Showing posts from August, 2018

Home-building And Regulatory Burdens

Builders who have dealt with impact and entitlement fee shock for years in such places as California, Colorado, and, more recently, Florida have grown to be almost philosophically resigned about such dislocations in costs. "There's nothing we're going to be able to do about this issue," many of them conclude. In fact, town officials, council men and women, and other local decision makers can get elected based on "no growth" or "slow growth" positions on planning for the futur e. Now, if men and women get votes and win elections based on their activist advocacy of slow-growth or no-growth local policies, do you think anybody would win an election based on solid planning that would result in a really good teacher's ability to afford to buy a home in the district? In communities all over the United States, local policy--the single biggest influence on residential development and home building's enormous regulatory burden--homeowners mo

Starter Home Prices Are At Their Highest Levels Since 2008

First-time buyers entering the market are going to have a tough time with current starter prices, considering they are at the highest prices since 2008. In the second quarter of the year, first-time buyers needed nearly 23% of their income to afford a typical entry-level home, a number up from 21% last year. The lower end of the market is also challenged with decreasing supply and rising mortgage rates. T he most expensive markets are  New York  and  San Francisco  — where the median household needed to spend about 65 percent of its income to purchase a home. Those cities were followed by  Los Angeles , at 59 percent, and  Miami , at 55 percent. Broadly, it’s getting more expensive to buy a house across the market. A previous report noted affordability fell to the lowest level since late 2008. In May, the median price of a previously owned homes rose to a record $264,800.

Kitchen Trends

The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in any home.  Here are the several trends identified as hot in kitchen design: A Hint of Color  More color – such as deep navy, olive and grey – used in cabinetry,” says Soto. Touch-Activated Faucets A simple touch anywhere on the spout or kitchen faucet handle with your wrist or forearm activates the flow of water, making it easier to entertain for friends and loved ones. Deep Single-Basin Sinks Deeper, one basin sinks make soaking and washing dishes – especially larger pots and roasting pans – much easier. Slab Backsplashes Whether your kitchen is ultra-modern or traditional, the seamless look of a slab backsplash is classic and streamlined,  In smaller kitchens, the lack of grout lines helps the space appear more open and the backsplash clean and refined. Matte Black Finishes From faucets to hardware, matte black in the kitchen is a classic and versatile finish that can work on many different styles,.

The Kitchen Triangle

The kitchen work triangle is the shape formed when the kitchen's main three work areas—the fridge, stove, and sink—are connected. Considering the relationship between these three elements can help breed better efficiency, flow, and functionality in a kitchen.  In addition to considering the placement of your main work stations, it’s also important to take into account the location of other features in order to assure good flow and functionality. For example, while the kitchen island serves as a multitasking component offering a prep surface and a spot for guests to gather, it's also one of the biggest obstacles in creating the work triangle. But there is a way that islands and work triangles can happily co-exist. If the island is jutting into your work triangle, you can move the island, make it smaller, or add a curve rather than a corner. Within the basic triangle structure—which can vary tremendously based on each individual space—there are plenty of options to maxim

Pine Cones Inspire Self-Adjusting Shades For Homes

As a way to reduce the amount of heat entering a building in the summer, researchers have developed a new shading system that adjusts independently over the course of the day without electricity or a motor. Shade-producing wooden planks move autonomously to reduce the need for cooling. According to Chiara Vailati, the designer of the system, she was inspired by pinecones because of how they react with humidity changes. She transferred the principle to multiple pairs of parallel planks that will contract at different levels of humidity. “Like its natural model, the double layers of wood make use of changes in humidity throughout the day,” explains Vailati. In the humid morning air and at night, the planks are flat and vertical, while at midday, when the sun is high and the air is drier, they bend noticeably and thus provide shade. This apparently simple idea required years of research. Vailati had to master two challenges in particular. First, it was necessary to increase the initi

The 2019 Color Of The Year

Behr Paint has unveiled its 2019 Color of the Year, Blueprint S470-5, a mid-tone blue described as “warmer than denim and softer than navy.” The blue serves as the foundational hue for Behr’s annual Color Trends, which encompasses a palette of 15 supporting colors, that is forecasted to influence design in the coming year. “Much like the sketches builders rely on to bring an architectural design to life, Blueprint S470-5 lays a foundation for consumers to make their unique vision a reality,” says Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services at Behr, in a press release. “This universally appealing hue provides a steady stream of positivity and is poised to be an instant classic for years to come.” For the unveiling, the company is giving 2,019 color-lovers a free gallon of the paint. Plus, starting on Aug. 23 residents of  New York City  will have the opportunity to experience Blueprint and its supporting colors in real life with the Behr Pop-Up Color Shop. People t

Prop 10 And California's Housing Crisis

An analysis of what’s really causing California’s housing crisis: In November, Californians will vote on Proposition 10, a measure that allows cities to impose a wide range of rent-control policies. Study after study shows that rent control has actually reduced the supply of housing in cities that have enacted it, and driven up housing costs. 

The King's Mobile Home Goes Up For Sale

For someone who already has everything, or needs a mobile home, comes this: A trailer owned by Elvis Presley and used to house guests is up for auction.  uDiscoverMusic  reports: One of at least eight mobile homes Elvis Presley parked on his 163-acre property near his main residence Graceland, in  Memphis , Tennessee, is up for sale later this month. The mobile home is going on auction as part of GWS Auctions’  Legends: Iconic Film & Music Memorabilia  sale, on 25 August. “The mobile home, it’s just one of the coolest pieces we’ve ever had,” Brigitte Kruse, lead auctioneer and co-founder of GWS Auctions told CNN Travel . “There’s a lot of history behind this particular mobile home,” Kruse says. Circle G Ranch was a getaway for Elvis, his wife Priscilla and his gang of close friends, nicknamed “the Memphis Mafia”. There were enough mobile homes to house them all when they wanted to escape from media attention. Here's a description and the backstory from the auction


The homeownership rate for Americans across all racial and ethnic minority groups as defined in the U.S. Census rose to 47.4% in the second quarter of 2018, up 0.6% from the second quarter of 2017. The overall American homeownership rate also rose 0.6% YOY from the second quarter of 2017, up to 64.3%. The YOY homeownership rate for “other” minorities (defined by the Census as including American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and other races) rose by 2.1 percentage points to 58.5% over the same period of time. The Hispanic homeownership rate rose by 1.1% to 46.6%, and the black (non-Hispanic) homeownership rate fell by 0.6 percentage points to 42.6%. The white (non-Hispanic) rate rose 0.7 percentage points to 72.9%.

Vacant Lots At Half The Price?

In a study of 5,455 vacant lots sold between 2000 and 2016 in Pickens County, S.C., College of  Charleston assistant professors Chris Mothorpe and David Wyman found that vacant lots next to high-voltage transmission towers sold for 45% less than equivalent lots not located near transmission lines. Non-adjacent lots within 1,000 feet of a transmission line sold at a discount of 18%. While a number of studies show that the proximity of power lines to a built home lowers its real-estate value, the Mothorpe and Wyman’s focus on vacant land eliminates the influence of a built structure on those values. Assuming land represents 20% of the overall value of a home, the authors estimate that a 45% decrease in land values equates roughly to a 9% drop in total property value. Prof. Mothorpe suggests three main factors driving the discount: health concerns associated with proximity to high-voltage lines (though, as the authors note, researchers have not established solid links between proximi

Is Our Housing Market Cooling?

Fresh housing data is in the offing this week, and The Wall Street Journal is watching for warning signs. I nvestors will be watching this week for further signs that the housing market is cooling. Data on existing- and new-home sales for July are on tap for Wednesday and Thursday. Existing-home sales slumped in June for the fifth time in the first six months of the year, while new-home sales fell that month to the weakest pace in eight months. Those are worrisome trends for investors who consider housing a crucial indicator of overall economic health. Shares of home builders have tumbled this year on higher costs for labor and materials, particularly lumber, and as a rise in mortgage rates has discouraged some buyers. Lumber prices surged to an all-time high in May, driven by a trade dispute with Canada, wildfires and limited rail capacity, before pulling back this summer. Mortgage rates, meanwhile, have also hovered near multiyear highs, a shift from a period of ultracheap loans

California Wildfires and Re-building

California’s wildfires are out of control. With hundreds of thousands of acres burned since mid-July, it raises questions about rebuilding in these risky areas. Andrea Tuttle, former director of the  California  Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said county officials will continue to approve neighborhood rebuilds because the development increases the local tax base. Last year when the wildfires destroyed thousands of homes, local officials issued permits for homes to be rebuilt without updating the building codes and in some cases, people could build bigger homes than the ones that existed. To encourage people to rebuild, state officials proposed that residents who lost their homes be protected from increases in insurance premiums. Local officials are reluctant to tell people they will not be allowed to replace the homes they lost. Efforts may have been well-intentioned, Bloomberg’s report said, but the upshot is that state and federal taxpayers ultimately bear the fin

The economy is doing better than its economists projected

The Fannie Mae Economic and Strategic Research Group again revised upward its full-year 2018 economic growth forecast to 3.0% – from 2.8% in the prior forecast – on expectations that third and fourth quarter inventory restocking will outweigh slowing consumer spending growth and a decline in net exports, according to its  August 2018 Economic and Housing Outlook . The ESR Group also continues to cite trade policy as a key source of downside risk, and again notes that fading fiscal policy impacts and tightening monetary policy are central to its 2.3 growth projection for 2019. “Breakneck headline growth in the second quarter disguised a detail largely responsible for the latest upward revision to our full-year growth forecast: a need to restock declining business inventories, which we expect will support greater growth amid weakness elsewhere,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Housing continues to drag on growth due to lackluster home building activity, home sales, a


The list of the world’s top most liveable cities, according the Global Liveability Index, has been released and not one city in the whole United States made the top 10. Vienna, Austria, took the first place spot, while three Canadian cities, Calgary (3), Vancouver (6), and Toronto (7), held places within the top 10. The index compares cities throughout the world in terms of its security, affordability, education, healthcare, urban lifestyle, and infrastructure.  Forbes  contributor Kenneth Rapoza has more details on the rankings. The best American city on a global scale was  Honolulu . That doesn't necessarily mean that U.S. cities are getting worse. It just means that other cities on the scale are getting better compared to one another. Nonetheless, there is a correlation between the types of cities that sit at the very top of the ranking, according to the rankers at The Economist Intelligence Unit. Those that score best tend to be midsize cities in wealthier countries. Sev

Are The Numbers Behind California’s Solar Mandate Real?

Earlier this year,  California regulators voted unanimously  to require all newly-built single-family homes come equipped with solar panels, but  Wall Street Journal  contributor Steven Sexton believes the regulators “cooked the books” to justify the change. He says the  California  Energy Commission is too optimistic about the cost associated with the panels, both for builders and future home buyers. His reasoning behind his opinion is stated below. It assumes the cost was $2.93 a watt in 2016 and will decline 17% by 2020. Yet comprehensive analysis of panel costs by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated the average cost of installed panels to be $4.50 a watt for the 2- to 4-kilowatt systems the policy mandates. That is $4,000 more than regulators claim for a 2.6-kilowatt model system in the central part of the state, where 20% of new homes are expected to be built. Berkeley Lab further estimates that costs fell a mere 1% between 2015 and 2016, far short of the 4% ave

Half of US Homes Were Built Before 1980

According to the latest data from the 2016 American Community Survey, the median age of homes is 37 years, compared to a median age of 31 years in 2005. The average age of homes is increasing due to modest gains in residential construction over the past decade, reports Na Zhao for the NAHB's  Eye on Housing  blog. This aging housing stock signals a  growing remodeling market , as old structures normally need to add new amenities, or repair/replace old components. Rising home prices also encourage home owners to spend more on home improvement. Moreover, the number of owner households has been  rising since the third quarter of 2016 . This indicates a strong rising demand for new construction over the long run, as current owner-occupied housing stock is older. New constructions added nearly 3 million units to the national stock from 2010 to 2016, accounting for only 4% of owner-occupied housing stock in 2016. Owner-occupied homes constructed between 2000 and 2009 make up 16% of

Unfilled Construction Jobs Are At An All Time High

The amount of unfilled jobs in the construction sector is now at a post-Great Recession high level, says NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz. According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHB analysis, the number of open construction sector jobs increased to 263,000 in June. The prior post-recession high count of open, unfilled construction jobs was 255,000 in July of last year. In June of 2017, the count of unfilled jobs was 202,000. The open position rate (job openings as a percentage of total employment plus current job openings) also increased, rising to 3.5% in June. The rate was 3.5% last July. On a smoothed, twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector increased to 3.1%, a post-recession high. The peak (smoothed) rate during the building boom prior to the recession was just below 2.7%. For the current cycle, the sector has been above that rate since November 2016.


Black window frames have grown from a home element restricted to downtown lofts and West Coast contemporaries to the color of choice for most high-end homes throughout the country. The frame design popularity has been propelled by the feature's contemporary look and the nationwide interest in "modern farmhouse" style gaining mainstream exposure on television. The look got a boost from urban industrial lofts and the ubiquitous farmhouse style popularized by HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, where black frames stand in sharp contrast to white siding. “I started seeing the trend around 2015,” said Christine Marvin, director of corporate strategy and design for  Marvin Windows and Doors  in Minnesota.“We had glimpses in fringe architecture in 2014, and it picked up steam in 2015 and hit the mainstream in 2016. This year, it’s not slowing down. Black is big.” With their strange ability to both add drama and seemingly disappear on the outside, black frames are compatibl

Housing Affordability

Rising home prices and interest rates pushed housing affordability to a 10-year low in the second quarter of 2018, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells  Fargo  Housing Opportunity Index (HOI). In all, 57.1% of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of April and end of June were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $71,900. This is down from the 61.6% of homes sold in the first quarter that were affordable to median-income earners and the lowest reading since mid-2008. The national median home price jumped from $252,000 in the first quarter of 2018 to $265,000 in the second quarter—the highest quarterly median price in the history of the HOI series. At the same time, average mortgage rates jumped by more than 30 basis points in the second quarter to 4.67% from 4.34% in the first quarter. “Tight inventory conditions and rising construction costs are factors that are holding back housing and putting upward pressure on


While exposed beams and window walls can add to a home’s overall unique character, these design features may be costing you the homeowner on your utility bill.  These design elements waste energy: Exposed Beams Living in a building where there's a half inch thick piece of wood between you and outside comes at a cost to your utility bill and to your comfort as well.  That wood was never meant to see light of day. Heat always wants to travel to where it's cooler so if it's cooler inside your building where you have no insulation between your rafters and the roof, the heat or cold is just going to pass right through. Exposed Brick  Exposed brick is really wonderful, but brick is also not a great insulator in and of itself.  You can put your hand up to an exterior wall in the middle of winter and feel cold if it's just a layer of brick.  Consider this:  building codes today call for insulation levels of R-19 (the R-value refers to a material's thermal resistance) o
Although residential architecture trends have taken a turn towards more rustic accents and designs, the trend does not extend to a home’s floor plans. Homeowners are still loving the entry-kitchen-dining-living room combination. Others are wondering when individual rooms will return? Here's a case for rooms and why open-concept floor plans need to end: If closed floor plans are considered such a nuisance these days, why did they prevail for almost 100 years in single-family working- and middle-class suburban housing? The answer: closed floor plans make a lot of sense, from both an environmental and a living perspective. As cultures of consumption change and people become more environmentally conscious, homes must change to reflect this. Designing homes around “entertaining” that happens only a handful of times a year is a wasteful, yet still mindbogglingly popular practice. When people come to visit, they are there to see you, not your open concept. The best thing about the