Wednesday, June 4, 2014

An Interview With Signature Homes' Vic DePhillips

Today I’m pleased to interview Vic DePhillips, one of leaders in the modular housing industry and my former employer. I learned quite a lot about our industry while working for Signature Homes in Moosic, PA. Vic is the President of Signature Modular Homes.

Vic DePhillips, President of Signature Homes

Modcoach: Vic, could you tell us a little about your background and how you got started in modular housing?

Vic: I been in this industry 41 years as of June 3, 2014.  I have a degree in engineering from the Pennsylvania State University, with a minor in mathematics. I will not bore you with all the jobs I have served in this industry and with associations nor any of the accomplishments I have achieved since I started as an assembler building sidewalls and mating walls in 1973.

Modcoach: Are you doing commercial projects like hotels, apartment buildings, etc?

Vic: We built one commercial project this year which was an addition to a dorm job we built 4 years ago. This time the job was 29,000 square feet and added 44 beds to the existing building. We built one other sizable job which was an 18,000 square foot house comprised of 34 modules, including roof boxes. Other than that we have been all single family.

Modcoach: What “green” or energy saving products have you added to your homes, either as a standard item or as an option?

Vic: Like the others we offer zip wall/ roof products. We offer closed cell insulation installed in either flash and batt or full spray. This material is soy based and is considered green by virtue of its chemical composition. We offer a variety of fans and controls to provide correct ventilation considering the tighter houses. MDF Moldings and trims are a standard for us as well. We offer the “advanced Framing Technique in our product for those serious energy conscious builders and buyers.

Modcoach: Is the size of today’s homes different from the boom times before 2008?

Vic: We have always built big houses. Today’s houses top out at around 2,600-2,800 sq ft but most we are seeing are around 2,2-2,400 square feet. There is more in them but they are definitely smaller.  Now, maybe some of the decreased size on average is due to where we are shipping most of our product, which is a lot of beach replacement. Markets like CT and Westchester County, there the houses are larger 

Modcoach: Is there a tougher time finding qualified home builders today than in the past?

Vic: I believe that there are qualified builders out there and more of them coming into the business every day. More as a result of Sandy than anywhere else. I see the bigger builders adjusting to the economy and getting better and that in spite of that they have to work harder to get deals than ever before. The banks have not loosened their lending practices (contrary to what the administration says, gee, how could that be?) There are buyers and demand out there; it’s just tougher to make deals work with lenders. The demand exceeds supply that is simple math.

Modcoach: Have code regulations been hurting our industry?

Vic: Of course they have. There is not a fair regulatory and review system that forces a site built to be built like a modular. And due to this, we are forced to do much more engineering, strapping and compliance review than our stick built cousin. I could go on about this for hours given the chance, but we all know that this problem exists. 

Modcoach: The cost of shipping homes is continuing to rise. How has that impacted modular home sales?
Vic: Obviously it makes getting a sale tougher. This administration has an agenda that is pushing a greener footprint which has caused the process of fuel to rise to record levels in spite of our increase in domestic production. We are not as dependent on foreign oil as we had been, yet the price at the pump has doubled needlessly.
Modcoach: Why do you think that the modular home industry still stuck at 3% of the total new home market?

Vic: This industry is its own worst enemy. We cannot agree to disagree and then develop a plan to better promote what it is we do. Only thru more positive press or articles can we improve our visibility to today’s home buyers. Individual companies doing self- promotion does not help the entire industry as much as if the industry banned together and promoted what it is we do.   

Vic, I want to thank you for taking the time to share your 41 years of experience with us. I truly enjoyed my time working for you.


Sheri koones said...

A really good article by a very knowledgable modular guy. Just my usual comment regarding promotion of the industry.. I work very hard on my books to glorify the industry and show the very positive side of it but these books are meekly supported by the industry. They could be they're greatest tool.

Builder Bob said...

Gary, the series of interviews are the best things you have done for our industry yet. I read your blog every day and I can't tell you how much I am enjoying it lately.

I really hope you continue to interview the leaders of modular housing but I would also like to see what other builders have to say about the future.