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At HIRI conference, clarity on the housing recovery

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Lisa Marquis Jackson, SVP at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, provided a comprehensive perspective on the state of the housing recovery at the 2013 Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Fall Conference in Rosemont, Ill. on Oct. 16.

In her presentation, titled "Clarity on the Housing Recovery," Jackson highlighted strong national housing fundamentals and pointed out that though housing starts are less than half of the way toward a full recovery, existing-home sales have already rebounded and then some, thanks in part to activity in the distressed housing market.

According to Jackson’s figures, current existing-home sales are at 5.4 million, surpassing the normal sales activity marker of 4.9 million.

"Looking at things graphically has an impact," said Jackson. "We consider 1.5 million starts to be normal. Right now, we’re at 41% of the way back to normal, so there’s still a lot of runway here. What’s interesting is [that] we’ve already surpassed what would be considered a normal level [when it comes to existing-home sales]."

Meanwhile, the outlook for housing starts takes a dip in 2017, though they are slated to increase 28% in 2013. 

Jackson also took the time to explain the distinction between permits and starts, as the former tends to be more reliable, much as the two datasets correlate. Single-family permits are projected to grow 20% year-over-year, while multi-family permits are slated for 13% year-over-year growth for 2013.

"Clearly, multi-family is a little more volatile than single-family," said Jackson. "And we get questions about [whether] we’re in a bubble. Our opinion there is that construction and multi-family is going to continue to grow; our expectation is that it’s going to be at a bit of a slower pace than what we saw last year especially, which was pretty extraordinary."

Growth in the rebuild and remodel sector is also a solid prospect. Home sales and household formation are on the rise, which plays into the increased number of people planning home improvement projects.

In spite of this, the homeownership rate has been on a continued decline since 2004 and is expected to bottom at 62.9% in 2015, with 78% of foreclosed homeowners expected to re-enter homeownership. Future generations are expected to be 5% less likely to own, thanks in large part to obstacles in qualifying for mortgages.

Correlating to that figure is growth in the renter market, with growth between 2010 and 2015 projected to be more than double that of the previous five years (8.2 million).

All in all, Jackson advised a cautiously optimistic outlook for the housing recovery, which has been partially sped up by some artificial elements but is displaying steady progress.

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Michael Fleisher named CFO at IPO-imminent Wayfair

BY HBSDEALER Staff

As upstart home goods e-tailer Wayfair gears up for a likely IPO in 2014 or 2015, Michael Fleisher will step in as the company’s new CFO to help speed the process along.

Fleisher, who is leaving his post as Warner Music Group vice chairman, replaces Nicholas Malone, who is remaining at the company as chief administration officer.

"Following an extensive search process, it became very clear that Michael was the ideal person to help lead Wayfair.com through the next steps on our exciting path to becoming the world’s leading ecommerce player in the $400 billion home goods market," said Niraj Shah, CEO and co-founder of Wayfair.com. "In addition to bringing a strong and seasoned voice to our executive management team, we are confident that Michael’s impressive track record and unrivaled expertise in public markets, mergers and acquisitions, and strategy will help us achieve our long term goals."

In his new role, Fleisher will continue to build Wayfair’s relationships with investors — at $201 million in venture capital, the company is considering another financing round before its IPO — as well as steer the company through various acquisitions, Forbes reports

Fleisher has a robust background in public markets, mergers and acquisitions, as well as a strong background in strategic initiatives. He is credited with leading the sale of Warner Music Group to Access Industries in a more than $3 billion transaction, as well as helping the company achieve its highest operating margins since his appointment in 2005. He also had a major role in the company’s public transition in May 2005.

"Wayfair.com is on a stunning growth trajectory toward becoming the dominant global e-commerce player in a major market segment," added Fleisher. "My goal has been to join a company with amazing founders, a world class leadership team, passionate customers and an unbridled growth opportunity. Wayfair.com is that company. I could not be more honored to collaborate with Niraj, Steve, Nick and the entire team to keep building Wayfair.com and delivering for our customers. I am excited to draw from my past experiences and play an integral role in guiding Wayfair.com through its continued growth and evolution."

Wayfair has experienced a year of record growth — more than 50%, to be exact, reaching nearly $1 billion in sales.

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Existing-home sales back down from recent peak

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Although existing-home sales enjoyed a four-year peak in August, September saw a slight decline of 1.9% in the amount of homes sold, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Total existing-home sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.29 million, compared to a downwardly revised 5.39 million in August. However, September’s numbers still mark a 10.7% improvement over year-ago figures of 4.78 million.

Of these, single-family home sales were down 1.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million, compared to 4.75 million in August. 

Home prices managed to strengthen in September despite the downward progress, with tightened inventory driving prices up. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $199,200 in September, up 11.7% year-over-year.

“Affordability has fallen to a five-year low as home price increases easily outpaced income growth,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Expected rising mortgage interest rates will further lower affordability in upcoming months. Next month we may see some delays associated with the government shutdown.”

Nationally, the sharpest home price increases over 2012 were in Detroit, Las Vegas and Sacramento.

Distressed homes made up 14% of September sales, compared to 12% in August (a five-year low). The NAR reports that this is another contributing factor in median price growth.

Total housing inventory was virtually unchanged at 2.21 million existing homes available for sale — a 5.0-month supply compared to August’s 4.9-month supply.

NAR president Gary Thomas said that though the effects of the government shutdown were not apparent in September’s report, next month’s sales may suffer from the various impacts of the 16-day ordeal, including delays in tax transcripts needed for approval of mortgage loans.

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