Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/29/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/29/12 on the Web.

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

  • January pending home sales rise; on an upward trend
  • Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index rises in February
  • S&P Case-Shiller Indices show higher affordability than ever
  • Durable goods orders take a break in January after three months of consecutive increases

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Monday, February 27, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/27/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/27/12 on the Web.

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

  • Job growth helps maintain consumer confidence
  • New home sales dip slightly to annual rate of 321,000; inventory stands at 5.6 months

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Friday, February 24, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/24/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/24/12 on the Web.

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

  • Existing home sales by 4.3% in January
  • U.S. home prices fell by 0.1% during fourth quarter of 2011
  • Initial unemployment claims remain unchanged at 351,000 in most recent report
  • Mortgage applications fall by 4.5% in most recent survey

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/22/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/22/12 on the Web.

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

  • Only 54% of Americans have more emergency savings than credit card debt
  • Surging gas prices threaten economic recovery

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President’s Day from Housing Chronicles

Did you know that Washington’s Birthday is still the official name designated to what many of us know as President’s Day? During the month of February, the birthday of two of our greatest Presidents takes place. Both George Washington (who was born on Feb. 22nd) and Abraham Lincoln (born on Feb. 12th).

However, Washington’s birthday has been publicly celebrated since he was in office, before Abraham Lincoln was even born. Much of the debate over the name of the holiday springs from the fact that states can follow their own holidays how they see fit and many of them chose to also honor Lincoln, calling the celebration President’s Day.

It was in 1968 that the term President’s Day came up for legal consideration in the Congress but rejected, though the holiday was moved to fall between the two President’s birthdays. Again, in the 1980′s there was a resurgence of the term with advertisers which solidfied the holiday name in American culture. Today, few Americans prefer to call the holiday Washington’s Birthday in lieu of President’s Day. (Source: Patriotism.org)

Also, according to a story in the L.A. Times:

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, many people surmised — incorrectly — that it was to jointly honor both the Father of His Country and the Great Emancipator…The Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971. Along with moving Washington’s birthday, it created three-day holidays for Memorial Day, which had been celebrated May 30, and Veterans Day, which had been observed on Nov. 11…

As for “Washington’s Birthday,” about a decade ago some members of Congress tried to restore the name to its proper place in American discourse.

They introduced the “Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act of 2001,” which called on all federal officials and entities to refer to the day as Washington’s Birthday. It also called on the president to issue an annual proclamation recognizing the anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, and it urged Americans to observe the day with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

The bill never got out of committee.

Regardless of what you call it, enjoy the day off (if you have it off) and Happy President’s Day/Washington’s Birthday.

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/20/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/20/12 on the Web.

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

  • Leading Indicator Index rises for fourth consecutive month
  • CPI rises by 0.2% in January and by 2.9% over the past year

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Friday, February 17, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/17/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/17/12 on the Web.

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

  • Builder confidence rises for fifth consecutive month in February
  • Housing starts in January up by 9.9% from previous year; building permits rise by 19.0%
  • Philadelphia Fed: Firms see expansion in manufacturing activity
  • Latest Federal Reserve meeting minutes show lesser support for QE3
  • Industrial production flat in January; manufacturing rises by 0.7% as capacity utilization declines
  • Producer Price Index (PPI) rises by 0.1% in January; core PPI up by 0.4%
  • Empire State Manufacturing Survey shows continued growth in February
  • Mortgage applications fall by 1% in latest survey
  • Initial unemployment claims drop by 13,000 to 348,000 in latest survey

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Preparing for the employment rebound

With largely positive economic news over the last few months concluding that a sustained housing rebound may finally be on the horizon, 2012 could very well prove to be the year that building industry employment begins rising from its depressed lows. And yet since returning to that former job may be challenging at best or impossible at worst, it’s probably time to update that resume and research exactly what companies – and their recruiters – are seeking in a new employee.


According to JoAnne Williams at JWilliamsStaffing in Irvine, California, business at her staffing and temporary services company was up by 75% for the first six weeks of 2012 versus the same period in 2011. Geographically, most of that increase has been seen in California, Texas and Colorado. However, for candidates wishing to stand out from the pack of other jobseekers, Williams has some sage advice: skip the objective in the resume and replace it with a brief, bullet-pointed skills summary.

Since so much of recruiting is now done online, be careful about how you save the name of the resume file you’ll be attaching to your application, as something like “ResumeABCBuilder” may make it seem like you’re artificially targeting your resume towards that company. Williams also suggests skipping a cover letter unless it’s specific and engaging to the potential employer. Finally, even though it may seem like an anachronism in today’s wired world, including recent reference letters adds a touch of class.

Matt Slepin, Founder and Managing Director for the executive recruiting firm Terra Search Partners based in San Francisco, says that those looking to re-enter the building industry should do so sooner rather than later. “They generally have a free pass for the beginning of the recession to be un- or under-employed, but at this point in the cycle it starts to become more questionable,” he offers. Slepin also says that recruiters should be a small part of a comprehensive job search program simply because by the time an opening gets to a recruiter’s desk their job will be to make the process highly competitive. “Better to get to an employer before the opening gets to a recruiter,” he concludes.

Slepin also has some advice for those trying to be clever on their resume by using a functional format to hide gaps in employment or leaving off dates of college graduation or their first few jobs (which could make the reader conclude you’re even older than you are). A traditional, chronological resume shows how a candidate grew and evolved in different positions, and although some companies might harbor some age bias, Slepin doesn’t practice it. If you had a career detour into another industry or took time off to raise a family or start your own business, the best place to discuss those issues would be in a good cover letter and, hopefully, in an interview.

In general, recruiters such as Terra Search look for two types of candidates: those who fit a specific position, and those who are looking for a general conversation to begin a long-term relationship. In fact, the best networkers keep up with recruiters in both good times and bad and tap them as both a regular coach and career counselor. Don’t simply use them when you’re only looking for a job.

JoAnne Williams, also a veteran of the building industry and associations such as the BIA, stresses the need to reconnect with key industry leaders, attending events and keeping in touch without being a pest. Even requesting a introduction to someone, like a reference letter, can show potential employers that you’re taking your search seriously. And when you do finally nab that interview, prepare for it in advance, as Williams suggests that a well-prepared candidate with less experience might get hired over a veteran who assumes they can rest on their resume alone.

So what’s the best way to network your way into a job? Firstly, both Williams and Slepin agree that LinkedIn is the best social network for business. Secondly, demonstrating involvement in the industry can show that you know how these organizations are structured and have personal resources to bring with you. And thirdly, don’t be a passive jobseeker: instead, research the hiring manager for a position and network your way into the company so you already know who you’re talking to before that all-important interview.

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/15/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/15/12 on the Web.

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

  • Retail sales in January rise by 0.4% from previous month and 5.8% from same month of 2011
  • Trade deficit rises slightly in December as both imports and exports rise
  • Business inventories rose less than sales in December

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day from Housing Chronicles

The Housing Chronicles Blog and MetroIntelligence would like to wish you (and yours) a Happy Valentine's Day.

A bit of history: Saint Valentine’s Day, often simply Valentine’s Day, is a holiday observed on February 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentinus. It was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, and was later deleted from the General Roman Calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. It is celebrated in countries around the world, mostly in the West, although it remains a working day in all of them.

The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“).

Modern Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, February 13, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/13/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/13/12 on the Web.

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

  • Consumer confidence declines in February given continued concerns about wages
  • U.S. trade balance widens as national recovery outpaces global growth
  • Treasury budget falls to $27 billion in January

Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 100,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/10/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/10/12 on the Web.

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

  • Initial unemployment claims fall by 15,000 in most recent survey to 358,000
  • Wholesale trade up by 1.3% in December as inventories rise by 1.0%
  • Refinance activity increases as rates hit survey lows

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/08/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/08/12 on the Web.

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

  • Improving market index rises to 98 metro areas in February
  • Consumer credit surges again in December

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, February 6, 2012

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/06/12

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/06/12 on the Web.

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

    • U.S. gains 243,000 jobs in January, almost all in the private sector at unemployment rate falls to 8.3%
    • Both factory orders and inventories continued to rise in December
    • Non-manufacturing sector activity rose at faster rate in January

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    Friday, February 3, 2012

    BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/03/12

    Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 2/03/12 on the Web.

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

    • Construction spending rose in December but still down by 2.0% for 2011
    • Private sector employment rose by 170,000 jobs in January
    • Planned job cuts rose by 28% in January, generally the heaviest job-cut month of the year
    • Initial unemployment claims fall by 12,000 in latest survey
    • Worker productivity decreased in fourth quarter of 2011 as labor costs rose by 1.2%
    • Manufacturing sector activity expands for 30th straight month
    • Mortgage applications fall by 2.9% 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.

      Thursday, February 2, 2012

      President Obama outlines "Project Rebuild" to help housing market


      Following up his original proposals during the State of the Union address, President Obama outlined the specifics of his plans to help the housing market recovery on Wednesday. The president outlined a seven-part effort that would address the housing crisis from multiple angles. The entirety of the president’s plan would be funded through an additional fee on large banks, a measure sure to face congressional opposition.

      The plan was outlined as follows:

      1. New and improved processes to help more borrowers refinance their mortgages

      The goal is to create a new refinancing program that will be run by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The FHFA initiative focuses on providing more borrowers the opportunity to refinance their mortgages. The central tenets of the proposal include:

      - Allowing borrowers who have not obtained their loans through GSEs like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance if they are current on their payments (even if they’re underwater) and meet some additional criteria
      - Streamlining the refinancing process for all GSE borrowers up-to-date with their loans
      - Helping borrowers use the refinancing progress to build up their equity

      For non-GSE borrowers to qualify for refinancing, they must meet a minimum credit score; their loan can’t be larger than the current FHA conforming loan limits in their area; and they must be refinancing on a single-family, owner-occupied home that is their primary residence.

      For GSE borrowers, the president’s plan would make the following improvements:

      - Eliminate appraisal costs for all borrowers
      - Increase competition amongst lenders to help lower prices for borrowers
      - Extend the streamlined refinancing processes to all GSE borrowers

      Under the president’s plan, borrowers with equity problems will also be able to rebuild some of that equity through refinancing. They will have the option of either making lower monthly payments on their loans instead of putting the savings in equity. As an incentive for the latter option, GSEs and the FHA may be required to cover the closing costs for borrowers.

      2. The Homeowner Bill of Rights

      The Homeowner Bill of Rights, the second part of Obama’s plan, would provide the following protections:

      - Simpler mortgage forms, currently being designed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
      - Required full disclosure of all fees and penalties by lenders before they go into effect
      - Minimizing conflicts of interest between borrowers and lenders
      - Mechanisms to help at-risk homeowners
      - Defenses against inappropriate foreclosure

      3. Pilot sale to help transition real estate owned property to rental housing

      This measure would essentially repurpose vacant and foreclosed homes into rental housing with the goal of reducing the inventory; this, in turn, should help stabilize housing prices.

      4. 12 months of forbearance for unemployed borrowers

      Extending the period of time when foreclosed borrowers are allowed to stay in their homes would give them more time to find much-needed employment. The extension will apply to both the FHA (up from four months) and HAMP (up from three months).

      5. Joint federal-state investigations into mortgage origination and servicing abuses

      The newly formed Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group will investigate financial institutions suspected of misconduct related to the pooling and sale of mortgage-backed securities. Officials from the Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Securities and Exchange Commission and state Attorney Generals will all be part of the effort.

      6. Use unemployed construction workers to rehabilitate vacant and foreclosed homes

      Deemed “Project Rebuild,” this effort would provide work for out-of-work construction employees nationwide, restoring hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses. The president proposed setting aside $15 billion for the effort.

      7. Expand eligibility requirements for HAMP

      In addition to extending the life of the HAMP program to the end of 2013, Obama hopes to adjust the eligibility requirements to allow more people to take advantage. These changes would include:

      - Helping those with secondary debt meet the requirements
      - Adding properties currently occupied by a tenant or which the borrower intends to rent
      - Provide additional incentives to lenders to modify loans to help borrowers rebuild equity

      Wednesday, February 1, 2012

      February column for Builder & Developer magazine now online

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

      For this issue, entitled "The Green Building Revolution Expands," I discussed the merging of green building and smart building techniques for all types of new building projects. As part of this column, I also interviewed CityView CEO Henry Cisneros (former HUD Secretary under President Clinton) and AMCAL President Arjun Nagarkatti.

      An excerpt:

      For the last two decades, we’ve continued to hear about the advantages of “smart growth,” and in most cases that means new developments which promote efficient land use, urban redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization and economic opportunity.Over the past few years, that definition has also expanded to include green building techniques, especially those related to energy efficiency and sustainability. Once relegated to certain project types, today smart, green building encompasses everything from high-rise office buildings to low-rise affordable housing options...

      To read the entire column, click here.

      To read the entire February 2012 issue in digital format, click here.

      BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 2/01/12

      Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytesfor 2/01/12 on the Web.

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

      • Case-Shiller Indices show continued decline in home prices
      • Consumer Confidence Index decreases slightly in January
      • Chicago Business Barometer falls slightly in January but still marks 28th month of expansion
      • Personal income up, consumer spending flat in December
      • Employment cost index rises by 0.4% in December in line with expectations

      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.