Friday, May 29, 2015

New Requirements Announced for Federally Insured Construction

New energy-efficiency requirements as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 go into effect this summer for new single- and multifamily homes insured through or with financing provided by some federal housing programs.

All homes using the programs must meet the requirements of either the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code or ASHRAE 90.1 Standard for energy efficiency.

Because the requirements are keyed to updates in the model building codes, the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture – the two agencies that administer the affected programs – estimate that the new standards will affect about 3,200 multifamily and 15,000 single-family units per year.

That is because the new rules only affect homes built in jurisdictions that have not yet adopted the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code for single-family or low-rise multifamily (three stories or less) or the 2007 ASHRAE 90.1 standard for mid- and high-rise multifamily construction.

South Carolina has adopted the 2009 IECC.

The Department of Energy says that only 12 states have building codes not meeting the requirements, although some jurisdictions within those states may already exceed them.

Excluded are homes built under HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, Indian Housing Programs, Community Development Block Grant Funds, or USDA multifamily housing programs.

HUD and USDA also will accept certain programs and properties as being in compliance if they meet equivalent or higher energy-efficiency standards. This includes homes built under the Public Housing Capital Fund, Section 811 Supportive Housing, Choice Neighborhoods and any unit built to Energy Star, Enterprise Green Communities, LEED or the performance path of the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard.

The agencies issued a Notice of Final Determination earlier this month establishing the standards as well as a timeline for when they are effective.

The notice included a nod to the National Association of Home Builders’s comments written last year when the preliminary determination was unveiled: NAHB asked for more time to allow builders and developers to make changes to their plans, and the final notice allows four months after the May 6 effective date for developers to file for FHA insurance under the existing program and grandfathers in seven months for single-family builders that already have obtained building permits.

It also acknowledges NAHB’s request to ensure cost effectiveness in any new requirements, estimating that the changes result in a payback of 5.2 years for low-rise residential, well within NAHB policy of 10 years.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

EPA Issues Final "Waters of the US" Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency announced its final rule yesterday expanding the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

Tom Woods, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, issued the following statement opposing the rule and urging Congress to provide a legislative fix:

“EPA’s final water rule will needlessly raise housing costs and add more regulatory burdens to landowners and industries that rely on a functioning permitting process to spur job and economic growth.

“The rule significantly expands the definition of a tributary to include any dry land feature that flows only after a heavy rainfall. Such federal overreach goes well beyond congressional intent and the limits of jurisdiction set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Regrettably, as a result of these overly broad definitions, this rule will soon wind up in the courts yet again. Ultimately, today’s rule underscores the role that Congress must play in defining the limits of the Clean Water Act.”

At your Home Builders Association's urging, the House recently passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which would require EPA to withdraw its rule and develop a new plan in consultation with state and local governments and other affected stakeholders, including the small business community. The bill also stipulates that such a plan must be based on sound economic and scientific analysis.

A companion bill, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140) is pending in the Senate.

Congressman Jeff Duncan, Republican of the Third South Carolina Congressional District, has been a leader in the passage of H.R. 1732.

To read the EPA's press release on the new rule, click here.

FHFA: Mortgage Interest Rates Fall in April

Nationally, interest rates on conventional purchase-money mortgages decreased from March to April, according to several indices of new mortgage contracts.

The National Average Contract Mortgage Rate for the Purchase of Previously Occupied Homes by Combined Lenders index was 3.78 percent for loans closed in late April, down 2 basis points from 3.80 percent in March.

The average interest rate on all mortgage loans was 3.78 percent, down 2 basis points from 3.80 in March.

The average interest rate on conventional, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages of $417,000 or less was 3.93 percent, a decrease of 2 basis points from 3.95 in March.

The effective interest rate on all mortgage loans was 3.94 percent in April, down 1 basis point from 3.95 percent in March. The effective interest rate accounts for the addition of initial fees and charges over the life of the mortgage.

The average loan amount for all loans was $310,600 in April, down $200 from $310,800 in March.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

FHFA: U.S. House Prices Rise 1.3 Percent in First Quarter

Index Shows Increases for Fifteenth Consecutive Quarter

U.S. house prices rose 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2015 according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). This is the fifteenth consecutive quarterly price increase in the purchase-only, seasonally adjusted index. FHFA's seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 0.3 percent from February. The HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"The first quarter saw strong and widespread home price growth throughout most of the country," said FHFA Principal Economist Andrew Leventis. "Home prices are now, on average, roughly 20 percent above where they were three years ago. This run-up has been historically exceptional and is particularly notable in light of the limited household income growth and modest rate of overall inflation observed during that same time period."

The seasonally adjusted, purchase-only HPI rose 5.0 percent from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015 while prices of other goods and services fell 1.5 percent. The inflation-adjusted price of homes thus rose approximately 6.5 percent over the latest year.

Other Significant Findings

  • Between the first quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015, home prices rose in 48 states. The top five states in annual appreciation: 1) Colorado – 11.2 percent 2) Nevada – 10.1 percent 3) Florida – 8.7 percent 4) Washington – 7.6 percent 5) California – 7.5 percent.
  • Among the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., four-quarter price increases were greatest in Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA (MSAD), where prices increased by 13.4 percent. Prices were weakest in the Greensboro-High Point, NC, where they fell 2.3 percent.
  • Of the nine census divisions, the Mountain division experienced the strongest increase in the first quarter, posting a 2.6 percent quarterly increase and a 6.8 percent increase since last year. House price appreciation was weakest in the West North Central division, where prices rose 0.7 percent.

Economic Analysis Shows Business License Tax Needs Reform

Business leaders rallying behind business license tax reform bill

On May 6, 2015, more than 100 members of South Carolina’s business community joined state policymakers for the release of an economic analysis that reveals problems with the current structure of the business license tax in the Palmetto State. Dr. Russell Sobel, professor of economics at The Citadel, is the author of the study. In his analysis, “Reforming South Carolina’s System of Business Licensing,” Dr. Sobel concludes that the current system is damaging to South Carolina’s economy and local governments. He underscores the need for reform of the current business licensing structure in order to promote fairness and consistency among all sectors of the business community.

“The licensing system has strayed from its original purpose—it does nothing to ensure the quality or legitimacy of a business, but rather exists simply as an administratively costly form of revenue for local governments,” said Dr. Sobel.

Under current laws, businesses must apply for and receive a license for almost every municipality and county where they work. A single small business that is a local service provider in a metro area, like Greater Greenville, would have to have as many as 30 different business licenses to serve the entire metro area.

“We must reform the patchwork business licensing process that South Carolina’s businesses are required to follow. The current model costs businesses time and money. South Carolina must create a uniform business licensing process that will work well for businesses and local governments.” said Ted Pitts, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO. Calvin Snow, Home Builders Association of South Carolina President, and a Home Builder in Spartanburg and Greenville, added that businesses must pass these fees on to their customers and therefore every household in the state pays an average of $500 per year for these fees for no additional services.

Dr. Sobel and leaders from the business community called for leadership in the General Assembly to make this reform a priority, noting that local governments derive their taxing authority from the state.

This study can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

HBA Members Save Through NPP and Verizon

Home Builders Association of Greenville members are eligible for top-tier pricing with Verizon through National Purchasing Partners (NPP). Here are some of the latest promotions that may be available to you:

Smartphone offers when you activate or renew a two-year voice with data plan:
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (16GB) for $49.99
  • Motorola Droid Turbo for $99.99 (32GB) and $149.99 (64GB)
  • Motorola Droid Maxx for $0.
  • Brigadier by Kyocera for $24.99
  • Blackberry Classic and LG G3 for $49.99
Bill Incentive Credits: $150 when you activate a 4G LTE smartphone or 3G iPhone 4s ($34.99 or higher plan). $50 when you any Basic phone.

Internet and Tablet Devices: Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 6620 for only $29.99. You can also get the LG G Pad 10.1 for $99.99. (New 2-year activation or renewal on $24.99 or higher plan.)

For more details on these and other offers, contact NPP directly at 800.810.3909 or e-mail customerservice@mynpp.com.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

NAHB: Housing Affordability Improves Nationally, but Falls in Greenville

Lower interest rates and home prices contributed to a solid boost in nationwide affordability in the first quarter of 2015, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released today.

“Consumers benefited from continued low mortgage rates and some fall in the price of homes sold in the first quarter, as these conditions offer a great time to buy,” said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods.

In Greater Greenville, the index fell from 80.4% during the fourth quarter of 2014 to 77.7% in the first quarter of 2015.  Like the nation, house prices dropped to $154,000 from $161,000, and income also fell slightly to $58,000.  As a result, Greater Greenville's national rank as most affordable among all housing markets fell from 64th in the fourth quarter to 107th last quarter.  Greenville is now 32nd in the Southeast, off from 13th in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Charleston's affordability continued to improve as income rises in that market.  Charlotte's affordability also improved, again the result of rising wages.  Atlanta's affordability also improved on rising wages.

“The past two quarters have seen an improvement in affordability as mortgage rates remain low,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Eighty-five percent of the metropolitan areas measured experienced an increase in affordability. Along with favorable home prices and pent-up demand, this broad improvement should help encourage more buyers to enter the marketplace.”

In all, 66.5% of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of January and end of March were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $65,800. This is up from the 62.8% of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the fourth quarter.

The national median home price declined from $215,000 in the fourth quarter to $210,000 in the first quarter. Meanwhile, average mortgage interest fell from 4.29% to 4.03% in the same period.

For the second straight quarter, Syracuse, N.Y. remained the nation’s most affordable major housing market, as 95.6% of all new and existing homes sold in the first quarter of 2015 were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $68,500.

Also ranking among the most affordable major housing markets in respective order were Toledo, Ohio; St. Louis; Akron, Ohio; and Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.

Meanwhile, Sandusky, Ohio topped the affordability chart among smaller markets in the first quarter of 2015. There, 96.3% of homes sold during the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $69,600. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index included Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.; Elmira, N.Y.; Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill.; and Kokomo, Ind.

For a 10th consecutive quarter, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. was the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 14.1% of homes sold in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $103,400.

Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J.; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

All five least affordable small housing markets were in California. At the very bottom was Santa Cruz-Watsonville, where 21.6% of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $87,000. Other small markets included Salinas, Napa, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, and Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta; in descending order.

Please visit nahb.org/hoi for tables, historic data and a complete listing of markets sorted alphabetically or ranked by affordability.