Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waters of the US: All of Your Questions Answered (And Why the EPA Has it Wrong)


“As you extend the definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ to streams that only flow after it rains and isolated ponds and drainage ditches, you extend the areas in which home builders are required to get permits,” leading to bureaucratic delays, additional expenses and ultimate, more expensive homes. Learn more in this interview with NAHB Environmental Policy Program Manager Owen McDonough and National Association of Counties Legislative Director Julie Ufner.

More Questions
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has joined the throng of home builders, farmers and elected officials asking the Environmental Protection Agency to drop its proposed definitions for waters of the U.S., citing the disproportionate effect of the rule on small businesses.

It’s a situation that could have been avoided all together had the agency done what it was supposed to do in the first place: Have the SBA review the rule before releasing it to the public.

The new definitions could encompass land near bodies of water previously under the jurisdiction of states and counties – or in the case of some drainage ditches or upland bodies of water, not jurisdictional at all under the Clean Water Act.

SBA is “extremely concerned about the rule as proposed. The rule will have a direct and potentially costly impact on small businesses. The limited economic analysis which the agencies submitted with the rule provides ample evidence of a potentially significant economic impact,” said SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant, PhD., in an Oct. 1 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

On Oct. 14, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R.-Va) wrote an op-ed in The News Virginian, saying, “The impact of the Waters of the U.S. rule on farmers, landowners, local economies, and jobs is very real. Protecting America’s waterways is critical, but continued power grabs by the EPA is not the solution. This should be a collaborative approach – not a mandate or murky definition from the EPA.”

On Wednesday, two NAHB members – builders from Louisiana and Maryland – were scheduled to visit the EPA offices in Washington to talk about the effects of the proposed rule on their businesses – as well as the expected eventual costs, by extension, to home buyers. The EPA invitation is appreciated, said NAHB Environmental Policy Analyst Owen McDonough, but it’s like shutting the proverbial gate after the horse has galloped away.

“EPA may have questions about how the rule will affect home builders and developers, but they were obligated to ask those questions before they proposed these new definitions,” McDonough said.

Greenville Tech Plans Open House for HBA Members

Mark your calendar now for November 19, 11:30 a.m.  Greenville Tech's Building Construction Technology Division will host an Open House for HBA members.

This will be an opportunity for HBA members, who are interested in hiring trained employees, to learn about the programs and curriculum at Greenville Tech and meet the faculty and staff.  You also will have the opportunity to meet students, your future employees.  Lunch will be served.

UPDATE: The luncheon will be held in Building 106C (Carpentry/Masonry/Plumbing) of Greenville Tech's Main Campus, 506 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Greenville, SC 29607.

Please RSVP to the HBA Office by calling 864-254-0133, email info@hbaofgreenville.com, or register online by clicking here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

20 Clubs Annual Financials Analysis Shows Big Gains for Members

PrintOne of the biggest benefits of a NAHB 20 Club membership is the annual company-to-company financial comparisons. The analyses commonly show that most builders who join a
20 Club double their net profits by their third year of membership. This most recent year was no different.
Kim Bailey, NAHB executive director of networking programs, said that the Overall Financial Analysis, which is conducted exclusively for 20 Club members each year, showed that the top 10% of production builders made 24.1% gross profits, the top 10% of custom home builders made 20.5% gross profits and the top 25% of remodelers made 38% gross profits.
In broad comparison, three years ago, single-family builders across the industry made 15.3% gross profits, while remodelers made 26.8%, according to the NAHB Cost of Doing Business Study. This most recent survey was conducted in 2012 and based on income statements and balance sheets for fiscal 2011. The study is conducted every two years.
“As a group, the members of the 20 Clubs are back to profitability,” said Builder 20 Club member Chris Nelson, of Nelson Construction located in Farmington, Conn. “We’re not quite back to pre-recession highs, but we’re operating very well now.”
Nelson, who has been a member of Club 3, “The Saws,” for nearly 14 years and a member of NAHB since 1991, said that his participation in the 20 Clubs has been invaluable to the growth of his business.
As a young builder, the club helped him by simply exposing him to what other builders were doing to become and remain profitable.
“It challenged me to look deeper and harder for places where we could be more efficient,” he said. “And by doing so, we increased our margins significantly in the first few years.”
Being a member also helped him develop critical business skills, like managing his contracts better, finding efficiencies in general administrative overhead, and refining sales, purchasing and scheduling processes, which allowed him to stay out of trouble and manage the market downturn in a fairly organized way.
Each time he meets with his club members, he comes away with a number of ideas he wants to try and/or refine for his own business. For instance, learning how to track variances especially helped boost his company’s return on investment, he said.
“By just knowing how to track variances, we can react. Once we discover and learn why we have variances, we can fix things before we repeat the same mistake three and four times,” he said.
Nelson said there’s no question that the 20 Clubs has helped his company grow and prosper. Without it, he says, he might still be trying—and struggling—to figure things out on his own.
To learn more about how you can become a member, visit nahb.org/20clubs today.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Todd Usher Wins Green Building Leadership Award

Todd Usher with Michelle Usher
The South Carolina Chapter of the US Green Building Council has honored Upstate builder Todd Usher with a 2014 Duke Energy Leadership in Green Building Award.  Usher was the 2008 President of the Home Builders Association of Greenville.

This award — presented during the organization’s annual meeting Oct. 1 – recognizes Usher’s “above and beyond” efforts to further the cause of green building in South Carolina.

As president of Greenville-based Addison Homes, Usher focuses exclusively on sustainable construction, certifying 100 percent of his homes to environmental standards such as Energy Star, LEED for Homes, the National Green Building Standard and/or DOE Zero Energy Ready Home. In addition to leading the industry by example, Usher promotes the benefits of green building to the mainstream market via community education and outreach.

“There is established value in green building,” Usher says. “Consumers enjoy significantly lower utility bills along with enhanced comfort and healthier indoor air. The environment benefits from reduced energy consumption and fewer greenhouse emissions. When consumers become educated regarding the value equation for healthy, high performance homes, their decision to build becomes logical.”

Now in its eighth year, the South Carolina Chapter-USGBC Leadership in Green Building awards program recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations that show vision, leadership and commitment to the advancement of green building and construction in the state. Other 2014 recipients include: the USC Darla Moore School of Business, Exemplary Project Award;A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School, Green School Award; and Hiren Shah, Keith Sanders Service Award.

“Addison Homes is honored to receive the Duke Energy Green Building Leadership Award and we congratulate our fellow recipients as well,” says Usher. “It is a privilege – and a responsibility – to build increasing awareness of eco-friendly construction.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Yes, Millenials aspire to own a home

A recent survey of younger Americans illustrates that the goal of homeownership remains an important part of the American Dream.

The economic future of Millennials is key to the future of housing demand. A record number of individuals aged 18 to 34 years are delaying household formation as a consequence of the Great Recession. In a recent Eye on Housing blog post, this situation was referred to as the “Great Delay,” as slow wage growth and rising student loan burdens have reduced attainment of traditional goals associated with the American Dream, including marriage and homeownership.

An important research question is whether these delays represent deferrals due to economic conditions or true changes in preferences and goals.

A recent survey from the Demand Institute provides new evidence. The study surveyed 1,000 18- to 29-year-olds about current conditions and market preferences. The findings indicate that homeownership remains an important long-term goal.

Among the findings for Millennials:
  • Over the next five years, 8.3 million new Millennial households will form.
  • 74% plan to move over the next five years, with the top reason being need for better housing.
  • 64% expect to be married in five years and 55% expect to have kids.
  • 75% believe homeownership is an important long-term goal and 73% believe ownership is an excellent investment.
  • 24% currently own a home and another 60% plan to purchase.
  • 36% expect their next home to be a multifamily rental, while another 36% expect it to be a single-family owner-occupied residence.
  • 48% prefer their next home to be in the suburbs, while 38% want urban locations.
  • 88% own a car.
  • Student loans do delay homeownership (but college raises lifetime incomes).
  • 44% think it will be difficult to qualify for a mortgage.

For more details, read the survey findings from the Demand Institute.

FHFA Index Shows Mortgage Interest Rates Flat in August


Nationally, interest rates on conventional purchase-money mortgages decreased slightly from July to August, 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 4.08 percent for loans closed in late August, down 1 basis point from 4.09 percent in July.

The average interest rate on all mortgage loans was 4.09 percent, reflecting no change from July.

The average interest rate on conventional, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages of $417,000 or less was 4.33 percent, a decrease of 1 basis point from 4.34 in July.

The effective interest rate on all mortgage loans was 4.24 percent in August, down 1 basis point from 4.25 percent in July. 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 $287,100 in August, down $700 from $287,800 in July.

Monday, September 29, 2014

BAR, PREP Now Available Online

Builders who want to earn the Certified Graduate Builder (CGB) educational designation and remodelers seeking to complete the requirements for the Certified Graduate Remodeler (GGR) designation have traditionally sat for the Builder Assessment Review (BAR) or theProfessional Remodeler Experience Profile(PREP) to determine what courses they need to complete.

Now, these industry professionals can complete these assessments online: at a lower cost and with a quicker turnaround time.

While builders and remodelers had often enjoyed the networking opportunities that are part and parcel of the BAR and PREP, the logistics were too daunting for too many potential candidates: Travel costs and time away from work add up and prevented these professionals from benefiting from these advanced designations.

The new online assessment tools remove those barriers – and add incentives, including:
  • A significantly shorter results turnaround time: 24 hours instead of the current 4-6 weeks.
  • Lower cost: NAHB members can take either the BAR or the PREP for $95 – less than half what the in-person class cost.
Students have the option to take the BAR and PREP online or in person through Dec. 31. However, only the online version of these assessments will be available to students next year, effective Jan. 1, 2015.