“When is a Trailer Worth $300,000?” asks Robert Plunket, Sarasota Magazine, Manufactured Housing Analysis


An Open Letter to Robert “Bob” Plunket, Sarasota Magazine

Dear Robert,
My hunch is you’re a fine writer, which is why your opening, headline, and much of column in your recent article in Sarasota Magazine are troubling.  The executive summary might be the maxim, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Please don’t take this as rude, but rather as a sincere critique.  An effort to explain how what you did – whatever your intent may have been – is hurtful to others, and thus problematic at best.


Critiques, properly understood, are a way of improving professional performance. Every business, every sports team which aims to win does evaluations, which are a critique. “We Provide, You Decide.” ©

Let’s start by quoting your column.

IT’S A RARE TRAILER PARK [SIC] that can make a visitor wish he lived there. Too often they live up to their unhappy image of flimsy housing, densely packed together, with retired people just getting by on their Social Security,” you wrote in the Sarasota Magazine.



Doesn’t that reinforce, and conjure up images of ‘trailer park trash,’ which is the kind of insult our so-called ‘politically correct’ society is supposed to avoid?

Isn’t that the language that evokes an image we’ve come to expect from politicians or their henchmen, who are trying to whitewash dirty laundry?

“Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find,” James Carville, Clinton Strategist

But you, sir, are describing an “iconic” life in a nice city in sunny Florida.

Here in Florida, where we too hang our hats, about every tenth person lives in a mobile or manufactured home. That’s a big minority group.

Central Florida, Gulf Coast.

A friend and colleague of ours – Rev. Donald Tye, Jr. – owns a fine, factory-built home that pre-dates the federal HUD Code for manufactured housing. He sings that 40-plus-year-young home’s praises, because it allowed him and his wife to do more in life, and allowed them to do more for their children, because their housing cost less.



Rev. Tye said the quote below in writing, but he phrased it a bit differently in the video above.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the wrong terminology impacts price. But it also impacts people’s emotions, see the poet who rejected the use of the t-word with regard to her home, by clicking the image above.


Might Tye have been speaking to you, Robert, and others in media like you?  Shouldn’t we abolish the images and terms ‘trailer’ when we’re talking about a modern manufactured home that new can be $40,000 to nearly $300,000 (or more), as your article noted?

Your name is Robert, you may go by Bob. But if someone called you by any other name – or by a slur –  you’d understandably be offended, wouldn’t you?  Trailer, evokes trailer trash.  That’s a slur.

Let’s dig deeper, quoting your column.

But some parks—or “mobile home communities [SIC] as they prefer to be known—will make you rethink what this economical way of living can offer. Longboat Key has a park with killer Gulf views set in the middle of million-dollar homes and condos. And even better is Cortez Park in the historic district of the quaint old fishing village, where we found what just might be the most expensive trailer in Southwest Florida, priced at $299,000,” wrote Plunket in Sarasota Magazine.

That’s presumably supposed to make the point of your opening paragraph and ‘iconic’ lifestyle.

But the terminology you used, ‘mobile home communities’ – tells an informed professional reader one of these 5 options.

  • Perhaps you didn’t do enough research to learn that there have been no mobile homes build in the U.S. since June 15, 1976.
  • Therefor, while built decades ago, the location you describe is a manufactured home community, no matter what the property’s name might be.
  • That nearly $300,000 home you reference, plus those photos you used, are neither a trailer house, nor a mobile home. It’s a manufactured home. That’s a federal code and legal distinction, not a marketing difference.  See chart and video, below.




  • Perhaps you thought you were being witty, Robert? But other than some select comics, which ones would use the N word, or some other kind of slur against racial, religious, or other groups and get away with it before being canned or banned by their sponsors?  Why is it acceptable to put-down and use slurs against manufactured homes and their owners, when it is unacceptable to do so against other ethnic, gender, or other identity groups?
  • That said, if you knew those things, and still improperly used the term ‘trailer’ and ‘mobile home communities,’ then what explains your failure to use the proper nomenclature? Shock value? Doing what someone asked, perhaps? Whatever the motive, isn’t what you did ignoring the standards of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics?




Robert, Did You Know…

A discrimination case was recently settled by a non-profit, Equal Justice Under Law.  They brought the suit against the city in the article linked below.


“Mobile Home Ban” Suit Win, “Equal Justice Under Law,” Manufactured Home Owners, Buyers, Industry


How long before the ACLU, Equal Justice, or some other group decides ‘enough is enough,’ and sues media outlets, and/or writers, for defamation against MH residents? For the economic harm that is being caused them, and the industry that serves them?  Because bad image yields decreased demand, and that reduces volume and values.

It’s self-evident to any thinker that an unjustified poor image harms the values of millions of American’s mobile or manufactured homes.  That sounds like a class action suit, waiting to happen.

So, beyond avoiding law suits, or staying within the SPJ ethics standards – you and all writers, editors, journalists, producers – should want to show the proper respect for the residents and their homes. You should give them the same respect that you would want for yourself, or for your home.


A True Story… About a Black Nurse

Let me tee up this story about a nurse. By way of background, perhaps no one living involved in manufactured homes has produced more interviews and reports – video and written – on manufactured home owners, experts, and professionals. We must be doing something right, because we have the largest audiences of their kind, and over a thousand unsolicited LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements. We try daily to walk-the-talk, and hold industry as well as others to account. That’s said to explain the following.

Among those many interviews was a retired black nurse.  She was soft spoken, thoughtful, and probably fine at her job which she did for decades.  It was a good interview about what attracted her – as a professional – to manufactured home living.

But it was after the cameras and sound were off, when she stopped, and looked at me intensely.  She said, “I’m not trailer trash.”  She explained she wanted people to know that she wasn’t “trailer trash.”  I could see the raw feelings in her eyes, and hear her holding back the emotions she felt in her voice.  I was already motivated to tell the stories of these owners and their homes, but that has focused me more ever since.

Her state of mind – which captures that of millions of others – are exacerbated by the stenotypes your story’s terminology hammers home. It harms people like her, and many more out of the 22 million who live in a pre-HUD Code mobile home, or a post-HUD Code manufactured home (Again, the code went into effect June 15, 1976).

A poet laureate described her very similar feelings to that nurse’s in her own words, in the story linked below.

Taking on the Trash Talk! Are People Defined by their Housing Choice? Video, Photos – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com

Taking on the Trash Talk! Are People Defined by their Housing Choice? Video, Photos

We’ve interviewed retirees, working class, professionals, and millionaires – all of whom have one thing in common. Manufactured home living.  They routinely love it.

Frankly and in fairness to you, Robert, it’s not just journalists that have created the problem.

But it is your job as a gifted writer not to stereotype, not to reinforce those negative images – for any reason. If a client asked you to do it, it’s still not a good enough reason.


Because that derogatory discrimination has placed millions into this sad and completely avoidable circumstance. If everyone else where getting it wrong, you as hopefully someone that wants to live up to the noble standards of the SPJ code of ethics cited above would strive to get it right.

“Home Sweet Home” – Assistant Mayor Wants to End Housing Choice Stigma – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com

“Home Sweet Home” – Assistant Mayor Wants to End Housing Choice Stigma

If you did so, Robert, that would be giving voice to the voiceless.

We’ve paid no one for our interviews.  Most want to do so for one simple reason.  They want to tell their story, and dispel the myths and misconceptions.

From Robert Plunkett’s article in Sarasota Magazine.

Being Fair

Robert, I get it that you used many favorable descriptions. But until you see your report, linked below, through the lens of the millions of owners who hate the stereotype, or the thousands of industry professionals who hate the improper terminology, you may not realize that the otherwise nice descriptors are diminished by the use of the ‘t-word’ and calling a manufactured home, mobile.

The Cortez Trailer Park [SIC] almost seems too good to be true. Developers have been coveting the prime location for years. Fortunately, the residents recently bought the place as a co-op, thus ensuring that this happy piece of Florida’s past and present will go on providing a unique, affordable lifestyle for years to come,” you wrote, in the article, linked below.


If the sign that Keller Williams Realty shows is correct, it’s just Cortez Park, not “trailer” park.




Keller Williams got the terminology right, manufactured home community.

Realtor, by the way, was one of several cited in the mainstream media that said last year manufactured homes are an important part of the solution for affordable quality living.  But for every article that gets it right, there are perhaps 100 that do what you did.

Bloomberg, HousingWire, Realtor and Fox all suggest Manufactured Homes as Important Solution for Affordable Housing in America – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com

Bloomberg, HousingWire, Realtor and Fox all suggest Manufactured Homes as Important Solution for Affordable Housing in America, Patrick Clark, Bloomberg, Brena Swanson, HousingWire, Mari

The Impact on Homeowners, Industry and the Nation Caused by Flawed Stereotypes

University studies, federal studies, insurance companies, and other third-party researchers have sung the praises of manufactured homes for years.

Eric Belsky, Executive Director Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University May 2000 Modern Homes Development, per MHI, said: “there are multiple reasons to expect manufactured housing to do better than site built housing in the [current] decade.”


That charts above and below reveal that Harvard’s expectation didn’t occur.

Graphic provided by Ross Kinzler when he was then the executive director of the Wisconsin Housing Alliance (WHA).

Why not?  Again, there are many reasons, but let me spotlight two that relate directly to you, Robert, and all others in media who fail to apply the proper standards of the SPJ when writing about manufactured homes.

Both news media and entertainment have been using the ‘trailer’ or ‘mobile home’ terminology more.

Foremost Report: Manufactured Home Customer Survey and Market Facts – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com

Foremost Insurance Company has sponsored corporate studies of the manufactured home market since 1979. In recent years, their report is updated every 4 years.

Foremost Insurance research suggests that the use of the term ‘trailer’ and ‘mobile home’ to describe manufactured homes is actually increasing.  Other third-party research reveals that those living in manufactured homes overwhelmingly love it.

Manufactured Home Owners – Satisfaction Survey Redux – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com

Manufactured Home Owner Satisfaction Survey, NPR correspondent, Daniel Zwerdling, “Mobile Home Park Owners Can Spoil An Affordable American Dream” Mark Weiss, Tim Williams,

The federal HUD Code for manufactured housing went into effect on June 15, 1976.

There’s been no mobile homes built in the U.S. in over 4 decades. Millions are incorrectly calling manufactured homes, “mobile homes” or “trailers.”

That’s simply hard to imagine, save those two points.  Poor media coverage, combined with other factors, created a perfect wave that led the industry down at the very time it should have been rising, per Harvard’s research.

Does anyone doubt the influence of news and entertainment on millions of our fellow Americans? Haven’t advertisers paid for that influence for over a century? Is it any surprise that here in the U.S. – or in Canada, where they have a similar problem – a professional described the harm being done to the image of manufactured homes, their owners and thus business due to the ‘entertainment’ of the “Trailer Park Boys” so-called “comedy?”  Would there be such a show that mocks blacks, Hispanics or any other group?

‘Trailer Park Boys’ Death Focuses Manufactured Home Industry, Homeowners Challenge

Frank Rolfe, here in the U.S. – certainly a controversial figure in his own right – has said that the reporters he’s spoken with have an “Eight Mile” – the Eminem movie – impression of manufactured homes.



We won’t parse Rolfe in-depth on this, but part of the reason that people in our industry don’t want to talk to the media is because it is so routinely biased against manufactured homes and their owners.  Tragic.

With media writers misusing the term “trailer” and “mobile home” being so commonplace – that influences

  • others in media,
  • researchers, who following the media lead, and who often misuse the term mobile home.
  • But because the safety and performance of manufactured homes are so superior, that terminology confusion is creating some problematic studies, because researchers are failing to make the distinction between pre-HUD Code mobile homes, and post-code manufactured homes.

See the summary of one such case, linked below.

The photo shown was selected by the Lakeland Ledger, as was the headline, the contents of the Op-Ed are shown in its entirety. Original story, linked here.



It’s Millions of Real People’s Lives That Are Impacted

Robert, in closing, the misuse of the words hurts real people.

In a time when housing affordability is in crisis, a key solution is hiding in plain sight.

But ignorance, prejudicial terminology, and misinformation are all harming the acceptance of manufactured homes.


There should be nearly one million more Americans working today, earning good pay, building the manufactured homes needed by the millions for those seeking quality affordable living for less.

The nation needs 8 million affordable housing units.  The unsubsidized, private-sector solution is manufactured homes.

You don’t have to advertise them, Robert. But if you just wrote about them accurately, informing the public about the facts, respectfully, the rest would over time take care of itself.

I hope you’ll consider this open letter as a candid effort to correct what’s wrong, using your column in the Sarasota Magazine as an example mostly of what not to do.

I do respect your skills as a writer, and thus this appeal for you to live up to the best of the noble ideals of the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Thank you.  Tony. ## (Analysis, commentary, fact checks, news, trends.)

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