Plenty of Positivity

In a time when you can’t seem to avoid bad news about the housing market, and our friends Fannie and Freddie are having big problems, it’s important to focus on good news. I begin with RD&B magazine’s own good news, starting on page 18 of this issue, where we begin 30 articles describing the winning projects and businesses from our 2008 Excellence Awards. Each article is a quick read, but highlights the goals, challenges and solutions these winning firms used to create beautiful homes and satisfied clients. We are proud and excited to recognize so many of your peers.

For good news from outside of our pages, a report released in the second quarter by the American Institute of Building Design reveals that 53 percent of AIBD members in the Northeast say contracts for new custom home designs were the same or higher in the first quarter of 2008 as in the last quarter of 2007. “We are seeing very positive signs in the market,” says AIBD member Michael Staymen in Chambersburg, Pa. “For the potential client who has been thinking about a project for some time now, it is a good time to design and build.”

In North Carolina and Texas, 36 percent of AIBD members say their total number of contracts rose in the first quarter of 2008 over the last quarter of 2007. “Our builders are telling us that they have increased traffic in their models, and one of our builders had the best month [March] that they have had since 2005,” says Mike Keesee in Apopka, Fla. AIBD member Jonathan Boone in Hattiesburg, Miss., was upbeat about business. “The custom home market here seems to be very strong, and the inventory of spec homes is finally starting to decline,” he says.

I heard more good news when my wife and I had dinner in June with friends, one of whom is a real estate agent. We were expecting horror stories, but instead he said things weren’t that bad. He mentioned that his territory is now in the more affluent suburbs of Chicago, and he no longer sells entry-level homes. More indication that upper-end housing is doing better than the production home market in general.

The National Association of Realtors also shared good news by predicting that existing-home sales should grow this year from an annual pace of 5.01 million in the second quarter to a 5.75 million pace in Q4. For all of 2008, existing-home sales should total 5.31 million and increase 5 percent next year to 5.58 million. Plus, the aggregate median existing-home price should rise by 4.3 percent in 2009, it says.

By sharing all this good news I’m not trying to ignore the troubles many of you are experiencing, or pretend that everything in the housing market is OK. It obviously isn’t. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear positive news to realize the situation isn’t all bad, and in some places it’s actually pretty good.