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Mobile marketing is critical to generating leads

October 1st, 2014 by Berit Griffin

mobile-desktop

Builder, remodeler, architect, designer…mobile marketer?

No matter how you identify yourself professionally, the ability to market your trade via mobile devices (including smartphones and tablets) is paramount. But what exactly does mobile marketing mean?

Does your business have a website? Great. In all likelihood, it was built to be experienced by users operating a desktop or laptop computer. And until a few years ago, a great website was efficient. Consider, though, that in 2014, a considerable amount of consumers rely on mobile devices as their primary device. Instead of plopping down at a desk or firing up a laptop, they’re browsing with their iPhones and iPads. This matters.

Back to your website. How does it look on a smartphone or tablet? If it appears as a micro-version of what one might see on a desktop or laptop computer, that’s not good enough. In fact, you might be losing leads because your mobile experience is so dismal.

So, what to do? RemodelersAdvantage.com has two suggestions:

1. Build a separate mobile site. “One option for creating a mobile optimized site is to create a separate mobile website. This was common a few years ago. The idea is that you build a site that has different content, different menu structure and looks much more simplistic. When someone visits your website (www.XYZRemodeling.com) from a mobile device, they are automatically re-directed to your mobile site (usually something like m.XYZRemodeling.com).”

2. Build a response site. “Responsive design means that you have one website, one set of pages and they all dynamically adjust sizing and layout based on the device someone is on.”

So, what now? Pull up your website on a mobile device. You might have some work to do.



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August new-home sales the highest since 2008

September 26th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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Fall officially arrived on Tuesday, but statistics from the summer building season are continuing to pour in. Prepare yourself for some good news.

According to newly released data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau, sales of newly built, single-family homes increased by 18 percent in August. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000 units is the highest level since 2008.

“This jump in sales activity is in line with our latest surveys, which indicate builders are seeing increased traffic and more serious buyers in the market for single-family homes,” said Kevin Kelly said in a press release issued by the NAHB. Kelly is the current chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del.

“This robust level of new-home sales activity is a good sign that the housing recovery is moving towards higher ground,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe in the same release. “Historically low mortgage rates, attractive home prices and firming job and economic growth should keep the housing market moving forward in 2014.”

With the summer officially over, were national numbers consistent with your company’s activity?



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Exurbs Contend With Urban Areas By Offering Affordability

September 24th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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You shouldn’t have to scroll very far down to find a Builder Blog story about the rise of urban living. The migration to large metro areas may still be on the rise, but don’t count out exurbs just yet.

According to The Wall Street Journal, home values in exurbs — think of towns located in the first ring outside of suburban areas — have remained mostly flat even during the housing recovery. By comparison, home values in suburban and urban areas have increased an average of 23 percent since 2009.

This isn’t much of a surprise. Economists predicted all along exurbs would be the last to recover from the recession. What does come as surprise, however, is the willingness of homebuyers to again bridge out to find a desirable home within their limited budget.

“I’m definitely seeing a trend toward these areas,” Bob Bennett, division president for home builder Ryland  in Charlotte, N.C., told The Wall Street Journal. “People are starting to consider driving a bit further to get the home they want at a better price.”



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Homebuilder Confidence Climbs To Nine-Year High

September 19th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

HomeConst

It’s been nearly a decade since builders were this confident in the market for newly built, single-family homes.

Builders’ confidence rose for the fourth consecutive month in September, according to new data from National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). It’s a strong signal that the housing industry is gaining more momentum.

To create its NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, the association surveys builders to gauge their perceptions of current single-family home sales, as well as expectations for the next six months. The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers. Their responses are used to calculate an index, in which anything above 50 signals a positive outlook.

The index rose four points to 59 in September—marking the highest level since November 2005. Confidence improved on all fronts: current sales conditions, prospective buyers, and future sales. Furthermore, builder confidence rose across every region of the country in September.

“Since early summer, builders in many markets across the nation have been reporting that buyer interest and traffic have picked up, which is a positive sign that the housing market is moving in the right direction,” NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly said.


A separate report from the Commerce Department found that construction of new homes in August dipped following a massive surge in July. Despite that month-to-month decline, the August rate was still 8 percent higher rate than a year earlier, Forbes noted.



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home-366927_1280

A major portion of U.S. borrowers thinks it’s harder to get a mortgage than it really is – a misconception that may be hampering home purchases.

In a recent a survey conducted by Wells Fargo & Co., the nation’s largest mortgage lender, nearly half of respondents believed that a 20 percent down payment is required – when in reality, that much is not required for many loan programs. Meanwhile, respondents cited “lacking the funds for a down payment” as one of their top barriers to home ownership. That  sentiment was particularly prominent among younger respondents, a cohort that has been less active in the housing recovery.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents thought that a “very good” credit score was necessary to buy a home. In reality, through government-backed programs, first-time buyers with subprime scores can get mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration and put down as little as 3.5 percent, Reuters explains.

Another indicator that lack of homebuyer education may be hindering sales: More than 40 percent of respondents said they know nothing or very little about closing costs required for buying a home.

In addition to impacting home purchases, misperceptions also cost existing homeowners money. For example, a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a significant portion of households failed to take advantage of available refinancing opportunities, costing them thousands of dollars.

Put another way, improved education would likely help increase home sales and save homeowners money, in turn bolstering the building market. And efforts are already underway to turn the tide.

The federal government, lenders, realtors, and consumer groups can all play a role in dispelling home-buying myths through outreach programs, like they did with the government-subsidized Home Affordable Refinance Program, a Wells Fargo official told Reuters. Furthermore, Wells Fargo said it is already taking steps to expand the pool of eligible home buyers by lowering minimum credit scores for government-backed loans.



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AbbottAveConstruction640

Across the country, more homeowners who would have in the past chosen suburban living are instead settling in the city.

One downside to this urban renaissance: tear-downs. Never mind the sights and sounds of construction in otherwise quiet neighborhoods. In many cases, these demolish-and-rebuild projects have drawn the ire of neighbors and city planners alike as historic, character-driven neighborhoods become cluttered with bulky, ostentatious new homes.

As a result, local government officials in many communities are amending zoning regulations to maintain the charm of their neighborhoods. For instance, in southwest Minneapolis, the city council recently passed regulations limited the height of new home construction, set forth yard-space requirements and added incentives for use of high-quality construction materials.

If your company operates in a major city where tear-downs are on the rise, keep an eye on zoning amendments. If they haven’t been implemented already, they may soon!



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What you need to know about the Home Depot data breach

September 10th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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Earlier this week, Home Depot confirmed it was the target of a month-long data breach that may have compromised more than 40 million credit or debit cards. The breach apparently took place during the month of April, and according to sources, may be far more severe than similar breaches that affected Target and Neiman Marcus customers in 2013.

The good news: Home Depot is acting quickly and broadly, and even if your card was compromised during the cyber attack, any fraudulent charges will be waived. According to Fortune.com, “Home Depot has said that customers would not be on the hook for fraudulent charges and would get free credit monitoring if a breach did indeed occur, but urged them to keep an eye out for unusual activity in their accounts.”

Unusual activity may not entail large-scale, grandiose charges, either. Following the Target breach last year, it was widely reported stolen credit card information was being sold in bulk on web-based black markets, allowing hackers to make hundreds of smaller purchases without drawing attention from duped consumers.

If you’re a building professional, chances are you or someone within your company made a purchase at Home Depot during April. If you feel your card information may have been compromised, Home Depot has created this helpful website to report any incidents of fraudulent activity that may be related.



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Lot sizes shrink even as homes grow

September 5th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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As they say in football, every inch counts.

The same is true with home ownership, where the U.S. Census Bureau’s Characteristics of New Single-Family Houses Sold finds lot sizes have shrunk dramatically over the past two decades.

Over on the National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog, Paul Emrath writes that a football field might provide the best measuring stick for modern neighborhoods:

“An acre is 43,560 square feet, so the above median lot size for 2013 is almost exactly one-fifth of an acre.  Not everyone has a good sense of how big an acre is.  To help visualize it, consider that, between the goal lines, a football field covers just about 1.1 acre.  This means that, if you placed a median-sized lot for a single-family detached home sold that filled the width of the field (160 feet) on the goal line, it would reach just past the 18 yard line.  And if you laid 5 of them side by side they would extend just almost all the way to the opposite 9 yard line–leaving space for almost exactly half another median-sized lot before reaching the other end zone.”

In other words, if the kick returner for your favorite team returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown this weekend, they would run the distance of approximately 5.6 median-sized lots.

As a builder, have you seen a noticeable drop in lot sizes? If so, what are the greatest challenges the smaller lots have posed?

 



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Micro Lofts at The Arcade Providence  Exterior  Photo by Ben Jacobsen

American shopping malls are fast becoming an endangered species. In fact, earlier this year, Amy Merrick of The New Yorker posed the question many are afraid to ask: Are Malls Over?

Put away the suburban-based sprawling behemoths and their ludicrous commercial rental costs for a moment and turn your focus to a mall that was, but is no longer.

Built in 1828, Providence Arcade in Rhode Island was the oldest indoor shopping mall in America before it closed in 2008. That which made it an architectural marvel made it a disaster for modern-day vendors. So, its cramped storefronts were converted into micro-apartments, and thus, kept alive one of the coolest commercial spaces this country has ever seen.

Take a look. No doubt these apartments are not for everyone, but the Providence community seems generally pleased a renovation kept this relic intact for generations to come.

Micro Lofts at The Arcade Providence  Main Level Micro Retail  Photo by Ben Jacobsen

The Arcade Providence view from second floor Photo Credit Ben Jacobsen

The Micro Lofts at The Arcade Providence  kitchen Bedroom Photo Credit Ben Jacobsen - Copy

Micro Lofts at The Arcade Providence Living Room  Photo by Ben Jacobsen

[Photos by Ben Jacobsen via Northeast Collaborative Architects]



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For most, the home is a permanent work in progress

August 29th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

 

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Perhaps this should come as no surprise, but according to the Houzz Decorating Trends Survey of more than 1,700 Houzz users, when it comes to home decor, homeowners are nothing if not fickle.

The survey found 66 percent of homeowners have recently decorated the same room they are currently tackling. What’s the fun in complacency, right? It’s more fun to think of one’s home as a work in progress, anyway. Tastes evolve. Trends come and go. Truth is, your home probably isn’t a finished product until it has been sold to someone else.

Here are a few additional findings from the survey that deserve mention:

Three-in-five homeowners are including seating in their master bedroom (60 percent).

Nearly half of homeowners are using their dining room daily (45 percent) and another 26 percent are using it weekly. Rectangular dining tables (62 percent) with dark wood (38 percent) or glass (25 percent) and seating for six are most popular.

In addition to the usual popular living spaces, televisions are showing up in 16 percent of dining rooms. Homeowners are just as likely to include a TV in their kids’ room as a reading nook (both 35 percent).

Accent walls remain popular throughout the house, but are most likely to appear in the home office (57 percent), kid’s room (55 percent) or master bedroom (52 percent). Urban dwellers are more likely to have accent walls (54 percent) than homeowners in suburban (42 percent) and rural (41 percent) neighborhoods.



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