Existing home sales fall below 5 million
Existing-home sales fell 3.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million units in October from a downwardly revised pace of 5.14 million in September. Sales are 1.6 percent below the 5.06 million-unit level in October 2007.
The sales figure, from the National Association of Realtors, includes single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
The national median existing-home price in October was $183,300, down 11.3% from a year ago when the median was $206,700. In September, the median existing-home price was $191,400. That 11.3 percent decline stands as the largest year-over-year drop on since 1968, and the lowest median sales price since March 2004.
“Many potential home buyers appear to have withdrawn from the market due to the stock market collapse and deteriorating economic conditions,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
Yun identified some areas with solid sales gains from a year ago, including many California and Florida markets, as well as Boston, Minneapolis, and Denver.
Total housing inventory at the end of October slipped 0.9 percent to 4.23 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 10.0-month supply in September.
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James Hardie posts profit
James Hardie Industries, the Netherlands-based manufacturer of fiber cement and construction backboard, reported second-quarter sales of $341.9 million, a 12 percent drop over sales of $390 million in the same period last year. Net profit for the second quarter, which ended Sept. 30, 2008, was $36.2 million, excluding asbestos-related expenses and pay-outs. This figure reflected a 36 percent decline over profits of $49.2 million a year ago.
Earlier this month, the company announced the temporary closing of two production facilities, in Fontana, Calif., and Summerville, S.C., due to continued declines in U.S. housing starts. The market for renovations and repairs has also slowed, the company said in a statement.
Last year, James Hardie agreed to pay $3.3 billion to an asbestos compensation fund over the next 40 years.
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Women willing to spend more on eco-products
Women are more interested in green products than men are (by 57 percent versus 47 percent), according to the latest research results from the NPD Group. And women are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products. On the other hand, more men than women say that they are well-informed on the topic — which begs the question: Why do men say they know more but care less?
“While men may be well-informed and have less interest in the category than women, the question to ask is why,” said Mark Delaney, director of NPD Group’s home division, in a press release. “Is it the fact they are well-informed that is making them less interested, or is it a case where they don’t know what they don’t know?”
But while the gender differences are significant, general interest in green products — across demographic boundaries — is high. More than half of those surveyed think of themselves as extremely or very interested in green products. Recycled product use is high, at 65 percent, and about the same portion of those surveyed say they use CFL bulbs.
Another key finding in “Green 2008: Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors:” Green shoppers want energy-efficient items that save money. That suggests energy efficiency may be an easier sell than protecting the environment.
As part of its report on green, the NPD Group identified the top five environmentally friendly products consumers are currently using. They are: • Recycled products (65 percent); • CFL bulbs (64 percent); • Energy Star appliances (60 percent); • Rechargeable batteries (50 percent); and • Organic soap, detergent or household cleaners (26 percent).
The research also identified five top environmentally friendly products that consumers plan to use in the future: • Hybrid automobile (35 percent); • Recycled products (19 percent); • Organic soap, detergent or household cleaners (18 percent); • Energy Star appliances (16 percent); and • Organic beauty or cosmetic supplies (15 percent).