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October housing starts slip to a 628,000 rate

BY Ken Clark

Close followers of the Commerce Department’s monthly residential construction data have been wondering all month if September’s strong showing in housing starts could sustain itself.

The answer was delivered this morning by the latest data, sort of. Housing starts officially slipped 0.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 628,000. 

There were several mixed signals jumping out of the data. First of all, last month’s housing starts weren’t as strong as originally reported. The September rate was revised downward from 658,000 to 630,000. The October figure was down 0.3% from the downwardly revised rate. 

Here’s the good news. This month’s starts are up double digits — 16.5% — from the same month last year. Also strong is this month’s building permits figure of 653,000, up 10.9% from the September rate and up 17.7% above the October 2010 estimate. 

Single-family housing starts in October were at a rate of 430,000; this is 3.9% above the revised September figure of 414,000.

On a regional basis, the South showed the broadest strength, growing in total starts and single-family starts for both the month and the year. Going the other direction, single-family starts in the Northeast declined 22.8% on a year-to-year basis.

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Roof replacements, deck additions most popular, research says

BY Brae Canlen

Residential remodeling activity rose 34% in September 2011 in year-over-year comparisons, according to an index compiled by BuildFax, a national database of building permit data. It was the 23rd straight month of increases and the highest level of remodeling activity since the index was introduced in 2004.

BuildFax also released data stating the most popular types of remodeling projects over the past five years, with roof replacements (21.4%) deck additions (7.9%) and bathroom remodels (6.9%) leading the pack. 

"Mortgage rates continue to be near record lows, and as homeowners from coast to coast refinance, they are continuing to update their current home and invest in their properties," said Joe Emison, VP research and development at BuildFax. "The data from BuildFax show that homeowners are not only doing important ‘maintenance’ projects, such as fixing their roof, but also taking on projects that add to the ‘livability’ of their homes by adding decks, remodeling their bathrooms and updating their kitchens. These are immediate fixes they will enjoy and that potential buyers look for."

Half of the nation saw month-over-month gains this past September in remodeling activity, according to BuildFax data: the West (4.6%) and the Midwest (4.9%) all showed increases, while the Northeast (1.5%) and the South (2.9%) saw a decline. Regions up in year-over-year gains from September 2010 are the West (43.5%), the Midwest (15.9%) and the South ( 9%). Only the Northeast dropped 4.7% in remodeling as measured by permit activity.

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Boise Cascade expands in Detroit

BY Brae Canlen

Boise Cascade’s Building Materials Distribution division has announced its expansion in Wayne, Mich., outside of Detroit, where it recently moved into larger facilities. The operation now includes an additional 80,000 sq. ft. of enclosed warehouse space, 6,500 sq. ft. of new office space, and 9,000 sq. ft. of covered truck loading area. In addition, the expansion provides an additional four acres of outside storage, as well as railcar unloading facilities. 

In a prepared statement, Jeff Wiska, manager of the Wayne operation, said: “The new facilities will provide our branch with the opportunity to greatly expand our product line, thereby enabling us to provide our customers with many new products and enhanced service.” 

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