Thursday, December 29, 2011

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/29/11

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/29/11 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

  • Case-Shiller Indices show broad-based declines in October
  • Consumer confidence index rebounds to levels last seen in April 2011
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Monday, December 26, 2011

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/26/11

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/26/11 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

  • New home sales rise to 7-month high as inventory falls to 5.5-month low in November
  • Third quarter GDP revised to 1.8% in third estimate from the BEA
  • FHFA Housing Price Index Down by 2.8% YOY in October, Nearly Matching February 2004 Levels
  • Initial unemployment claims fall again in latest survey
  • Leading Economic Index rises by 0.5% in November
  • Univ. of Michigan report shows improving consumer sentiment but political deadlock hurts consumer spending
  • Personal income and consumer spending post modest gains in November
  • Durable goods orders rise in November, but core demand remains weak
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays from MetroIntelligence and Housing Chronicles

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, the Yule or simply enjoy the music and lights which characterize this time of year, at MetroIntelligence and Housing Chronicles we’d like to wish you Happy Holidays and hope you have a great 2012! Following are some tips we found on how to best enjoy this time of year from the folks at the American Council 0n Exercise (ACE):

The holidays can be a joyous time of year shared with family and friends, but they can also bring stress and anxiety as we struggle to keep up with often-unrealistic demands and expectations.

That’s why it is so important for all of us to relax and take good care of ourselves.

ACE’s top tips for surviving the holidays are great for increasing your energy and reducing your stress, this season and all year long.

  1. Take time for yourself. Although spending time with friends and family is essential, it’s also important to have at least five minutes to yourself to relax. Try practicing deep breathing exercise when you feel stressed out.
  2. Don’t set unrealistic exercise goals. Aim to exercise 20 minutes a day instead of an hour. You’ll be sure to get at least 20 minutes of exercise per day without feeling disappointed if you do not complete an hour.
  3. Enlist a friend or family member to exercise with you. Walking and talking with a friend can be a great way to burn extra calories and reduce your stress level.
  4. Create new, more active traditions. Instead of throwing a dessert or cocktail party, try snowshoeing or ice-skating as an alternate holiday event. Play powder puff football or build a snowman.
  5. Don’t try to lose weight or stick to a restrictive diet this holiday season. If you enjoy your favorite foods in small portions, you’ll feel more satisfied. Trying to stay away from certain foods may leave you feeling deprived, which may cause you to eat more than you intended to.
  6. Drink plenty of water. Although the cold weather may make you less inclined to grab a glass of water, it is just as important in the winter as it is during the summer. Water helps counter the dehydrating effects of travel or drinking alcoholic beverages, and it may also help satiate your appetite since thirst is often mistaken for hunger.
  7. Spread out meals. Don’t feel like you have to eat everything at once. Try eating dinner early and then taking a walk before sitting down for dessert.
  8. Don’t overdo it with alcohol or caffeine. These stimulants will only cause you more grief in the end by adding to your feelings of stress. Try drinking hot herbal tea instead of coffee, and keep the number of alcoholic drinks to a minimum.
  9. Don’t aim for perfection, and enjoy the imperfections. There is no such thing as the perfect party or the perfect decorations or the perfect way to spend the holidays. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by placing unrealistic demands on yourself.
  10. Laugh. Laughing is a great tension reliever. It burns calories, reduces stress and usually means that you’re enjoying yourself.

New home sales rise in November but 2011 still probably the worst year on record

Although new home sales rose slightly in November, according to an AP story the year 2011 will likely rank as the worst year for sales since records were first kept in 1963:

Americans bought slightly more new homes in November, but 2011 will likely end up as the worst year for sales in history.

The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose 1.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 315,000. That's less than half the 700,000 new homes that economists say should be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.

It's also below the 323,000 homes sold last year - the worst year for sales on records dating back to 1963...

Economists note that housing is a long way from fully recovering and that many people are opting to rent because they can't afford to buy or don't feel a home is a wise investment right now.

Home construction has begun a gradual comeback and should add to economic growth in 2011. But the main reason for that increase is that the rate of apartment construction is nearly twice as fast as it was two years ago. Single-family-home construction remains depressed...

Click here for entire story.

Part II of my radio interview regarding Lennar's NextGen homes

Last week, I was interviewed by correspondent Sarah Gardner for the "Marketplace" program, which runs on public radio stations nationwide, for the "NextGen" series of homes now being built by Lennar. This second part of this program was aired this morning. Although other builders such as Standard Pacific and Taylor Morrison have also built homes with multiple generations in mind, Lennar's been getting most of the press regarding this trend lately (including a story in the L.A. Times).

You can listen to this segment via podcast or read a transcript by clicking here. So is this the beginning of a big trend for the industry? Way too early to say, but it certainly merits watching.

It's also not a product that would work just anywhere: you'd need enough of a customer base which thinks intergenerational housing is a good thing. Want to get a handle of the demographics of specific areas you're considering? Contact us at MetroIntelligence!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NAR revises home sales estimates for 2007 through 2010

As if the National Association of Realtors didn't need another question about its data collecting competence, it has recently admitted that it has seriously undercounted home sales for 2007 through 2010, which means the housing downturn was even worse than expected. From a story in the L.A. Times:


The National Assn. of Realtors has revised sharply downward the number of homes it calculated were sold from 2007 to 2010, revealing a much weaker housing market than it had estimated.

For 2010 alone, the trade group revised its estimate of home sales 14.6% lower than what it had previously reported — to about 4.2 million homes.Overall, sales and inventory reported by the group were reduced by 14.3% for 2007 through 2010, the association said Wednesday. The group gave several reasons for the revisions, including some sales that had been counted multiple times. Roughly half the revisions, the group said, resulted from a decrease in people selling their own homes; these people turned to real estate agents to sell those properties for them as the housing market turned bleak in 2007.

Homes sold by owners are typically not counted by the local listing services tracked by the national real estate group, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the group, said in a statement...

The revisions underscored a lack of data on the housing market. There is no government tally of home sales nationally. Instead, officials rely on private real estate groups to provide sales numbers. The government does publish an estimate of new-home sales and starts...


BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/22/11

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/22/11 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

  • Both housing starts and permits rise sharply in November, largely on the strength of multi-family units
  • Sales of existing homes in November rise to ten-month high
  • Home builder confidence climbs to highest level since May 2010
  • Mortgage applications decline by 2.6% even as rates drop to new 2011 low
  • MBA study shows potential buyers ready to commit but seller sentiment remains negative
    Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

    Want to make sure your company or event is included in the events calendar? Contact editor Dani Smith at dsmith@penpubinc.com.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Quoted on public radio's "Marketplace" regarding Lennar's NextGen homes

    Last week, I was interviewed by correspondent Sarah Gardner for the "Marketplace" program, which runs on public radio stations nationwide, for the "NextGen" series of homes now being built by Lennar. This program was aired this afternoon nationwide. Although other builders such as Standard Pacific and Taylor Morrison have also built homes with multiple generations in mind, Lennar's been getting most of the press regarding this trend lately (including a story in the L.A. Times).

    You can listen to this segment via podcast or read a transcript by clicking here. On Friday morning the rest of my interview will run along with the latest stats on new home sales.

    So is this the beginning of a big trend for the industry? Way too early to say, but it certainly merits watching.

    It's also not a product that would work just anywhere: you'd need enough of a customer base which thinks intergenerational housing is a good thing. Want to get a handle of the demographics of specific areas you're considering? Contact us at MetroIntelligence!

    Housing starts jump far more than forecast

    Housing starts, led mostly by the multi-family sector, rose to their highest level in 19 months to 685,000 units, or far better than the annual rate of 630,000 projected by surveyed economists. From a story in the Wall Street Journal:

    Home construction last month increased 9.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 from October, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The results were better than forecast. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected housing starts would rise by 0.3% to an annual rate of 630,000.

    The increase in November was driven by a 25.3% increase in multi-family homes with at least two units, a volatile part of the market. Construction of single-family homes, which made up about 65% percent of the market, rose only 2.3%

    Compared with the same month a year earlier, overall new-home starts in November were up 24.3%. They were still well below healthy levels, considered to be a pace of around 1 million to 1.5 million.

    The Commerce data showed newly issued building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose 5.7% from a month earlier to an annual rate of 681,000, the highest since March 2010. Permits in November had been projected to fall 1.7% to an annual rate of 633,000.

    Click here for entire story.

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Households Re-Think the Meaning of Home

    At the 2011 ULI Fall Meeting in Los Angeles, a new publication entitled “What’s Next: Real Estate in the New Economy” summarizes what builders and developers can expect in the years ahead through 2020. Due to a combination of increasing globalization, changing demographics and evolving technologies, the correct mix of strategic analysis and advice has never been more important.

    In the short term, one thing is becoming clear: the smorgasbord of low-hanging fruit which largely powered the home building industry’s success since the end of World War II is now gone. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In its place is emerging a collection of specific opportunities targeting value-conscious Baby Boomers, hyper-connected Gen Y members, immigrants often in need of multi-generational housing and lifelong renters -- some of whom need affordable housing and others who still crave those services and amenities commonly found in luxury condominium buildings.

    However, these groups will still demand some common traits related to design and function. One major trend discussed at the 2011 Building Industry Show in Southern California is casual living, which is now evident in all facets of American life and has been building for the last two decades. Casual living means combining room flexibility into ‘great rooms’ so individual households can make it their own with the fewest structural impediments as possible. At the same time, today’s households don’t want to sacrifice style and design, so matching supply to demand at a competitive price will be critical.

    It also means providing a clear relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces, so that even downsizing Boomers or transit-oriented Gen Yers can host family and friends in a yard or on a patio or balcony. In addition, given the continued rise of telecommuting marching in lockstep with improving technology, most buyers want to feel just as connected with the outside world whether they’re living in a downtown loft or a multi-generational home in a far-flung suburb. And, although today’s buyers and renters won’t necessarily pay more for sustainable living, they’re much more likely to opt for a green home if the cost is the same, thus helping both absorption and occupancy levels.

    The demographic changes impacting the industry will continue to accelerate in the years ahead, which will mean building for single-person households (expected to account for 27% of the total by 2020), ‘minority majority’ Asian, Hispanic and African American communities in many urban areas, extended employment years for Baby Boomers expected to live longer lives than ever, and small groups such as families, friends and roommates opting to cohabitate in large homes as opposed to living alone.

    Layered on top of these demographic changes will be the realities of living a balanced life. With costs for transportation in the form of fuel, time and tolls continuing to rise, households are already beginning to factor in the total cost of commuting and maintaining a home into their total monthly budget. However, since infill urban locations are by nature limited in scope, look for more mixed-use corridors to crop up around suburban nodes with freeway interchanges and transit stops as the center piece.

    Still, beyond the statistics lie the real reasons people choose the communities in which they live, and some of these may surprise. According to the third annual Knight Soul of the Community survey conducted by Gallup, there are three main qualities which attach people to a place: social offerings in the form of venues and places to meet, openness to diversity and newcomers, and aesthetics in both physical beauty and green spaces. Perhaps Confucius had it right all along when he predicted, “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

    BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/19/11

    Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/19/11 on the Web.

    In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

    • Philadelphia Federal Reserve's Business Outlook Survey Continued to Improve in December
    • Consumer prices remain flat in November as lower energy prices counter higher food prices
    • Initial unemployment claims fall to 366,000
    • Producer Price Index increases moderating
    • Industrial production falls unexpectedly in November
      Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

      Want to make sure your company or event is included in the events calendar? Contact editor Dani Smith at dsmith@penpubinc.com.

      Friday, December 16, 2011

      December column for Builder & Developer magazine now online

      My column for the December 2011 issue of Builder & Developer magazine is now posted online.

      For this issue, entitled "2011 in Review: Unemployment and Low Consumer Confidence Postpone the Recovery" I reviewed the reasons why the long-awaited recovery in the housing market has been postponed.

      An excerpt:

      Whether due to poor consumer confidence, tighter credit standards, high unemployment, delayed foreclosures or some combination of the above, it’s become clear that millions of potential households have delayed the move to their own, private abodes until the economy -- and their aspirations -- improve...

      ...However, aside from continued troubling signs from Europe, the economic news is gradually beginning to improve. For example, U.S. GDP, which squeaked along at 0.4% and 1.3% in the first and second quarters of 2011, respectively, accelerated to 2.5% by the third quarter. Retail sales are up, led mostly by gains in cars and electronics. Both business sales and industrial production are rising, and the consumer price index recently declined, suggesting that inflation is being kept in check...

      To read the entire column, click here.

      To read the entire December 2011 issue in digital format, click here.

      Thursday, December 15, 2011

      Quoted in today's Ventura County Star about foreclosures

      Today I was quoted in a story by the Ventura County Star about why rising foreclosures in the state and in Ventura County are bucking the national trend of falling foreclosures -- at least for now. So why the contrast? In part because foreclosures as much easier to process in California than in many other states, which require a court process. In addition, a combination of our high unemployment and the fact that many parts of the state were ground zero for the housing bust would mean we could be on the leading edge of higher foreclosures nationally after the start of 2012.

      From the story:

      Ventura County and California may be ahead of the nation in foreclosure activity for other reasons, said Patrick Duffy, a principal with MetroIntelligence Real Estate and Economics Advisors in Los Angeles.

      Foreclosures in the state move faster through the system because they don't need to go through the courts, he said.
      Also, California was a hot spot for many subprime and other troubled mortgages that triggered the cascade in foreclosure filings.

      "In the long run, it will be better because it gets them (the foreclosed homes) into the pipeline sooner," and therefore they will get sold sooner, Duffy said.

      Click here to read the entire story.

      BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/15/11

      Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/15/11 on the Web.

      In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

      • Federal Reserve leaves interest rates alone, more upbeat about economy
      • Retail sales rise for sixth straight month
      • Both sales and business inventories rise in October
      • Federal budget gap narrows from a year ago
      • Both import and export prices less than expected in November
      • Mortgage applications rise by 4.1% from previous week
        Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

        Want to make sure your company or event is included in the events calendar? Contact editor Dani Smith at dsmith@penpubinc.com.

        Monday, December 12, 2011

        BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/12/11

        Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/12/11 on the Web.

        In this issue of theMetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

        • Consumer sentiment rises to highest level in six months
        • Consumer credit rises to highest level since October 2009
        • Initial unemployment claims dip sharply in latest report
        • Wholesalers increase stockpiles at highest level in five months after cutting back over the summer
        • Trade deficit narrows to lowest level since December 2010
          Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

          Want to make sure your company or event is included in the events calendar? Contact editor Dani Smith at dsmith@penpubinc.com.

          Thursday, December 8, 2011

          BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/08/11

          Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/08/11 on the Web.

          In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

          • Purchasing & supply management executives expect continued recovery in 2012
          • Mortgage applications rise by 12.8% during week after Thanksgiving
          • Factory orders decline for second consecutive month in October
          • Non-Manufacturing Activity Increases for 24th Consecutive Month in November
            Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

            Want to make sure your company or event is included in the events calendar? Contact editor Dani Smith at dsmith@penpubinc.com.

            Monday, December 5, 2011

            BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/05/11

            Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/05/11 on the Web.

            In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

            • Unemployment rate falls to 8.6%, Due in Part to Reduction in Labor Force
            • Latest Federal Reserve Survey Shows Slow to Moderate Growth
            • Construction Spending in October Rises for Third Consecutive Month
            • Unemployment Claims Rise to 402,000 in Most Recent Report
            • November Manufacturing Activity in November Expands for 28th Consecutive Month
            • Chicago PMI Rebounds to 7-Month High in November
            Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

            Want to make sure your company or event is included in the events calendar? Contact editor Dani Smith at dsmith@penpubinc.com.

            Thursday, December 1, 2011

            BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 12/01/11

            Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 12/01/11 on the Web.

            In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:

            • New home sales rise in October as prices decline
            • S&P Case-Shiller Index falls in September after five months of gains
            • FHFA shows housing prices up by 0.2% in 3Q2011 but down by 3.7% over the past year
            • Pending home sales jump in October
            • Consumer confidence improves in November, matching levels last seen in July 2011
            • 3rd Quarter 2011 Productivity Revised to 2.3%
            • Private-sector employment rises by 206,000 jobs in November
            • Planned layoffs in November remains mostly unchanged from previous month but down by 13% YOY
            • Mortgage applications decline in latest survey
              Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

              Want to make sure your company or event is included in the events calendar? Contact editor Dani Smith at dsmith@penpubinc.com.