From the Introduction
This book is the direct outgrowth of my first consumer guide to manufactured housing, published in 2003, The Complete Buyer’s Guide to Manufactured Homes and Land—How to find a reputable dealer and negotiate a fair price on the best kept secret in American housing. Shortly after that book’s release, I began receiving emails and phone calls from readers asking if there were any books available that provided ratings of all the builders. When I answered, no, often the reply was words to the effect “You should write one. There’s no way to tell who’s who out here, let alone how good a house they build.” I had to agree.
I knew from previous research that the venerable Consumer Reports magazine had once considered rating MH builders, but after it discovered there was a great diversity of homes from region to region, produced by dozens of builders promoting hundreds of brands, the magazine dropped the idea as unwieldy. Yet clearly a great need was there. As time passed and buyers of my book continued to urge me to tackle the task, I took a closer look at possibilities.
What quickly became apparent was that MH builders generally believe that when it comes to homes, consumers don’t know, or don’t care about, brands. There is some truth in this. After all, a home is not something that one buys regularly, like beer or cars, for which one develops loyalty...
As I continued my research, however, I discovered that few manufacturers build homes for every sector and price point; rather, they choose a market niche and carefully assemble a formula of construction features and specifications that together yield homes competitively priced for that niche, typically at two or three price points. When I began compiling lists of features and specs—leaving aside brand names for the time being—and plugged them into a universal table of construction features and specifications, arranged from one to ten in quality, the picture became much clearer—and much simpler. The process also lent itself to a numerical construction rating that seemed both fair and objective, and that could be enormously helpful to home buyers.
In the fall of 2004, now convinced that a ratings guide was feasible, I resolved to research and interview every HUD-code home builder in the U.S.—83 in all—to obtain not only detailed construction data, but additional information useful for home shoppers that would be presented in an at-a-glance directory format. I anticipated the task would involve at least a year of research and interviews, and would demand patience and bulletproof civility. It took all that and then some.
Having learned from my last book that this can be a secretive industry, wary of outside inquiries, I anticipated resistance from some manufacturers. Alas, I was not disappointed. Some manufacturers behaved as if they thought I was with Sixty Minutes....
Some manufacturers refused to respond, even when informed that their listings would be completed and published, with or without their assistance. In the interest of home shoppers, I mention this unresponsiveness in those companies’ listings, leaving consumers to draw their own conclusions. But in fairness, I believe many manufacturers, while well-intentioned, are simply clueless—they have no idea how today’s media operates, have no one assigned to handle media inquiries, and have little idea how these shortcomings may potentially affect consumer perceptions of their products.... I realize that some manufacturers may be less than happy with their listings, but I hasten to add I have no axe to grind. If I have erred, I have done so on the side of the consumer.
And there you have it, the first comprehensive consumer ratings guide to every manufactured home builder. My sincere hope is that this book, used in conjunction with The Complete Buyer’s Guide to Manufactured Homes and Land, will help you become an informed, pro-active, confident, swindle-proof buyer. But if these books do nothing more than give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you made the right decisions at each step on the path to acquiring your new home, their purpose will have been served.