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Foreclosures continue on downward trend

BY Brae Canlen

A just-released report by CoreLogic, an information and analytics provider, indicates that U.S. foreclosure inventory is at its lowest level since April 2010. But five states still account for almost 50% of all completed foreclosures nationally.

According to the report, there were 57,000 completed foreclosures in the United States in August 2012, down from 75,000 in August 2011 and 58,000 in July 2012. Approximately 1.3 million homes, or 3.2% of all homes with a mortgage, were in the national foreclosure inventory as of August 2012, compared with 1.4 million, or 3.4%, in August 2011.

"The continuing downward trend in foreclosures and a gradual clearing of the shadow inventory are important signals that the recovery in housing is gaining traction," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "The reduction in foreclosure volumes is to some degree being facilitated by the rising popularity of alternative resolution methods, such as short sales and loan modifications."

Month-over-month, the national foreclosure inventory was unchanged from July 2012 to August 2012. The foreclosure inventory is the share of all mortgaged homes in any stage of the foreclosure process.

"August marks the fourth month in a row there were fewer completed foreclosures, which is more evidence that the housing industry is finding its footing," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. "While we are seeing improvement on a national level, there remain higher concentrations of foreclosures in some areas, with five states accounting for nearly half of all completed foreclosures nationwide during the last year."

The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in August 2012 were: California (110,000), Florida (92,000), Michigan (62,000), Texas (58,000) and Georgia (55,000). These five states account for 48.1% of all completed foreclosures nationally.

The five states with the lowest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in August 2012 were: South Dakota (25), District of Columbia (113), Hawaii (435), North Dakota (564) and Maine (612).

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Bain to buy Apex Tools from Cooper and Danahar

BY Ken Clark

Sparks, Md.-based Apex Tool Group, the maker of Craftsman hand tools, Lufkin tape rules and Crescent wrenches, among other products, is being sold to Bain Capital Partners. 

The deal is valued at about $1.6 billion, slightly more than Apex’s $1.5 billion in annual revenue. 

Apex is owned equally by Danaher and Cooper, two manufacturers that combined their tool businesses in July 2010 with the formation of Apex. 

It was the second major tool acquisition story to break this week. Stanley Black & Decker said on Tuesday it would sell its door lock and bath fixture business to Spectrum Brands Holdings for $1.4 billion.

Apex will continue to be led by Steve Breitzka, Apex president and CEO, and the rest of the current management team. “With the support of Danaher and Cooper, we’ve succeeded in combining two premier tool manufacturers into a single world-class company,” said Breitzka. “We are excited that Bain Capital has chosen to invest in the future growth of Apex.”

In addition to the brands mentioned above, Apex markets GearWrench ratcheting wrenches and Jobox tool storage products, in addition to being the principal manufacturer of several private-label products for retailers. Apex says its has strong market positions in developed markets, as well as in key developing markets, such as China and Brazil.

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Window of opportunity: Retrofits produce savings

BY Ken Clark

A report titled, "Saving Windows, Saving Money: Evaluating the Energy Performance of Window Retrofit and Replacement," concludes that upgrading windows (specifically older, single-pane models) with exterior storm windows and insulating shades can result in substantial energy savings across a variety of climate zones.    

The study was commissioned by the Preservation Green Lab and funded by The National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. 

It analyzes decades of research about the performance of double hung windows, comparing the relative energy, carbon and cost savings of various choices in multiple cities across the United States.

"A number of existing window retrofit strategies come very close to delivering the energy benefits of high-performance replacement windows — at a fraction of the cost," said Mark Huppert, technical director of the Preservation Green Lab. "From weather stripping and sealing, to installing exterior storm windows or interior cellular shades, almost every retrofit option offers a better return on investment than outright replacement."      

These findings have important environmental and economic ramifications for consumers. Residential buildings are responsible for approximately 20% of total U.S. energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Many of these buildings are single-family homes where heating and cooling represent the largest uses of energy, and where windows are an important factor in home energy efficiency. Americans spend over $17 billion annually on heating and cooling.      

"Homeowners and designers who want to upgrade existing windows have many choices: from simple, low-cost, do-it-yourself solutions to complete replacement, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars," said David Brown, executive VP and chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "This report provides the context and data to help budget conscious consumers make sound decisions."    

Research support for the study was provided by Cascadia Green Building Council and Ecotope, a consultancy focused on energy efficiency and sustainability.     

The full report and an overview of key findings are at preservationnation.org/saving-windows-saving-money.  

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