Builder Blog from Integrity Windows and Doors

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Young adults have always been attracted to large metropolitan cities like moths to a flame. There is an irresistible pull — entertainment, shopping, dining, nightlife, the sheer hustle and bustle.

Not all major U.S. cities are viewed equally by millennials, though. New research from the National Associations of REALTORS examined metro markets most attractive to first-time homebuyers who fall into the age group. Their study factored current housing conditions and housing affordability, job creation, and population trends in 100 metro areas across the country.

“Limited job prospects, student debt, and flat wage growth have combined with tight credit conditions and low inventory to price millennials out of some of the top cities such as New York and San Francisco,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, NAR research finds that there are other metro areas millennials are moving to where job growth is strong and home ownership is more attainable. These markets are well-positioned to soon experience a rise in first-time buyers as the economy improves.”

The top metro areas included:

  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Minneapolis
  • New Orleans
  • Ogden, Utah
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle

NAR also identified the following markets with high potential for attracting millennial home buyers:

  • Madison, Wis.
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • Omaha, Neb.
  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Washington, D.C.


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The high today is 96 degrees with humidity. You’re off to work in the morning when you come to an abrupt stop. The thermostat. How should it be set? Your home will be empty for the next nine hours, but you hate the thought of returning home to muggy living quarters. More than that, you hate the idea of running the thermostat — and the electric meter — to keep the empty house cool.

For a growing segment of homeowners, this an antiquated problem. That’s because home automation is giving homeowners more control than ever, especially while away from the home. According to BUILDER Magazine, that’s a convenience homeowners are increasingly willing to pay a premium for, too.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents in a recent BUILDER Magazine survey ranked energy management as one of the top features that matter most to them in a smart home. HVAC heating and cooling management was cited as the most important feature in helping to reduce utility bills. Nearly 43 percent of respondents say they’d be interested in replacing their thermostat with a “smart thermostat,” one that automatically adjusts when the home is occupied.

As for the premium cost, the survey found that 51 percent of respondents would be willing to pay up to $500 for a fully equipped smart home; 32 percent say they’d pay $500 to $3,000.

[Image courtesy Builder Magazine]



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Builder confidence soars in July

July 18th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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Confidence is in the air according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The July score of 53 indicated that more builders view sales conditions for newly built single-family homes as as good rather than poor.

July marks the first time since January 2013 the score has been above 50.

“An improving job market goes hand-in-hand with a rise in builder confidence,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “As employment increases and those with jobs feel more secure about their own economic situation, they are more likely to feel comfortable about buying a home.”

According to the NAHB, all three HMI components posted gains in July. The index gauging current sales conditions increased four points to 57, while the index measuring expectations for future sales rose six points to 64 and the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers increased three points to 39.

The HMI three-month moving average was up in all four regions, with the Northeast and Midwest posting a one-point and two-point gain to 35 and 48, respectively. The West registered a five-point gain to 52 while the South rose two points to 51.



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Integrity is doing things a little differently this year for the 2014 Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Awards. The polls are now open and the general public can help us by voting their favorite projects for the People’s Choice award.

Last year, we debuted the People’s Choice by allowing the general public to pick their favorite of the five Red Diamond Achiever Award winners. This year, the public can vote on any project eligible for a Red Diamond Achiever Award. Voting is limited to one per person per day.

On Monday, July 21, we will reveal the official voting rank. Then, on Monday, July 28, we’ll reveal the top 10 remaining projects in the contest. Whichever project earns the most votes by midnight on Monday, August 4, will be crowned the People’s Choice.

Trust us — there are many deserving projects in this year’s contest. So, grab a cup of coffee and take some time to check out the best work from the industry’s brightest and best. Just click here!



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greenhomesThe average homebuyer might place a great deal of value in standards like LEED, Green Star and Passive House. Yet, year after year, building professionals pay top dollar to achieve these standards and carry the certification.

Steve Hansen at Sourceable.net asks, “Would it be possible to improve the performance, quality, and sustainability of more homes with a simpler, more streamlined, and cheaper building standard?”

That’s the thinking behind the Pretty Good House standard, which, unlike the above-listed certifications, currently lacks a backing organization in need of funding or any fee for certification. In fact, there is no certification. But there are still guidelines that impress the importance of building above minimal standards.

Steve Konstantino, owner of Maine Green Building Supply, organizes Pretty Good House standards as follows: General, Site Considerations, Design, Foundations, Building Envelope, Windows, Mechanicals, and Interior Finishes.

According to Sourceable.net, here are some of Konstantino’s guidelines:

  • “Use locally sourced materials and labor.
  • Keep the structure less complex.
  • Make things durable.”

And some ideas are more specific. For the building envelope:

  • Build walls to R-40 with thermal break for cold climates.
  • Build ceilings to R-60 with thermal break for cold climates.
  • Aim for airtightness at 1.5 ACH 50 or better.

Some guidelines address sustainability:

  • Use materials that have low embodied energy.
  • Keep the conditioned living space relatively small per occupant (maybe 600 s.f. for the first and 300-400 s.f. per additional occupant).
  • Avoid using fossil fuels.”

To learn more about the basics of Pretty Good House standards, check out GreenBuildingAdvisor.com.



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Though the housing market has steadily improved over the past few years, there are still many challenges preventing a truly robust recovery. In light of low inventory, labor shortages and stringent mortgage qualifications, some building professionals are showing savvy with new tactics to lure buyers.

In Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, Mary Ellen Podmolik introduced new ways professionals are capturing the attention of buyers:

  • “…Data scientists at real estate firm Redfin have developed a mathematical algorithm that crunches hundreds of pieces of information on a property, its surroundings and the market, then it labels as ‘hot’ those listings likely to go under contract within 14 days of their original listing … ’What matters to a particular homebuyer is not the macroeconomic conditions or housing starts,’ said Bridget Frey, Redfin’s vice president of engineering. ‘What they’re trying to do is (decide), ‘Should I watch the World Cup this weekend or should I go on a home tour?’”
  • “Lexington Homes had every intention of building a model at its Lexington Place development in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. But with 11 of the 20 sites sold before it could build a model, the company opted for a different strategy … It talked with four owners at the community and now takes prospective buyers through their homes. In exchange for opening their homes to strangers and for keeping them neat, the homeowners get gift cards from Lexington … The idea saved Lexington the time and expense of building, decorating and furnishing a model, a process that can cost $30,000 to $70,000 and keeps a home off the market, said Jeff Benach, co-principal at Lexington Homes.”
  • “BMO Harris Bank wants its loan officers to think outside the normal operating hours of Monday through Friday, so it has encouraged them to partner with real estate agents and help staff open houses Sundays … So far, more than 1,000 loan officers have given it a try, and the bank said it hopes to have its employees at another 1,000 open houses before the homebuying season slows. Loan officers are answering consumers’ questions about mortgages as well as helping agents at busy open house events.”

We’re curious: Has your company tried any new tactics over the past few years to generate business? If so, were they successful?



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The case for screened outdoor spaces

July 2nd, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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If we’re being picky, there are plenty of downsides to outdoor gathering spaces. Mosquitoes, fallen tree debris, precipitation, scorching sunlight — decks and porches are great, but they’re not impervious to nature’s woes.

There’s a very strong case to be made for the screened porch, especially because many modern designs implement large screen panels in a way that’s seamless if not beautiful. Take this screened porch from architects Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown at their weekend place in Rhinebeck, New York. It offers supreme comfort, utility and beauty — a trifecta that’s difficult to achieve lest one happens to live in an area where the architects, insects and meteorologists conspire.

Hopefully you and your clients will be spending some quality time on a patio or porch this holiday weekend. Make it an opportunity to consider screened-in options!

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How exactly should a building professional feel about all of the popular home remodeling programming on television right now? On the one hand, these shows help homeowners understand the transformational ability of a single remodeling project. On the other, they may be dramatically misinforming homeowners on project budgets and timelines.

Recently, Tim Regan of Remodeling Magazine went long on the topic of reality shows distorting the way homeowners think about renovation. Regan spoke with a number of building professionals about the mixed blessing that is home remodeling on television. Many view it as a necessary evil, but feel obliged to yank clients back into reality as early as the first meeting. And who doesn’t love an uncomfortable conversation to start off a business relationship?

The article also includes how Minneapolis-based Castle Building & Remodeling deals with mislead homeowners: Through some reality programming of its own!

“The team at Castle Building & Remodeling, in Minneapolis, fields so many TV-related misconceptions that it created a YouTube video (above) to address those points. ‘Remodeling on TV isn’t real,’ says the narrator in the video, before walking viewers through an actual remodeling job, step by step. The process provides viewers with a window into the process and shows them that, even if the job goes completely smoothly, it might take a month or more to finish a project. Troy Sinykin, Castle’s sales and design manager, says it’s important to educate clients before you break ground.”

 Have you dealt with clients who were misinformed by home remodeling shows? How did you reset expectations?



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The amenities that attract a prospective home buyer to a neighbor varies by age group, right?

Wrong.

According to John Burns Real Estate Consulting survey of more than 20,000 home shoppers, nearby groceries and restaurants were the No. 1 and No. 2 attractions across three age groups: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers.

One thing the No. 1 and No. 2 results suggest is a greater interest in walkability. That theory is reinforced by the fact walking trails ranked No. 3 among Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, and No. 4 among Yers.

Priorities begin to change from there, though, as you’ll see in the infographic below. (Click here to enlarge.) Does anything here surprise you? What can you glean from a community development standpoint?

ConsumerInsights

 



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If single-family construction is the greatest signifier of a recovering housing market, new data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau suggests there is good reason to be patient, but quietly positive.

May data indicates housing starts were up 9.4 percent year-over-year, but down 6.5 percent from April. However, single-family permits — the best indicator of future activity — increased 3.7 percent.

“The modest increase [in single-family permits] is evidence that builders expect continued release of pent-up demand and a gradual expansion of the housing market,” David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, said in a press release. “We are still forecasting a 12-percent increase in total housing starts for the year.”

The slow down may not be for lack of effort or demand, either.

“The dip in single-family production shows builders continue to move carefully in adding inventory,” says Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. “They are also facing supply chain issues, such as access to lots and labor.”

Source: RealtorMag.com



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