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Biometrics OEM files for bankruptcy

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Orlando, Fla.-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Sequiam has filed for bankruptcy reorganization in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, according to the Orlando Business Journal.

The company recently received a licensing agreement with Black & Decker to provide biometric door locks for the company’s Kwikset division. Still, the manufacturer’s stock dwindled to around 2 cents per share recently.

The company said it accumulated $30 million in debt over the past six years on research and development, according to the report. It also said that an investor failed to honor a March 2007 agreement to advance the company $800,000.

Company founder and CEO Nick VandenBrekel recently resigned for personal reasons.

The company said it will continue to conduct business while the filing and reorganization takes place.

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Home Depot makes $30 million pledge to Habitat for Humanity

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot has announced a five-year, $30 million donation to Habitat for Humanity, part of a national green building initiative through the retailer’s Partners in Sustainable Building. The program will provide funding and resources with the aim of building 5,000 “energy-efficient and sustainable homes” by Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

The $30 million pledge includes financial, in-kind support, technical resources and training costs to “establish a foundation of green building expertise that will impact Habitat builds for years to come.” Green certification will be determined by third-party, nationally recognized groups that provide green building standards, and the funding will help Habitat affiliates secure verification in their respective regions. In addition to energy efficiency, the homes will also be rated for indoor air quality and water conservation standards.

The Home Depot Foundation’s Partners in Sustainable Building program will provide energy-efficient and sustainable building resources for approximately 17 percent of all single- and multi-family homes built by Habitat for Humanity over the next five years, according to the company.

“Our organization supports the construction of homes for families that are healthy to live in and affordable to own,” said Kelly Caffarelli, president of the Home Depot Foundation. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Habitat to create additional opportunities for thousands of families of modest means to experience the economic and health benefits of green building practices. We believe that the impact of this program will be far-reaching and will add to the long-term success of families and communities across the country.”

Green building has been the hottest topic of late in the construction industry, as highlighted at February’s International Builders’ Show, which saw the unveiling of a new green building initiative by the National Association of Home Builders.

The Home Depot/Habitat partnership will kick off with a one-year pilot program, including approximately 30 Habitat affiliates in a variety of climates and in rural and urban areas, “to best gauge the impact of the program,” the company said.

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Existing-home sales show gains in February

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Existing-home sales, including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million units in February from a pace of 4.89 million in January, according to the National Association of Realtors, a “notable gain” after several months of dropping numbers.

Sales remained 23.8 percent below the 6.60 million-unit level in February 2007.

“We’re not expecting a notable gain in existing-home sales until the second half of this year, but the improvement is another sign that the market is stabilizing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 11.3 percent to an annual pace of 890,000, but are 26.4 percent below February 2007. In the Midwest, sales rose 2.5 percent to a level of 1.24 million, but are 19.5 percent below a year ago. In the South, sales increased 2.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million, a 22 percent decline from February 2007. And in the West, sales slipped 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 920,000, 29.2 percent below a year ago.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $195,900 in February, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier when the median was $213,500.

Half of the metro areas in the United States experienced price increases, with healthy gains in markets like Oklahoma City and Trenton, N.J. In other areas, such as Sacramento, a rapid price decline has induced buyers to come into the market, and sales are now rising, Yun said.

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