A slight dip in month-to-month pending home sales
Pending home sales were down slightly in February but remain notably above the pattern in the first half of last year, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, eased 0.5% to 96.5 in February from 97.0 in January but is 9.2% above February 2011 when it was 88.4. The data reflects contracts but not closings.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said we’re seeing the continuation of an uneven but higher sales pattern. “The spring home buying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,” he said. “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years. Based on all of the factors in the current market, that’s what we’re expecting with sales rising 7% to 10% in 2012."
The PHSI in the Northeast slipped 0.6% to 77.7 in February but is 18.4% above a year ago. In the Midwest, the index jumped 6.5% to 93.8 and is 19.0% higher than February 2011. Pending home sales in the South fell 3.0% to an index of 105.8 in February but are 7.8% above a year ago. In the West, the index declined 2.6% in February to 99.3 and is 1.8% below February 2011.
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In fact, the housing market
In fact, the housing market has been one of the weakest parts of the U.S. economy. Recent economic data really show it is starting to get back on track after a price collapse that began 5 1/2 years ago--though the market still remains uneven. The middle-class people still use cash loans online to stay afloat Mortgage rates have been hovering around the lowest recorded levels, employers have stepped up hiring and economists' forecasts have become less gloomy.
Weak orders, rising cancellations at KB Home
KB Home, one of the nation’s largest home builders, reported revenues for its first fiscal quarter of $254.6 million, up 29% from $196.9 million for the first quarter of 2011, reflecting higher deliveries and an increase in the average selling price.
KB Home posted a $45.8 million loss for the quarter, which ended Feb. 29, 2012, compared with a $114.5 million loss in the first period a year ago.
Homes delivered increased 21% to 1,150, up from 949 homes delivered in the year-earlier quarter. Three of the company’s four regions produced higher deliveries.
An increase in the cancellation rate to 36% from 29% in the year-earlier quarter led to a year-over-year decrease in net orders. These totaled 1,197 in the first quarter of 2012, down 8% from 1,302 net orders in the year-earlier quarter; a 22% increase in the company’s central region was more than offset by decreases in each of the home builder’s three other regions.
The company had a backlog of 2,203 homes as of Feb. 29, 2012, compared with a backlog of 1,689 homes a year ago. Backlog homes and value at Feb. 29, 2012, each increased 30% year over year. Each of the company’s four regions posted year-over-year increases in backlog value at the end of the 2012 first quarter.
The average selling price rose 6% to $219,000 from $205,700 for the year-earlier quarter, reflecting increases in the company’s West Coast and southwest regions that were partly offset by decreases in its central and southeast regions.
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Fiberon sued over mold issues
A group of plaintiffs seeking class action status have filed a lawsuit against decking manufacturer Fiberon over its Portico wood composite line. The lawsuit, filed March 14 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Hagens Berman, a Seattle-based firm, claims that the decking has a defect that results in the growth of mold, mildew and other fungal growth. Furthermore, the complaint claims that Fiberon refused to repair the decks under its 20-year warranty.
Fiberon calls the allegations “completely false” and blames the staining on a lack of routine maintenance by the homeowners who filed the lawsuit.
One of the plaintiffs, David Fleisher of North Wales, Pa., claims his deck developed black spots “soon” after he purchased it. (No time period was given.) Fleisher had the deck cleaned, he said, but the black spots reappeared. He wrote to Fiberon, seeking relief under the warranty, and was told that the spots were most likely mold or mildew, according to the lawsuit.
Instead of repairing the damage or replacing the decking, “the company tells consumers to remove the fungus, mold or mildew with chemical products at their own expense,” the lawsuit claims. “However, consumers say the cleaning method does not prevent the mold from reappearing.”
Edie Kello, director of marketing communications, told Home Channel News that the surface staining was not a manufacturing defect but a failure to comply with the company’s recommendations on the maintenance of outdoor products.
“Outdoor products like decking, siding, concrete and even patio furniture require periodic cleaning to keep them looking good,” Kello said. “The overwhelming majority of our customers comply with periodic cleaning instructions and therefore have no issues whatsoever. It cannot be our responsibility to maintain them once they are installed.”
Kello added that the company “has a long record of honoring its warranties and will continue to do so.”
Hagens Berman is counting on the fact that there are other unhappy Portico deck owners to join its lawsuit. The firm noted that some of Fiberon’s competitors offered similar composite decking products, which also developed mold problems and resulted in class action lawsuits. Trex is still paying claims for a lawsuit it settled over composite decking in 2009. Fiberon no longer sells Portico Decking.
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