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New home sales show further weakness

BY HBSDEALER Staff

New single-family home sales fell further in December, down 4.7 percent from November, according to figures released today by the United States Commerce Department. December’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 604,000 units was a full 40.7 percent below the same period a year ago.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) called the lower results further evidence of a need for a federal “economic stimulus package to boost the ailing economy.”

“The continuing deterioration in the housing market, as reflected in today’s numbers, underscores the need to do more to stabilize housing and the economy,” said Jerry Howard, executive vp and CEO of the NAHB.

“[Federal] policymakers are meeting this week, and they can do their part to help by continuing to cut interest rates and inject liquidity into the financial markets,” added NAHB chief economist Dave Seiders.

Regionally, new home sales fell 6.5 percent in the South, 6 percent in the West and 1.2 percent in the Midwest month-over-month. The Northeast posted a 6 percent gain. All regions were down substantially on a year-over-year basis, ranging from a 27.4 percent fall-off in the Northeast to a 55.8 percent drop in the Midwest.

The inventory of new homes for sale was down 2.3 percent to 495,000 units in December, as builders continued to gradually work down their inventory. The equivalent months’ supply at the December sales pace edged up to 9.6 months from 9.4 months in November.

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NLBMDA calls for green lumber standard

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association (NLBMDA) is seeking to simplify chain-of-custody issues for its members through a new grade stamp on eco-friendly lumber.

Through its affiliated group, the LBM Institute, association members have asked the American Lumber Standards Committee (ALSC) to adopt an eco-forest management standard, accredit agencies to certify the standard and establish a grade stamp similar to other designations for dryness, size and species.

The request was submitted to the ALSC on Jan. 4. A spokesperson for ALSC, an independent agency that oversees the accreditation of softwood and pressure-treated lumber, told Home Channel News that the proposal is under review and will be discussed at an upcoming meeting.

If adopted, the new grade would identify each piece of lumber that is milled from ecologically managed forests. Lumberyard dealers would no longer have to keep the lumber physically separate all the way to the job site; nor would they need to maintain proof of certification and other paper documentation to prove its eco-lineage. These practices, currently required by some green building designations, add costs to the building supply channel, particularly at the builder and retailer end, according to the proposal.

The LBM Institute is the research and education arm of the NLBMDA, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that represents more than 8,000 lumber and building material distributors across the country.

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Northeastern lumber association focuses on ‘green’

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Northeastern Retail Lumber Association’s [NRLA] Lumber and Building Materials Expo 2008 brought vendors and retailers together at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston Jan. 23 to 25.

Energy-saving windows and doors took up a lot of real estate on the floor at a show that featured a wide variety of green products.

“Green’s something in the Northeast that is not going away,” said NRLA president Rita Ferris. Ferris said the NRLA is starting to focus some of its education programs on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as well as other green educational initiatives.

“It’s something our members have been calling us and asking for more and more.” But green wasn’t the only topic on the show floor. The housing decline gave members and attendees alike plenty to talk about in an environment where new products and innovative ideas are on display.

The downturn also meant a smaller turnout for the show. “It’s not what we like to see, but I think it’s meeting people’s expectations,” said Ferris, who noted that there were more qualified buyers at this show than previous years.

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