Friday, September 9, 2011

Annual Chili Cook Off and Oyster Roast raises money for PAC

The annual Chili Cook Off and Oyster Roast helped raised needed money for S.C. Builders PAC this week.

Partners who helped make the Chili Cook Off possible include:

  • Presenting Partners
    • Dillard Jones Builders
    • Clark's Services
  • Hosts
    • GBS Building Supply
    • Keith Smith Builders
  • Patrons
    • Gallivan, White & Boyd
    • Michael and Karen Dey

More than 60 members and guests judged the annual chili cook off contest, played the game "corn hole," and enjoyed steamed oysters prepared by Clark's Services.

Special thank you to Deana Long of Carter Lumber Company, who raised $100 selling tickets for the PAC 50/50 Raffle.

This year's event was held in the Atrium and on the patio at the TD Convention Center.

S.C. Builders PAC is a cooperative Political Action Committee managed by the Home Builders Association of South Carolina.  Local HBAs throughout South Carolina raise funds for the PAC.  PAC funds are used to support candidates for public office who support housing and home building.  PAC contributions are voluntary. The association's Legislative Committee screens candidates for office and recommends contributions to the association's Board of Directors.  Candidates for statewide office are further screened by a Board of Trustees made up of representatives from each of the local HBAs across the state.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Congressman Trey Gowdy speaks to Home Builders, Realtors

Congressman Trey Gowdy, Republican from South Carolina District 4, spoke to about 50 members of the Home Builders Association of Greenville and the Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® last week.

The Congressman's visit was part of the HBA's regular regular Government Affairs Forum program.

The Congressman discussed the threat to the mortgage interest deductions, challenges the industry faces in accessing capital at banks and other lenders, and issues with current regulations governing appraisals.  He also talked about the recent debt limit increase and the dysfunctional political situation in Washington.

The HBA Legislative Committee hosts Government Affairs Forums about six times a year, and they are open and free to all HBA members.

HBASC: 2011 Legislative Report (Julian Barton Reports)

By: Julian Barton, Government Affairs Director, HBA of South Carolina

We are sometimes asked by members, “What did the Home Builders Association do for home builders at the General Assembly this year?”  Well, this year there is no doubt that the HBA Government Relations Program generated a high rate of return for the home builders of our state - $225 million – that was a return of $4,500 annually per builder (a 9 to 1 return on the dues investment).  The following bills will have a positive impact on the home building industry, reduce legal/regulatory barriers for home builders and put more money in home builders’ pockets:

Construction General Liability Insurance Case:   Early in the year the SC Supreme Court passed down a decision (Crossmann vs. Harleysville Mutual) that reversed the interpretation of contractor’s general liability insurance policy.  The decision put contractors across the state a great financial risk!

In record time a bill was introduced (S.431) and passed into law.  The bill returns the construction industry essentially to where it was prior to the Crossmann court decision.   First, it makes it crystal clear what an “occurrence” (the trigger for insurance coverage) is.   Secondly, it applies these insurance coverage decisions retroactively to address our statute of repose (8 year) concerns.  Builders in litigation now will not have to fear that their insurance company will walk out the door leaving them fully exposed to faulty construction claims.  After the General Assembly adjourned, the SC Supreme Court reversed its decision on the Crossmann case!

Annual Benefit: $100 million

Tort Reform II:  The last week of the session Governor Nikki Haley signed the tort reform bill (H. 3375).  The bill builds on the 2005 tort reform bill.  The bill’s key provisions include:

1. A cap on punitive damages modeled after Florida's tiered financial cap.
2. A cap on the amount a defendant has to put up for an appeal bond.
3. A tightening of the statute of repose for construction cases.
4. Requires the attorney general to approve civil actions by circuit solicitors.
5. Requires disclosure of insurance policy limits on auto policies in accident cases.

The new law makes it easier to do business in South Carolina and strengthens the construction statute of repose.   Plaintiff lawyers were successfully arguing that one or more building codes violations equated to gross negligence, and therefore the case was exempt from the construction statute of repose (8 year) protection.  This bill closes that loophole in the law!

Annual Benefit: $30 million

Unemployment Insurance Premiums:  Due to the severe recession South Carolina’s unemployment insurance fund went broke and had to borrow almost $1 billion from the federal government in recent years.  When the bills to pay back the federal loans went out in January most employers saw significantly higher unemployment insurance premiums.  To address the “sticker shock” the General Assembly passed an unemployment insurance reform bill (H. 3762) late in the session.

The legislation includes a reduction in state benefit weeks from 26 to 20 and restrictions of benefits for seasonal workers, and includes $146 million in the state budget to subsidize unemployment insurance.  These two measures combined will provide approximately 25% insurance premium relief to all employers in the state for this year.

Annual Benefit: $15 million

Copper Theft Bill:   Thieves and drug addicts in search of quick cash have been causing millions of dollars worth of damage ripping out copper from plumbing and air-conditioning units at homes and businesses.   A bill (H. 3660) that should stop the scourge of copper and metal theft in the state received final approval in the General Assembly this session.

The bill sets up a permit system for people who want to sell copper to recyclers.   Individuals selling less than 10 pounds of the metal would be allowed to obtain a free, 48-hour permit up to twice a year by calling their local sheriff's office.

Those wanting to sell more than 10 pounds of copper would be required to apply in person at a sheriff's office for a free, long-term permit.   The bill covers copper products, catalytic converters and stainless steel beer kegs to the list of permit-required items.

The bill would also require the metal recyclers to apply for a purchasing permit at their local sheriff's office at a cost of up to $200.  Also, most importantly instead of giving out cash, recyclers would only be allowed to pay customers with checks for their copper and metal purchases.

Annual Benefit:  $5 million

Amazon Sales Tax Exemption:   The final chapter in the Amazon vs. Walmart saga ended on a happy note. An agreement was finally reached granting Amazon the five year sales tax exemption it had sought.   However, the bill (S.36) requires Amazon to also provide a link to the Department of Revenue website where the online South Carolina purchaser can obtain information to calculate the state taxes owed on internet purchases.

In addition, the purchaser will receive by email an annual summary of their aggregated internet purchases from Amazon.   This will allow the purchaser to calculate the sales tax owed so they can pay the tax on their state income tax return.  However, there are no provisions to force sales tax payment by SC residents.

The construction industry will reap a large part of the initial $125 million investment. In addition, the 2,000 new jobs created will increase the demand for housing in the Midlands of South Carolina initially and spread to other parts of the state in coming years.   SC was able to secure a 21st century growing company that should continue to expand and grow our state’s economy in the future!

Annual Benefit: $10 million

SC Building Code:   After legislative delay of the IRC 2009 last year, the building code started moving through the regulatory process this year.  However, it didn’t move forward very far.  The House LLR Committee asked SC Building Code Council to withdraw their regulations to implement the IRC 2009, and requested that the Council move forward in implementing the IRC 2012.  The adoption process for the IRC 2012 is beginning with the target date for implementation is January 2014.  The onerous residential sprinkler provision of the IRC 2009 was not implemented this year.

Annual Benefit: $50 million

Point of Sale – Second Homes Sales:   One of the last bills to pass the General Assembly this year was the “point of sale” bill (H. 3713).   The bill addressed the problem in the commercial real estate market where significantly higher “point of sale” property tax valuations were discouraging investment in SC commercial and second home properties.   The point of sale legislation is applicable only to non-primary residential properties, which are assessed at the six percent (6%) property tax rate.

With this new tax relief, it will make it easier to sell the existing backlog of second homes that are depressing the residential market, encourage the construction of new second homes, and make SC a more attractive location to locate businesses.

Annual Benefit: $15 million


As a result of the pro-active initiatives of the Home Builders Association with the SC General Assembly, the home building industry received over $225 million in benefits!  In addition, to the bills outlined above, the HBA Government Relations Department reviewed over 800 bills and closely monitored over 150 bills during the 2011 legislative session.


Illegal Immigration Bill:   As expected the Arizona-style illegal immigration bill (S.20) passed the General Assembly and was signed by the Governor.   However, a coalition of several immigrant advocates is now threatening to challenge the new law in court.   In addition, LLR has suspended LLR’s employer audit program until January 2012 because South Carolina’s current immigration law (passed in 2009) is unconstitutional.  The new state law does not go into effect until January 2012.

The new law deals primarily with law enforcement, but does contain provisions to tweak South Carolina’s existing employer immigration law.  The new state law will require mandatory e-verify screening of new employees, but an employer who was inspected and doesn’t have his employees e-verified would have 72 hours to bring them into compliance.   LLR would assist the employer in the e-verify process.

If the employees can’t be e-verified within three days of employment they must be terminated.   If the employer refuses to e-verify his new employees, or becomes a habitual offender LLR ultimately has the power to cancel his business licenses.  Under the new law e-verify is the only way to go - employers are held harmless, if they e-verify their new employees!

Multiple-lot Property Tax Discount:   Because of the current housing recession, it is taking longer to build out subdivisions.  The current law gives residential developers a multiple-lot discount on property taxes for up to five years on vacant subdivision lots. Unfortunately, it is now taking more than five years to complete lot sales and developers are ill suited to pay dramatically higher property taxes.

A bill was introduced and passed in the House that would temporarily extend the discount for an additional three years.  However, the SC Senate version of the bill (S. 447) remains on the Senate contested calendar.   As a result, the bill will be carried over to the 2012 legislative session.

Unemployment is up, but so is the number of new jobs

Did you know that while the unemployment rate is up in South Carolina, to 10.9 percent, so is the number of jobs?

During July the number of jobs grew by 4,100, the highest rate of growth this year. However, the number of people looking for work grew by 10,360, contributing to the increase in the unemployment rate.

For the Greenville metropolitan area, the unemployment rate fell to 9.6 percent as the number of jobs grew faster than the number of people looking for a job. In fact, Greenville is the only metro area in South Carolina where the unemployment rate fell both in July 2011 compared to June as well as compared to July 2010.

South Carolina: the Peach State?

Did you know that South Carolina is the second largest producer of peaches by weight? The largest? Well it is not the state that proclaims itself the "Peach State": Georgia. The largest producer of peaches in the U.S.? California. Georgia is third.

Peach production by weight:
  • California: 815,000 tons
  • South Carolina: 90,000 tons
  • Georgia: 40,000 tons
Source: GSA Business.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Requirements for S.C. Certified Master Builder candidates announced

The Certified Master Builders of South Carolina Committee of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina recently approved changes to the requirements for becoming a Certified Master Builder (CMB). The new requirements, which go into effect on January 1, 2012, will ensure that all CMB candidates are taking classes according to an official curriculum, and will improve the integrity of the program.

“We’ve been working with the Education Committee to develop a curriculum that ensures all candidates enter the program with the same education background,” said James G. Graves, CMB Committee chairman.

The new curriculum is divided between core classes and elective classes, with the required number of education hours remaining at twenty. The following is a breakdown of the new requirements:

Core Classes
  • NAHB Business Management for Building Professionals (8 CEUs) – If this class is exempted based on the BAR/PREP results, the candidate must show proof.
  • Building Codes (4 CEUs)
Elective Classes
  • Business Management Field (4 CEUs) – These classes must be pre-approved by the Education Committee.
  • Technical Field (4 CEUs) – Classes must come from one or all of the following topics: Safety, Estimating, Project Management, and/or Insurance & Risk Management.
The original requirements were 20 CEUs, with 12 units in the business management field and eight in the technical field. With the old system, candidates could take any class, as long as it was an approved class and fell into one of the two categories.

“Our goal is to protect the integrity and the reputation of the Master Builder program and that’s what we’re doing by making these changes to the candidate requirements,” said Graves, “and I expect there to be changes in the future as the program grows.”

For those home builders association builder members who are currently seeking to become a CMB, any application packet received by the HBASC office after December 31, 2011 that does not meet the new requirements will be denied.

Certified Master Builder of South Carolina is an education-based designation program created by builder members at the Home Builders Association of South Carolina to help home buyers and home owners find builders and remodelers they can trust. Certified Master Builders must meet strict requirements that prove they have an excellent track record of stability, integrity and service to their buyers. For information on the CMB program, visit

Governor Haley proposes requiring unemployed to enroll in job training

In a nod to employers, Governor Nikki Haley announced in Greenville today that she will propose to the legislature that applicants for unemployment benefits must first enroll in job training before they will be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.

“We went to Bosch’s Anderson plant today and they had a great trained workforce,” Haley said. “But the Charleston plant is suffering terribly because they can’t find workers. We have to make sure every region is covered.”

South Carolina’s No. 1 goal is to train its workforce and a program aiming to do that will be announced in the coming months, Haley said to a large group of business leaders who met at the TD Convention Center today.

Distressed home sales fall across the state

The number of homes classified as "distressed" that were sold in the state during the second quarter of 2011 dropped by more than 17 percent compared to the same quarter in 2010.

RealtyTrac defines "distressed" as homes that are in foreclosure, but the foreclosure proceeding has not yet been completed. Distressed properties generally sell for less than the prevailing market.

In Greenville, the number of distressed sales totaled 416, a decrease of 5 percent. Distressed sales totaled 22 percent of all sales. The average discount compared to the prevailing market was 33 percent. In Spartanburg, the number of distress sales totaled 148, a decrease of 1 percent. Distressed sales totaled 21 percent of all sales. The average discount was 28 percent. In Anderson, the number of distressed sales totaled 88, an increase of 13 percent. Distressed sales totaled 16 percent of all sales. The average discount was 33 percent.

Housing affordability hovers at near record levels

Nationwide housing affordability is hovering near record levels, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) data released this week. The HOI indicated that 72.6 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the second quarter of the year were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,200. The affordability measure dipped slightly from the all-time high of 74.6 percent set last quarter but remained above the 70 percent threshold initially achieved in the first quarter of 2009.

The Greenville metropolitan area affordability index was 79.3 during the second quarter, up from 77.9 in the first quarter. The high for the area was 85.9 in the first quarter of 2004.

Youngstown, Ohio was the most affordable major housing market during the second quarter. In Youngstown, 93.7 percent of all homes sold were affordable to households earning the area’s median family income. Also ranking near the top of the most affordable major markets were Syracuse, N.Y.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; and Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.

New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., led the nation as the least affordable major housing market during the second quarter of 2011. In New York, 25.2 percent of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to those earning the area’s median income of $67,400. This marks the 13th consecutive quarter that the New York metropolitan division has held this position.

Other major metro areas near the bottom of the affordability index included San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; and Honolulu, respectively.

Clemson ranks sixth in return on investment for graduates

Clemson University was ranked sixth by SmartMoney Magazine in a study of return on investment for graduates. The study evaluated the cost of attending the school and the return on investment after graduation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brookings: It is official; more nonwhites are being born than whites in America

The most recent 2010 Census data to be released confirms what has been implied for some time: virtually half of all recent births in the U.S. are "minorities." This is a fundamental change in the U.S. population that is expected to ultimately redefine which groups are defined as "minority" in America.