Friday, May 11, 2012

New Website Enlists Public in Defense of Homeownership

With numerous legislative and regulatory proposals taking aim at the American Dream of homeownership and federal elections just around the corner this November, NAHB is seeking to harness the public's well-documented support for this worthy cause through our newly launched website at This consumer-oriented website alerts readers to the numerous threats to homeownership, including recent proposals to scale back or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, raise the minimum downpayment on most mortgages and revoke federal government support for the housing finance system. The site also connects visitors to social communities at and to facilitate discussion on related issues and news. In all, we hope to empower citizens from all across this country to step up and tell their political representatives how important homeownership is to them, and how strongly they feel about the need to preserve critical homeownership incentives in the U.S. tax code and regulatory policy. Click here to visit the site.

Realtors: housing prices continue to rise in the Upstate

According to a report by the Greater Greenville Association of Realtors, the price of all homes sold in the first quarter of 2012 rose 4 percent from $137,200 in the first quarter of 2011 to $142,700 in the first quarter of 2012.

NAHB: Kitchens and bathrooms remain top remodeling jobs

A new survey released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows common remodeling projects have increased, compared to a similar survey from 2010. The survey, released today in conjunction with National Home Remodeling Month, describes the changes the remodeling market has undergone in recent years.

Remodelers report that kitchen and bathroom projects remain the most popular remodeling jobs with home owners increasingly upgrading both rooms and making major repairs as they decide to stay in their current homes longer. Nearly 50 percent of remodelers report seeing an increase in the number of home owners who undertake remodels to avoid moving compared to the 2010 findings.

Both kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects were up 17 percent from two years ago, with bathroom remodels cited as a common job by 78 percent of remodelers and kitchen remodels at 69 percent. Since 2009, bathrooms and kitchens have switched places in popularity, with bathroom remodels moving into the top spot as the most common type of remodeling project.

“As the priorities of home owners shift, remodelers have to adjust to the needs of their clients,” said NAHB Remodelers Chairman George “Geep” Moore Jr., GMB, CAPS, GMR and owner/president of Moore-Built Construction & Restoration Inc. in Elm Grove, La. “And while the motivation behind a home owner’s decision to remodel may have changed, their desire for quality, professional results have not. Professional remodelers remain committed to the highest industry standards.”

Repairs and replacements of old components and the desire for upgraded amenities were cited as the top reasons for customers to hire a remodeler. More than 60 percent of remodelers reported increased demand for repairs and replacements of old components in the past two years, while more than half of remodelers said that the desire for upgraded amenities increased. In contrast, more than 20 percent of remodelers said there was a decrease in customers remodeling to increase home values as an investment.

In addition to kitchens and baths, other popular remodeling categories included window/door replacements (44 percent), whole house remodels (35 percent), room additions (33 percent) and handyman services (31 percent).

“Home owners are repurposing spaces and making more efficient use of their home’s square footage,” Moore said. “Whether it be young families or couples aging in their homes, people want to let their house adapt with their needs as they change over time.”

For more information about remodeling, visit For complete survey results, visit

NAHB urges Congress to improve Lacey Act to protect consumers and businesses

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) this week called on Congress to amend the Lacey Act so that individuals and businesses that unknowingly purchase illegal wood products from overseas do not have their property seized and are not exposed to civil and criminal liability.

Testifying before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, Barry Rutenberg, chairman of NAHB and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla., said that NAHB supports the goals of the Lacey Act and the prevention of trade in illegally harvested plant and wood products.

“Unequivocally, we do not support illegal logging in any place at any time,” he said. “However, honest business owners, including home builders who exercise due care and had no knowledge that a seized product contains illegal wood, should have the right to seek the return of those goods.”

Under the current statute, innocent companies are left without legal standing to challenge a government taking in court. As a result, both builders and consumers who buy products that encompass the entire supply chain dealing with imported wood products (lumber, cabinets, guitars, etc.) are held personally liable to certify that the timber product did not come from plant material that was taken, transported, possessed or sold in violation of any foreign law.

“Builders have no way of knowing the origin of a particular piece of lumber, a component of a cabinet, a closet door or crown molding,” said Rutenberg. “The sheer number of different sources of wood that could be included in the finished home makes it nearly impossible for a builder or remodeler to know with certainty where and under what circumstances the individual components were sourced.”

With this in mind, NAHB is urging Congress to amend the Lacey Act to include reaffirmation of civil forfeiture law so that innocent consumers and businesses would have the opportunity to seek the return of their property in court if it was seized as a result of any enforcement actions under the Lacey Act.

NAHB also commends Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) for his efforts to propose much needed reforms to the Lacey Act while at the same time seeking to improve and protect the integrity of the law.

H.R. 3210, the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness Act, or “Relief Act,” recognizes the essential need to hold harmless those who unknowingly and without any culpability, are found to be in possession of products that run afoul of the Lacey Act.

“H.R. 3210 represents an important first step and we look forward to working with Rep. Cooper to improve the bill as it moves through the legislative process,” said Rutenberg.

Supreme Court removes nearly 100 candidates from the ballot

Last week the S.C. Supreme Court issued a ruling that will have the effect of removing an estimated 100 candidates statewide from the primary and general election ballots this year.  They were removed because they failed to file a statement of economic interest as required by law.  Below is the text of the law.

(8-13-1356) states that, “A candidate must file a statement of economic interests for the preceding calendar year at the same time and with the same official with whom the candidate files a declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination.” In addition, the code states, "An officer authorized to receive declarations of candidacy and petitions for nominations under the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 7 may not accept a declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination unless the declaration or petition is accompanied by a statement of economic interests. If the candidate's name inadvertently appears on the ballot, the officer authorized to receive declarations of candidacy or petitions for nomination must not certify the candidate subsequent to the election." 

The law also states, "This section does not apply to a public official who has a current disclosure statement on file with the appropriate supervisory office pursuant to Sections 8-13-1110 or 8-13-1140."  In other words, incumbents, who already file regular statements of economic interest, are exempt from the requirement to file a statement of econonic interest when they file for reelection.

Therefore, even if a candidate appeared on the ballot who failed to file the required documents, and won, he or she could not, according to the law, be certified the winner.  The court was clear in their ruling that they understand the gravity of their decision, which was unanimus, but that the law is very clear.  You can read the ruling and how The State covered the decision by clicking here.

The parties are trying to find a way around this issue and reopen filing.  However, Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, chairman of the House election law subcommittee, told The State that state law requires reopening “by loss of the candidate through death or through resignation of the nominee for nonpolitical reasons. Those are the only two exceptions.  There also are appeals to the Federal courts about this ruling and the law.

The Legislature also has attempted to restore at least some of the candidates to the ballot, but so far there has been insufficient support to correct the problem.

Assuming the parties do not find a way to reopen filing, or to otherwise challenge the decision, the following candidates in Greenville and Pickens counties are reported to be off the ballot:

Senate District 2 (Larry Martin is seeking reelection):
Rex Rice (R)

Remaining in the race in Senate 2:
Larry Martin (R)

Senate District 7 (Ralph Anderson is not seeking reelection):
Ennis Fant (D)

Remaining in the race in Senate 7:
Jane Kizer (R)
Karl Allen (D)
Lillian Brock Flemming (D)

Senate District 8 (David Thomas is running for reelection):
Jeff Dishner (D)

Remaining in the race in Senate 8:
David Thomas (R)
Joe Swann (R)
Chad Groover (R)
Jim Lee (R)
Ross Turner (R)

House District 25 (Karl Allen is running for Senate District 7):
Seldon Peden (D)
Leola Robinson –Simpson (D)

Remaining in the race in House District 25
Tony Boyce (D)

Note that this list is incomplete; it covers only races for the General Assembly.  If the parties and candidates erred in these races, it is likely that candidates for County Council also may be impacted.

Candidate Screening:
The HBA Legislative Committee is currently screening candidates for support.  Their recommendations will be sent to the HBA Board of Directors and if approved, some candidates will receive campaign contributions from the South Carolina Builders Political Action Committee.

NAHB: Builder confidence in the 55+ housing market improves in the first quarter

Builder confidence in the 55+ housing market for single-family homes had a significant increase in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI) released today. The index increased 10 points to 27, and although 27 is relatively low for an index that lies on a scale of 0 to 100, it is nevertheless the highest reading since the inception of the index in 2008.

“We continue to see increased optimism from builders and developers in the 55+ housing segment,” said NAHB 50+ Housing Council Chairman W. Don Whyte. “We are servicing the largest growing group of buyers that we have ever seen in this age category, and it is a population that is dramatically different from what it was only a few years ago. This creates an opportunity for builders and developers in this market to create communities that address the specific needs of the 55+ consumer.”

The 55+ single-family HMI measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks if current sales, prospective buyer traffic and anticipated six-month sales for that market are good, fair or poor (high, average or low for traffic). An index number below 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as poor than good. All index components remain well below 50, but increased considerably from a year ago, each reaching an all-time high: Present sales rose 12 points to 27, expected sales for the next six months increased eight points to 32 and traffic of prospective buyers rose nine points to 26.

The 55+ multifamily condo HMI remains the weakest of the 55+ housing market indices, but also recorded an all-time high at 15, up seven points from a year ago. All index components showed an increase compared to a year ago: Present sales rose five points to 14, expected sales for the next six months increased seven points to 20 and traffic of prospective buyers jumped nine points to 15.

The 55+ multifamily rentals continue to lead the way in the overall 55+ housing market. Present production climbed 11 points to 31, expected future production increased eight points to 35, current demand for existing units rose three points to 42 and expected future demand increased one point to 45.

“Like the overall single-family housing market, the 55+ housing segment is facing a slow but steady recovery,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Consumers are starting to see the resale market show some improvement, which allows them to start thinking about moving into 55+ housing.”