Friday, March 28, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/28/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/28/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Pending home sales declined for 8th straight month in February
  • 4Q 2013 GDP grew by 2.6 percent in third and final estimate
  • Initial unemployment claims fall by 10,000 in latest report
  • Mortgage applications dip by 3.5 percent in latest survey due to fewer refinancings
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 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 Evan Lancaster at elancaster@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/27/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/27/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • New home sales dipped in February due to winter weather and rising interest rates
  • Case-Shiller Indices both rose in January but rate of increase falling
  • FHFA House Price Index up by 0.5 in January and 7.4 percent over previous year
  • Consumer confidence rebounds to six-year high in March
  • Factory orders and shipments both rebounded in February
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New Homes, New TV Experience: Help Your Buyers and Renters “Cut the Cord”

Like many American households today, when my local cable TV company first offered a generous incentive to sign up for a “triple play” including cable television, home phone and high-speed Internet service, I was eager to sign up.   At the time, the combination of bundling three bills into one plus the added benefit of promotional discounts for the latest technologies made the decision easy.

Today, however, a far different combination of seemingly sneaky fees which continue to increase almost monthly, unreliable service (including a voicemail service which recently erased all of my saved messages), and more competition through emerging technologies is making it much easier to ditch your local utility behemoth in favor of something else.

I’m certainly not alone in my frustration:  according to Qz.com, ten percent of pay TV customers are planning to “cut the cord” in the year ahead -- although in a previous poll last year, just 0.1 percent of the eight percent making similar vows actually went through with it.

I imagine that the disconnect here between consumers’ intentions and actions is due to the assumed complexity of finding the right replacement services, but what better time to show households just how to ditch traditional pay TV and phone service providers than when they’re buying or renting a new home?

Moreover, what better way to build your brand to tech-savvy Millennials than to speak in a lexicon they already understand while also showing them a way to save money well after they’ve moved into one of your homes?  Then, a year down the line, when their friends are complaining about the constant fee hikes to due to ‘higher programming costs’ (especially for sports channels), they can brag about how their builder or apartment management company made ‘cutting the cord’ so easy.

Today, however, most builders, apartment landlords and HOAs continue to not only automatically refer their future residents to the local cable TV or telephone companies, but in some cases actually benefit financially by locking in their residents with ‘discounted’ yet mandatory service that can limit their choices for years.

While such sweetheart deals might have made sense when these triple-play services were first being rolled out, today these entrenched players are often dealing with out-dated cable boxes or cheaply made cable modems which assume the subscriber simply isn’t aware of competition from digital TV antennas, satellite content providers, Internet-connected gadgets for home phones or Internet companies like NetFlix, Amazon Video or Hulu which entertain for a fraction of the cost.   In that case, such pre-made agreements can start acting as a deterrent rather than an amenity.

For now, both early adopting consumers as well as the entrenched players are moving gradually beyond the status quo.  In 2007, about two million households were being tracked by Nielsen as ‘zero-TV’ homes, in which content was being consumed on alternative devices such as laptops, pads and smart phones.  By 2013, that total had more than doubled to five million, with over two-thirds watching content on non-TV devices even when three-quarters of them had a TV in the home.

Not surprisingly, while 36 percent cited cost as a factor for their TV-free lifestyle, another 31 percent simply weren’t interested in the content being offered on traditional networks, which underscores the complaint that most pay TV subscribers are being forced to pay for content they will never watch.

To keep subscribers from fleeing, pay TV companies are beginning to offer ‘watch anywhere’ apps which allow viewers to view television live or even set their DVRs so they don’t miss their favorite shows.  Similarly, when HBO rolled out HBOGo, the premium pay channel puts its entire library of original programming online to subscribers for access on multiple devices including Internet-enabled TVs, DVD players, smart phones and even gaming devices including the millions of Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 units sold over the past few years.  By broadening the scope of where its content can be seen, HBO can thus shift the balance of power back from distributor to content provider in which the method of distribution becomes almost irrelevant.

So what just can builders and apartment managers do to address this changing world?  Simply providing information on the alternatives to the usual mainstays would be a great start.   For example, many companies provide Internet-based home phone service (also known as VOIP) for a fraction of the cost charged by the usual suspects.  Plus, who wouldn’t want a free starter subscription to NetFlix or Hulu Plus as part of the welcome package in a connected world?

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/25/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/25/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Initial unemployment claims rise by 5,000 in latest report
  • Fed set to continue scaling down QE3, could raise interest rates in early 2015
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March column for Builder & Developer magazine now online

My column for the March 2014 issue of Builder and Developer magazine is now posted online.

For this issue, entitled "A Bigger, Better Show Filled with Optimism," I covered my week at the 2014 International Builders Show in Las Vegas.  An excerpt:

Back in 2008 when I attended the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas, the mood was somber, the exhibit floor was depressing and education sessions were focusing just as much on avoiding bankruptcy and working with lenders as they were about new products, services and trends. 

Fast-forward to 2014, however, and this year’s show in early February was entirely different. Firstly, it was huge: more than 75,000 attendees filled the convention center for Design & Construction Week, which paired together IBS, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and International Window Coverings Expo in more than 650,000 square feet of exhibit space.
For IBS alone, exhibit space grew by 24 percent over last year’s totals, which certainly points to the growing confidence for our industry. Secondly, there was a level of optimism that I’d not seen since the mid-2000s. And thirdly, the decision to shrink education sessions to 60 minutes meant more time to wander the exhibit floors as well as to squeeze in more sessions...
To read the entire column, click here.

To read the entire March 2014 issue in digital format, click here.

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/21/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/21/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • February building permits up by 7.7 percent from January and 6.9 percent year-over-year
  • February housing starts dip by 0.2 percent from January and 6.4 percent year-over-year
  • CPI rose by 0.1 percent in February; up by just 1.1 percent over last 12 months
  • Mortgage applications dip by 1.2 percent in latest survey
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/18/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/18/14 on the Web.

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

  • Builder confidence rebounded slightly in March
  • Producer Price Index fell 0.1 percent in February
  • Consumer sentiment weakened in March due to to harsh winter weather
  • Industrial production rebounded in February
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/13/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/13/14 on the Web.

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

  • Job openings in January remain unchanged from previous month
  • Mortgage applications dip slightly in latest survey
  • Wholesale inventories rise, but sales drop sharply
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/11/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/13114 on the Web.

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

  • Job growth up sharply in February despite cold weather
  • Consumer credit use in January held back by credit card use
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Daylight Saving Time for 2014 Starts This Weekend!

It’s “Spring Forward, Fall Back” time again.

This weekend marks the annual rite of passage in which we set our clocks forward one hour, but there are a few things you should remember this weekend when you “spring forward” for Daylight Saving Time.

First, remember to set your clocks forward one hour before you go to sleep Saturday. Daylight Saving Time for 2014 officially begins at 2 a.m. Sunday in the United States and Canada. Second, make time to check and replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. And third, please note that most open houses will now be from 2-5pm instead of 1-4pm and home builders' sales offices will be open an hour longer to accommodate more hours of daylight. Sure, you'll lose an hour on early Sunday morning, but this time change also marks the beginning of spring and summer.

Not all areas in the United States observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). These include the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Hawaii and most of Arizona except for the Navajo reservation. Modern DST was first proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, an astronomer and entomologist whose day job was working as a cadet for the New Zealand postal service. Since he came to highly value daylight hours for his scientific hobbies, he suggested seasonal time adjustments to the Wellington Philosophical Society, but it wasn’t until 1927 that the idea was launched on a trial basis.

Many countries have used it since the, although the practice has been both praised and criticized. For example, adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after traditional working hours, but causes problems for farming, evening entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun. Its effect on health and crime is less clear. Although an early goal of DST was to reduce evening usage of inefficient incandescent lighting (formerly a primary use of electricity), modern heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly.

Friday, March 7, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/7/14


Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/7/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Planned job cuts declined slightly in February, down 7.3 percent from previous year
  • Factory orders fell in February for second straight month, likely due to winter weather
  • Productivity in 4Q 2013 revised down to 1.8 percent annual rate, was 0.5 percent in for 2013
  • Initial unemployment claims dipped by 23,000 in latest report
  • Fed's Beige Book:  weather obscures reading on economic conditions
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/6/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/6/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Private sector jobs grew by just 139,000 in February
  • Service sector economy softened in February
  • Mortgage applications rose by 9.4 percent in latest survey
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 3/4/14

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 3/4/14 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicators:
  • Pending home sales mostly flat in January
  • Construction spending rose unexpectedly in January
  • Consumer confidence mostly unchanged since December
  • 4th Quarter 2013 GDP falls to 2.4 percent in second estimate
  • Chicago Business Barometer flat in February
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact National Sales Manager Nick Cosan at nkosan@penpubinc.com.