Sherri Murray had been running her own Grass Valley mortgage company for about five years when it became clear that rising homes prices were edging more and more would-be buyers out of the market.
One weekend in 2000, she and her husband, Scott, went to a home show and found themselves exploring the on-site manufactured and modular homes. They were impressed by the diverse floor plans, modern materials and reasonable prices. These weren’t the manufactured homes of the 1970s.
Shortly thereafter, Sherri was inspired to set up her own dealership, and — as a side job — began selling manufactured and modular homes.
“It was very successful,” said Scott, who at the time was the frozen foods manager at Albertsons supermarket in Grass Valley. “In fact, she sold five or six houses to my co-workers.”
Five years later, the dealership was continuing to grow — so much so that Sherri sold her mortgage business to her loan officers and Scott left his 20-year career in the supermarket business to open Statewide Homes.
“We set up three model homes on a small, tiered property on Sutton Way and went into business full time,” said Scott.
“I loved working for myself; my first Thanksgiving away from Albertsons was a shock. I could actually take time off.”
The potential of the Murrays’ home business intrigued Scott’s former boss, Jerry Hanaway, who was interested in working for the Murrays and eventually bought into the business to become a one-third partner.
“When I first got here, the tables were turned — Scott was my boss instead of vice versa,” said Hanaway, with a laugh. “But after 30 years in the stressful grocery business, I never looked back.”
Hanaway became a partner at Statewide Homes in 2006, which meant that, at long last, Scott and Sherri could take a vacation.
The last couple of years have been very successful, and last year was the company’s best year yet, said Scott. The company has relocated to a full one-acre property on Whiting Street in Grass Valley with a larger office and more room for model homes.
The majority of manufactured and modular homes sold by Statewide are made by Skyline Homes Inc., of Woodland, Calif., and to a lesser degree, Fleetwood Homes, a company that was named 2013 manufacturer of the year by The Manufactured Housing Institute.
“We sell all over the state now,” said Scott.
“Fresno, Ukiah, Long Beach, Palo Alto, even Nevada. Less than 50 percent of our customers are within 100 miles.”
What’s the difference between a modular home and a manufactured home?
Modular homes are built in large pieces at a factory and are designed to conform to regional building codes.
Once trucked in, the pieces are joined together by local contractors. Modular homes are often less expensive per square foot than site-built houses and should have the same longevity as their site-built counterparts, increasing in value over time, said Scott.
Manufactured houses are also built in a factory but are built on a steel chassis. Transported in sections to the building site on their own wheels, the homes are joined at their destination. Segments are not always placed on a permanent foundation, and they are generally less expensive than site-built and modular homes.
Although the market for modular homes is “ramping up,” Hanaway said that roughly 15 percent of their current 40 clients have opted for modular homes. At The Union’s Home & Garden Show on April 26 and 27, Statewide Homes will have a 600-square-foot manufactured home on display.
Today, the modular and manufactured homes they buildrange from small ones like the one at the Home & Garden Show to custom, three-level homes with 11-foot ceilings or 76-foot long “workforce housing,” said Scott.
The most elaborate one they’ve built thus far was a beachfront, 4,500-square-foot home in Southern California.
“I think the reason we have such high customer satisfaction is that we see people all the way through the process and beyond,” Scott said.
“That gives us an edge. This is not a used car lot. There are no hidden fees and no deposit until the customer finds out exactly how much it’s going to cost. We’re very specific about prices.”
“They worked with our budget — better than a traditional contractor,” said Brian Dougherty, who bought a custom, two-story Cape Cod modular home in Grass Valley two years ago from Statewide Homes. “They really listened to my story. At the time, it was hard to get construction loans. They were really personable and worked hard for us. We shared our dream with them; they listened and made it happen.”
Hanaway said modular homes are the wave of the future and envisions an increase in the building of entire modular subdivisions.
“The rewarding part of this job for me is being able to provide someone with a house who could not otherwise afford it,” Hanaway added.
“When it comes to customers, my old job used to consist of telling people which kind of frozen pizza was the best,” he said.
“Now it’s ‘What kind of home?’ We change lives. And I sure don’t miss those minus 20-degree freezers.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.