Housing show featuring changes

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NORWAY – The fifth annual Manufactured Housing Show is set to kick off next week, and it will contain a few new twists.

Rich Livingston, president and chief executive officer of the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday that there will be events during the week leading up to the show. “We’ve turned it into a weeklong event,” he said.

In addition, Livingston said a “consumer perspective” will be introduced this year.

The chamber is responsible for producing and marketing the annual event that showcases the Oxford Hills region’s manufactured housing industry.

“Most of the attention in the past has been on the employer’s perspective and how significant the industry is as an employment sector,” said Livingston. “That’s important, and we don’t want to downplay that.

“We want to also bring a consumer perspective to it by showing how the financing and purchase of a manufactured home is the same as or different from other kinds of housing.”

The week will kick off on April 24 with a chamber breakfast at the Paris Fire Station on Western Avenue. The breakfast will feature a panel of housing finance experts including mortgage lenders who will talk about the consumer aspects of buying and financing a manufactured house.

A business after-hours gathering will be held on April 27 at Twin Town Homes on Route 26 in Oxford open to the entire business community, said Livingston.

Coincidentally, Livingston is the commencement speaker on April 21 at Western Maine University and Community College Center in Paris, where a group of students will graduate from a manufactured housing industry class that taught them all aspects of the industry.

The annual show itself will be held April 28-30 and feature seven dealers and three factories.

Livingston said more than 60 finished, furnished homes will be on display during the show. He said attendance will probably mirror previous shows, between 12,000 and 13,000. The show has typically attracted attendees from out of state including residents of New York and New Jersey.

Local industry officials said business slowed at the end of last year but since has experienced an uptick. “With the good winter and early spring, business has picked up. Lot traffic is good,” said Bob Huotari, president of Twin Town Homes.

However Huotari said he remains cautious about rising interest rates and the affect they may have on business.

According to the Maine Manufactured Housing Board, 1,600 modular homes were sold in Maine in 2004, while 1,100 mobile homes were sold in Maine the same year. Modular and mobile homes are built in factories or manufacturing centers, but modular homes are required to meet all town building codes. Mobile homes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Houtari said people are purchasing modular and mobile homes, and they often use them as second homes or vacation homes.

“We’re also finding that more and more people are moving into our area so that has been good,” he said.

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