Lead-Paint Rule May Get Tougher

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule scheduled to take effect April 22, 2010, may have gotten a little tougher as a result of a court settlement with the Sierra Club and other interest groups.

In accordance with the settlement, the EPA will address what those groups see as shortcomings prior to the rule’s effective date, add additional safeguards by July 2011, and expand the scope of the rule to public and commercial buildings over the next six years.

The main focus of the ruling applies to renovators dealing with lead paint in structures built prior to 1978.

One proposed amendment is to drop an exemption for owner-occupied housing that would have allowed a homeowner to let contractors skirt some of the new regulations.

Additionally, the amendments will require renovators to inform the owner and the occupant how the work was done and confirm that the work was done safely at the end of the job, according to a Sierra Club press release. The EPA is expected to finalize this rule making before the rule goes into effect on April 22, 2010.

Another change is the method used to test for lead hazards. The current rule allows renovators to check their own work by merely running a wet cloth over the work area to look for dust. The proposed amendment would require that certified professionals test the home for lead hazards after renovations most likely to generate lead dust.

Additionally, under the settlement the EPA will propose a rule addressing exterior renovations in public and commercial buildings that are likely to create lead hazards.
The amendments will be available for comment prior to implementation.

Existing Homes

Gain in Sales Maintains Uptrend

For the first time in five years, existing-home sales have increased for four months in a row, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Existing-home sales — including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — rose 7.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 5.24 million units in July from a level of 4.89 million in June, and are 5.0 percent above the 4.99 million-unit pace in July 2008. The last time sales rose for four consecutive months was in June 2004, and the last time sales were higher than a year earlier was November 2005.

Home Prices

Upswing in the Second Quarter

Data through June 2009, released by Standard & Poor’s for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, show that the U.S. National Home Price Index improved in the second quarter of 2009.

“This is the first time we have seen a positive quarter-over-quarter improvement in three years,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s.

The Home Price Index recorded a 14.9 percent decline in the second quarter of 2009 vs. the second quarter of 2008. While still a substantial negative annual rate of return, this is an improvement over the record decline of 19.1 percent reported in the first quarter of the year, according to S&P.

Consumer Perception

Optimism Grips Homeowners

American homeowners are much more realistic about their own homes’ values than they were one year ago, but they are more optimistic about the future than at any other time in the past year. More than half (60 percent) of homeowners believe their own home lost value in the past 12 months, according to the Zillow Q2 Homeowner Confidence Survey. In reality, 83 percent of homes lost value during that time, according to Zillow’s second-quarter Real Estate Market Reports.

But homeowners are more optimistic than ever about the future values of their homes, with 81 percent of homeowners believing their own homes’ values will not decline in the next six months — the highest percentage on record since the first quarterly Homeowner Confidence Survey, which was fielded in the second quarter of 2008. Meanwhile, only 19 percent of homeowners believe their own home will decrease in value over the next six months.