Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Holidays to All!

K+B Delta Vee will publish again in the new year. Until then, all the best to you and yours this holiday season.

Somewhere Mr. Whipple Is Weeping with Joy

In New York City, Jennifer Cannon and Doy Nichols of Lexington, KY, are getting married today in a bathroom. (Insert your own unprintable joke here, as I did, and then shame on us all.)
The bride will wear a lovely gown made entirely out of Charmin toilet paper. No word on what the groom is wearinmg when he takes the plunge.
Proctor & Gamble, makers of Charmin, note that the couple is "flush with excitement" and that they will be honeymooning at Destination Kohler in Kohler, WI.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

November Building Permits Fell to 14-Year Low

Permits for new homes in November fell to a 14-year low, while single family housing start numbers dropped to the lowest point in 16 years, according to the Census Bureau.
The latest lump of coal finds a seasonally adjusted annualized start rate of 1.187 million homes in November, down 24.2% from the same month last year. Single family starts slumped to a rate of 829,000 units a year, down 34.9% from November, 2006.
Starts have slumped 47.6% from the pace in January, 2006, and the single family start rate has dipped 54.3% over that span.
Permits dipped to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.152 million during the month, down 24.6% from November, 2006. Single family permits fell 33.7% to 754,000 units per year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gloomy Paragraph of the Day

From the AP: "While the mortgage crisis has brought a rising wave of foreclosure notices into public view, less evident have been "pictures of people standing with furniture on the lawn" after being forcibly evicted from their homes, (Freddie Mac chairman and CEO Richard) Syron said. "As that begins to happen, and it will happen, I am afraid of the impact that this has."

NAR Sees Modest Turnaround in 2008

The National Association of Realtors says existing home sales are likely to total 5.67 million units this year, the fifth highest on record, rising 0.5% to 5.70 million in 2008. The 2008 figure will still be down 12.0% from 6.48 million in 2006. Existing-home prices should be down 1.9% to a median of $217,600 for all of 2007, and then rise 0.3% to $218,300 in 2008.
NAR says the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will rise slowly to the 6.4% range by the end of 2008. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth should be 2.1% in 2007, down from a 2.9% growth rate last year; GDP growth is forecast to improve to 2.4% in 2008.
The unemployment rate is likely to average 4.6% for 2007, unchanged from last year, but rise to 5.0% in 2008. Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is estimated to grow 3.1% this year, the same as in 2006, and then grow 2.2% next year.

Monday, December 10, 2007

How the Mortgage Crisis Shapes Up

A sobering assessment from the Wall Street Journal: "As house prices fall and homeowners default on mortgages at troubling rates, the pain has spread far and wide. An examination of the resulting crisis shows that it is comparable to some of the biggest financial disasters of the past half-century.
So far, the potential losses look manageable compared with the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s and the tech-stock crash of 2000-02. But the housing debacle could yet take years to work out, thanks to the sheer complexity of it. Until the mess is cleaned up, investors will remain jittery and banks will likely hold back on all kinds of lending -- a credit crunch that is already damping global growth and could tip the U.S. economy into recession."

Friday, December 7, 2007

November Residential Construction Employment Down 2%

Employment in the residential construction field overall slipped 2.1% from October to November, with some 3.2 million workers employed during the month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure marked a 5.1% drop from levels in November, 2006.
Some 963,900 workers building residential units were employed in November, down 2.0% from October, while 2.2 million residential specialty trade contractors were employed, a 2.2% month-to-month drop.
For the economy as a whole, the unemployment rate held at 4.7%. Average hourly earnings increased just half a percent from October to November to $17.63; the mark was 1.8% higher than the same month last year.

Monday, December 3, 2007

More Than Half of Sub-Prime Borrowers Could Have Gotten Conventional Loans

The Wall Street Journal finds a study that says 55% of the borrowers in 2005 who got sub-prime mortgages could have qualified for more conventional mortages with better terms. In 2006, 61% did. "The analysis also raises pointed questions about the practices of major mortgage lenders. Many borrowers whose credit scores might have qualified them for more conventional loans say they were pushed into risky subprime loans. They say lenders or brokers aggressively marketed the loans, offering easier and faster approvals -- and playing down or hiding the onerous price paid over the long haul in higher interest rates or stricter repayment terms," says the Journal.
In other news, Lennar Homes has sold $1.3 billion in land to Morgan Stanley for 40 cents on the dollar.

Friday, November 30, 2007

How We Got Here

From the court documents in the fallout of the Duke Cunningham bribery case. Former Congressman Cunningham is currently serving eight years for taking bribes from a number of individuals, including the Thomas Kontogiannis mentioned here:

"The government’s investigation indicates that Kontogiannis’s typical mortgage fraud involved the following scenario. (With regard to the following narrative, see Exhibit 5 and Exhibits 12-19.)
Kontogiannis would have a loan application prepared in the name of a putative home purchaser, sometimes with the knowledge of the person (who might be paid a fee) and sometimes without the person’s knowledge, for a property that Kontogiannis either had developed or had planned to develop. Fraudulent paperwork would be prepared related to, for example, income, assets, or appraisal. (Kontogiannis presumably would pay a kickback to the individual preparing these documents.) Applications would then otherwise be submitted for approval to various financial institutions in accordance with normal industry practices. At closing, all title documentation (such as the mortgage and note, the uniform settlement statement (HUD-1 form), title-insurance paperwork, and affidavits pertaining to the purchaser’s identity and intent of occupancy) would be fraudulently executed by a loan officer controlled by Kontogiannis. ... The mortgage and note, however, would never be recorded, the taxes never paid, and title insurance never purchased. Instead, the funds that had been disbursed for these purposes would eventually be steered to another company ostensibly owned by one of Kontogiannis’s daughters but controlled by Kontogiannis.
These fraudulent loans would ultimately be sold into the secondary-mortgage market to a lender who would be led to believe, based on the loan documentation provided by Kontogiannis’s agent, that the loan had been sent for recording and that all taxes and recording fees had been paid....
One company alone had purchased over 100 of the loans in the secondary market, with an average loan amount of approximately $500,000. That publicly traded and federally chartered bank thus had approximately $50,000,000 in loans that were potentially worthless because, as a result of Kontogiannis’s scams, none of the mortgages were recorded in primary position as the bank had assumed. That, in turn, meant that if any of the loans defaulted, the bank would not be able to foreclose on any real property and thereby recoup any of the losses. ”

Published speculation says the "one company" may be Washington Mutual, which you may remember surfaced in another matter.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

People Feel At Home in Their Kitchens

A friendly reminder from eBay, and you've only yourself to blame if you click through.

New Home Sales Drop 23.5% in October

New home sales dipped 23.5% in October to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 728,000 units, according to the most recent figures from the Census Bureau. That figure was reported widely as an month-to-month increase, but while it was a 1.7% increase over the revised September rate, it was well below the initially reported rate of 770,000 units in September.
Through the first ten months of 2007, some 689,000 new homes have been sold, down 24.2% from the same period last year.
The median new home price for October was $217,800, down 8.6% from September's median and down 13.0% from October, 2006's median price. Builders were reckoned to have 8.5 months worth of unsold inventory. The average house sold had been on the market nearly six months, up from 3.7 months in October, 2006.

October Foreclosures Level Off, But Are Still Nearly Double 2006's Pace

Some 224,451 foreclosure notices were filed in October, up 94% from the same month last year, according to online marketplace RealtyTrac®. However, the mark was up just 2% from September. The national foreclosure rate for the month was one foreclosure filing for every 555 households.
Overall foreclosure activity continues to register at a high level compared to last year, but it appears to have leveled off over the past two months after hitting a high for the year in August,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. “Default notices were down nearly 9% in October, indicating that some of the efforts on the part of homeowners, lenders and advocacy groups to find alternatives to foreclosure may be starting to have an impact. On the other hand, bank repossessions were up nearly 35% , evidence that more homeowners who enter foreclosure are losing their homes.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

October Existing Home Sales Drop Below 5-Million-Unit/Year Pace

The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales slipped below a 5 million units per year pace in October. October sales reached a 4.97-million-unit seasonally adjusted annualized rate, down 20.7% from the same month last year. Single family existing home sales fell to a rate of 4.37 million units, down 20.8% from October, 2006.
Through the first ten months of 2007, some 4.90 million existing homes have been sold.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, “As noted last month, temporary mortgage problems were peaking back in August when many of the sales closed in October were being negotiated. We continue to see the biggest impact in high-cost markets that rely on jumbo loans,” he said. “Mortgage availability has improved as evidenced by much lower mortgage interest rates and a sharp jump in FHA endorsements for home purchases.”
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.38% in October, unchanged from September; the rate was 6.36% in October 2006. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate fell to 6.20%.

November Consumer Confidence Dips 17%

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index was just 87.3 (1985=100) in November, down 17.1% from the same month in 2006. The month’s mark was 8.3% below October’s revised Index.
Said Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: "This month's deterioration in confidence was due primarily to the sharp decline in the Expectations Index. Consumers' apprehension about the short-term outlook is being fueled by volatility in financial markets, rising prices at the pump and the likelihood of larger home heating bills this winter. In fact, consumers' inflation expectations have surpassed the spike experienced this spring and a larger percentage than last month expect stock prices to decline.” Just 10.8% of consumers expect more jobs in the months ahead, while 23.1% expect the number of jobs to decrease. And 11% of consumers expect their incomes to drop over the next six months.

October Starts Down 16%

The Census Department reports that housing starts for October racked up a 1.23-million-unit seasonally adjusted annualized rate, down 16.4% from the pace for the same month in 2006. Single family starts fell to an 884,000-unit annualized rate, down 25.1% from October, 2006.
Through the first ten months of this year, some 936,400 homes have been started, down 27.5% from the same period of 2006.
Building permits for October dipped 24.5% from the same month last year to an annualized rate of 1.18 million units. Through the first ten months of this year, nearly 1.22 million permits have been issued, down 24.7% from the same period last year.

Home Price Index Hits Record Low

The Standard & Poor’s /Case-Shiller® U.S. National Home Price Index for the third quarter of 2007 dipped 1.7% from the second quarter of the year, the largest quarter-to-quarter decline in its more than 20 years of history. The mark was down 4.5% from the same period last year, the largest year-over-year decline ever and the second consecutive record low. All 20 metropolitan areas tracked by S&P were in decline in September over August.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Have a Happy Holiday

K + B DeltaVee will be dark until November 28th. Everybody have a happy Thanksgiving day!


According to CNBC, financial giant Merrill Lynch offered Larry Fink the position of CEO, only to withdraw the offer when Fink said he wanted to see a full account of the brokerage's exposure to sub-prime mortgage woes. The position went to John Thain instead.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

J.D. Power: Extended Warranties Not Needed for Appliances

About 25% of consumers buying a major appliance also get an extended warranty, although appliance reliability seems to make that unneccessary, according to a new study by J.D. Powers & Associates.
The study measures customer satisfaction in nine segments of appliances: dishwashers; free-standing ranges; built-in cooktops and wall ovens; freezer-top refrigerators; side-by-side refrigerators; clothes washers; clothes dryers; over-the-range microwave ovens; and countertop microwave ovens. Customer satisfaction was measured based on performance in six factors: operational performance (including how well the appliance functions, noise level and energy efficiency); operational features (such as the number of settings available and appliance capacity); ease of use; styling and feel; price; and warranty.

Suddenly White Castle Doesn't Sound So Bad...

Reuters reports that the Modern Toilet diner chain in Taipei features seats made out of toilet bowls, dishes shaped like toilet bowls, toilet paper instead of napkins, and food that...well, you've been warned. (You've only yourself to blame for clicking there.)

"Most customers will bring their cameras in because the place is quite special," says one of the chain's managers, and I doubt I would have believed it without the photos, either.

Construction Wages Slip Slightly in October

Average hourly earnings in October for workers in construction trades slipped 0.3% from September to $21.23, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure was 3.8% over earnings for October of 2006.
Weekly construction trade earnings for October were virtually flat with September at $838.59, 3.3% above October, 2006 earnings.
For all U.S. workers, average weekly earnings fell by 0.2% from September to October to $595.22.
The BLS also reported that the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2% in October before seasonal adjustment. The October level of 208.936 (1982-84=100) was 3.5% higher than in October, 2006.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NAR: Slight Recovery For Existing Home Sales in 2008

The latest forecast from the National Association of Realtors sees a modest recovery for existing home sales in 2008 to 5.69 million units. That will be up from 5.67 million units in 2007.
Median existing home prices will dip 1.7% this year to $218,200, and remain virtually flat next year at $218,300.
NAR pegs new home sales at 796,000 units in 2007 and 693,000 next year; no real improvement is seen for new homes until 2009. Starts, including multifamily units, are forecast at 1.35 million this year and 1.14 million in 2008. The median new-home price is estimated to drop 1.6% to $242,500 in 2007 before rising 0.4% to $243,600 in 2008.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Home Depot Sales Drop 3.5% for Quarter

Home Depot reports that its fiscal third quarter sales dipped 3.5% from the same period in 2006 to $18.9 billion.
The Atlanta-based home center giant reported that sales for the first three quarters of its fiscal year were down 3.1% from the same period last year to $59.7 billion.
We are facing a tough environment as housing indicators continue to deteriorate. Our financial performance in the third quarter reflects these tough conditions," said Frank Blake, chairman & CEO.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cost vs. Value Declines in 2007

Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report finds that kitchen and bath remodeling have declined in value, along with other home improvements across the board. While 10 of 22 projects tracked, including kitchens and baths, returned more than 90 cents on the dollar in 2005, none performed that well in this year's report.
A minor kitchen remodel (refacing plus laminate countertop) returns 83% in increased home value of its $21,185 investment, while a major kitchen remodel (semi-custom cabinetry, laminate countertop) returns 78.1% in resale value of its $55,503 investment. An upscale major kitchen remodel (custom cabinets and stone countertops) returns 74.1% in increased home value of its $109,394 cost.
A bathroom addition costing about $37,000 will return 66% of its cost as increase home value, while a $73,000 investment in additional bathroom returns 69% of its cost. Some 78.3% of the cost is recouped from a $16,000 bath remodeling job, but just 68.4% of a $51,000 bath remodeling job is added to the home's value. And investing nearly $100,000 to add a master bedroom/bathroom suite will recoup 69% of its cost in increased home value.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Let Me Know When It Hangs Them in the Closet

Via The Boy Genius Report comes word of an Electrolux dryer in the UK that uses steam to reduce or replace ironing.

Friday, November 2, 2007

October Construction Employment Virtually Flat

Some 7.6 million workers were employed in construction jobs during October, virtually unchanged (-0.1%) from September, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For all workers, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 166,000 in October, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.7%.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Foreclosures Nearly Double in Third Quarter

There were more than 635,000 foreclosure filings nationwide in the third quarter of this year, 99.5% more than in the same period of 2006, according to RealtyTrac. The figure was 30.0% higher than levels for the second quarter of 2007, and marked one foreclosure for every 196 U.S. households.
August and September were the two highest monthly foreclosure filing totals we’ve seen since we began issuing our report in January 2005,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. “Although not all areas are being hit as hard as others, the rise in foreclosures is quite widespread, with 45 out of the 50 states documenting year-over-year increases in the third quarter. Given the number of loans due to reset through the middle of 2008, and the continuing weakness in home sales, we would expect foreclosure activity to remain high and even increase over the next year in many markets.”

WaMu, First American Probed for Mortgage Scam

ABC News is reporting that New York state is investigating an apparent fraud scheme by Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan; mortgage and property services company First American Corporation; and its wholly owned subsidiary, eAppraiseIT. According to court papers said to include internal e-mails, the three entities inflated the value of homes appraised beyond actual market value, to allow the S&L to write an increased amount of loans for more money, inflating its value for investors. Unlucky homeowners caught in the scheme now may owe more than their property is worth if they attempt to sell or refinance their property.

KBB Green

Newly added to "Sites to See": KBB Green, a blog by Jeff Holloway, CKD, CBD, and K+BB magazine to discuss all things ecologically responsible.

Fed Drops Rates A Quarter-Point

Trying to stave off recession due to the sub-prime crisis, the Federal Reserve announced a quarter-point drop in the federal funds rate, to 4 1/2%.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Hallowe'en!!

hist wist
little ghostthings

little twitchy
witches and tingling


hob-a-nob hob-a-nob

little hoppy happy
toad in tweeds
little itchy mousies
with scuttling
eyes rustle and run and

whisk look out for the old woman
with the wart on her nose
what she'll do to yer
nobody knows

for she knows the devil ooch
the devil ouch
the devil
ach the great

--e.e. cummings

New Addition to Blog Roll

Peggy Deras, CKD, CID, has an excellent blog called Kitchen Exchange with upfront advice about trends and design. Visit it when you can!

Don't Miss Bathroom Blogfest

Bathroom Blogfest goes on all this week; be sure to visit.

Dealer Uses Poll to Promote Kitchen & Bath Month

How can retailers mark National Kitchen & Bath Month? Pamela Polvere Designs, an upscale kitchen and bath studio that serves the Oak Park and River Forest area of IL, found a novel way: a survey that asked residents and visitors kitchen- and bathroom-related questions.
“We wanted to engage the entire community in a fun, memorable way,” said Polvere, a longtime Oak Park resident. “Kitchens play such a central role in our homes and we thought this would stir up some thought-provoking conversations about our values and preferences.”
For the “Who’s Coming To Dinner?” portion of the survey, people were asked who they would invite to a dinner party. From among more than 100 respondents, Barack Obama gained 31 votes, tops among six well-known men. He was followed by Bono (25), Stephen Colbert (15), George Clooney (13), President Bush (11) and filmmaker Michael Moore (10).
Meanwhile, Winfrey would have to share a seat at the table with fellow talk-show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. Both received 28 votes. They easily outpaced four celebrity rivals: Hillary Clinton (19), Rachael Ray (11), Angelina Jolie (10), and Faith Hill (7).
A bathroom-related question asked, “If you were locked in a bathroom for five hours, what would you miss the most—and the least—between a telephone, a radio, a television, the Internet, and a good book?” By a wide margin, “a good book” would be missed the most, while people cited television as something they could most readily live without.

Masco Sales Dip 7% in Third Quarter

Net sales at Masco Corp. declined 7% in the third quarter of 2007 compared to the same period last year, to $3.1 billion. North American sales dipped 11%, while international sales increased 13%, due to stronger European economies, market share gains and the favorable effect of currency translation.
Quarter to quarter, sales of cabinets and related products slipped 11%; plumbing products sales increased 4%; and installation and other services declined 15%.
The conglomerate reduced its full-year 2007 housing starts estimate to approximately 1.35 million from 1.4 million and expects further declines in housing starts over the next several quarters. In addition, Masco continues to see a moderation in consumer spending for certain "big ticket" home improvement items, such as cabinets, and currently estimates that its fourth quarter and full-year 2007 sales will decline mid-to-high single digits compared with the same periods in 2006.

October Consumer Confidence Dips 9%

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which has been dipping since August, fell again in October to 95.6 (1985=100), down 4.2% from September and down 9.0% from October of last year.
Said Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: "Consumer confidence posted its third monthly decline and continues to hover at two-year lows (Oct. 2005, 85.2). Further weakening in business conditions has, yet again, tempered consumers' assessment of current-day conditions and may very well be a prelude to lackluster job growth in the months ahead. In addition, consumers are growing more pessimistic about the short-term future and their rather bleak outlook suggests a less than stellar ending to this year.".
Consumers' short-term expectations eroded in October. Consumers expecting business conditions to worsen in the next six months rose to 13.8% while consumers expecting their incomes to increase in the months ahead declined moderately to 19.6%.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Minneapolis, Seattle, Hartford Top Sites for Remodeling Opportunity

Where are the hottest markets for residential remodeling in 2008?
Ducker Worldwide has launched a custom proprietary Metropolitan Service Area (MSA) Remodeling Program which identifies both singular and a combination of MSA’s with the most opportunity for residential remodeling, taking into account factors such as home equity loans, age of homes, historic activity, product sales mix and other determinants.
The top six markets are:
--Minneapolis, MN;
--Seattle, WA;
--Hartford, CT;
--Sacramento, CA;
--Harrisburg, York, Hanover, PA; and
--Detroit, Monroe, Ann Arbor, MI.

September New Home Sales Dip 23%

Sales of new homes in September fell 23.3% from the same month last year to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 770,000 units, according to the most recent figures from the Census Bureau. The figure was reported by some news outlets as an increase; but while the month’s figure was 4.8% higher than the pace for the previous month, the August rate had been adjusted downward from 795,000 units a year to 735,000.
Through the first three quarters of the year, some 639,000 new homes have been sold, down 23.5% from the same period of 2006. Builders have an 8.3-month inventory of unsold homes at the current pace.
The median sales price for a new home in September was $238,000.

Half of NKBA Showrooms Plan Promo for 2008

Two-thirds of NKBA retailers surveyed recently have showrooms, and 53% of those who do have promotional events planned in them for 2008. An open house is the most popular event, with 76% of respondents taking that route. Almost 29% are holding a product demonstration, 16.8% plan a cooking class, 8.8% will have a celebrity appearance, 16.0% haven’t yet decided on the type of event; and 24.8% have some other sort, including giveaways, clinics and seminars.
Roughly one out of every three respondents exhibits at local home shows, and those who do exhibit at an average of two such shows. Nearly 80% build their booths themselves, about 15% buy or rent pre-fab booths, and just under 6% buy custom-made booths. Average amount spent is $1,617, although 30.3% spend more than $2,500 on their home show booths.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

September Existing Home Sales Dive 19%

Sales of existing homes in September slipped 19.1% from the same month in 2006 to a seasonally adjusted annually adjusted rate of 5.04 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors. The mark was 8.0% under August’s revised pace.
Single family existing home sales in September fell 19.8% from the same month last year to a rate of 4.38 million units annually.
The median existing home price for the month was $211,700, down 4.2% from September, 2006.
Mortgage problems were peaking back in August when many of the September closings were being negotiated, and that slowed sales notably in higher priced areas that rely more on jumbo loans,” Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist said. “The good news is that mortgage availability has markedly improved in recent weeks with interest rates on jumbo loans falling, and more people are applying for safer and conforming FHA mortgage products. Some of the cancelled transactions will move forward as buyers apply for other loans.”
There was a 10.5 months inventory of existing homes for sale at the end of September, 43.8% higher than the same month in 2006.
According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 6.38% in September from 6.57% in August; the rate was 6.40% in September 2006.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Average Age of Home Now 33 Years

Why will remodeling remain strong in the next few years despite the slump in new housing? Qualified Remodeler explains in its media kit that the average age of the American home is now 33 years, spurring the need for home improvements. As homes age, the annual expenditure for repair and improvement also rises.
According to the Homeownership Alliance, as quoted by QR, the average age of the American home will be 37 years by the year 2013.

Kitchen/Bath Firms Are Hiring

Some 60.2% of NKBA member firms expect to hire new employees in the next eighteen months, and 59.8% have hired new employees in the past year and a half. That’s according to a new survey on hiring practices. Some 65.4% of companies polled have hired at least one employee to do kitchen/bath design and sales, and starting salary for that employee averaged $39,979. Average sales volume for respondents was just under $3 million. The average kitchen ticket for respondents was $41,035 and the average bath was $16,598.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Paging Johnny Weismuller…

Mandi Mankvitz returns from the wilds of Cersaie with news of animal-print sinks, tiles and vanities…

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Construction Weekly Earnings Up 4.8% in September

Weekly earnings for construction workers in September increased 4.8% over the same month in 2006 to $838.04, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average hourly earnings for the period were up 4.5% to $17.31.
Average weekly earnings for all workers were up 5.2% during that span, to $602.95 in September. Average hourly earnings for all workers were up 4.3% in September to $17.63.

SEC Targets Stock Sales by Countrywide CEO

The Securities & Exchange Commission is investigating Countrywide Financial Corp.'s Angelo R. Mozilo, who sold $130 million worth of stock in the ailing mortgage lender in the first half of the year. Mozilo allegedly changed the terms of his prearranged 10b5-1 trading plan to allow increased sales of his stock. The company's shares have plunged by more than half their value this year, and thousands of employees have been laid off.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Harvard Sees Flat Times for Remodeling

Back from the Fall meeting of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, where the camera battery was dead and the news was somewhat downbeat.
Home remodeling is going to go from strong growth to little or no growth over the next few quarters. The group projects a 2.3% decline in remodeling spending in the fourth quarter of this year from the same quarter in 2006, with a further year-to-year decline of 2.5% in the first quarter of 2008, and another 4.2% drop in the second quarter of next year.
The growth in remodeling spending began to ease in the third quarter of last year, as households began to see better value in more moderately priced remodeling projects. A joint study by Remodeling magazine and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry found that mid-priced improvements and replacements have had a better payback recently than more expensive upscale projects. During 2007, upscale kitchen remodeling jobs are returning 74% of their cost as increased home value, versus 78% for mid-priced kitchens. Mid-price bath remodeling jobs are also returning 78% in cost vs. value, versus 68% for upscale bath remodeling jobs.
Among danger signs for home remodeling: the broader residential downturn shows no sign of reversing. Home sales are declining, and home prices are falling in many markets. Homeowners are taking less equity out of their homes; the amount of equity cashed out nationwide, which had driven much of the remodeling surge in recent years, has dropped from $101 billion in the second quarter of 2006 to just $46 billion in the fourth quarter of this year, according to Freddie Mac.

Starts Plummet in September

Housing starts fell to the lowest level in 14 years during September, according to the latest numbers from the Census Bureau. September starts hit a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.19 million units, down 30.8% from the same month in 2006. Single family starts were at an anemic 963,000-unit pace, also 30.8% below September 2006.
Through the first three quarters of 2007, nearly 1.08 million homes were started, down 25.2% from the same period of 2006. About 859,000 single family homes have been started in the first nine months of 2007, down 27.7% from the same period in 2006.
Permits were issued in September at a 1.23 million unit pace, down 25.9% from the annualized rate in September, 2006. Single family home permits dipped 28.6% during the month to a rate of 868,000 units per year.
NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders found a gleam of silver behind the dark cloud: “While there’s no question that the housing downswing continues to be played out in markets across the country, today’s numbers show that builders are pulling back on production until sales improve. This is exactly what our latest builder surveys have told us. We do expect some additional downward movement in housing production going into next year, at which point starts should begin to stabilize as sales turn upward in the second quarter.”

Friday, October 12, 2007


Sim Jae-Duck of South Korea is building a $1.6 million dollar toilet-shaped house designed to promote his campaign to provide residents of poor countries with decent sanitary facilities.

Sim will open what is billed as the world's one and only toilet house (there are probably others, but no-one's bragging about them) on November 11 to mark the launch of his World Toilet Association.

The 4,500-sq.-ft home is being built in the city of Suweon and will be called Haewoojae, meaning "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries." It will be available to rent for $50,000 a day.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, it is estimated that over 2.6 billion people in the world today are without any form of "improved sanitation".

Thursday, October 11, 2007

September Foreclosures Dip From August Levels

Foreclosures in September were down 8% from August to 223,538 filings, according to online marketplace RealtyTrac. However, the number was still the second highest total ever, and almost double the number of filings in September of 2006.
"It’s too early to tell if September’s numbers represent a one-month lull or if they could signify that more buyers and investors are getting back in the market and snatching up discounted foreclosure properties, thereby providing a release valve for distressed homeowners and overwhelmed lenders," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.
The national foreclosure rate for the month was one foreclosure filing for every 557 households.
The Wall Street Journal has published a handy interactive map detailing the scope of the sub-prime crisis.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Canadian Starts Up in September

Housing starts in Canada for September were up 19.6% over August to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 278,200 units, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The mark was 0.2% higher than levels for September of last year.
“The rise in September housing starts reflects a strong multiple starts segment,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. “In particular, the robust results achieved this month can be mostly attributed to increased condominium starts, which reflect strong condo sales over the past 12 to 24 months. Despite this sizeable growth in September, we continue to expect that housing starts will decrease gradually between now and the end of 2008.”

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Facts About Your ZIP Code

Here's a really cool site that will give you detailed demographic info from the Census Bureau about any ZIP Code, including the number of housing units, the median household income, the income distribution, etc. also lets you compare up to 20 ZIP Codes at once.

Friday, October 5, 2007

And You Thought There Was Nothing On...

HGTV will recap K/BIS 2007 and also highlight what's new in the industry. It will feature the new NKBA consumer commercial, which informs consumers about the benefits of working with NKBA pros .
Times are:
October 7, 2007 at 9:00 PM ET/PT
October 8, 2007 at 1:00 AM ET/PT
October 14, 2007 at 5:00 PM ET/PT
October 17, 2007 at 11:00 AM ET/PT

Forbes Names Weakest and Strongest Housing Markets identifies the 10 weakest housing markets in the U.S. and the ten strongest.

Construction Jobs Slip Slightly in September

There were some 7.61 million construction jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, down 0.2% from August, but up 1% from September, 2006. The unemployment rate nationwide was essentially unchanged at 4.7%. Average hourly earnings during the month were $17.57, up 0.4% from the previous month and up 4.3% from September of last year.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

50 years ago today...

Human beings made the first baby steps beyond the planet earth with Sputnik.

If you'd like to see some of Sputnik's great grandchildren tonight, here's how.

"And YOU want to be my latex salesman"

What can you learn from Seinfeld about marketing your business or services? Marketing guru Bill Gammell tells us.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cancelled Mortgages Drop August Pending Home Sales by 22%

The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Index for August fell 21.5% from the same month in 2006 to a low of 85.5 (100 = the 2001 level of sales). It was the lowest level ever for the measure, which began in 2001.
Fewer contracts were being written because of mortgage availability issues, and a separate internal survey of our members shows more than 10% of sales contracts fell through at the last moment in August, primarily the result of canceled loan commitments,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist. “The volume of activity we’re seeing today is below sustainable market fundamentals because some creditworthy people are trying to buy homes but can’t because of the credit crunch.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ultimate Electronics Adds Home Appliances

The Ultimate Electronics chain has added between 8,000 and 10,000 sq. ft. to its two stores in Oklahoma City, and has begun selling washers, dryers, refrigerators, above-range microwaves, ranges, ovens and dishwashers. Brands include General Electric, Whirlpool, Maytag, Frigidaire, KitchenAid, LG, Bosch, Electrolux, Hotpoint, Amana, Jenn-Air, and Broan. The chain will introduce white goods into its remaining 29 stores early next year.

New Home Sales Plummet 21%

Sales of new homes fell 21.2% in August from the same month in 2006, to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 795,000 units, according to the Census Bureau. Through the first eight months of 2007, some 595,000 new homes have been sold, 21.2% behind 2006's pace. The mark was the lowest since June, 2000.
The median sales price of a new home during the month was $225,700, down 7.5% from the median price in August, 2006.

KB Home Revenues Drop 32% in Quarter

KB Home reported a sales plunge during its fiscal third quarter ending August 31. Revenue fell 32% from the same period in 2006 to $1.54 billion, the number of sales closed dropped 28% to 5,699 units, and the average selling price declined 7% to $267,700.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This Is Why There Ought to Be a Fortress of Solitude

A product write-up for the “superhero” of bathroom products sports an unfortunate adjective, indeed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September Consumer Confidence Index Dips 6%

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, fell 5.8% in September from the same month the year before to 99.8 (1985=100). The mark was 5.5% lower than August’s revised index.
"The Consumer Confidence Index is now at its lowest level in nearly two years,” said Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Weaker business conditions combined with a less favorable job market continue to cast a cloud over consumers and heighten their sense of uncertainty and concern. Looking ahead, little economic improvement is expected and with the holiday season around the corner this is not welcome news."
Some 20.4% of consumers polled expect their incomes to increase over the next six months.

Existing Home Sales Tumbled 13% in August

Sales of existing homes fell 12.8% in August compared to the same month in 2006, to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.5 million units, according to the most recent figures from the National Association of Realtors. Existing single family home sales dropped 13.0% from August 2006 to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.81 million homes.
Total housing inventory rose 0.4% at the end of August to 4.58 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.0-month supply at the current sales pace. That number will grow over the next few months, as foreclosures grow and consumers with adjustable rate mortgages that reset to higher payments than they can afford will sell their homes.
“The unusual disruptions in the mortgage market, including a significant rise in jumbo loan rates, resulted in a fairly high number of postponed or cancelled sales, with many buyers having to search for other financing when loan commitments fell through,” Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist said. “Lower sales contributed to a buildup of unsold inventory.” Yun expects similar results for home sales in September.

Lennar Revenues Down 44% in Third Quarter

Lennar Corp., one of the nation’s largest home builders, reported revenues for the third quarter of 2007 of $2.3 billion, down 44% from the same period last year. The company’s third quarter net loss in 2007 was $513.9 million, compared to third quarter net earnings of $206.7 million in 2006.
The builder had new orders for 5,804 new homes, down 48% from the third quarter of last year, and a cancellation rate of 32%. It has laid off 35% of its workforce to date.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dribs and Drabs for Friday

Masco has cut its 2007 earnings expectations. It now expects $1.55-$1.60 a share, down from $1.60-$1.70, and forecasts 2007 housing starts in the 1.35 million unit range, down from an earlier 1.40 million forecast. The conglomerate predicts a single-digit drop in fourth quarter sales.

The dollar hit a new low versus the euro, and now has parity with the Canadian dollar for the first time since November, 1976.

The subprime crisis has exceeded even the most pessimistic estimates, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told the House Committee on Financial Services yesterday. He said that delinquencies and foreclosures are going to rise, and that more homeowners in foreclosure are likely to lose their homes than in normal times, when about half of those foreclosed upon do. The fed plans more consumer protection rules later this year.

Interactive art done well: The Wall Street Journal has published a map of US delinquencies and housing prices.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New "Healthy Homes" Resource Available

Available in English or Spanish, Healthy Homes: Assessing Your Indoor Environment is a new manual just released by Cornell University Cooperative Extension. Produced in cooperation with the Healthy Homes Division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Cooperative State Research, Education & Extension Service, this 90-page manual is accompanied by a 20-minute DVD of the same title. Both resources discuss indoor environmental pollutants, their health effects, and mitigation strategies. Free copies are available while supplies last. To order yours, send an e-mail message with your mailing address to Professor Joseph Laquatra at Cornell: Specify if you want the English or Spanish version.

Location Beats Service for Big Box Giants

Although Lowe's ranks higher than Home Depot in product selection and customer service, Home Depot is where consumers spend more due to its store locations, says a new study by Consumer Specialists, a Germantown, TN, marketing research and consulting firm.
Interestingly, consumers spend money at both chains, no matter which they prefer. People who prefer Home Depot spent an average of $763 at Home Depot in the previous six months, while fans of Lowe's spent $454 at Home Depot stores during that period.
Over that span, Lowe's got an average $604 in spending from homeowners who prefer Lowe's, and an average of $322 from customers who actually prefer Home Depot.

Fed Plans Consumer Protection Rules by End of '07

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke tells Congress the Fed will issue new consumer protection rules to help protect consumers following a surge in foreclosures and delinquencies on subprime mortgages. The Fed cut its benchmark interest rate by half a point to 4.75% earlier this week.
C-Span coverage is here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Will the Fed's Rate Cut Turn Around Housing?

The New York Times' David Leonhardt weighs in.

Average Hourly Earnings Up 4% in August

Average hourly earnings were up 3.9% from August 2006 to $17.39 last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure was slightly under July's $17.43. Average weekly earnings in August were up 3.6% year to year to $591.26.
The BLS's Consumer Price Index for August was up 2.0% from August of last year to 207.9 (1982-1984 = 100). Housing prices were up 2.9% year to year, and virtually flat with July figures.

August Starts Dip 19%

Housing starts in August slipped 19.1% from the same month last year to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.33 million units, according to the Census Bureau, with single family starts down 27.1% over that span to a rate of 988,000 units per year.
Permits were down 24.5% to an annualized rate of just under 1.31 million per year, with single family permits down 27.9% to 926,000 units per year.
Through the first eight months of 2007, some 977,900 homes have been started, down 24.3% from the first eight months of 2006, and 779,900 single family homes have been started in that span, a 27.0% drop from last year.

Avast ye!

Today is a great day to make your co-workers think you've lost your mind.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest ’07 to Run during National Kitchen and Bath Month

Stephanie Weaver, Experienceology author and consultant, is leading a group of female bloggers taking a look at women’s bathrooms around the world and posting their findings online. As a tribute to National Kitchen and Bath Month, this group of female bloggers will be posting on Bathroom Blogfest ’07 their observations about “ladies rooms” they encounter and their importance in creating great customer experiences. The Blogfest, which will begin October 28, is the brainchild of Weaver and Susan Abbott, a business consultant and consumer researcher in Toronto.
More information on the event and on the blogs participating will be posted shortly.

More Troubles with American Home Mortgage

Bankrupt lender American Home Mortgage Company is bouncing checks that were supposed to pay the property taxes of more than 70 homeowners in the Baltimore metropolitan area, and Baltimore County has stopped accepting checks from the company. Meanwhile, attorneys for former employees claim the lender is improperly trying to seize $27 million in retirement funds to pay its creditors. American Home Mortgage was the nation’s 10th largest mortgage company until it crashed in midsummer, a victim of the subprime crisis.

August Foreclosures More Than Double

Nearly 244,000 foreclosure proceedings were started in August, according to RealtyTrac, up 115% from August, 2006 levels. The number is 36% higher than July’s number. One in every 510 households was in foreclosure during the month.
“The jump in foreclosure filings this month might be the beginning of the next wave of increased foreclosure activity, as a large number of subprime adjustable rate loans are beginning to reset now,” commented James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. “Another significant factor in the increased level of foreclosure activity is that the number of REO filings (bank repossessions) is increasing dramatically, which means that a greater percentage of homes entering foreclosure are going back to the banks.”
Seven of the top ten states for foreclosure activity in August are in the Sun Belt, with Nevada leading the pack. One in every 165 households in Nevada is in foreclosure.

Ayn Rand Taught That We Must Take Personal Responsibility

Her most famous disciple puts that principle into action.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Building Materials Sales Dip 1.5% Through August

Sales by building material/garden equipment and supply retailers for the first eight months of 2007 hit $242.6 billion, down 1.5% from the same period last year, according to the Commerce Department. Sales in the category for the month dipped less than 1% from July, at just under $31.3 billion.
Sales for electronics and appliance stores increased 3.0% over the eight-month span, to $68.7 billion.

ED+C Plans Indoor Air Quality Webinar

Environmental Design + Construction magazine is planning a free webinar on design strategies to improve indoor air quality on October 11 at 2:00 p.m. Those who sign up will have 12 months to access the information presented.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NAR: No Quick Recovery for Home Sales

Sales of existing homes will bottom out at about 5.92 million units in 2007, down 8.6% from last year’s levels, according to the National Association of Realtors. The group foresees a 5.9% recovery next year, to about 6.27 million existing homes sold.
Existing-home prices are likely to slip 1.7% to a median $218,200 this year before rising 2.2% in 2008 to $223,000.
“The mortgage markets will calm further in the months ahead, but it’s important to underscore the fact that conventional loans – the vast majority of available financing – are available to creditworthy borrowers,” Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist said.
NAR sees new home sales dropping 23.7% this year to 801,000 units, and slipping another 7.5% in 2008 to 741,000 units. The median new-home price is estimated to drop 2.2% to $241,100 in 2007, and then increase 1.7% next year to $245,100.
The group pegs 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 6.4% for the balance of the year and up to the 6.5% range in 2008. “We expect the Fed to cut rates two times before the end of the year, which will lower interest rates for prime borrowers and FHA-insured loans,” Yun said.
Growth in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast by NAR at 2.0% in 2007, and at 2.7% in 2008. The unemployment rate is expected to average 4.6% for 2007, unchanged from last year. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, is predicted to be 2.8% in 2007, while inflation-adjusted disposable personal income is likely to increase 3.6% by the end of 2007

Canadian Starts Dip 4.5% through August

Housing starts in Canada came in higher than expected in August, but the first eight months’ total for 2007 lag behind the same period of 2006 by 4.5%. That’s according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which pegged August’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate at 226,500 units. Said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre, “Despite the increase in August, the pace of housing starts remains consistent with our view that residential construction will decrease gradually between now and the end of 2008.”
CMHC expects there will be 220,000 starts in Canada during 2007 and that starts will cool to 207,200 units next year.

Cocooning, Outdoor Living Likely to Grow More Popular

A survey of more than 1,000 homeowners by the Propane Education & Research Council found that half of all respondents say they are spending more time at home than they were five years ago. Four out of five homeowners said it is very or somewhat important to them to have an outdoor living space where they can relax and entertain, including 89% of homeowners with kids under the age of 18 living at home.
Some 34% of homeowners said they are planning to add or remodel an outdoor room, including 44% of homeowners ages 18-44. Approximately three in five homeowners said it was likely that they would do some home remodeling or renovations in the near future, with 74% of homeowners aged 30-44 planning to do so. Some 53% said they were planning to remodel their kitchen, and 51% said they planned to design and furnish an outdoor room.
When it comes to outfitting that outdoor room, 94% of homeowners said they were likely to include outdoor lighting units and 86% said they would have a gas grill. Nearly 80% also were likely to include mosquito eliminators; 67% were likely to include an outdoor fireplace or pit; and just over half (53%) were likely to include patio heaters.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kitchen, bath lead home buyers’ improvement projects

About six out of ten consumers who bought a home between late 2005 and early 2007 took on a remodeling project within three months of the purchase, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.
The 2007 Profile of Buyers' Home Feature Preferences found that the average amount spent on home improvement projects in that period was $4,350. Nearly half of those home buyers remodeled or made improvements to their kitchens, and about half improved or remodeled a bathroom.
More than 90% of buyers thought energy efficiency was an important consideration. Buyers said they would be willing to pay extra (more than $2,000) for a home with two or more full bathrooms.
The typical home purchased in the study was 12 years old, measured 1,840 sq. ft., and had two bathrooms.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Job Market Still Weak; Job Losses Grow for Sector

Nearly 100,000 construction jobs have been lost since September of last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. August saw some 22,000 construction jobs lost, most of which were in the specialty trades, including the kitchen and bath industry.
Employment has stalled overall at about 44,000 jobs a month for the past three months. The national unemployment rate held at 4.6% with a net 4,000 jobs lost during the month and the average hourly earnings increased a nickel during August to $17.50. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 3.9%.

1 in 20 Mortgages Now Delinquent

Late payments are plaguing the housing market. Delinquency on residential mortgages hit 5.1% of all loans in the second quarter of 2007, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Delinquency Survey. The rate does not include mortgages in foreclosure. About 1.4% of all mortgages are in the foreclosure process, and 0.7% went into foreclosure during the quarter.
“While the seriously delinquent rate for prime fixed loans was essentially unchanged from the first quarter of the year to the second, and the rate actually fell for subprime fixed rate loans, that rate increased 36 basis points for prime ARM loans and 227 basis points for subprime loans,” noted Doug Duncan, MBA’s Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research and Business Development.
MBA notes that four states, California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, are where most of the problems are concentrated.
According to the MBA, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 6.42%; 15-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged at 6.10%; and one-year ARMs increased to 6.52%.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Kiss Your Astrodome Goodbye

Ameriquest Capital, once so successful that it held naming rights to the Texas Rangers’ stadium in Arlington, has shut its doors, another victim of the subprime mortgage crisis. Ameriquest once held a $65 billion portfolio; the remnants have been bought by Citigroup.
This year so far, Quality Home Loans Inc., Home Banc Corp., American Home Mortgage Investment Corp., New Century Financial Corp. and Alliance Bancorp have all filed for bankruptcy.
It is estimated that some 2 million adjustable rate mortgages will reset before the end of the year, and many homeowners may have trouble meeting higher payments.

July Residential Construction Spending Dips 16%

The value of private residential construction put in place tumbled 16.1% in July, according to a report from the Census Bureau. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for the month was $534.0 billion for the month, down 1.4% from June's pace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reuters: Construction Job Losses May Top 1 Million

A report from Reuters warns that if the housing crisis tips the economy into recession, as many as 1 million jobs in construction may be lost, based on historical performance.

The report notes that 75,000 jobs have been lost to date from the 7.7 milion employed by the sector in September of last year. That's an unemployment rate for construction of 5.9%, compared to 4.6% for the economy overall.

August Consumer Confidence Index Slips From July

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index slipped to 105.0 in August (1985 = 100), down 6.2% from the revised July levels, but up 4.8% from August, 2006’s mark.
Said Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: "A softening in business conditions and labor market conditions has curbed consumers' confidence this month. In addition, the volatility in financial markets and continued sub-prime housing woes may have played a role in dampening consumers' spirits. But, despite less favorable conditions and in spite of all the recent turmoil, consumers still remain confident. And, current Index levels suggest further economic growth in the months ahead."
Consumers were less upbeat in August than in July. Those claiming conditions are "good" decreased to 26.4%, while those saying conditions are "bad" increased to 16.3%. Consumers were also less positive in their appraisal of the labor market. Those saying jobs are "hard to get" increased to 19.7%. Those saying jobs are "plentiful" dipped to 27.5%.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Home Sales Remain Soft in July

Existing home sales for July dipped 9.0% from the same month in 2006 to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.75 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors. That figure was virtually flat with sales for June.
Single family existing home sales hit a yearly pace of 5 million homes in July, down 9.3% from July of 2006. Through seven months, some 3.5 million existing homes have been sold.
Average price of an existing home in July was $228,900, virtually flat (-0.6%) with the same month last year.
Sales of new single family homes in July were down 10.2% from July, 2006, to a seasonally adjusted annualized pace of 870,000 units, according to the Census Bureau. Median price reported for a single family new home during the month was $239,500, up 0.6% from the same month last year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Trends at ISH 2007

A good look at some of the faucets and fixtures on display at ISH 2007 in Frankfurt can be found in Volume 11 of the newsletter from Sphere Trending. Among products featured are interactive faucets from Hansa and Grohe. The newsletter also has a report from this spring's K/BIS in Vegas, NeoCon, and the Creativity in Retail Design show in Tokyo.
Sphere Trending works in the kitchen, bath and home improvement industries, among others. Its blog has been added to "Sites to See" at right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Canadian Existing Home Sales To Jump 8% This Year

The Canadian Real Estate Association has upgraded its forecast for 2007 to 523,100 units, up 8.1% from last year, and expects new records for existing home sales to be set in most provinces. Average price of a home in Canada is expected to jump 10.4% to $305,900 (Cn).

The group predicts a slight decline of 2% in 2008 to a still-healthy 512,705 homes sold. Existing home prices in Canada are forecast to be up another 5.5% next year to $322,700 (Cn).
CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump noted, “Resale housing activity was a juggernaut in the second quarter of 2007. Record breaking sales activity in the first and second quarters forced The Canadian Real Estate Association to revise its forecast upward. Home buying sentiment remains upbeat in all regions and mortgage financing is still within reach for many potential home buyers,”

Americans' Average 2005 Incomes Drooped For Fifth Consecutive Year

A report in the New York Times notes that the average income for Americans in 2005 was $55,238, the fifth consecutive year it was less than the average $55,714 in 2000. The paper notes that "income listed on tax returns grew every year after World War II, with a single one-year exception, until 2001, making the five-year period of lower average incomes and four years of lower total incomes a new experience for the majority of Americans born since 1945." Nearly half of Americans have incomes under $30,000; two-thirds make less than $50,000.

July Foreclosures Up 93% Year-toYear

A new report by RealtyTrac shows nearly 180,000 foreclosures around the country in July, up 93% from the same month last year. There was one foreclosure for every 693 households during the month.
"California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Georgia accounted for more than half of the nation’s total foreclosure filings,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.
The firm reported that Detroit had a 70% increase in foreclosures from June to July, with one foreclosure filing for every 97 households. That's more than seven times the national average and highest among the 229 metro areas tracked in the RealtyTrac report.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lowe's Second Quarter Sales Up 5.8%

Sales of home improvement giant Lowe's increased 5.8% in the second quarter of this year over last, to $14.2 billion. The increase was mostly from the addition of 26 new stores; same store sales for the period were off by 2.6%. Sales for the year to date hit $26.3 billion, up 4.1% over the same period of 2006; same store sales for the half slipped 4.4%.
Lowe's now has 1,424 stores in 49 states totalling 162 million square feet of retail selling space, an 11.1% increase over last year. It expects to open 40 stores in the third quarter.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fed Cuts Prime Rate

The Federal Reserve Board has cut the primary rate to 5 ¾%. According to a statement, “Financial market conditions have deteriorated, and tighter credit conditions and increased uncertainty have the potential to restrain economic growth going forward. In these circumstances, although recent data suggest that the economy has continued to expand at a moderate pace, the Federal Open Market Committee judges that the downside risks to growth have increased appreciably.”
In other bad news, published reports say Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, suffered a thirties-style bank run on Thursday, as anxious depositors rushed to withdraw their savings on news that the lender had to borrow $11.5 billion to stay afloat.

Starts Dip to Lowest Level in Ten Years

Home builders last month started the fewest number of homes since January of 1997, with starts down 20.9% from July, 2006, to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.38 million units, according to the Census Bureau.
Single-family housing starts were down 25.4% for the month year-to-year to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million units, the lowest rate since December, 1996, but multi-family starts were virtually flat with July, 2006 at a 311,000-unit pace.
Through seven months, some 859,100 homes have been started across the country, 25.0% below the number through seven months of last year.
Nor is there much good news on the horizon. Building permits in July dropped 22.6% compared with July, 2006, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.37 million units, the lowest since September, 1996. Single-family permits dropped 24.0% in July year-to-year to a rate of just over one million units, with multi-family permits down 18.7% to 370,000 units.
“While there is no immediate rebound in sight, NAHB is currently expecting new-home sales to stabilize by the end of this year and housing starts to stabilize by the middle of 2008,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “We expect overall economic conditions, including solid job and income growth, to continue to be supportive of housing. Furthermore, we expect interest rates in government-related components of the mortgage market to remain favorable on a historical basis and we’re assuming that other parts of the housing finance system will regain footing before long. Downside risks definitely surround the latter assumption.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Remember This, Next Time You Watch the McLaughlin Group

A recent study shows two out of every five people flushes the toilet with their feet to avoid germs, according to manufacturer Foot Flush.

The company offers a pedal-operated flushing device in two models, one shaped like a bare plastic foot. The gizmo has won several awards, including the 2007 ADEX Award for Design Excellence

Home Depot Reports Second Quarter Sales Dip

Home Depot reported second quarter sales of $22.2 billion, down 1.8% from the same period of the previous fiscal year. Subtracting sales from new stores, that works out to about a 5.2% drop, store to store.
Earnings for the Atlanta-based home center giant dipped 15.7% in the quarter to $1.6 billion. The chain is still in talks with investors over the proposed sale of HD Supply, its wholesale distribution business.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Trouble in the Mortgage Market for 2008?

Bloomberg is reporting that a leading real estate investment trust is forecasting higher default rates for subprime mortgages during 2008.
"Late payments of at least 90 days, foreclosures and holdings of seized property among so-called Alt-A mortgages in bonds will probably rise to 3.92 percent in May 2008, from 2.69 percent in May 2007 and 0.89 percent a year earlier, Michael Youngblood, the top mortgage-bond analyst at Arlington, Virginia-based Friedman Billings wrote in an Aug. 3 report. "
Late payments and foreclosures will rise to 0.53% of prime mortgages (from 0.22% two years ago) and a record 14.6% of sub-prime mortgages (from 6.72% two years ago).
In other mortgage-related news, Bear Stearns jettisoned its co-president Warren Spector after two of its mortgage investment hedge funds collapsed. Last week, Bank of America characterized the collapse as "isolated incidents."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I Don't Want to See the One That Got Away...

Here is a product to turn that bathroom into a unique experience...

In the "I'd rather not know more about this, either" department, the website promises, "Fish 'n Flush provides a dual-filter system, making it safe for children."

Money Magazine Takes On the Housing Slump

A good round-up of economists' views on what the sub-prime meltdown means for the overall economy, from the optimistic (Consumers don't really care much about changes in housing prices or, for that matter, in the stock market) to the catastrophic (huge losses in the housing market with home prices falling by half in some areas) here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reuters: American Home Mortgage May Fold

Reuters is reporting that lender American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. may fold, unable to fund its mortgage loans. The company commanded about 2 1/2% of the U.S. mortgage market. The company's stock has stopped trading, and closed last Friday at 1.32, down from 36.36 at the end of 2006.

The Paperless Office

Try not to think about this when you hit "send": According to a recent study by AOL, 53% of Americans with wireless devices have checked their e-mail while they were in the bathroom...

Consumer Confidence Hits Six-Year High

Some good news for a change...

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which had dipped in June, rebounded in July. The Index now stands at 112.6 (1985=100), up from 105.3 in June.
Says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: "Looking ahead, consumers are more upbeat about short-term economic prospects, mainly the result of a decline in the number of pessimists, not an increase in the number of optimists. This rebound in confidence suggests economic activity may gather a little momentum in the coming months."

Friday, July 27, 2007

NAHB Drops 2007-8 Start Forecast

National Association of Home Builders chief economist David Seiders has slashed his forecast for the housing market further to 1.42 million for 2007 and 1.45 million for 2008. Seiders says the home building recession will end in the later part of the fourth quarter of 2007 or in early 2008, but he does not think total housing starts will get back to the 1.95 million unit-level until 2010 or 2011.
He projects single-family starts to level off at 1.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2007 and build back to 1.5 million units in 2010 or 2011.
Seiders says he doesn’t think the Fed will cut its target rate in 2007 or 2008, or that there will be a surge in job growth. A typical housing recession is overcome by one of these two factors. Neither is present today nor on the horizon, Seiders says.