Solutions to Sagging Sales

The Art & Science of marketing Manufactured Homes. Retailers, sales people community operators and managers share experiences.

Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by EMS » Fri Jul 20, 2001 5:49 pm

I want to reply to the question about this industry fixing itself.

Folks, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Sales are down everywhere for all kinds of goods. But the good news is -- if home-seekers are putting off buying a house because of the recession, this is the time to point out the great value and savings of a manufactured home.

Here are some other points as I see it:

1. Image! YOu've GOT to get away from that mobile home stigma! Until I walked into a manufactured home for the first time 6 months ago, I was living in ignorance. I was bowled over to find that the double-wide is bigger (and nicer) than my site-built home. But if people never go into a manufactured home, they'll never know and they'll never go into one if this fact isn't brought to their attention. Advertise! I've never seen a TV commercial for manufactured homes. Never seen a billboard either! Why not? You folks have got to get more visible. I'll bet you a lot of money, if one of the big manufacturers like Fleetwood or Palm Harbor produced a slick virtual-tour-type short commercial for their houses, sales would sky-rocket! Yet, I've never seen one. Why not? Show some real-life people who live in manufactured homes talking about the positives (there are many!) Advertise in a few select publications. Show pictures of the homes on permanent foundations with azalea bushes in front, etc. to banish that "trailer park" image a lot of people have. A picture is worth a thousand words, yet I've never seen a magazine ad for these homes either. (I realize all this advertising costs money)

2. Hammer away at the privacy angle. Your own home on your own piece of property, not in a sub-division. Surrounded by beauty - trees, greenery, maybe a stream. Peace and Quiet. There are thousands of people who're looking for this. Compare the manufactured home on its own land to the shoddy, cramped housing the site-builders are throwing up now - you know the ones I mean - the tacky little house sitting on a fourth of an acre with another tacky little house on either side and behind it. This is how rats live. Create a stigma-image for THAT kind of house.

3. Hammer away at the price-per-square-foot angle, while of course emphasizing the quality of construction.Throw out a few easy-to-remember facts, like the Hud code that the homes have to meet. Mention the inclusion of the refrigerator and if applicable, the washer and dryer. (This is a seemingy small thing, but you'd be surprised at the importance of that to lots of folks, especially when a refrigerator can easily cost a thousand dollars.)

4. Show those glamour bathrooms and huge kitchens. Those two things alone make me want to buy one.

And speaking of features, you manufacturers should add more and/or bigger windows! the natural light makes any house so much more airy and attractive. Look at the Skyline website and see their models with the huge floor-to-ceiling window on one side of the house. This is a huge draw!!

As for you dealers - don't interrogate us when we walk in the door as if you don't want to waste time with anybody who isn't going to buy today! Give us the key to the houses and let us look without a salesman breathing down our necks! Just give us a few facts - like the cost per square foot of a similar site-built home and then let us chew on that while we look at the houses!

And here's a real No-No for lots of consumers. Fleetwood is the main offender. A customer walks in the door and immediately they want you to fill out a form with your name, phone number, etc. Of course this means you're going to be put into some kind of database and possibly be called by a salesman in a month or so.

And finally, for those customers who do not yet own land, you salespeople ought to be out there beating the bushes finding land for sale. Get with the seller of a large parcel of land and see if he'll sell it piece-meal to your customers.

These houses are so great they ought to sell themselves - especially now with the recession and the rising (ridiculous) cost of site-built homes.

I think if you overcome the image problem and stress value, your sales will multiply and you might even get over that "depreciation" problem that just won't go away.


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by DD » Fri Jul 20, 2001 6:40 pm

Okay, you make some great points, but what about:

1 - showing some great SINGLE WIDE homes as well? Do you know how many friends have visited my house and remarked about how much BIGGER it seems on the inside than from the outside? Why is it that consumers in the market for good manufactured homes only seem interested in looking at double wides? I think a lot of it has to do with the marketing. When I bought my Saturn last year, the sales guy didn't say "Hey, let me show you the SUV first, and then we'll look at the Sedan if you can't afford that". I think that a lot of dealers market single wide homes only as a second option IF you can't afford a double wide. Maybe you could call this the "single wide" stigma. You might be surprised by who would be interested in a nice single wide home.

2 - showing the advantages of having a home in an attractive, well-maintained manufactured home community? I'm not talking about the "trailer parks" we all hear Jerry Springer's guests talk about, but QUALITY communities which are no different than any other suburban residential subdivision, except that they have manufactured houses on their lots, and yes, the lots are rented instead of owned. There are a LOT of them out there. I know...I have lived in one for four years, and I can tell you that the people who live there take a great deal of pride in their homes and their neighborhood, and it shows! Sure, there are good and bad parks, but I think that there is a lack of advertising to show that there are some great communities out there.

Just my 2 cents.


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by EMS » Fri Jul 20, 2001 7:17 pm

Hey, DD - I didn't mean to come across as somebody who is putting anybody down. Not my intention at all. And you're absolutely right - salespeople generally don't go for the single-wide right off the bat. I like your comparison to car-shopping - that's a good point and I hadn't thought of that. I also agree with you about the communities. I have seen some very nice ones - look at all these retirement enclaves for instance. It's absolutely wrong to assume that people who live in these communities are of the Jerry Springer show type. I've always wondered why we hear references to "trailer park trash" but never "housing project trash", "ghetto trash" etc. Presumably, most of the folks in mobile home communities are home-owners paying their own way in life whereas the housing project folks are living on government hand-outs (my money and your money) and not owning a thing, so where is the logic?

But it's all perception, and that was my point. The Jerry Springers of the world create these inaccurate images and everybody just goes along with it. I was guilty of it myself for awhile there (not that I watch Jerry Springer!). That's why I think an advertising campaign is a good idea - it'll wear away at that perception.

Congratulations on buying your own home and lots of luck to you.


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by DD » Mon Jul 23, 2001 11:38 am

No problem. I didn't mean to sound harsh in my reply. Right now, I'm trying to sell my single-wide (have been since October), and it just bothers me that there doesn't seem to be as much emphasis by the mobile home sales industry on selling good single-wide homes (let alone good USED single-wides). I've been with two brokers so far, one of which is a dealership, and I'm sure they were much more interested in selling new double-wide models before showing a single. Maybe that's why I never heard from them again after I signed my listing. :-(

I'm sure there's a market out there for folks who want something smaller than a double, or who don't want to pay the price of a brand new home. The question is, are these people being shown these properties? In my neck of the woods at least, it appears they aren't.


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by DD » Mon Jul 23, 2001 11:56 am

The other thing I've discovered is that mobile home brokers treat you differently than realtors do. When I had to sell my mom's house, the realtor I dealt with was regularly in touch with me, if for nothing else, to update me on what he was doing to market and show the house. I would have to say that, even if the house didn't show immediately, he would still call at least once every couple of weeks just to let me know he was working it.

On the other hand, the MHB's I've dealt with are a different story. I signed my initial listing last October for 90 days. I didn't hear anything from them in that time, and when the initial listing expired, I had to call THEM to re-up it. When I did call them to re-sign the listing, their attitude was something along the lines of " can re-sign if you want to I suppose...why don't you drive out to our office to sign the paperwork" (for the initial listing, they came to the house). That should have been my warning sign that they weren't really doing anything. The second broker I signed with was the same story. He came out, promised he'd work the listing, signed me to a 6-month listing, then disappeared. The only times I talked to him in 3 months were when I called his office once every 30 days to see how things were progressing. They weren't. I canceled. Now I'm going it on my own, because I figure that I can't do any worse myself.

It's frustrating, because you would think that someone out there would want to earn a commission, or at least give the appearance that they were earning a commission, but I'm afraid to sign another listing with yet another broker who will walk out the door and forget my address. If this were a stick-built, and if I were dealing with a realtor, I know that things would be different. I know that I could at LEAST expect that occasional phone call. Oh and learn!


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by EMS » Mon Jul 23, 2001 5:20 pm

What state are you in, DD?


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by DD » Tue Jul 24, 2001 9:44 am

Michigan - Lansing area.


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by DD » Tue Jul 24, 2001 10:12 am

At this point, I would have to say that, if a broker were to approach me about marketing the house (and that has not happened...I believe that they're just too overloaded with inventory right now), I would have to dictate the terms of the listing, and it would be something like this:

I would initially sign a 30-DAY listing, contingent on the broker showing my house to at least ONE prospective buyer in that 30-day period. If they did, I would sign another 30-day listing with the same terms. If they did not, I would not re-sign.

If the broker managed to show my house to 2 people in that 60 days (and I can't imagine it's that incredibly difficult to do), I would then sign a 90-day listing, with the understanding that the broker would show the house to at least 3 people in that 90-day period as a condition for the listing to be renewed.

Then, and only then, would I sign a 6-month listing with the broker, with the condition that 6 prospective buyers would view my house during the course of the listing. Now, if you add all of this time up, the broker is looking at a maximum of 11 months in which to earn their commission, IF they're willing to show me that they're trying for it. And for 11 people to see the house in 11 months time, I don't think that's at all unreasonable.


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by EMS » Thu Jul 26, 2001 5:14 pm

Have you thought about advertising your home in a more unconventional way? I'm talking about these ads-only magazines tailored to the local area or just running a classified ad in a local newspaper. And what about repo dealers? Is it possible they might act as an agent for you (for a commission, of course - but you're going to have to pay the broker a commission, anyway) since they're dealing in used mobile homes, anyway. the fact that your home is already set up could be a real plus to some people. I would at least consult with one of them because they might have some ideas, if nothing else. And what about sticking up some flyers in apartment complexes that are in the area where your home is now. If Lansing has a large hispanic population, I'd put an ad in one of the Spanish language newspapers also. I'd try all these things and something is bound to happen!


RE: Solutions to Sagging Sales

Post by DD » Thu Jul 26, 2001 6:22 pm

Thanks for the suggestions!

I've placed an ad in the Wheeler Deeler, a statewide paper which is all buy & sell classifieds. The cost wasn't too bad either - $30, and the ad runs until I sell the house. I haven't had any bites yet, but it's only been two weeks. My concern is running out of "buying season". I know that the best time to sell the house is April-September, and I feel as if I've wasted half that time on the broker approach.

I also considered placing ads in the local Meijer stores, and on any bulletin board I can find. I figure it's time to pull out all of the stops!

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests