Live from The Louisville Manufactured Housing Show
More than 3,000 manufactured housing professionals attended The Louisville Manufactured Housing Show Jan. 18-20 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
After a three-year absence due to the pandemic, the KEC again was the center point of the industry, providing 27 new model homes to walk through, and more than 100 service and supply exhibitors to talk with about their offerings. It was a time for networking, learning, making deals, and moving forward into what may be a challenging yet fruitful year in business.
Victoria Cowart, director of education and outreach for Pet Screening, and company Vice President Mike Shytle attended The Louisville Show for the first time, scouting the industry as a potential new market for the pet screening software.
“The Louisville Manufactured Housing Show was impressive to see, easy to navigate, and lovely to be part of,” Cowart said. “The attendees were receptive to us and interested in our company — despite us being brand new. That was refreshing, and it leads us to think this is a vertical in the rental housing industry with great people and potential.”
Skyline Champion CEO Provides Keynote Address
Mark Yost, the CEO of Skyline Champion Corporation, spoke to a packed room the second day of the show, reminding manufactured housing professionals of the depth of housing need the country is in, and how the factory-built approach to homebuilding is the solution.
“There is not a single county in this country where a person making minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment,” Yost told attendees. “This should offend you.”
Rental apartment occupancy in the U.S. is 96 percent, he said. Nearly 75 percent of Americans cannot afford to buy a home. Forty-five million people won’s sell today even if they want because they would be unable to get the favorable financing they currently enjoy. Another 45 million won’t sell because they already have paid off the home and would be hard-pressed to find another home at a similar price.
This, along with the lack of site-built construction in middle-market housing, and the continued stubborn nature of local governments to accept manufactured homes, makes for a housing market malaise that begs for a proven solution.
Yost said a survey recently showed that 40 percent of Americans consider buying a home the most stressful experience of their lives. And what did those respondents say when asked how they felt during this stressful process?
“They broke down in tears,” Yost said.
Yost confided to the audience that it sometimes can be difficult to remain positive in the face of so many challenges in bringing forward what our customers want and need. But he read a letter from a longtime customer who described their Champion home as a “little slice of heaven.”
“We need a different solution,” Yost said.
Part of the solution, Yost said, had to be automation in homebuilding facilities. Another part is providing seamless services surrounding the home sale, offerings such as app-based financing and insurance, drive-through closings, and a turnkey experience that delights the new homeowner as soon as they walk in.
“There is a word for all of this for the people in this room, and that word is ‘opportunity’,” Yost said. “We have to solve this today so that tomorrow we can offer people that ‘little slice of heaven’.”
It was noted during the Lenders Panel that there were 18 consumer finance lenders registered and exhibiting at The Louisville Show, offering varied and sometimes competing programs for home finance. “A lot of us are using technology and new platforms to reach our customers in their living rooms,” Credit Human’s Barry Noffsinger said. “It’s more and more important all the time that we’re using these tools.”
Several of the lenders represented expressed continued interest in building a secondary market for chattel home loans, an effort already in the works at Cascade Finance, Triad Financial Services, and Park Lane Financial Solutions.
Plenty to Look at in Louisville
Among the homes shown at The Louisville Show was the Telsa, from Fairmont Homes. The three-bedroom, two-bath home has an open floor plan with 1,012 square feet. It has a spacious living room, and a large central walk-in shower in the main bath. Fairmont is part of Cavco Industries and builds its homes in northern Indiana.
New Homes That Bring The ‘Wow’ Effect
Several home-building facilities under the Clayton brand brought homes to show at Louisville, many of which were already sold, or sold at the show. Builders continue to report significant order backlogs, but have begun to make accommodations to get new homes to manufactured housing trade shows in 2023. Showing new homes to all buyers, as well as legislators and policymakers, is essential for industry growth. “When we get people through the homes we get that ‘wow’ effect,” Manufactured Housing Institute President Mark Bowersox said during his State of the Industry address the final day of the show. “It’s a lot more effective than handing them a piece of paper.”