Manufactured Housing Resources George Porter


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We Made the News Again

By George Porter

In the February issue of Consumer Reports there is a story on Manufactured Housing. I had heard about this way before it came out and was told it was a terrible trashing of the industry. Well, I read the whole thing and it didn't seem so bad to me. It is certainly mild compared to some "investigative reporting" being done about us these days. They actually said some complementary things but unfortunately they also interpreted a few things with a negative view. Their comparison of our homes after Hurricane Andrew in '92 and site built housing is the first on my list.

They state that almost all of the mobile homes in Dade County Fla. were destroyed and only 28% of the site constructed homes suffered irreparable damage. The conclusion is that you are better off in a site constructed home. There are other ways to look at this. For instance what is a total loss? Insurance companies have sophisticated formulas for figuring this out according to replacement cost, equity, future value and other things. Boiled down to it's simplest terms total loss is when it cost more to fix the home than it will be worth when you are done.

If you do $60,000 worth of damage to a $60,000 home then it surely is a total loss. On the other hand if you do $60,000 damage to a $180,000 home, then you fix it because you would be crazy to throw away the remaining $120,000 therefore it is not a total loss. Is this really fair? It would seem that if we were to use this as the gauge of quality and durability in homes we would have to take a closer look at this statistic. For us to achieve the same statistics (28% total losses) in our homes as the site constructed variety then 72% of out homes would have to meet the formulas for repairable. For instance a $60,000 Manufactured Home may only be allowed to have $20,000 worth of damage in order to be repairable and not a total loss. This would be 1/3 of the damage done to site constructed housing in order to be "equal". A much older $9,000 mobile home, probably not built to the HUD Code, would only be allowed to have $3,000 worth of bills, this is only 5% of the $60,000 damage sustained to the "sticks and bricks home" in order to be repairable and not totaled, therefore "equal". As a gauge this system stinks.

In addition, if all the housing developments had hundreds of travel trailers sitting all around them like most manufactured housing communities in Dade County, then maybe they would get wiped out too. Travel trailers are nice, but when one of these unanchored 4 ton+ missiles hits your home at 150 mph, you suffer damage. I was there and I took lots of pictures of travel trailers, or pieces of them, sticking in the sides of our homes. This is a zoning problem, not a construction problem.

Finally, the new HUD standards for Wind Zone 3 are only certified to 110 mph, Andrew had sustained winds of 147 mph with a few tornados and down bursts according to the National Hurricane Center. Who could say that if Andrew happened again things would be all that different?

Nobody, regardless of where the home is built, designs a house for the winds Andrew had, then or now. Consumer Reports may be correct in saying that we can do better than we have done in the past, but it should be ordinary bad weather that we use as a standard, not the worst storm of the century.

Wouldn't it be a great thing if this industry had a public relations program instead of simply reacting to this kind of press? What was the last good reporting about this industry that you saw that you did not read in an industry trade journal? Don't we have any good things to say about ourselves that would be of interest to the general public? All that folks get to hear about is our disaster stories and they are misled into thinking that there are no good points to these homes.

In the next several issues of The Journal, I will be discussing what we can brag about and I invite you to send me some material if you like. We will also be taking a closer look at other points brought up in the Consumers Reports story.