She’s a real estate entrepreneur, a farming enthusiast, an environmentalist, among other things. Through Orbit Homes, a manufactured homes business, Lauren Tucker aims to revolutionize the construction industry by reducing waste and choosing eco-conscious material, thereby conserving energy, time, and increasing efficiency. Her passion for work is evident in her words. Dive in as she talks about her career and journey, why she chose manufactured homes, and how she’s making a difference in the world with her business, one step at a time.
This real estate entrepreneur will tell you everything you need to know about manufactured homes - what are they? Who chooses them? Do they actually sell?
I've had a long career in agriculture. I worked with a lot of farmers on regenerating healthy soils. I'd always been interested in housing, especially in thinking through how we occupy more rural areas. Because in the US we have so many people living in cities and very few living in the countryside and on farmland. And so I've always been curious about how can we provide housing options that are more affordable, but beautiful for rural areas. My partner and his brother started this business. We are all co-founders together, and their background is in traditional construction, as well as in remodeling work. So they came from years of doing what we call stick build, you know, building with contractors from the ground up and creating a new plan every time you build. So there's excitement around what we do because we've created several models, but they're made in the factory. So they still have the same aesthetic and beautiful contemporary style. But they’re so much easier because we're building them in the factory setting.
Manufactured homes are built in a factory, so they're built on top of a steel chassis. They have wheels, and then they can be delivered by truck to any home site. Often they come in a couple of pieces if they're larger, and then we install them on sight. One of the things we love about them is you can install them on a temporary foundation or on a permanent foundation. So they're versatile in that way. You know, we save a lot of waste by building in a factory, because we can be very specific about all of the materials. And then, if you don't use a little bit of material, then it gets used on the next housing order. There's a lot of waste on construction sites. The other thing is, they are a lot lighter on the land when we install them. So even though they're just as earthquake safe or the foundation is just as stable, we're not pouring as much concrete on-site or building on the land. We're just stabilizing them and tying them down to the land when it gets there.
Sure, there are a couple reasons. I mean, one is, where we are, the cost of building traditionally has gotten really, really high. So there's a cost-saving to manufactured housing. We also differ from modular or other prefab companies in that we’re regulated under a different building code, which allows for less inspections when you're installing the home, which can make it go a lot faster as well as you know, during the installation process. You know, some people are adding a home to a piece of land. And if you were building traditionally, it could take a year or two years. And you have construction crews on site the whole time. With our homes, we were installing them in one to three months. And so you don't have all that disruption in your lives. So we do have clients who are in city areas. And we do have clients in rural areas. A lot of times we end up building more rurally because that's where there's land that's undeveloped, but then in the city sometimes we’re installing a second home on the same piece of land. It kind of depends on the density of the city.
So far we've actually had a really interesting range in the neighborhood we live in California. We had a major fire a couple years ago. And so a lot of our clients have been fire rebuild, and some didn't have the insurance or the money to rebuild. At least in the coastal areas of California, our homes are less expensive than traditional construction. So it's cost savings for people. But we also have people who are using our homes in development because it's faster, and some of the permitting are easier.
And as I mentioned, that time on site is way, way less. And so that's a huge saving for people who are developing land. We work with some clients who are developing multiple homes at a time. But we also work with a couple clients who just wanted to develop one piece of land with one home and rent it as a rental property. So we get a whole different range.
Sure. The technical term is manufactured. We do serve some mobile home park communities, and we have different models that fit in those communities and can be installed on a temporary foundation. But, I think there has been a perception around mobile homes as not necessarily as good or of less quality. And that perception comes, I think, from the type of materials used, and not necessarily from the building code itself, so that the actual building code is very stringent and strict, and we’re using the highest quality materials. From a structural perspective, the structures are actually stronger because they're built on steel, and they're built to be able to move. So it really depends on what cost you’re paying for the materials. And as far as the building of them, they're just the same, or, in some cases, stronger than traditional buildings. But we do offer both. So we have a Luxury Park Model that we sell to mobile home communities. And then we have models that we styled for traditional real estate.
I think I'm always really curious about how we improve and evolve the way we live, and ask questions about challenging the status quo, how life is, and can we make it a little bit better? So I'm always driven by that, and both the work I've done in agriculture and now work that I'm doing in housing. Yeah, I arrived here after a long journey. But again, I've been working in and still work in food and agriculture for a very long time. But also, I have been asking all these questions around how do we occupy more land and happen to have met a partner who is really interested in housing. So, yeah, we've been working on this together.
It's such a good question. I think there's a lot of things I wish I could do now that doesn't exist. And so we're still getting to the point where we can build them in. So I’m really fascinated by using alternative building materials, recycled materials, and getting them approved in the factories and in the codes for use.
And so, if I had like a magic wand, I would do away with some of the regulations that make it hard to innovate, because I think there are some incredible building materials and energy-efficient materials and things we can do to reduce water, recycle water, and use solar. Use incredible innovations that people are making. A lot of the blocks are regulation and building codes and the ability to actually use them in different municipalities. So I think I would wish for a magic wand so that to open up that Innovation and allow it to be easier.
I think that it's really important to love people because purchasing a home becomes a very long-term relationship. It's not like purchasing a piece of clothing, or, you know, a piece of jewelry, which would be a decision that you can make in an instant. Purchasing a home is a big decision. It's a place where you're going to live your life; it's where you're gonna invite your friends over for dinner and have your family. And so I think you really have to love people and be genuinely interested in what they care about, in order to find the right fit in a home that works for them. Okay, so I guess that's only two. One more. Definitely organized. There are so many details that go into making a home. It's a complex purchase. And so being detail-oriented, that's something that we're actually innovating as we were about to launch a website where you can select all your finishes right on the website. And so we're streamlining that process and helping people make all those small selections that make their home unique but have all those details matter.
It's good to be creative. Anytime you start a business, there are challenges that come up. So whether you're in sales or manufacturing or whatever part of the business you’re in, I think that creativity and the ability to problem-solve are really important.
We've tried a lot of things, local press, newspapers, magazines, social media. But I think at the end of the day, the most impactful kind of marketing is word-of-mouth and relationships. And I think that it's really easy to forget that especially, you know, in 2021 when we have so many different tools at our fingertips. There's the internet, there are so many technologies that help you market or think through marketing, and there are so many ways to invest in marketing. I think at the end of the day, it's all about relationships and getting to know people who might be interested in what you're offering to the world. I think that marketing that works best is through those personal connections and through networking. And yeah, hosting people - we have a showroom. So we get to show people what we do. And I think that's the marketing that works the best.
Sure. We definitely use a lot of emailing and phone calls. But I think what's most fun is just to host people, and so continuing to host gatherings, which has been very hard the last couple of years. But as things start to open up we can do that more, I think that's the best way to stay in touch with people, to be able to host places where we can all meet each other.
I think, at some point, you get to know if someone is really excited about what you do, and that's the ideal type of client - to have someone who is really excited about what you're offering. I also think it's nice when you can find a place of mutual trust with a client. There are certain things that are really our specialty. So, you know, we have a deeper understanding of all the materials that go into the house or the specifics of installation. And when we can find trust, and our clients don't have to worry about all that, I think that's always the best.
Yeah, we found virtual staging to be really amazing, especially because we do offer our own line of furniture, but not you know, not all of our clients choose to purchase it. So once we install a home, we don't always get to photograph it with a style that's necessarily our style. And so the advantage of virtual staging is certainly the ease, speed, and cost savings, but also being able to choose a specific style that we want to display in a home that we've built. We also did a virtual reality tour for a couple of our homes. And that's been really incredible. A home is something you want to experience.
And if you can't always tour something, it's really hard to visualize for the client what that might look like. So I found virtual reality to kind of be the next best thing to an in-person tour. We really enjoyed Styldod. It was affordable, super fast, and it was pretty easy to go back and forth and say, you know, oh, we like this, but not that. Or can we change that? And yeah, I found it to be a really great process.
Sometimes, I just think about the schedule of my day and scheduling that time for myself and my family, because when you're an entrepreneur, the work is never over. The to-do list is never complete. The opportunities are never exhausted. So it's really about just thinking about your life as a whole, from that balanced perspective, thinking not only about the worklist but about the goals you have in your home, or for gathering with friends and family, or eating and cooking food. So yeah, I think it's really all about thinking about your life as a whole and scheduling.
From my experience, the joy of this field is really thinking about what the opportunity we can create together is between the client and the business, instead of just this is what we're selling and hoping people like it. What can we create together? And really asking questions around what's the world we want to live in? And how can we deliver value to people in order to create that world? I think that if we can view our work from that lens, and that perspective that there's so much more we can create.
Lauren’s innovative thinking and drive make her stand out in an industry that has been following age-old techniques and building codes. She is an inspiration to all those environment-conscious real estate entrepreneurs. We wish her and her business in manufactured homes the best of luck.
Keen to learn more? Watch Lauren's full interview where she shares everything you need to know about manufactured homes, running an eco-friendly business, home marketing tips, and more in this playlist.
Wish to read more such interviews? We have more coming soon. Meanwhile, here’s Japanese-American real estate investor Masashi Kawakami’s interview.
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Styldod is a design-tech company that aims to simplify real estate marketing and help agents present homes in their most favorable light online by reimagining and automating the listing photography process. Having begun as a virtual staging company, today, Styldod has affordable and best-in-class products and services for every facet of real estate marketing and photography. Styldod’s suite of services include virtual staging, image enhancements, floor plans, virtual renovation, 3D renders, 360 degree virtual tours, and Matterport virtual staging, to name a few. We're trusted by over 10,000 realtors from all over the US and from companies like ReMax, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams. Know more about us at https://www.styldod.com.