Friday, June 13, 2014

An Interview with Pleasant Valley Homes' Nick Fanelli

Today I’m talking with Nick Fanelli, the Business Development Manager for Pleasant Valley Homes in Pine Grove, PA, a family owned manufactured and modular home company.

Modcoach: Nick, you have had an interesting path to your current position. Would you share your background with my readers?

Nick: My family has been in the factory-built housing industry for over thirty years, so you might say I’ve grown up in the business.  I began my career as an attorney, principally representing financially-distressed, medium-sized businesses as they weathered the economic downturn that began in 2008.  During my time practicing law, I remained involved in the industry as a number of new federal and state laws and regulations concerning mortgage licensing, codes adoption and other matters came into focus.  In late 2013, I joined Pleasant Valley on a full-time basis.  

Modcoach: I understand that Pleasant Valley Homes has seen an uptick in business from the rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Is this going to be an important factor in the next few years?

Nick: Hurricane Sandy caused a meaningful increase in business for us in the coastal regions of New York and New Jersey.  Like many factories, we developed a series of home plans specifically for coastal regions in response to the growing demand for new homes in areas devastated by Sandy.  We think we’re going to continue to see strong demand as a result of Sandy for a number of years, as homebuyers’ re-construction funds are accumulated and permit backlogs are eased.

Pleasant Valley Home in Brick, NJ

Pleasant Valley home in Lavallette, NJ

Modcoach: Your company has gone above just saying they offer green and energy saving options, you’ve actually got something unique to offer your builders.

Nick: Yes we have.  One of the ways that we’ve attempted to differentiate our homes are by using environmentally responsible building components and offering our customers energy-efficient choices.  One such option is our Energy Wall, which increases the insulation value of the exterior wall from R-21 to R-27, without increasing the stud dimension.  The Energy Wall uses a combination of traditional batt insulation and reflective insulation to resist all three types of heat transfer (conduction, convection, and – most importantly – radiant).  

Modcoach: Because of your location in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region, has the cost of shipping your homes had any impact on the builder’s cost?

Nick: Excluding homes destined for New England and Maine, freight costs, while increasing, aren’t hurting sales.  For homes that need to be shipped north (and east) of New York state, the loss of the participation by Massachusetts and Connecticut in the New England Transportation Consortium has drastically increased freight costs to (and through ) those states, which in turn has hurt our sales in New England and Maine.

Modcoach: Are you getting more involved in social media such as Facebook and Pinterest?

Nick: Yes, the value of social media in business seems to continue to grow quickly.  We use our Facebook page to share photos of new products, new options, home sets, completed homes, and information about our factory Open Houses, which are held once per month at our factory campus in Pine Grove, PA.  Like us!

Modcoach: Nick, lately I’ve been writing about state codes and regulations and the effects they are having on our industry. Have codes and regulations been hurting our industry?

Nick: Absolutely.  The easy example is Maryland, where the industry as a whole is at a disadvantage.  On multiple occasions, we’ve lost sales because the homebuyer either emphatically resisted the installation and maintenance of a sprinkler system, or turned to a stick builder in order to save the cost of a sprinkler system. More generally, substantial and costly code changes over the past decade have added a lot of cost to new home construction, which makes building a new home less affordable or, at worst, unaffordable.  The evidence is in the number of first-time home buyers effectively excluded from the market.  Everyone concurs in the virtue of building better houses, but it must be done incrementally and with an increased focus on the unintended consequence and cost of new codes.

Nick, thank you for an interesting conversation. I wish you and Pleasant Valley Homes continued growth and success in the years to come.


Anonymous said...

The bit at the end about sprinkler systems in MD confuses me- why would someone go stick built instead of modular because of the sprinklers? The codes in MD that require sprinklers require them in ALL homes, modular and stick alike.

Anonymous said...

Building both stick built and modular homes in Maryland, two major things are costing us modular sales. First a sprinkler system started at the factory and finished at the jobsite is over double on a modular vs. what a sprinkler contractor charges for a stick built home, that is if the factory even wants to be involved. The system can be totally done at the set and afterward but at nearly $8,000 for a typical two story home. The second problem is transportation. Freight charges on a 4 box house are now between $11,000 to $13,000. A stick builder has a tremendous advantage in either size or upgrades over the modular when the numbers are all the customer cares to evaluate. More bang for the buck with the stick built home.