Introducing Manufactured Homes To Their New Owners

Throughout my career, my involvement with manufactured homeowners has been after they lived in their homes for a while. As a result, I have heard more than my share of complaints, questions, misunderstandings, and fake news! This led me to conclude that we could certainly do a better job introducing these new manufactured homeowners to their homes.  So, as a  start, here is my list of the top 10 things we should talk about with our customers:

1.       The importance (and location) of the data plate.

I know they are required to be permanently attached to the home, but we all know that far too many data plates peel off the walls, get painted over, or otherwise disappear from the home. Explain to your customer that the data plate should be preserved. Especially should they ever want to sell the home. If it peels from the wall, it should be saved with other important documents. 

2.       The Importance of the Certification (HUD) Label.

Like the data plate, tell your customer about the importance of preserving the certification label(s). Not only in the event of a future sale, but it will be needed to re-finance or for relocation. 

3.       That tripping one Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacle can shut off the power to other receptacles in the home. 

A GFCI receptacle can often serve multiple outlets.

Show your customers how GFCI protection is provided in each bathroom, outside receptacle, heat tape receptacle, receptacles serving kitchen counters, and certain locations within 6′ of wet bar sinks. Make sure they know that while some receptacles that don’t have a test button, they are still protected!  Show them how to test the GFCI, and reset them as well! (Search the HUD Code at 24 CFR 3280.806(b) for exact locations)

4.       The importance of the Bottom Board under the floor of the home. 

Notice the slice left by the telephone man!

We all know that installers of cable or satellite television, telephones, etc. always slice holes in the bottom board of the home to run their cables. Not only do we need to warn our homeowners about attacks from these “technicians”, but inform them how the bottom board is critical for keeping conditioned air in the floor cavity where it belongs! Remember, the bottom board is not only intended to prevent critters from getting into the floor, it also serves as the pressure envelope enclosure. Holes in the bottom board mean losing conditioned air into the crawl space, and lead to higher energy costs!

5.       Make sure any future landscaping doesn’t impede water from draining away from the home.

This landscape design led to foundation problems!

Landscape timbers, flower beds, or mulch borders can easily trap water and direct it right into the crawl space! Talk to the homeowner about the importance of allowing water to drain away from the home. Once you have completed your site grading, take pictures for your home file as evidence that you did your job properly!

6.       That smoke alarms are generally equipped with a hush bottom.

This smoke alarm has a separate HUSH button.

Far too many people have told me that they disconnect their smoke alarms because of nuisance alarms caused by smoke from cooking.  We certainly know that this is a dangerous practice, but have we introduced our customers to the alternative solution? Tell folks that pushing and holding the test button (or a separate hush button) will temporarily silence the alarm. This is a much better idea then disabling the alarm!

7.       That a carbon monoxide alarm can be added to their home at a minimal cost.

Typical CO Alarm, simply plugs into a wall outlet.

Just because the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) doesn’t require a CO alarm, doesn’t mean you can’t add one. More and more local municipalities are requiring every home with fuel burning appliances, and/or an attached garage, to be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm.  I think we would be wise to get ahead of this, and provide the same level of protection as required in other residential building codes. I suggest ordering homes with an extra receptacle in the hallway (outside the bedroom areas) just for this purpose. You might just save a life!

8.       That the water temperature at the showers and bath tubs is limited by anti-scald fixtures for their safety.

This is one type of anti-scald fixture.

The general complaint is that the water is not hot enough. Take a few minutes to explain how the anti-scald fixture limits the water temperature to 120°. Remember, Installers are required to check the water temperature at each tub and shower.  Click Here to read an earlier post on this topic.

9.       How they can bring fresh air into the home  (whole house ventilation) without opening the windows or doors.

Switching the FAN to ON often activates the whole house ventilation system.

I have always been a big fan of the whole house ventilation systems designed to introduce fresh air into every manufactured home. When people complain of poor indoor air quality, I would ask if they were familiar with the ventilation system. Most of the time, the answer is no!  Sometimes it is operated by a switch in the thermostat (or automatically whenever the furnace blower runs), sometimes it is a simple exhaust fan in another area (like utility room). Either way, make sure our customers know about this feature. 

10.   That the home is not designed for future additions or modifications.

Keep these structures independent of the home

Remember, typically a manufactured home is not designed to support the added weight of carports, garages, three season rooms, etc. Not to mention how these after-market additions can add to the wind load imposed on the home.

 Hopefully, you are already talking about these items with your customers. If not, consider how the extra few minutes spent educating your customers can bolster their overall satisfaction with their home. I think you will find it will be time well spent!

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Make 2018 a Great Year!

As we start a new year, there is no better time for professional installers to start making positive changes to their business. So, between now and the start of Spring, consider the following:

PAY YOURSELF  FIRST!

Make sure you not only take a salary, but also earn enough money to grow your retirement account! Regularly deposit money (no matter how small an amount) into an account dedicated for your future! 

FIND WAYS TO REDUCE COSTS

More and more manufacturers are coming up with new installation details that can save you money. Pier savers, reduced footing depths, and alternative anchoring methods can save you time, money or both! Work with the manufacturer’s Quality Assurance Manager and see where you can cut costs. 

 BECOME A BUILDING CODE EXPERT

If you ever attended any of my training courses, you should remember that I encouraged you to get a copy of the HUD Code. Ok, now that you have a copy, start reading it! In case you forgot how to download a copy of the code Click Here! Once you become the expert, you can re-educate the code officials!

CONSIDER SERVICE AGREEMENTS AS A NEW SOURCE OF REVENUE           

At a recent training course, an installer told the group how he has agreements with a lot of former customers that increases his profits and provides a valuable service to homeowners.  He performs an inspection of their home and their foundation every year when things slow down (like this time of year). The inspections cost $100, and if any repairs are needed, he will credit them the $100 towards repair costs. Even simple tasks like changing furnace filters are often a valuable service for our customers.  

WORK SAFE

There is no better time than now to start thinking about safety. Require eye protection for everyone on the job site. Make sure seat belts are worn in company vehicles. Limit cell phone use. Purchase safety harnesses for working above grade.  Inspect ladders, pump jacks, scaffolds and remove defective equipment from service. Safety toed shoes are a must.  Make sure extension cords are in good condition and provide GFCI protection!

MARKET YOURSELF

Do you and your crew look professional? Have you considered work uniforms? Job Signs? Are your work vehicles signed with your company name?

IMPROVE RECORD KEEPING

More than a federal requirement, good record keeping is good business! Make sure you are taking the time to complete installation checklists for every manufactured home you install. Make sure you have records of every defect you reported. Take pictures!  Be prepared to defend every aspect of the installation in the event of a dispute! If you are a sub contractor, review your current contracts! If they are verbal, get working on written contracts! 

 

I expect 2018 to be a big year for manufactured housing. Professional Installers are in demand and the need will only increase over time. Let’s start the year off right!