OXFORD — One sector of Maine’s economy that coronavirus has not gotten the better of yet, is manufactured housing. Dealers along Route 26 in Oxford are reporting that while business is different it has remained steady, with inquiries coming through the phone and internet.

All the home retailers in the area have stayed open even as their front doors are locked. Surprisingly, the limitations have had a somewhat positive impact on business. Potential customers have time on their hands to plan their next home and they are taking virtual tours and making calls to follow up.

In Pennsylvania where a majority of homes are built the factories were deemed as “non-essential” in the governor’s first state-wide business restrictions and closed down by Mar. 19. That original directive put the out-of-state manufacturers behind schedule, but as Maine roads are posted to limit heavy loads this time of year it has not yet caused major issues locally. Within a couple of weeks the order was revised and manufacturers were able to get back to work.

“Because of our online emphasis and social media, we have not seen a downturn,” said AJ Stowell of Twin Town Homes. “Virtual tours through our website have been strong. Customers have completed purchase and sale agreements electronically, and the banks continue to process mortgages.”

Kristin Jones of Coastline Homes, the manufactured housing division of Schiavi Custom Builders, is seeing the same consistency.

“Our online business has remained strong,” Jones said. “We’ve had a lot of activity coming through our website and we’re spending more time on the phone. We’re working with qualified customers. With banks and title companies continuing to operate and process mortgages the coronavirus hasn’t had much effect on closings.”

While business remains brisk for sales, scheduling for the upcoming season has been difficult to confirm. Locally, manufactured and modular housing retailers have had to scale back on service calls, currently only providing essential home maintenance repairs to existing customers.

“We avoid going into people’s homes unless absolutely necessary,” Stowell said. “We are doing our part to keep everyone safe. We have several new construction projects on the ground and our crews are busy working them while maintaining social distancing practices.”

Twin Town Homes has 12 employees in its sales and service departments. Stowell said that they have not had to lay anyone off.

“We’re actually planning to hire,” he said. We expect to add service crew and laborers this season.”

Jones said that Coastline Homes and its Schiavi parent are not doing maintenance calls as part of social distancing but that production work continue on new projects. She said that a few employees have been temporarily laid off but that as soon as business restrictions are lifted they will go back to full capacity.

Most of the home retailers in Oxford originally had hoped to unlock their doors by April 8. However, Governor Janet Mills’ revised social distancing mandate has extended the open date until at least the beginning of May.

“To abide by the governor’s directive, our storefront will remain closed,” said Stowell. “But we are able to be open for customers by appointment. This allows us to control the amount of traffic in our sales center and going through our model homes. It also allows us to thoroughly clean and sanitize properly between visits.

“Customers can continue to shop on our website and Facebook page and then schedule their onsite business. We are here for them and we want to work with them as safely as possible.”


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