Manufactured and Modular vs. ‘Stick-Built’ Homes: Here Are My Thoughts

There has been some confusion in the real estate world over the term “manufactured” homes. Most recently the term has been applied to mobile homes — also referred to as single-wide or double-wide homes, which are transported fully finished to mobile home parks.

But “manufactured,” as I understand it, can be applied to a home whose walls, trusses and other components are put together in a warehouse, then shipped on flatbed trailers to a construction site where they are assembled and installed on a standard concrete foundation.

A “modular” home goes a step further, in that entire rooms might be assembled in a warehouse, transported to a work site and then assembled with other modules to make a complete house.

The first home I bought in Colorado was a ranch with walk-out basement in Golden’s Mesa Meadows subdivision. Only after I had moved in did a neighbor share with me how my home was put together in a day or two. Its components were manufactured in Fort Morgan and delivered to Golden only after the concrete foundation was ready to receive them. Anyone looking at the home would think it was a  “stick-built” home like the other homes in the neighborhood. When I bought it and when I later sold it, it wasn’t listed on the MLS as “manufactured,” because that would have felt like a misrepresentation, given the type of home it was.

The neighbor who explained that my home was actually built in Fort Morgan and assembled on site, explained how that process made for a better home. The exterior walls were 2×6 construction (to withstand the rigors of shipment) and they were fully insulated on the factory floor rather than on-site, resulting in better quality control. It made sense to me. It also made me wonder why more homes aren’t built that way.

I remember learning that an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity in Minnesota or Wisconsin constructs homes that way during the cold winter months — having volunteers assemble entire wall units in heated warehouses during cold spells, then delivering them to the site later on.

Every conventionally built home uses roof trusses that are made to order on factory floors and shipped to work sites on flatbed trailers, so why not have wall units made to order as well?

From 1933 to 1940 Sears Roebuck sold mail-order “Kit Homes” that were “pre-cut and fitted.” A 2-story colonial-style home called the “Martha Washington” was sold by Sears for $3,727. Other kit homes had names like the Cape Cod, the Ridgeland, the Franklin, the Dayton, and the Collingwood. See below for that model’s description from the Sears catalog. Many homes in Denver were built from Sears kits, but you’d never know it. Original owners of those homes are long gone, and the current owners of them probably have no idea.

There are definite economies to building homes that are “pre-cut” and partially pre-assembled off-site. For one thing, the factory workers can work every day regardless of the weather and even in multiple shifts. They can be more productive in a heated warehouse. There will be more efficient use of materials and more recycling and reuse as well.

Right now, the growing “tiny home” market is doing such construction and delivering modules or even entire homes to work sites, enjoying great economies in doing so. There is no reason that more elements of larger homes couldn’t be built off-site and delivered to construction sites for final assembly.

One example of off-site modular construction utilized in the building of sustainable homes is Structural Insulated Panels or “SIPs,” shown here.  Two sheets of sheathing have 4 to 5 inches of foam insulation between them. SIPs can replace walls built with wood framing and provide superior insulation.

Impresa Modular is a West Virginia company with a great website (www.ImpresaModular.com) describing the many kinds of off-site home construction methodologies they employ and sell.

There is so much innovation happening in home construction, much of which can not only reduce construction costs but can result in better insulated homes.

Here’s a picture of the manufactured home belonging to Butch Roberts of Salida, who sent the comment below:

Support Habitat for Humanity — Buy a Pumpkin

    Golden Real Estate is happy once again to support the pumpkin patches at Garrison & Alameda in Lakewood and at 78th Avenue & Wadsworth in Arvada. Operated each year by Jeffco Interfaith Partners, a coalition of a dozen local faith groups, the profits from these two volunteer-manned patches have funded 15+ Habitat for Humanity homes over the past two decades. The pumpkins are grown on a Navajo reservation in the Four Corners area, so the sales also benefit that community.

    Yes, the pumpkins sold at our two patches may be more expensive than at your local supermarket, but you have the satisfaction of making a difference with every purchase, and 40% of your purchase is tax-deductible. Our thanks go out to Mile Hi Church and to Trinity Presbyterian Church for providing these two great venues each October.

Habitat for Humanity – Turning Pumpkins Into Houses

The annual pumpkin patches benefiting Habitat for Humanity are just about here. The pumpkin patch at Garrison & Alameda opens this Saturday, Oct. 5th, and operates from 10 a.m. to dusk every day until Halloween. The patch at 77th Ave & Wadsworth operates from Thursday, Oct. 10th, through Halloween from 10 a.m. to dusk. Buy your pumpkins at either site and 40% of the purchase price goes toward building a Habitat home — and is tax deductible, for which you’ll get a receipt.

    If you’d like to volunteer at the patches, you can sign up at www.WestMetroPartners.org.

What Makes for Success in Real Estate? Here’s What Golden Real Estate Does

Real_Estate_Today_bylineLast week I mentioned how Golden Real Estate was honored for coming in third among metro brokerages of our size in the number of transactions completed in 2016.

In this week’s column, I’d like to share my personal strategy for success in real estate, which has evolved into a company-wide strategy serving all agents — and benefiting clients.

Decades ago I adopted what I thought was a quote by Confucius. My sister had it posted on her refrigerator. Thanks to Google, I discovered that it wasn’t a quote by Confucius, but it could have been. “Concentrate on giving, and the getting will take care of itself.”  That philosophy underlies this column and its success in attracting clients for me and our agents. The time most real estate agents spend prospecting, I spend coming up with topics on which I can educate myself and then share that knowledge with my readers.

That’s how journalism works. A reporter is given an assignment, learns all he can about it, and then reduces it to a concise article that summarizes what he learned. That’s what I do every week — learn more than I already know about a given topic, then share what I have learned.

I never run out of topics to write about which educate the public — and thereby myself — regarding some aspect of real estate. Sometimes, I’m able to clarify or contradict statistics or statements which I see in the press or on TV.  For example, is the market cooling down or heating up? Are we in another bubble? As a Realtor, I have access to raw data that allows me to address such topics in a way that general assignment reporters can’t.

Giving back is important. Golden Real Estate is a member of two chambers of commerce (Golden & the West Chamber) and one business association. Rita and I are active members the Rotary Club of Golden, and I’m also a member of the Golden Lions Club. Serving in this way is satisfying in itself, and demonstrates our values.  [We are also big supporters of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver (through Jeffco Interfaith Partners, now called West Metro Interfaith Partners) and Family Promise of Greater Denver.  Two of our agents are big-time volunteers with Golden’s Christian Action Guild.  Myself, I’m a long-time member of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, Golden Solar Tour (now called the Metro Denver Green Home Tour), and the Denver Electric Vehicle Council.]

Another business principle that underlies my practice of real estate is authenticity. Misrepresenting one’s level of success, for example, is not only a violation of the Realtor Code of Ethics, it is not good salesmanship. I consider myself a lifelong learner and don’t “know it all.”

That principle expresses itself in me by being a news and public affairs sponge. I love listening to music as much as the next person, but my car radio is always tuned to the only all-news radio network we have — NPR.   I often hear local real estate stories, since it’s a popular topic these days, but being well informed on other national and world affairs is also important to me.

On the other hand, I have little patience for talk radio, whether conservative or liberal. I’ll listen to analysis and hard news, but I consider opinions a waste of my attention.

In terms of the day-to-day practice of real estate, I know I can’t do it all, so I surround myself with a support team. That team includes, among oTeam picture on bridge 2016thers, a transaction coordinator, a stager, a photographer, a drone pilot, several lenders, inspectors, and a handyman (who works only for our clients). That said, I don’t over-delegate. I like to get my hands dirty. I’ll put signs in the ground and do my own narrated video tours of each listing, including for my broker associates. Our office manager, Kim Taylor, helps with every aspect of listing and selling homes, but I’m happy to show listings, hold open houses, enter listings on the MLS, create websites for each listing, etc. I don’t just have a team, I’m part of the team.

Another factor in my personal success is surely my full-time accessibility. My cell phone (303-525-1851) is never turned off. I was in Puerta Vallarta all last week, which may come as a surprise to those clients and future clients who reached me on my cell phone and made appointments to meet with me this week. (I also submitted last week’s column from Mexico and will be submitting next week’s column from a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.)

Experience has taught me that “to make money, you need to spend money,” and I never forget that. One example of an expenditure that paid off was our moving truck. I bought our first one at a convention in 2004 and it has been so useful to clients and has built so IMG_1256much goodwill for us among non-profits and community organizations, that I bought a second one last year. In 2008 I also invested in a storage shed for the moving boxes and packing materials that we provide free to clients.

Another “investment” was the purchase of a 10’x20’ chain link enclosure for collecting polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) for recycling. We take at least one truckload per month to a reprocessing facility in Denver, keeping over 200 cubic yards of that material out of landfills every year. Our investment in 20kW of solar panels not only powers our electric cars and our office, it allows us to provide free EV charging to the general public. Both these expenditures send a statement about our values that resonates with our clients and prospective clients.

Back to real estate, we have been early adopters in sometimes expensive ways to improve the quality and exposure of our listings. Years before they were adopted by other brokerages, we invested in drones to take aerial photos and videos of our listings. We also were early adopters of HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology for still photographs of our listings. This produces magazine quality photographs in which every element of a picture, including the view out each window, is perfectly exposed.

By now, you may be thinking I’m a workaholic, but Rita and I do enjoy a personal life, going to the theatre, traveling often, and watching many entertainment programs at home. But when my phone rings (except in a theatre!), I answer it.  I feel my clients deserve that.

Some listing agents put under “broker remarks” (which their sellers don’t see) that “Seller requests no Sunday deadlines.” What they’re really saying is that they don’t work on Sunday.  That’s not us!

Published April 20, 2017, in the Denver Post’s YourHub section and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers.