News, Trends, Community - December

Home Energy Scoring

DOE Pilot Program Rates Homes

T he Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Department of Energy announced in November the launch of the Home Energy Score pilot program, which will offer homeowners reliable information about their homes’ energy efficiency. In addition to providing a home-energy score between 1 and 10, the report shows how homes compare to others in their region and includes recommendations that will help reduce energy use and improve comfort.

Under the voluntary program, trained and certified contractors will use a standardized assessment tool developed by DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., to quickly evaluate a home and generate an actionable report.

To use the home-energy scoring tool and generate a home-energy score, an assessor must be certified by the Building Performance Institute or Residential Energy Services Network and complete and receive a passing grade on DOE’s home-energy scoring tool online training module and test.

After the pilot program concludes in late spring 2011, DOE expects to launch Home Energy Score nationally. For more information, visit homeenergyscore.gov.

Consumer Sentiment

Homeowners Shifting Focus

Demands for additions and other remodeling projects decreased in the third quarter of 2010 while demand for necessary high-cost maintenance and repair services saw gains, according to nationwide survey results released by Golden, Colo.-based ServiceMagic.

After a strong start in the first quarter, year-over-year growth in demand for additions and remodeling has started to slow and is down 21 percent nationally. Demand for kitchen remodeling and bathroom remodeling has fallen by 6 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in the third quarter. These tasks saw a dramatic increase earlier in the year with kitchen-remodel service requests up 191 percent and bathroom-remodel requests up 30 percent in the first quarter.

“The past couple quarters we reported strong indications from homeowners about their pent-up demand for remodeling their homes, particularly for kitchen and bath remodeling,” says Craig Smith, ServiceMagic’s chief executive officer. “It appears that this pent-up demand front-loaded the work into the first half of the year.”

According to the consumer sentiment survey, 46 percent of consumers have waited a year or longer to invest in necessary high-cost maintenance and repair services. Sixty-two percent of homeowners surveyed said they invested in these high-cost home-improvement projects because the repairs needed to be done to avoid further upkeep.

Visit servicemagic.com to download the complete Third Quarter 2010 Home Remodeling and Repair Index.

Eight in 10 Baby Boomers and effectively nine in 10 people 65 and older report they want to stay in their current homes for as long as possible.

Source: AARP

Foreclosures

Activity Decreases 4 Percent in October

Foreclosure filings—default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions—were reported on 332,172 properties in October, a 4 percent decrease from the previous month and almost exactly the same total reported in October 2009, according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties.

“The numbers probably would have been higher except for the fallout from the recent ‘robo-signing’ controversy, which is the most likely reason for the 9 percent monthly drop in REOs we saw from September to October and which may result in further decreases in November,” says James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer at RealtyTrac. “October marks the 20th consecutive month where more than 300,000 U.S. homeowners received a foreclosure notice.”

Education

Simpson Strong-Tie Contributes to Lab

leasanton, Calif.-based Simpson Strong-Tie and Cal Poly University recently opened the Simpson Strong-Tie Materials Demonstration Lab on the university’s campus in San Luis Obispo. As part of the university’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design, the facility provides a hands-on learning environment for students. The 7,000-square-foot lab is designed so students can build and test full-scale models and building components.

The lab is built with a variety of materials, including heavy-timber braced framing, engineered wood, cast-in-place concrete walls, translucent polycarbonate wall panels and several Simpson Strong-Tie products. “The lab is intended to show students how architectural design, engineering and construction work closely together,” says Al Hauck, construction management department head.

Home Prices

Prices Are Flat Despite End of Tax Credit

Relatively flat home prices have been the hallmark of the 2010 housing market, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Realtors. “Even with swings in home sales, prices this year have been changing very little from year-ago readings,” he says. “Areas with some larger swings in home price reflect the degree of distressed sales in those markets.”

The stability may be relatively good news in light of the sharp decline in home sales after the deadline for the home-buyer tax credit. Seventy-seven out of 155 metropolitan statistical areas had higher median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the third quarter of 2009; 11 had double-digit increases, two were unchanged and 76 metros showed price declines.

Statistics

How Has the Internet Affected Homeowners’ Buying Habits? (see graph at right)

  • No change.
  • Homeowners are making quicker decisions because the Internet provides good information.
  • The Internet is delaying buying decisions because homeowners are spending more time researching their options.
  • Homeowners are directly buying materials that service providers used to supply.

Source: ServiceMagic

Appliances

Whirlpool Opens Center in Chicago

Whirlpool Corp., Benton Harbor, Mich., recently opened its flagship “brand and product experience center” in Chicago’s Reid Murdoch Center, located on the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle streets in the River North neighborhood. The 30,000-square-foot facility is used for training and continuing education for trade customers, designers, key influencers and top sales associates. The flexible meeting space includes working kitchens, laundry rooms, garages and outdoor entertaining areas designed to house a variety of meetings, product displays and training sessions.

The eco-focused facility was built at the Chicago historic landmark building using locally sourced construction materials; materials made from recycled, renewable and/or recyclable content; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and low-VOC finishes. Even the construction waste was carefully recycled throughout the project. The location uses extensive daylighting and includes a large outdoor space with an herb garden, providing fresh ingredients for cooking demonstrations and events.

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