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What does a good builder look like,
and where in the world do you find one?

No,  not that kind of builder…

Just about every time we design a new custom home for someone, they want to know, “Do you know a good builder?”  Over the years I have learned the hard way that my answer to that question can have lasting ramifications.  What if I recommend someone and my client has a bad experience, or they don’t get along, or worst case, they turn out to be a crook?  The first guy that gets blamed is me!

I’m surprised how many of my clients will just take my word for the credibility of someone, and never spend any time checking out their credentials to see if they really are going to be the right builder for them.  Here they are, about to make the biggest investment of their entire lives, and they are willing to take my word after only knowing me a short time.  That’s a lot of responsibility, and our reputation could be on the line.  Thankfully, I’ve known a lot of great builders, and it is rare that there has been a problem, but there are always exceptions. So, now when I’m asked the big question, I take a little different approach.  Instead of just giving a list of names of folks that could build their house, I try to steer them in the direction of doing a bit of their own due diligence.

Some time back we realized that a more systematic approach to the design process was needed, and as a result we have created a Design Workbook which is given to each client when we begin working with them.  We have included in the Workbook several chapters that address the many issues and concerns that they will be facing as they go through the design and construction process.  The chapter “Builder Selection” was written specifically to help our clients to investigate and make an intelligent decision when selecting their builder.

Here are some of the things that we recommend they do:

Get recommendations from several different sources – Great recommendations can come from your friends and neighbors that have recently built a house, real estate brokers in the area that you will be building, bankers that finance home building (are there any left?), building product suppliers, the local home builders association, just for a start.

Narrow down the list – After asking several sources, you will have several names, some of which will have been referred by more than one person.  Move them to the top and make a short list of 4 to 6 builders.

Interview the builders on your short list – Make an appointment to meet with each builder and discuss a few things, like . . .

  • How long have you been building custom homes?
  • How many homes do you build each year that are similar in size and/or quality to what our’s will be?
  • Are you licensed?
  • Are you insured?  How much?  With whom?
  • Are you a member of the local home builders association?  Are you a member of BBB?
  • Explain your process for completion of my home – including timing.
  • How do you structure your contract . . . do you prefer a fixed price agreement or cost-plus or some other type contract?  Why?
  • Do you offer a warranty?  Describe what is covered and for how long.
  • Do you have a web site?
  • Do you have other employees?
  • Who will actually be supervising the construction of our home?
  • Get the addresses of at least 3 recently built homes and ask if they will arrange for you to talk with the homeowners

Check out their story – Go take a look at the homes they have built and look closely to the craftsmanship and attention to detail.  Ask some more questions from the homeowners, like . . .

  • How was communication with the builder?
  • Were you pleased with the quality of work?
  • Were you satisfied with the way the builder conducted business?
  • Was your house completed on time?
  • Was it completed within budget?
  • Have you had any call-backs?  How were they handled?
  • Would you use the builder again without hesitation?

Walk a house that they are currently building – If you don’t know what to look for, take your architect along, or a home inspector.  Look at how well the “hidden” items that will later be covered up are constructed.  Talk to the subcontractors there and ask about the builder . . .

  • How long have you worked with the builder?
  • Have you had any problems or concerns that haven’t been resolved?
  • Have you been treated with respect and integrity?
  • Are you paid on a timely basis?
  • Would you hire him to build your house?

Do an internet search – These days, if anyone has a problem with their builder, it is probably described in full on the internet.  Angie’s List, Kudzu, as well as a slew of other sites are great references – for both good and bad stories.  Or just Google their company name and the word “problem” and see what comes up.  You (and they) might be surprised.

By this time, you will have weeded out the ones you don’t feel good about, and be down to a couple of builders.  Now it is time for some real soul-searching and discussions with the builder.  Narrowing it down to one builder at this point is going to be all about Compatibility, Communication, and IntegrityTrust is the Key.  If you don’t trust him, the whole process will be a stressful nightmare, always wondering what he is doing now to rip you off.  On the other hand, trusting that your builder is always looking out for you and treating you with integrity will go a long way to making the process enjoyable and rewarding.

Yeah, it looks like a lot of work, and not too many clients do a very good job, but this kind of systematic approach can really ease the anxiety of the homeowner.  I just keep reminding them . . . this is perhaps the largest investment that you will ever make, and the health and welfare of your family, as well as the possible return on your investment in the future is at stake.

So, if our client was checking you out, how would you do?  I’d love to hear your comments on this, or any suggestions that you have that we’ve left out.  Post a comment or give me a ring if you want to talk.  Even better, we’d love to get you on our list of recommended builders if you meet our high standards.  If you think you qualify, let me know and we’d be happy to make a referral.

What do you think?

Dale Peek

President – Peek Design Group

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Magic 8 – Focus

I don’t know about you, but as I go throughout my normal day, scan the paper, hear a sound bite or two on the radio, catch a pundit in my peripheral vision on a TV at lunch – my subconscious mind seems to only pick up on the BAD news.  By the end of the day, I want to crawl in a hole, assume the fetal position and pray that I can stay there until everything blows over.  Sure there’s plenty of discouraging words out there, but as I discipline myself to focus on ALL the news, I find that there are plenty of things that are pretty encouraging.  Writing this monthly 8-Ball blog has been good for me because it makes me seek out, discover, and focus on the GOOD NEWS – and gives me the platform to help all of us realize that it’s not the end of the world, and much better days are now upon us.

January was no exception – despite all the bad news I thought I heard, there are some great things to report and some very smart and educated people saying some very encouraging things!  See what you think . . .


 

#8 – BUILDING PERMITS

Building permits in the U.S. unexpectedly jumped in December, signaling gains in housing will be sustained into 2010 after winter weather depressed construction at the end of last year.

Applications rose 11 percent to a 653,000 annual rate last month, the most since October 2008, the Commerce Department said today in Washington.

Bob Willis for Bloomberg – reported in BusinessWeek, January 20, 2010

 

#7 – NATIONAL RECOVERY

The deepest, meanest recession since the Great Depression has ended . . . according to a new report from The University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth at the Terry College of Business.

“. . . my forecast and the bottom line is that the recovery will be sustained,” said Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center.

In 2010, the number of single-family home starts is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent, as construction cases to a “headwind to recovery,” according to Humphreys.

Atlanta Business Chronicle, December 21, 2009

 

#6 – REMODELING

Homeowner improvement spending is likely to reach a cyclical bottom in the current quarter and steadily increase through 2010 according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), released today by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Remodeling industry fundamentals are generally beginning to turn positive.  “Sales of existing homes are on the rise and home price declines are moderating in most markets across the country,” says Kermit Baker, director.

“As inventories continue to decline and balance is gradually restored between buyers and sellers, we should reach self-sustaining housing conditions and firming home prices in most areas around the middle of 2010. That would mean broad wealth stabilization for the vast number of middle-class families,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, January 22, 2010

 

#5 – MORTGAGE RATES

The average 15-year mortgage fell to 4.62 percent while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate retreated to 5.97 percent.  Adjustable rate mortgages were lower as well, with the average 3-year ARM sinking to 4.71 percent and the 5-year ARM dropping to 4.68 percent.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, January 15, 2010

 

#4 – CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

American consumer confidence improved sharply this month, returning to levels not seen since the financial crisis began in September 2008, according to the most recent results of the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index.

“This month’s RBC Index has risen to levels not seen since the financial crisis hit with full force,” said RBC Capital Markets U.D. economist Tom Porcelli.  “The latest increase seems to be based on the recent string of positive economic news.  This bodes well for continued improvement in consumer confidence, which will be crucial to economic recovery.”

 Qualified Remodeler, January 14, 2010 

 

#3 – HOME PRICES

Americans are feeling better about the economy, home prices are on the rise and companies are forecasting a brighter 2010.  While no one doubts the economy has a long way to go to come back from the punishing recession, the reports Tuesday were signs of progress for a recovery that has proceeded in fits and starts.

“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Economy.com.

Home prices rose slightly . . . with fourteen of the 20 cities in the Standard & Poor’s survey notching gains from October to November.  Rising prices are important to the economic recovery because they make homeowners feel wealthier and lead them to spend more money.

Ashley M. Heher, Associated Press Writer, Marietta Daily Journal, January 27, 2010 

 

#2 – LEADING INDICATORS

Many U.S. leading indicators continued to improve this month.  The ECRI Leading Index, which is a gauge of future economic growth, increased to its highest level in 77 weeks, and this month posted a growth rate of 24% year-over-year – the second largest annual increase since ECRI began tracking the statistic in 1968.  Stocks once again improved in December, yet the recent rapid rate of increase has begun to slow.  All four major indices we track have posted year-over-year results ranging from +19% to +44%.  The S&P Homebuilding Index also improved in December.

John Burns, John Burns Real Estate Consulting/U.S. Building Market Intelligence, January 20, 2010 

 

#1 – FRESH FROM THE INTERNATIONAL BUILDERS SHOW

Here’s some good economic news directly from the mouth of David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders.  During one  presentation he mentioned the following reasons to feel good about the housing market and the economy in general:

  • The recession ended in Q3 of 2009
  • Job losses are tapering off
  • Q3 of 2009 showed positive employment
  • Interest rates are remaining low
  • Housing starts bottomed out in 2009
  • Home prices are stabilizing
  • The ratio of home price to household income is back to a sustainable level
  • 50% of foreclosures are in only six states (problem is largely localized)
  • 70% of foreclosures are in only 11 states
  • Supply of unsold homes is down to roughly seven months from a peak of roughly 12 months

Residential Design & Build Magazine, January 22, 2010

 

 

   BTW – have you seen Washington, DC the past few days?  Where is Al Gore’s rebuttal of actual climatic conditions – I’m sure he could spin global warming as the culprit behind the largest snowfall in DC – EVER?!  Maybe God in His demonstration of the power of nature will keep Congress snowed in long enough for the economy to recover before they can pull any more boneheaded moves.  Sorry, I digress.   You got an opinion – let us all know . . .

  

 Dale Peek
 President


 

  

 November started out a little slow so far as encouraging news about the home building industry was concerned, but by the end of the month I had way more items than I could fit in this issue. So, the encouragement continues, and things are still looking up, and “The Great Recovery” is upon us – take a look and see what I mean . . .  

 
  

    

 #8 – PENDING HOME SALES

 Pending home sales rose again, marking eight consecutive monthly gains – the longest streak since measurement began in 2001, according to the National Association of Realtors.  

 In the South, pending homes sales increased 4.9 percent to an index of 109.7 and is 22.8 percent above September 2008.  

 Qualified Remodeler Magazine, November 2, 2009

  

 #7 – UNEMPLOYMENT

 In a hopeful sign for the economy, the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits fell below 500,000 last week (466,000) for the first time since January. That was the fewest since September of last year. And it was far better than the number economists had expected.   

 Weekly claims peaked at 674,000 in March and have since been trending lower.   

 Jeannine Aversa and Martin Crutsinger, Associated Press Writers, November 26, 2009

  

 #6 – FORECLOSURES

 The latest housing data suggests things may finally be turning around (on foreclosures). The inventory of new homes in metro Atlanta has shrunk to about 11,000, down 37 percent from a year earlier, according to real estate research firm Metrostudy.   

 “It’s just getting better and better,” said Eugene James, director of Metrostudy’s Atlanta division. “There’s no secret here. We’re selling houses.”

Paul Donsky, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 12, 2009

#5 – EXISTING HOME SALES

Buyers clearly felt the clock ticking in October, snapping up existing homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units, according to data released Monday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

It represented a 10.1% gain compared to the previous month and a 23.5% year-over-year increase in such activity.

Alison Rice, Builder Online, November 23, 2009

#4 – FIRST-TIME BUYERS

First-time home buyers reached the highest market share on record during the past year according ot the latest consumer survey of home buyers and sellers released at the 2009 REALTORS Conference & Expo.

“Tax incentives, record high affordability conditions and a pent-up demand brought a record share of first-time home buyers into the market,” said Paul Bishop, NAR Vice President of Research. “These buyers are critical to housing and a general economic recovery because the market always heals from the bottom up – they absorb inventory, free existing owners to make a trade and stimulate related goods and services.”

The number of first-time home buyers rose to 47 percent of all home sales from 41 percent of transactions in last year’s study, and was the highest on record dating back to 1981.

Qualified Remodeler Magazine, November 24, 2009

#3 – AFFORDABILITY

Nationwide housing affordability, bolstered by affordable interest rates and low house prices, hovered for the third consecutive quarter near its highest level since the series was first compiled 18 years ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released today.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, November 20, 2009

#2 – HOME SALES

Home sales will increase 15 percent to about 5.7 million units and Realtor income will be up 20 percent in 2010, NASR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told a packed room of Realtors today in a residential economic update at the 2009 NAR Conference & Expo.

Yun credited the home buyer tax credit with unleashing sales on the lower-end of the housing market this year, bringing up to 400,000 first-time home buyers into the market who wouldn’t have bought otherwise. That influx tightened inventories of starter homes, shored up prices, and helped reduce households’ fear over continuing price drops.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, November 18, 2009

#1 – LEADING INDICATORS

Two of the most prominent leading economic indicator indices are absolutely booming, indicating that strong growth may occur in 2010. The primary reasons for the booms are 1) the rising stock market, 2) a drop in initial claims for unemployment, and 3) higher commodities prices.

Also, employment losses are bottoming out, and even previous months look better because of positive revisions. The pace of job losses is moderating in nearly all sectors of the economy, particularly in Manufacturing, which has seen the greatest decline. Finally, initial jobless claims and mass layoffs have slowed and are below peaks reached earlier this year.

The Leading Economic Index 6-month growth rate increased to 11.6% in September, recording the largest growth rate since 1983. The ECRI Leading Index, which is a gauge of future economic growth, has risen 26% since one year ago, representing the largest growth rate since ECRI began tracking the statistic in 1968. Stocks were essentially flat compared to last month. Based on October data, all four indices we track have posted positive year-over-year gains – the first time since December 2007 – and have risen 4-19% compared to one year ago. The S&P Homebuilding Index declined in October, falling nearly 9% from the prior month, yet has increased over 3% since one year ago. CEO’s are now much more confident about the economy, according to the CEO Confidence Index. CEO’s are now as confident about the economy as they were two years ago, and based on a recent survey 83% expect their profits to either remain flat or increase in the next 12 months and 84% of CEO’s plan to keep the same number of employees or increase the number of employees over the next year.

John Burns, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, November 20, 2009

I sure hope you are realizing some tangible results from all this great news. We’re just small fish in a really big ocean, but I have to say that we are busier right now that we have been in a long while. That’s just an indication of what is happening in our little part of the world, and certainly not quite up to where we were a couple of years ago, but it makes me hopeful that the glow I see at the end of the tunnel is daylight, and not a train!

Surely I’m not the only one that’s seen some encouraging activities. This blog is a great place to post your thoughts and experiences for us all to see. You never know how or who you might influence with your words of wisdom or stories of success. Hundreds who will read your words, so come on, make an impact!

Dale Peek
President


Magic 8 Ball 1-2010

December didn’t disappoint, with even more encouraging data emerging about our future in the housing industry.  Here we go with 8 more great items of good news that make me believe that we have made it through the worst and will soon be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  No matter how dim that light is, it is better than the darkness that we have been through!


 

#8 – CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

After sliding for much of the fall, consumer confidence climbed in the past month and is now more than twice as strong as it was a year ago, according to the most recent results of the RBC CASH Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household Index.

“The RBC Index shows that American consumers are optimistic that the economy will soon begin to improve,” said RBC Capital Markets U.S. economist Tom Porcelli.

Qualified Remodeler Magazine, December 10, 2009

 

#7 – FORECLOSURES

In a welcome piece of news, the number of foreclosure filings in the country declined 8% in November, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac.

. . . November represents the fourth consecutive month of reduced foreclosure activity.

In terms of regional trends, four big states – California, Florida, Illinois, and Michigan continue to report high foreclosure rates.  According to RealtyTrac, those states represent more than half, or 52% of foreclosure activity across the country.

Alison Rice, Senior Editor, Online, BUILDER Magazine, December 10, 2009

 

#6 – PENDING HOME SALES

Pending home sales have risen for nine months in a row, a first for the series of the index since its inception in 2001, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The rise from a year ago is the biggest annual increase ever recorded for the index, which is at the highest level since March 2006.

“As inventories continue to decline and balance is gradually restored between buyers and sellers, we should reach self-sustaining housing conditions and firming home prices in most areas around the middle of 2010.  That would mean broad wealth stabilization for the vast number of middle-class families,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, December 4, 2009

 

#5 – HOUSING PERMITS

After three consecutive months of declines, housing permits, starts, and overall completions saw modest improvements in November 2009, according to the latest “New Residential Construction Report” released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Stephani L. Miller, CUSTOM HOME Magazine, January 6, 2010

 

#4 – MORTGAGE RATES

Long-term mortgage rates fell to a new low this week, with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 4.71 percent in the week ending Dec. 3, the lowest rate since at least 1971, when Freddie Mac started keeping track.

For homeowners who can afford a higher monthly payment, 15 year fixed-rate mortgages are even lower, averaging 4.27 percent, also a new low.

 

Jeff Clabaugh, Atlanta Business Chronicle, December 3, 2009 

 

#3 – ARCHITECTURE BILLINGS

For architects who design houses, certain segments at the lower end of the market appear poised for recovery in 2010, according to new figures from the American Institute of Architects.  This could be good news for homebuilders, considering architecture billings are often a harbinger of what’s to come in the construction pipeline.

Remodeling activity, meanwhile, enjoyed strong gains in the third quarter of 2009, with 27 percent of architects surveyed reporting an uptick in demand for renovations and additions.

Jenny Sullivan, Senior Editor, BUILDER Magazine, December 29, 2009 

 

#2 – EXISTING HOME SALES

Existing home sales showed another big gain in October with a strong up-trend established over the past seven months, while inventories continue to decline, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“The supply of homes on the market is now at the lowest level in over two-and-a-half years – we’re getting closer to a general balance between buyers and sellers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.  The last time the relative housing inventory was this low was in February 2007 when it also was at a 7.0 month supply.

Qualified Remodeler Magazine, December 1, 2009 

 

#1 – ATLANTA HOME VALUES

Metro Atlanta home value in dollars went up through 11 months of 2009, according to data published Wednesday by Zillow Real Estate Market Reports.

Atlanta’s total home value was up by $7.6 billion to a total home value of $322.2 billion through November.  Atlanta had the fourth-highest gain of any metro area.

“Home values stabilized significantly during the second half of 2009, with the total dollar value of U.S. homes increasing since June,” said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow chief economist.

Atlanta Business Chronicle, December  9, 2009

 

 “You build on failure.  You use it as a stepping stone.  Close the door on the past.  You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it.  You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” –  Johnny Cash

  

 

  

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” –  Thomas Jefferson

Now that we have closed the door on 2009, here’s your opportunity to share what you’ve gleaned from the past.  Share your successes and struggles by commenting here and we can all have a better future moving forward together.  You Can Do It!

  

 Dale Peek
 President


 

  

 November started out a little slow so far as encouraging news about the home building industry was concerned, but by the end of the month I had way more items than I could fit in this issue.  So, the encouragement continues, and things are still looking up, and “The Great Recovery” is upon us – take a look and see what I mean . . .  

 
  

  

#8 – PENDING HOME SALES

Pending home sales rose again, marking eight consecutive monthly gains – the longest streak since measurement began in 2001, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In the South, pending homes sales increased 4.9 percent to an index of 109.7 and is 22.8 percent above September 2008.

Qualified Remodeler Magazine, November 2, 2009

#7 – UNEMPLOYMENT

In a hopeful sign for the economy, the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits fell below 500,000 last week (466,000) for the first time since January.  That was the fewest since September of last year.  And it was far better than the number economists had expected.

Weekly claims peaked at 674,000 in March and have since been trending lower.

Jeannine Aversa and Martin Crutsinger, Associated Press Writers, November 26, 2009

#6 – FORECLOSURES

The latest housing data suggests things may finally be turning around (on foreclosures).  The inventory of new homes in metro Atlanta has shrunk to about 11,000, down 37 percent from a year earlier, according to real estate research firm Metrostudy.

“It’s just getting better and better,” said Eugene James, director of Metrostudy’s Atlanta division.  “There’s no secret here.  We’re selling houses.”

Paul Donsky, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 12, 2009

#5 – EXISTING HOME SALES

Buyers clearly felt the clock ticking in October, snapping up existing homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units, according to data released Monday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

It represented a 10.1% gain compared to the previous month and a 23.5% year-over-year increase in such activity.

Alison Rice, Builder Online, November 23, 2009

#4 – FIRST-TIME BUYERS

First-time home buyers reached the highest market share on record during the past year according ot the latest consumer survey of home buyers and sellers released at the 2009 REALTORS Conference & Expo.

“Tax incentives, record high affordability conditions and a pent-up demand brought a record share of first-time home buyers into the market,” said Paul Bishop, NAR Vice President of Research.  “These buyers are critical to housing and a general economic recovery because the market always heals from the bottom up – they absorb inventory, free existing owners to make a trade and stimulate related goods and services.”

The number of first-time home buyers rose to 47 percent of all home sales from 41 percent of transactions in last year’s study, and was the highest on record dating back to 1981.

Qualified Remodeler Magazine, November 24, 2009 

#3 – AFFORDABILITY

Nationwide housing affordability, bolstered by affordable interest rates and low house prices, hovered for the third consecutive quarter near its highest level since the series was first compiled 18 years ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released today.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, November 20, 2009 

#2 – HOME SALES

Home sales will increase 15 percent to about 5.7 million units and Realtor income will be up 20 percent in 2010, NASR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told a packed room of Realtors today in a residential economic update at the 2009 NAR Conference & Expo.

Yun credited the home buyer tax credit with unleashing sales on the lower-end of the housing market this year, bringing up to 400,000 first-time home buyers into the market who wouldn’t have bought otherwise.  That influx tightened inventories of starter homes, shored up prices, and helped reduce households’ fear over continuing price drops.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, November 18, 2009 

#1 – LEADING INDICATORS

Two of the most prominent leading economic indicator indices are absolutely booming, indicating that strong growth may occur in 2010.  The primary reasons for the booms are 1) the rising stock market, 2) a drop in initial claims for unemployment, and 3) higher commodities prices.

Also, employment losses are bottoming out, and even previous months look better because of positive revisions.  The pace of job losses is moderating in nearly all sectors of the economy, particularly in Manufacturing, which has seen the greatest decline.  Finally, initial jobless claims and mass layoffs have slowed and are below peaks reached earlier this year.

The Leading Economic Index 6-month growth rate increased to 11.6% in September, recording the largest growth rate since 1983.  The ECRI Leading Index, which is a gauge of future economic growth, has risen 26% since one year ago, representing the largest growth rate since ECRI began tracking the statistic in 1968.  Stocks were essentially flat compared to last month.  Based on October data, all four indices we track have posted positive year-over-year gains – the first time since December 2007 – and have risen 4-19% compared to one year ago.  The S&P Homebuilding Index declined in October, falling nearly 9% from the prior month, yet has increased over 3% since one year ago.  CEO’s are now much more confident about the economy, according to the CEO Confidence Index.  CEO’s are now as confident about the economy as they were two years ago, and based on a recent survey 83% expect their profits to either remain flat or increase in the next 12 months and 84% of CEO’s plan to keep the same number of employees or increase the number of employees over the next year.

John Burns, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, November 20, 2009

I sure hope you are realizing some tangible results from all this great news.  We’re just small fish in a really big ocean, but I have to say that we are busier right now that we have been in a long while.  That’s just an indication of what is happening in our little part of the world, and certainly not quite up to where we were a couple of years ago, but it makes me hopeful that the glow I see at the end of the tunnel is daylight, and not a train!

Surely I’m not the only one that’s seen some encouraging activities.  This blog is a great place to post your thoughts and experiences for us all to see.  You never know how or who you might influence with your words of wisdom or stories of success.  Hundreds who will read your words, so come on, make an impact!

Dale Peek
President


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Peek Design Group

November started out a little slow so far as encouraging news about the home building industry was concerned, but by the end of the month I had way more items than I could fit in this issue.  So, the encouragement continues, and things are still looking up, and “The Great Recovery” is upon us – take a look and see what I mean . . .


#8 – PENDING HOME SALES

Pending home sales rose again, marking eight consecutive monthly gains – the longest streak since measurement began in 2001, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In the South, pending homes sales increased 4.9 percent to an index of 109.7 and is 22.8 percent above September 2008.

Qualified Remodeler Magazine, November 2, 2009

#7 – UNEMPLOYMENT

In a hopeful sign for the economy, the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits fell below 500,000 last week (466,000) for the first time since January.  That was the fewest since September of last year.  And it was far better than the number economists had expected.

Weekly claims peaked at 674,000 in March and have since been trending lower.

Jeannine Aversa and Martin Crutsinger, Associated Press Writers, November 26, 2009

#6 – FORECLOSURES

The latest housing data suggests things may finally be turning around (on foreclosures).  The inventory of new homes in metro Atlanta has shrunk to about 11,000, down 37 percent from a year earlier, according to real estate research firm Metrostudy.

“It’s just getting better and better,” said Eugene James, director of Metrostudy’s Atlanta division.  “There’s no secret here.  We’re selling houses.”

Paul Donsky, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 12, 2009

#5 – EXISTING HOME SALES

Buyers clearly felt the clock ticking in October, snapping up existing homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units, according to data released Monday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

It represented a 10.1% gain compared to the previous month and a 23.5% year-over-year increase in such activity.

Alison Rice, Builder Online, November 23, 2009

#4 – FIRST-TIME BUYERS

First-time home buyers reached the highest market share on record during the past year according ot the latest consumer survey of home buyers and sellers released at the 2009 REALTORS Conference & Expo.

“Tax incentives, record high affordability conditions and a pent-up demand brought a record share of first-time home buyers into the market,” said Paul Bishop, NAR Vice President of Research.  “These buyers are critical to housing and a general economic recovery because the market always heals from the bottom up – they absorb inventory, free existing owners to make a trade and stimulate related goods and services.”

The number of first-time home buyers rose to 47 percent of all home sales from 41 percent of transactions in last year’s study, and was the highest on record dating back to 1981.

Qualified Remodeler Magazine, November 24, 2009 

#3 – AFFORDABILITY

Nationwide housing affordability, bolstered by affordable interest rates and low house prices, hovered for the third consecutive quarter near its highest level since the series was first compiled 18 years ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released today.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, November 20, 2009 

#2 – HOME SALES

Home sales will increase 15 percent to about 5.7 million units and Realtor income will be up 20 percent in 2010, NASR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told a packed room of Realtors today in a residential economic update at the 2009 NAR Conference & Expo.

Yun credited the home buyer tax credit with unleashing sales on the lower-end of the housing market this year, bringing up to 400,000 first-time home buyers into the market who wouldn’t have bought otherwise.  That influx tightened inventories of starter homes, shored up prices, and helped reduce households’ fear over continuing price drops.

Residential Design & Build Magazine, November 18, 2009 

#1 – LEADING INDICATORS

Two of the most prominent leading economic indicator indices are absolutely booming, indicating that strong growth may occur in 2010.  The primary reasons for the booms are 1) the rising stock market, 2) a drop in initial claims for unemployment, and 3) higher commodities prices.

Also, employment losses are bottoming out, and even previous months look better because of positive revisions.  The pace of job losses is moderating in nearly all sectors of the economy, particularly in Manufacturing, which has seen the greatest decline.  Finally, initial jobless claims and mass layoffs have slowed and are below peaks reached earlier this year.

The Leading Economic Index 6-month growth rate increased to 11.6% in September, recording the largest growth rate since 1983.  The ECRI Leading Index, which is a gauge of future economic growth, has risen 26% since one year ago, representing the largest growth rate since ECRI began tracking the statistic in 1968.  Stocks were essentially flat compared to last month.  Based on October data, all four indices we track have posted positive year-over-year gains – the first time since December 2007 – and have risen 4-19% compared to one year ago.  The S&P Homebuilding Index declined in October, falling nearly 9% from the prior month, yet has increased over 3% since one year ago.  CEO’s are now much more confident about the economy, according to the CEO Confidence Index.  CEO’s are now as confident about the economy as they were two years ago, and based on a recent survey 83% expect their profits to either remain flat or increase in the next 12 months and 84% of CEO’s plan to keep the same number of employees or increase the number of employees over the next year.

John Burns, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, November 20, 2009

I sure hope you are realizing some tangible results from all this great news.  We’re just small fish in a really big ocean, but I have to say that we are busier right now that we have been in a long while.  That’s just an indication of what is happening in our little part of the world, and certainly not quite up to where we were a couple of years ago, but it makes me hopeful that the glow I see at the end of the tunnel is daylight, and not a train!

Surely I’m not the only one that’s seen some encouraging activities.  This blog is a great place to post your thoughts and experiences for us all to see.  You never know how or who you might influence with your words of wisdom or stories of success.  Hundreds who will read your words, so come on, make an impact!

Dale Peek
President


Awesome Stuff for your Computer

Computers are ever evolving to do more and be more.  So what’s your computer up to?  If it’s the same old boring spreadsheets and emails, check out these sites…

Internet Radio

Music for some is a passion; and in a world where you can customize everything from your car to your coffee why should we expect anything else in the music realm.   We like what we like when it comes to music and almost everyone I know has a different taste in exactly what they like to hear and more importantly don’t like to hear.   So how does this relate to my computer?  Two words – Internet Radio.  Now radio might make you think of DJ’s that choose music that you don’t really like and long breaks filled with annoying commercials; but we’ve found some Internet Radio sites that have created true customized Radio experiences.   Our two favorites are Pandora and Grooveshark.  While the two sites are slightly different in the way you interact with them, both sites create a truly customized listening experience.   Even more, you can take them with you, with features that allow you to use them with the latest smartphones.   Check out Pandora and Grooveshark to find out more…

Hamachi²

Even the name of this new software is fun! Have you ever been at home and need something from your office computer or vice-versa?  Hamachi is a simple VPN (virtual private network) that will keep you connected from any computer.

Unlike traditional VPNs, LogMeIn Hamachi² can be set up in minutes:

  • No additional hardware is required
  • Secure communications – Encrypted tunneling across public and private networks
  • Flexible networking
  • Web-based management – Deploy to anyone, manage from anywhere, access anytime
  • Free for non-commercial usage – commercial use available for minimal fees

Now you can access your computer from any other computer via the web!

Animator vs. Animation II

Ok . . . this is just Awesome – the creator obviously has a lot of time on his hands, but has an amazing talent that should be shared.


Watch This!


Leaving on a Jet Plane?

Before you leave for your next flight be sure to check out…

FlightAware was the first company to offer free flight tracking services for both private and commercial air traffic in the United States.  They provide live flight data, airport information, weather maps, flight planning, and navigation charts, as well as aviation news and photos.   The service was created for use by the air travel professionals and pilots, but with FlightAware’s website you can be in the know before your 4 hour delay at the airport.  Oh yeah, and it’s just cool to watch the planes track right from your own computer.


Leave us a comment and share your tricks or favorite websites that you use.  We’re all listening . . . so tell us about it!


Dale Peek

President – Peek Design Group


Signs Point to Yes!

Over the last year of compiling encouraging quotes and articles about the home building industry, I’ve noticed a pattern develop as we track “The Great Recovery”.  Every month as I review the media’s reporting of how they see the world we live in, there are certain factors that repeatedly show up.  So, because I’m a sorter and organizer, and to make this even easier for you to read – I’ve titled each of the 8 items by the category it fits best within.  Hopefully you will now be able to scan this blog even more efficiently and glean the great information that you are looking for without taking too much time out of your increasingly busy schedule.  So, here we go . . .

#8 – THE ECONOMY

The worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression has ended . . . “The great recession is over,” NABE President-Elect Lynn Reaser said. “With improving credit markets, the U.S. economy can return to solid growth next year without worry about rising inflation,” Reaser said.

Lucia Mutlikani, REUTERS, October 12, 2009

#7 – LEADING INDICATORS

Many leading indicators continue to improve, and suggest that the worst of the recession is behind us.  The Leading Economic Index 6-month growth rate rose in August to its highest level since early 2004.  The ECRI Leading Index – and indicator of future U.S. growth – has increased almost 21% since the beginning of the year – the largest growth rate since 1971.  Stocks continued to rise through September and the four major indices now range from -10% to +2% year-over-year.  The S&P Homebuilding Index rose in August, increasing 14% from the previous month . . .

John Burns, Real Estate Consultant, October 7, 2009

#6 – MORTGAGE RATES

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed U.S. home loans fell for the second consecutive week, pushing borrowing costs to near record lows.

Mortgage applications to buy a home climbed 13 percent in the week ended October 2 and the refinancing gauge surged 18 percent.

Brian Louis, Bloomberg.com, October 8, 2009

#5 – CONSTRUCTION STARTS

The level of construction starts in 2010 is expected to jump 11 percent to $466.2 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s annual industry outlook. Single family housing for 2010 will advance 32 percent in dollars, corresponding to a 30 percent increase in the number of units to 560,000.

Tierney Plumb, Business Courier of Cincinnati, October 16, 2009

#4 – REMODELING

The declines in owner spending on home improvements will moderate through the end of 2009 and first half of 2010 according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), released today by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.  The indicator suggests the remodeling industry is turning a corner.  Annual spending levels should start to rise in the beginning of next year causing year over year declines to shrink to 8.0 percent by the second quarter of 2010.

Qualified Remodeler.com, October 15, 2009 

#3 – HOUSING STARTS

Housing starts edged slightly higher to a 590K unit pace in September, up from a downwardly revised 587K in August.

Starts edged higher with gains in single-family more than offsetting declines in multi-family properties.

Adam G. York, Economist, Wells Fargo Securities, October 20, 2009 

#2 – EXISTING HOME SALES

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops – jumped 9.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million units in September from a level of 5.10 million in August, and are 9.2 percent higher than the 5.10 million-unit pace in September 2008.  Sales activity is at the highest level in more than two years, since it hit 5.73 million in July 2007.

Residential Design & Build magazine, October 23, 2009 

#1 – HOUSING PRICES

The S&P/Case-Shiller 10- and 20-city seasonally adjusted house price indexes increased in June, July, and August.  Although both measures are still down on a year-over-year basis, 10.6% and 11.3% respectively, their rate of decline has decreased in each of the last seven months.

In August, 16 of the 20 cities in the 20-city index saw house prices increase on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Eye on the Economy, NAHB Monday.com, October 30, 2009 

So, what do you think?  Do these statistics and reports have any resemblance to what is happening  in your world?  Are you building, do you have clients, can you get construction financing, has traffic increased, are you seeing any encouraging indicators?

I’m sure you have your own stories . . . share them here and let us all be encouraged, enlightened and even better – entertained.

Dale Peek

President – Peek Design Group

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