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. ZIPSkinny.com 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

Forbes.com 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.”