Pissed Consumer traffic is reportedly far larger than Clayton Homes website, or greater than that of self-proclaimed MHI ally and member MHVillage.
Ungagged and CMTV said that “Michael Podolsky is a co-founder of PissedConsumer.com – one of the largest, fastest growing and most trusted websites in consumer reviews segment with more than 3.5 million visitors a month. Since 2006 Michael is involved in technology development, search engine optimization, legal strategy and overall management of the site. While managing the website’s growth, he started enjoying legal aspects of the business. Site is a major player in ORM industry and won many very well cited cases in US courts. Michael is a known consumer rights advocate.”
ORM is “Online reputation management.”
The in the video above, Podolsky explains that an angry consumer can be turned into a brand advocate with the proper care.
Even with millions of consumers coming to their website monthly, clearly, not everyone who surfs Pissed Consumer website is shopping for housing, much less for a manufactured home. That obvious point noted, the positive light they are providing via these informational videos about manufactured housing should make all white hat manufactured home independents sit up and take notice.
Additionally, for those consumers who want to buy a manufactured home and won’t buy anything else, Pissed Consumer videos that vent about Clayton Homes or others in our industry are opportunities in disguise for what hat brands too.
Thus, their platform’s support for ethical business practices in our industry or others represents genuine potential for ethical and honest manufactured housing independents.
Research by Zillow suggests that about half of those who shop for a manufactured home end up with another housing option.
Rephrased, it isn’t an automatic that because a consumer comes or calls on a manufactured home retailer or community that they will buy a manufactured home at all. Those who have sold manufactured homes long enough know that prospects are ‘lost’ to other housing options.
Those factoids ought to be reminders that manufactured home shoppers are looking for genuine answers. The fact that some manufactured home industry websites focus on razzle dazzle instead of grappling with the tougher topics that keep people from buying a manufactured home is a statistical reality. After all, if great videos, 3D tours or other ‘razzle dazzle’ was all that was needed to boost manufactured housing industry sales, with so many such tours and videos available, why has manufactured housing contracted in 2019 and year to date in 2020 vs. 2018’s already anemic results?
Put differently, when qualified shoppers have those concerns properly addressed, more manufactured homes would be sold.
That’s another reason why this planned series of videos is useful to manufactured home independents.
The first video in the series aimed at manufactured home shoppers is found above.
Serious shoppers will sit through a longer video, that’s proven by thousands of examples on YouTube and in research studies. So, the length of that video should not be considered as anything other than a benefit to serious consumers and to motivated ‘white hat’ independents.
The Pissed Consumer article that accompanies that video is found at this link here.
To Advance, You Can’t Keep Doing the Same Things the Same Way
It is axiomatic that progress requires a willingness to break from the mold others follow and be willing to try and do things differently.
With over 15 years having elapsed since the Berkshire Hathaway era of manufactured housing began, it is clear from a look at the historic vs. recent patterns in manufactured housing that the so-called ‘leadership’ of MHI or others has resulted in more consolidation, with few newcomers into the space.
As a closing note, Clayton produced one of their slick videos to promote the arguably flawed concept of MHI trademarked “CrossModTM” homes published on January 16, 2020. As of 8:30 AM on 9.2.2020, it has only had 3,377 views.
As MHProNews and MHLivingNews has reported, that concept arguably undermines all other HUD Code manufactured homes. Recall how the Modular Home Builders Association executive Tom Hardiman ripped MHI – and by extension, those HUD Code builders behind them – for the “deceptive” scheme that they had created with their failing “new class of manufactured homes” plan dubbed “CrossModTM“
But the point here is that even with a huge player like Clayton Homes pushing a concept, it doesn’t mean that it will go viral. Nor is viral always necessary to do the job that a given video aims to achieve.
These Pissed Consumer videos that walk a prospect though the realities of manufactured home shopping and buying may or may not go viral. Part of that is in the hands of white hat independents. Will these videos be posted to websites of independently owned companies? Given the evidence outlined herein and from the linked reports, posting these manufactured home specific Pissed Consumer videos on websites of independents will logically witness a rise in sales of homes by those independents rises.
Because any independent willing to share these realities with their housing shoppers will arguably benefit their shoppers. It will help serious – well qualified – shoppers understand the good reasons why manufactured homes represent a prudent option, while also explaining why manufactured housing’s image has been harmed by purported ‘black hat’ actors. Savvy shoppers will steer clear of ‘black hats,’ while looking for white hats.
It would be a win-win for those independents who use these videos as a free tool to earn more housing shopper’s business.
When you watch the videos you will see how each one helps level the playing field for white hat independents savvy and confident enough to put them to work.
While the future always remains to be seen, the interest of Podolsky and the Pissed Consumer team is a promising one for manufactured home independents.
More on the reasons for that will be explored in the days ahead. Until then, these first two pro-consumer and pro-white hat independents videos are available for viewing and posting. Their transcript of the first video is linked below along with MHLivingNews illustrations of that text.
With millions of affordable housing units needed, in a trillion dollar plus annualized industry, few sectors have more upside potential than HUD Code manufactured homes.
Given the current state of play in manufactured housing, that potential could fall by default into the hands of consolidators. It will require visionary action by independents or outsiders coming in that are willing to challenge the status quo to achieve a different outcome.
Or paraphrasing Einstein’s quip, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things the same way and expect a different result. That different thing is properly educating manufactured housing consumers.
Learn more by diving into the linked reports above or those that follow the byline and notices.
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Notice: ICYMI, the first report linked below spotlights a letter by Soheyla Kovach on current national events that also impact our industry. Don’t miss it.
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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
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.
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