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Pending home sales slip in February

BY Ken Clark

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slipped 0.4% to 104.8 in February from a downwardly revised 105.2 in January. The index is 8.4% higher than February 2012 when it was 96.6.

The metric remained, however, at the second highest level in nearly three years; and contract activity has been above year-ago levels for the past 22 months.

Before January, the last time the index showed a higher reading was in April 2010, shortly before the deadline for the home-buyer tax credit.

Buyers faced limied inventory in February, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Only new-home construction can genuinely help relieve the inventory shortage, and housing starts need to rise at least 50% from current levels," he said. "Most local home builders are small businesses and simply don’t have access to capital on Wall Street. Clearer regulatory rules, applied to construction loans for smaller community banks and credit unions, could bring many small-sized builders back into the market." 

The national median existing-home price is forecast to rise nearly 7% this year, while mortgage interest rates should remain historically low.

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Rafferty Wholesale Building Materials distributes CAMO

BY Ken Clark

National Nail Corp. announced Rafferty Wholesale Building Materials as a new distribution partner for its CAMO Hidden Deck Fastening System. CAMO product is currently available from Rafferty’s headquarters in Sterling, Mass.

Rafferty serves retail lumberyards, hardware stores, mason yards and hardscape yards throughout New England, New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

"When I was approached by National Nail Corp. to sell their CAMO Hidden Deck Fastening System, I jumped at the opportunity; I had just seen the product line at a national trade show and was impressed,” said Sean Lorden, president of Rafferty Wholesale. “The low-cost fastening system provides the ease of installation for a homeowner, as well as the quality and performance demanded by contractors."

The CAMO Hidden Deck Fastening System is a hidden deck fastening system designed for both professional deck builders and homeowners.

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American Standard launches global sanitation effort

BY Ken Clark

Piscataway, N.J.-based American Standard says it is out to prove just how powerful around the world a toilet can be.

The company pointed to stats that show almost half the world lacks a safe way to go to the bathroom. And almost half of North Americans surveyed have no idea that lack of sanitation facilities causes 2,000 deaths per day, mainly among children. In regions of the world where water is scarce and sewer infrastructure doesn’t exist, open pit latrines allow disease to spread through direct and indirect contact with human waste.

Toilet manufacturer American Standard has launched a campaign to increase awareness of this crisis and to stimulate action that protects the health of all people through well-engineered plumbing solutions

American Standard engineers have invented SaTo (pronounced SAH-toh, derived from “Safe Toilet”), a cost-effective hygienic latrine pan that uses an ingeniously simple mechanical seal and water seal to reduce disease transmission by closing off pit latrines from the open air. The company will donate hundreds of thousands of these pans to Bangladesh in 2013, one for each of its Champion brand toilets sold in North America.

SaTo was developed based on the findings from a market assessment American Standard engineers conducted last year in the Rajshahi region of Bangladesh, organized and led by International Development Enterprises (iDE). The product design team observed the widespread use of non-hygienic latrines, where users fill a pot called a “bodna” of water, and use the water to “flush” waste into the pit. The latrines, which are about 6 ft. to 8 ft. deep, are covered with a concrete slab in which a plastic toilet pan is encased. The pans have a large opening that allows waste to freely fall into the pit, but no seal to prevent transmission of pathogens back out of the pit via flying insects. 

The team also visited manufacturing facilities to understand existing capabilities and cost structures in order to develop a solution that could be economically mass-produced in Southeast Asia.
 
After eight months of development at the American Standard New Product Design center at the company headquarters in Piscataway, N.J., successful field testing on SaTo was completed in Bangladesh this past January and February. Users especially appreciated how the small amount of water retained after each use created an airtight seal that reduced odors. 

“The SaTo retail price is well within the price range that triggered purchase intent from field trial participants,” said Jim McHale, American Standard VP product development, who led the field studies, as well as the latrine design team. “The price point allows for profit-taking at every step of the supply chain, yielding not just safer sanitation, but also a sustainable business model to drive widespread adoption and help reduce poverty.”

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