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Housing starts improve in August

BY Ken Clark

Government data released Wednesday morning show residential construction climbing slowly out of an historically deep hole. 

Housing starts increased in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 — that’s up 2.3% from the July rate and up 29.1% from the August 2011 rate. 

While building permits declined to a rate of 803,000 in August, down from 811,000 in July, the forward-looking statistic increased 24.5% from the August 2011 building permit figure of 645,000. 

Also gaining are single-family starts, the bread and butter of many home channel companies. Single-family starts increased in August to a rate of 535,000, up 5.5% from the previous month and up 26.8% from the year-ago rate. 

To put the numbers in an historical context, a full year with 750,000 starts would be the fourth lowest year since the government began keeping track of the statistic in 1959. However, an end-of-year figure of 750,000 would be an increase of 39%, 28% and 23% when compared with the years 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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Remodeling activity rebounds in July

BY Brae Canlen

Residential remodeling activity in the United States rose 6% in July 2012 compared with the previous month, according to an index compiled by BuildFax, a national database of building permit data. The July 2012 figure is 15% higher than residential remodels in July of 2011, according to the index.

Annual rates of remodeling authorized by building permits across the country in July 2012 were estimated as follows: Northeast, 765,000 (up 11% from June and up 31% from July 2011); South, 1,420,000 (up 24% from June and up 29% from July 2011); Midwest, 507,000 (down 4% from June and up 1% from July 2011); and West, 846,000 (up 2% from June and up 9% from July 2011). 

“Remodeling activity rebounded in July after a slower June, and residential remodeling activity in 2012 remains significantly above what we saw in 2011,” said Joe Emison, VP research and development at BuildFax.

Co-headquartered in Austin, Texas, and Asheville, N.C., BuildFax, a division of BUILDERadius, maintains a national database of historical building permit data. It also operates a proprietary property intelligence engine that contains building and permitting information from more than 4,000 cities and counties throughout the country.

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Research shows high demand for hand tools

BY Ken Clark

Total home improvement dollars increased by 7% when comparing the 12 months ended July 2012 with the previous 12 months, according to consumer research from The NPD Group.

The units of home improvement items sold grew less than 2%, according to the Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm. 

Much of the unit growth in the home improvement industry was driven by hand tools, the second largest segment based on unit sales after storage and organization. Hand tools saw an 8% increase in units between August 2011 and July 2012.

In the storage and organization category, female spending increased 6%, while male spending slightly declined.

NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service also found that more than half of the home improvement dollar growth between August 2011 and July 2012 came from outdoor power equipment, the largest segment on a dollar basis, with double-digit increases in dollar sales over the previous 12-month period.

Both men and women increased their home improvement spending by 7% between August 2011 and July 2012.  

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