Category Archives: News and Information

Builders Chart Success in Fight for Workable Codes

According to the latest edition of NAHB’s Washington Update, the association charted some impressive wins during the ICC’s recently completed Final Action Hearings on the 2015 I-Codes this month.

They wanted to highlight some of these wins for you here, and also to provide you with the summary report on final results that was presented to members of NAHB’s Board of Directors at our Oct. 12 meeting in Colorado Springs. Of particular importance, builders were successful in fighting off five key proposals. These included:

1. Additional requirements for exterior foam plastics, which would have required builders to sheath the entire exterior of their homes in a layer of drywall or wood sheathing, or maintain a distance of 10 feet from all property lines;

2. Additional stair and ramp requirements mandating that all single-family homes and townhouses with multiple levels have a stair or ramp within 50 feet of any habitable portion of the home;

3. Residential accessibility rules that would have required all one- and two-family homes to be designed with a zero-clearance entrance, an elevator or lift, an accessible bathroom, bedroom and (if on the accessible level) a kitchen with 40 inches of clear floor space at all counters;

4. Wood deck general provisions including guard post, stair stringer and lateral connection requirements that would have added to hardware costs and other provisions that could  have led to engineering being required for decks; and

5. A proposal on foundation walls in flood zones, which would have required reinforced short stem walls in riverine flood zones (FEMA Zone A).

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Who Has the Highest Real Estate Taxes in the Country?

New Jersey residents currently contend with the highest median real estate taxes in the country, while Alabama residents enjoy the lowest such tax bills. That’s according to figures from the recently released 2012 American Community Survey, which NAHB economists have been analyzing in the Eye on Housing blog. The difference between those highest and lowest rates is substantial, to say the least, with New Jersey’s median tax bill punching in at $7,183 per year compared to Alabama’s $535. Our economists report that eight of the top 10 highest real estate tax bills occur in Northeast states, while a majority of the lowest tax states are found in the South. Looking at tax rates per $1,000 of property value, however, Hawaii actually has the lowest effective rate in the country, at just $2.77 per $1,000 of home value. On the flip side, Illinois and New Jersey have the highest effective rates, at more than $23 per $1,000 of property value.

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Baton Rouge Posts Best Score on Index of Leading Housing Markets


NAHB’s newly introduced Leading Markets Index(LMI) indicates that 52 metro areas nationwide have now returned to or exceeded their pre-recessionary levels of housing activity. While the nation as a whole has returned to 85% of normal in terms of key measures of housing strength – single-family permits, prices and employment — Baton Rouge, La., earned the strongest LMI score out of any major metro area in October. That city’s LMI score indicates that its housing market is now 41% stronger than it was prior to the recent recession.  Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin and Houston, Texas, as well as Harrisburg, Pa. – all of whose LMI scores indicate that their housing markets now exceed previous norms. Looking at smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of 2.0 or better, meaning that their housing markets are now double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Casper, Wyo.; Bismarck, N.D.; and Florence, Ala., respectively.  Commenting on the October report, NAHB Chairman Rick Judson said, “This index helps illustrate how far the U.S. housing recovery has come, and also how much further it has to go as we continue to face some significant headwinds in terms of credit availability, rising costs for lots and labor, and uncertainties regarding Washington policymaking.”

Today’s luxury mansion house plan is Archival DesignsBuckingham.

Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 to 14,814 sf, and Newport classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impresssive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs offered.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one could be just for you!

Housing Recovery Picking Up Steam, Say Economists

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Today’s house plan photos are those of Archival Designs‘ Luxury Home, Riverside.

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With home prices and household formations rising and household balance sheets healing, the ongoing housing recovery is expected to gain momentum next year even as several challenges remain, according to economists who participated in NAHB’s Construction Forecast Webinar on Oct. 2.

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“The cards are in play for a decent and fairly strong recovery in 2014 and particularly in 2015,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “From the standpoint of GDP growth, housing has been a plus, growing at two, three and four times the rate of the rest of the economy in recent quarters.” Helping to spur the housing rebound was a double-digit increase in home prices over the past year, driven in part by tight inventories of new and existing homes for sale and gradual gains in employment. “We expect to see price increases moderate in the next few years as we see additional inventory on the market and investors back away as the bargains disappear,” said David. Another bright spot is rising household formations that were delayed during the downturn as college graduates and young professionals were forced to move back in with their parents or double up as roommates. At the height of the housing boom, the U.S. was producing 1.4 million additional households every year. That figure plunged to 500,000 during the depth of the recession and today is now back up to 700,000. On the flip side of the coin, Dr. Crowe also cited several headwinds that are impeding the recovery, including tight credit conditions, increasing labor shortages, shrinking lot supplies, rising costs for building materials and inaccurate home appraisals.

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Housing Forecast

NAHB is forecasting 924,000 total housing starts in 2013, up 18% from 783,000 units last year. Single-family production is expected to rise 17% this year to 629,000 units, jump an additional 31% next year to 826,000 and surpass the 1 million mark in 2015. On the multifamily side, NAHB projects starts will increase 20% in 2013 to 296,000 units and rise an additional 10% to 326,000 units next year, which is back to what could be considered a “normal” level of production. Meanwhile, residential remodeling has already returned to previously normal levels of the early 2000s and remodeling activity is expected to register a modest gain this year over 2012.

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What the Government Shutdown Means for NAHB Members

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NAHB Chairman Rick Judson sent out a detailed message to all members on Oct. 1 explaining some of the ways that the federal government shutdown could impact home builders and their associates going forward. While in most cases the short-run impacts will be minor, a long-run shutdown – lasting several weeks or a month or more – could have significant impacts on mortgage accessibility and reduce housing demand. And over the coming weeks, the shutdown could merge with the issue of raising the debt ceiling, which could have very significant impacts on interest rates, as well as monetary and fiscal policy.

Here is a quick rundown of need-to-know information regarding the status of key government housing programs during the shutdown:

HUD

  • FHA-insured single-family loans will continue to be endorsed in the near term, although some delays in processing and closing should be expected.
  • FHA multifamily insured projects with firm commitments and scheduled closings may go forward, although no new firm commitments will be issued.
  • Section 8 Project Based Rental Assistance Contracts, rent supplement, Section 236, and PRACs with permanent or indefinite authority or multi-year funding will have payments made from budget authority available from prior appropriations or recaptures.
  • No Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspections can take place.
  • CDBG, HOME and other block grant funds will be dispersed in cases where failure to address issues result in a threat to safety of life and protection of property.
  • Authorized drawdowns for approved CPD program activities (homeless assistance programs, CDBG, HOME, HOPWA) using pre-FY2014 program funds will continue uninterrupted unless it is necessary for a HUD employee to approve a voucher or lift a system edit prior to a draw down.

Department of Agriculture

  • Most Rural Development programs will not operate while the shutdown continues.
  • The Section 521 Rental Assistance, Section 542 Rural Housing Vouchers, and Single Family Section 502 Guaranteed Loans will continue until funding is exhausted.
  • A shutdown of more than two weeks is likely to have a significant impact on rural development programs.

Department of Homeland Security

  • E-Verify, the Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S., is unavailable due to the government shutdown. While E-Verify is unavailable, employers will not be able to access their E-Verify accounts. Details on how this could impact your company’s operations can be found here.

Small Business Administration

  • The SBA will not initiate new loan guarantees during the shutdown.

OSHA

  • With the exception of “imminent danger” to life or property and other emergency situations, OSHA’s investigation and enforcement activities will cease during the shutdown.

Department of the Interior

  • Businesses who seek permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service could be affected. New permits or applications currently under review will not be processed during the government shutdown, which will increase costs and delays.

EPA

  • Businesses that file the Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit in states where EPA is the primary permitting authority may notice a delay in issuance of their stormwater permits. These states are Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Mexico, along with the District of Columbia.
  • The Energy Star program is shut down until further notice and the processing of all partner applications and partner inquiries has been put on hold. Updates to Energy Star qualified product lists and release of draft Energy Star specifications will also be delayed.

Internal Revenue Service

  • Some lenders require home borrowers to file IRS form 4506-T to verify the mortgage applicant’s income and Social Security number. With the IRS shut down, this could result in major delays in some mortgage application approvals.

Economic Data

  • Due to the shutdown, the August Census construction spending report was not published. The important monthly jobs report for September from BLS is unlikely to be published. And future reports on items like housing starts and new home sales could also be postponed.

In general, NAHB members should expect delays for any housing-related federal government programs that are still operating and plan accordingly. Rest assured that your national association continues to closely monitor the situation and will keep you posted on any new developments.

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Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 to 14,814 sf, and Newport classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of  some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs offered.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one could be just for you!

New-Home Sales Rise as Consumers Adjust to Higher Interest Rates

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Today’s house plan photos are those of Archival Designs‘ Luxury House Plan, Regency.

Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 7.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 421,000 units in August, according to figures released by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau on Sept. 25.

The gain partly offset a dip in sales activity that occurred in July as consumers reacted to higher interest rates.

  • Sales activity rose 8.8% in the Northeast
  • 19.6% in the Midwest
  • 15.3% in the South.
  • The West was the exception to the rule, with a 14.6% decline.
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    While the months’ supply of new homes edged down to 5.0 due to the quicker sales pace in August, the total inventory rose for a seventh consecutive month, to 175,000 units.

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said the partial bounce-back in sales in August was a good sign that consumers are coming to terms with the higher rates and heading back to the marketplace. However, he noted, “We are only about halfway back to what would be considered a sustainable level of activity in a normal economy, and the ongoing housing recovery continues to be slowed by consumers’ concerns about interest rates, as well as weak job growth and uncertainty about what’s happening in Washington.”

Monday Is Your Last Chance to Get a Free IBS Expo Pass

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Just hours remain! Monday, Sept. 30, is the last day to register for your free expo pass to the 2014 International Builders’ Show® (IBS).  Why not sign up now to attend the biggest event in the building industry? By co-locating with the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), IBS 2014 gives you access to over 1,500 exhibitors and more than 600,000 square feet of exhibits. Your IBS registration includes entry to the exhibits at IBS and KBIS as well as the exhibits of a third show, the International Window Coverings Expo. And don’t forget – the IBS also features more than 100 top notch education sessions. Sign up for a full registration and save $100 off the early registration fee! One more perk for those who register by Sept. 30: you’ll be able to bring your spouse for free. But don’t wait – prices increase on Oct. 1, so take just a few moments from your day and Register Now!

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Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 to 14,814 sf, and Newport classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs offered.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one could be just for you!

Builder Confidence Holding Steady in September

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Today’s photos are those of Archival Designs‘ Luxury House Plan, Kildare Castle.

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Following four consecutive months of improvement, builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes held unchanged in September with a reading of 58 on the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released Sept. 17.

The HMI component gauging current sales conditions held unchanged at 62, while the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months declined three points to 65 and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers increased one point, to 47. (Remember that any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.) Meanwhile, all four regions posted gains in their three-month moving average HMI scores in September, including a two-point gain to 41 in the Northeast, a four-point gain to 64 in the Midwest, a two-point gain to 56 in the South and a four-point gain to 61 in the West, respectively. “While builder confidence is holding at the highest level in nearly eight years, many are reporting some hesitancy on the part of buyers due to the sharp increase in interest rates,” said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson. “Home buyers are adjusting to the fact that, while mortgage rates are still quite favorable on a historic basis, the record lows are probably a thing of the past.” Chief Economist David Crowe agreed, saying, “Following a solid run up in builder confidence over the past year, we are seeing a pause in the momentum as consumers wait to see where interest rates settle and as the headwinds of tight credit, shrinking supplies of lots for development and increasing labor costs continue.

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New England, Pacific States Have Most Regulated Housing Supplies

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NAHB’s economists recently took a look at a fascinating study that has provided the first-ever annual measure of housing supply regulations for the contiguous United States. Constructed by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag, the new housing supply regulation index examines the scaled count of state appeals court decisions that mention “land use.” States with a higher share of court decisions mentioning “land use” are thought to have more restrictive housing supply regulations. The study shows that in 2010, the state with the highest index score was Maine, followed by New Hampshire. Meanwhile, the state with the lowest index score was Alabama, followed by Louisiana. The map below splits states into quartiles based on the newly constructed index for 2010.


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Housing Production Rises in August

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Led by a solid increase in single-family starts, nationwide housing production rose 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 891,000 units in August, according to figures released Wednesday by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, construction of multifamily buildings slowed following a rebound in July. NAHB’s Chief Economist David Crowe said the report reflects the gradual improvement in buyer confidence in the overall market and NAHB’s recent surveys that indicate a solid outlook for single-family production. On the multifamily side, we are catching up with underlying rental demand, Crowe said, and expect to see additional multifamily starts in the future, but not as rapid a pace of growth as in the past.

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Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Out Tuscan-style villoas range from 1800 to 14,814 sf, and Newport classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs offered.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one could be just for you!

Record High 291 Metros on Improving Markets List

A total of 291 metropolitan areas – just over 80% of all those for which data is available – now qualify as “improving” housing markets, according to the NAHB/ First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) for September. This new record high reflects a solid gain of 44 markets from August, with 242 markets retaining their improving status from the previous month and just five being dropped from the list.

While the list’s dramatic expansion was partly due to a recent improvement in the way that Freddie Mac measures home prices, it is nevertheless a good sign that the ongoing housing recovery is quite widespread, with every state now able to claim at least one county that’s part of a rebounding metro. A complete list of all 291 metros currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in September, is available at www.nahb.org/imi. Meanwhile, now that the IMI’s original purpose of spotlighting places where the recovery was starting to take hold has been fulfilled, NAHB will be phasing out this index in October and replacing it with a new index to be released on the same schedule. Details on this new index will soon be available, but we can tell you that it will shift the focus to markets that are now approaching and exceeding their former normal levels of economic progress.

More Buyers Purchasing Homes Still Under Construction

In a recent Eye on Housing blog entry, NAHB’s economists describe a significant shift in the marketplace whereby greater numbers of buyers are purchasing homes that are still under construction or not yet started versus newly completed homes that are part of a builder’s inventory. The experts attribute this emerging trend to several factors, including, for example, smaller inventories of completed homes (which have limited buyers’ choices in that area) and also builder credit constraints that have led to a surge in construction-to-permanent financing. In any case, our economists note that the recent shift has been quite dramatic.

Whereas completed homes were half of all new-home sales in 2008, by mid-2013, that average had fallen to just 29%. In the same period, the share of homes sold but not yet started went from 21% of sales to 37% and the share of homes sold that were under construction went from less than a quarter of the total to more than one-third currently. One likely explanation for what seems to be a long-term trend in favor of sales of unfinished homes is the rise in concentration of larger building companies, which can hold an inventory of models and available lots for buyers to choose from without having to risk building ready-to-occupy homes that might not fit buyers’ preferences.

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Today’s house plan is Archival Designs‘ Luxury Retirement/Starter Home, Mayberry Place.

Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 to 14,814 sf, and Newport classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs offered.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one could be just for you!