Modular Homes Section

Local Modular Builder Interviewed

Dale Callaghan
Callaghan Homes LLC
February 2008

Modular Today: How did you start in the modular home industry?
Dale Callaghan: In 1970 my wife and I were married. She was from Marlette. At that time many modular homes were being built there as an "offshoot" of the mobile home industry. Marlette, Guerdin, and Active come to mind. My father in law had some history with the folks that were there and he suggested that we look at their models. I was really interested in the Marlette. It was well built, and very modern. The problem was that I was teaching school at the time and I made $5800/year, My wife was just graduating from Central Michigan and had the promise of a teaching job. Her phenomenal pay was $5300. The idea of purchasing a home was out of the question. I had a deep background in real estate since my father (74 at the time ) had been a real estate broker for 50 years in Livingston County, Michigan.

The next couple of years we saved some money and was able to get a down payment for a loan. My father in law introduced us to Al Lake in Marlette. He was in sales at a new plant in Chesaning, Mi. called Contempri Homes. It was a division of Taylor Industries in Pennsylvania. Only one person in the entire county would finance that modular home. Veryl Varner at the McPherson Bank in Howell Michigan. It went well and the home is still there today. We built another modular from Contempri Homes in Livingston County with the equity , which was substantial. Then we built another. I noticed that my reliance on the bank grew less and less. On the next house I did not use the bank at all. I realized that the price I received for the home was a lot more than the cost. It didn't require that I hold on to the house, it was there from day one. I called it from that day-"hidden equity".

It proved to be beneficial to a lot of folks . I applied and received my builders licence in 1975 and started beating the bushes for customer. It was hard and sometimes impossible to sell home. Not just modulars, the interest rates were in the teens and people did not get refinanced quite so easily as they do today.

I have sold over 300 homes over the last 33 years. All of them one at a time, no subdivisions. This was while I taught school, & raised the kids(2 attornies now). Judy my wife moved into the insurance industry with Citizens insurance and retired in 2004. It would have been tough to do this with the both of us working at it.

Modular Today: What lessons have you learned from your modular experience?
Dale Callaghan: To make my thinking more precise, to suffer no fools, & most importantly work at something you really enjoy. Don't worry about the money, it like ancient baseball players, will come.

Modular Today: How do you help home buyers feel more comfortable with modular homes?
Dale Callaghan: That is easy. Compassion and Empathy. I have been there. I know what they are going through. It can be terrifying to "not know" what is going on. The first thing I did when I opened my sales center in 1994 was to have evening seminars about what modular housing is all about. It helps to ward of the fears of the unknown.

Second, I have always lived in a modular home since I reached adulthood. I know they are built better. Since the mid 90's, on site builders did not stand a chance. We could sent a set of our prints with a customer who was considering an on site builder friend. Here is what I said to the customer," take these (prints) to your friend. Have him put together an estimate. Make sure he is using our specs(made sure the brand names were used). Come back in two weeks-even though I could put together an estimate almost immediately.

If they came back it turned out that we beat their friends bid by 20-30%. This was due the value enhance of a modular and the cost reduction in "system building" a home.