Second Quarter Sees Modest Improvement
T he U.S. National Home Price Index rose 4.4 percent in the second quarter of 2010, after having fallen 2.8 percent in the first quarter, according to data through June 2010, released by NewYork-based Standard & Poor’s for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.
Nationally, home prices are 3.6 percent above their year-earlier levels. In June, 17 of the 20 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) covered by the S&P/Case-Shiller indices and the 10- and 20-city monthly composites were up. In addition, the two composites and 15 MSAs showed year-over-year gains. Housing prices have rebounded from crisis lows, but other recent housing indicators point to more ominous signals as tax incentives have ended and foreclosures continue.
“The monthly composites cover June and the national index covers the second quarter, when the government’s program for first-time home buyers was winding down. While the numbers are upbeat, other more recent data on home sales and mortgages point to fewer gains ahead,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s. “Even with concerns about near-term developments, we recognize that the housing market is in better shape than this time last year. Further, California’s cities have moved from some of the hardest hit to three of the four leading cities based on year-over-year gains. Among the other hard-hit cities, the news is also a bit encouraging. Las Vegas, however, remains among the weaker cities.”
Homes Are Laboratories
Four homes completed recently in Oak Ridge, Tenn., showcase how scientific research can make dramatic changes in the cost of heating and cooling homes. The four houses, which are part of the ZEBRAlliance, use about 55 to 60 percent less energy than conventional houses while maintaining similar amenities. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory project team will switch out equipment, appliances and controls with the latest energy-efficient products as they become available. At the end of the 30-month research period, the houses will be offered for sale to the public.
The ZEBRAlliance project is a public-private partnership founded by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Schaad Companies, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based builder.
Energy Credit Expiring Soon
The Federal Energy Tax Credit for energy-efficient home improvements, including windows, doors, insulation, roofing, and heating and cooling systems, will expire Dec. 31. Consumers who purchase qualifying products before the deadline are eligible for a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost up to $1,500.
NARI Hires Lobbyist
The Des Plaines, Ill.-based National Association of the Remodeling Industry has hired lobbyist Thomas M. Sullivan to represent remodeling-industry interests in Washington, D.C. Sullivan, of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Washington, has 19 years’ experience in federal legislative and regulatory advocacy. Sullivan served for seven years as chief counsel for advocacy in the U.S. Small Business Administration, Washington.
Herbert Appointed to Harvard Studies Group
Christopher E. Herbert has been appointed research director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Cambridge, Mass. Herbert is a nationally recognized expert in the design, implementation and management of research related to housing policy, housing markets, housing finance and urban development. He previously conducted research at the center during the course of his doctoral program at the Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Mass
Real EstateExisting-Home Sales Move Up in August
E xisting-home sales rose in August following a big correction in July, according to the National Association of Realtors, Washington, D.C.
Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 7.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.13 million in August from an upwardly revised 3.84 million in July. However, existing-home sales remain 19 percent below the 5.1 million-unit pace in August 2009.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales still remain subpar. “The housing market is trying to recover on its own power without the home-buyer tax credit. Despite very attractive affordability conditions, a housing market recovery will likely be slow and gradual because of lingering economic uncertainty,” Yun says.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.43 percent in August from 4.56 percent in July; the rate was 5.19 percent in August 2009.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $178,600 in August, up 0.8 percent from a year ago. Distressed homes rose to 34 percent of sales in August from 32 percent in July; they were 31 percent in August 2009.
"Only one-quarter of Americans expect the sale prices of houses in their neighborhood to increase in the next 12 months."
RBC Consumer Outlook Index
Photovoltaics for Roofing Contractors
In conjunction with the launch of its EnerGen photovoltaic roofing system, Valley Forge, Pa.-based CertainTeed Corp. has established a new services group and training program that will assist roofing contractors to transition into the solar roofing market. Offered in pre-engineered kits containing all components necessary for installation, EnerGen features thin-film UNI-SOLAR laminates that integrate with traditional asphalt roofing shingles. The system’s lightweight design requires no rooftop penetrations, making it easier for contractors to install while maintaining roof-deck integrity. For more information, visit www.certainteed.com.
SidingPolypropylene Siding Certified
The Vinyl Siding Institute Inc., Washington, D.C., has announced certification for qualified polypropylene siding to the industry performance standard. Through VSI’s program, polypropylene-siding manufacturers can certify that their products meet or exceed ASTM D7254, “Standard Specification for Polypropylene (PP) Siding,” as verified by an independent quality-control agency.
Certified siding will weather without cracking, chipping, flaking, pitting or peeling; withstand wind pressures equivalent to 110 mph; and demonstrate flame-spread performance equivalent to or better than wood.
For more information about the program, visit www.vinylsiding.org.