Consumers prefer contractor referrals
A national survey of homeowners who have hired contractors for home improvement projects showed a strong preference for personal recommendations, with 42 percent using a contractor they found through a family or friend. Another 28 percent hired someone they had used on previous projects, while 7 percent found contractors through the Yellow Pages.
Retailers who provide installation services were utilized by 7 percent of the respondents. But overall, respondents gave home improvement stores low marks for project satisfaction. Only the Yellow Pages ranked slightly lower when comparing project satisfaction to how the contractor was found.
“Surprisingly, those who used a home improvement store-provided contractor did about the same as those who used advertising as the way they found their contractor,” said Fred Miller, president of Consumer Specialists, a marketing consulting firm based in Germantown, Tenn. He noted that independent referrals got the highest satisfaction ratings from survey respondents.
The full study, called “In the Beginning,” looks at how homeowners approach the critical starting period in home improvement projects and what resources they utilize.
Acuity Brands acquires Mark Architectural Lighting
Acuity Brands, maker and marketer of lighting products under names including Lithonia and Peerless, has acquired Edison, N.J.-based Mark Architectural Lighting. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Mark Architectural Lighting is a high-end manufacturer of lighting products primarily in the Northeast, and particularly in the metropolitan New York market. The company had sales of more than $22 million in 2006.
“This acquisition is part of our broader strategy to enhance our service to the architectural community, particularly in New York City,” said Vernon Nagel, chairman, president and CEO of Acuity Brands.
Scott Coppola, vp and general manager of the Center for Light and Space, the company’s recently opened sales and marketing office in New York, said Mark Architectural Lighting has been growing “rapidly” over the past few years.
“We determined the best way to sustain that growth was to access new resources,” he said.
Acuity Brands is a provider of fixtures under brands including Hydrel, Holophane, American Electric Lighting and Gotham. The company had net sales of $2.4 billion last year.
Permit activity falls sharply in June
While housing starts rose slightly last month, the number of housing permits issued in June fell sharply, according to figures released by the Commerce Department.
Housing starts rose 2.3 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.467 million. Total building permits fell 7.5 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.406 million units and were down 25.2 percent from a year earlier.
“The small overall increase in total housing starts does not signal the end of the housing downswing,” said National Association of Home Builders chief economist David Seiders. “All of the gain occurred on the multi-family side, which is subject to sizeable month-to-month volatility.”
Starts of new single-family homes slipped by 0.2 percent during June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.151 million units, 21.6 percent below a year earlier.
Multi-family housing starts, on the other hand, increased 12.5 percent during the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 316,000, which was 9.7 percent below the rate of June 2006.
Total building permits fell 7.5 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.406 million units and were down 25.2 percent from a year earlier.
Single-family permit issuance last month fell 4.1 percent to 1.019 million units, 27.5 percent below a year earlier, while multi-family permits declined 15.3 percent to 387,000 units, which was 18.4 percent below the annual rate set in June 2006.
Regionally, starts of new homes and apartments in June were up 9 percent in the West and 2.4 percent in the South, following sharp declines in May. Starts were down 3.7 percent in the Midwest and 2.4 percent in the Northeast. All four regions experienced a construction pace that was down substantially from a year earlier.