Builder confidence back up
Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes reached its highest level since May 2007, reaching a level of 29 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This is a gain of five points from the previous month, which was downwardly revised.
"Builders in many markets are reporting that buyer traffic and sales have picked back up after a pause this April," said Barry Rutenberg, NAHB chairman and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "It seems we have resumed the gradual upward trend in confidence that started at the beginning of this year, as stabilizing prices and excellent affordability encourage more people to pursue a new-home purchase."
NAHB chief economist David Crowe said: "While home building still has quite a way to go toward a fully healthy market, the fact that the HMI has returned to trend is an excellent sign that firming home values, improving employment and low mortgage rates are drawing consumers back." However, builder and consumer access to credit, inaccurate appraisals and rising materials prices remain “significant impediments,” Crowe said.
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number higher than 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
Three out of four regions registered improving builder sentiment in May. This included a six-point gain to 32 in the Northeast and five-point gains to 27 and 28 in the Midwest and South, respectively. The West posted a two-point decline to 29.
Shoplifting suspect walks into police stakeout
A Bronx, N.Y., man whom police believe was stashing Home Depot merchandise in a garden center trash can — and then fetching it after the store was closed — has been arrested, according to an article on NorthJersey.com.
John Hussain, 49, was already under surveillance by store personnel when he entered a Home Depot store on May 9, put items in a black trash bag and stuffed them in the trash can in the store’s garden center. Hussain had allegedly done the same thing on May 2, returning to the store after it closed, cutting a hole in the bottom of the fence and retrieving the items. Security cameras captured the incident on tape, and police developed a description of the suspect and his car, a black Lexus.
According to authorities, police spotted the black Lexus and the suspect on the evening of May 9 outside the same store. Police set up a stake-out before closing, and at 10:20 the suspect arrived in the Lexus and was later apprehended with a black trash bag containing a Delta faucet valued at $218, police said.
Hussain was charged with possession of burglary tools, shoplifting, and criminal mischief, the latter stemming from damage to the store’s fence. Additional charges from the May 2 burglar were also added.
Hussain was jailed, and bail was set at $25,000. The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration Department was notified and may place a detainer against Hussain in light of warrants on felonies from New York relating to burglary and theft, authorities said.
LEED Volume program casts wide net
A new program by the U.S. Green Building Council may multiply the number of LEED-certified retail outlets, restaurants and hotels by making it easier for developers to get their projects pre-certified. An article in The Green Source explains how the recently introduced LEED Volume program establishes a prototype for certification, allowing such chains as Starbucks, Marriott and Kohl’s to build locations within a tightly controlled set of LEED credits and designs. These buildings, which can be located anywhere in the United States, do not require individual certification to gain LEED status. The minimum “batch” a company can pre-certify is 25.
Proponents point to the streamlining of paperwork; supply chain efficiencies; and the elimination of costly architects, designers and consultants. One example given was PNC Financial Services Group, which purchased and stored 10 buildings’ worth of certified plywood to take advantage of volume buying.
The USGBC said it is now developing a LEED-based set of metrics that can be applied to existing buildings to improve performance and bring them into the certification stream.