Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Homeowner's associations are viewed unfavorably according to a national poll

In a national poll conducted in July by Paul Fallon of Fallon Research, there are as many U.S. voters who view homeowners associations unfavorably (41 percent) as favorably (41 percent).

They are most favorably viewed by groups such as Republicans (44% favorable); voters in the western U.S. (47%); men (48%); 18 to 29 year-olds (50%) and senior citizens (44%), as well as those in higher income strata. In contrast, they are most unfavorably viewed by groups such as political independents (49% unfavorable); voters in the central U.S. and Great Lakes region (47%); 30 to 49
year-olds (49%); and Tea Party sympathizers and supporters (49%), who, by their nature, may be wary of any types of quasi-governmental entities.

Despite a deep cleavage that exists between favorable and unfavorable views American voters have
of homeowners’ associations, there seems to be a considerably more uniform set of impressions
about their deliberations and decision making. Overall, only 8% of voters say that they have a lot of confidence in homeowners’ associations to make good decisions and reasonable policies. Curiously, even among voters that have very favorable views of homeowners’ associations, just 32% said that they have a lot of confidence, and for those with merely somewhat favorable views, only 8% have a lot of confidence. This indicates that the credibility of homeowners’ associations is greatly limited, so having them as allies to tout the wisdom or virtues of proposed policies or initiatives may hurt a cause more than it helps.

While the collective views and preferences of homeowners’ associations should not be overlooked – because policy makers and elected officials won’t – and securing their endorsements can counterbalance highly-localized opposition, they will do little to persuade broader electorates, such as those in city or countywide policy debates or elections. It appears that much like affable elected officials with low approval ratings, homeowners’ associations may be liked more than they are trusted.

Paul Fallon is a public opinion researcher, political pollster and advisor for campaigns, levy committees, local government agencies, transit organizations, school districts, interest groups, home building and REALTOR® trade associations and public and private utilities. He specializes in land-use policy research, education and transit, as well public funding ballot issues and referendums. He has worked on issues and campaigns in more than 36 different states throughout the country, ranging from Florida to California.  The Home Builders Association of Greenville has been a client of Fallon Research.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NAHB: Builder Confidence Rises Six Points in July

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose six points to 35 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for July, released today. This is the largest one-month gain recorded by the index in nearly a decade, and brings the HMI to its highest point since March of 2007.

“Builder confidence increased by solid margins in every region of the country in July as views of current sales conditions, prospects for future sales and traffic of prospective buyers all improved,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “This is greater evidence that the housing market has turned the corner as more buyers perceive the benefits of purchasing a newly built home while interest rates and prices are so favorable.”

“Combined with the upward movement we’ve seen in other key housing indicators over the past six months, this report adds to the growing acknowledgement that housing – though still in a fragile stage of recovery – is returning to its more traditional role of leading the economy out of recession,” noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “This is particularly encouraging at a time when other parts of the economy have begun to show softness, and is all the more reason that the challenges constraining housing’s recovery – namely overly tight lending conditions, poor appraisals and the flow of distressed properties onto the market – need to be resolved.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for the past 25 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

Every HMI component recorded gains in July. The components gauging current sales conditions and traffic of prospective buyers each rose six points, to 37 and 29, respectively, while the component gauging sales expectations for the next six months rose 11 points to 44.

Likewise, every region posted HMI gains in July. The Northeast registered an eight-point gain to 36, while the Midwest gained three points to 34, the South gained five points to 32 and the West gained 12 points to 44.

New Research Shows Baby Boomers Aren’t Confining Themselves to Traditional Regions of the Country

Despite popular belief, a recent analysis of government data by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reveals that the geographic distribution of households headed by someone age 55 or older is fairly even across most of the country, with more than 30 percent of all households in every state meeting this description. The study sheds valuable light on a key statistic for housing demand among active adults, as NAHB's long-term forecast indicates that the share of 55+ households will grow every year through 2019, when the 55+ category will account for nearly 45 percent of all U.S. households.

“As more baby boomers approach retirement and the average age of the U.S. population increases, many businesses—including home builders—are showing increased interest in designing products that appeal to customers 55 and older,” said Paul Emrath, NAHB’s vice president of survey and housing policy research. “This research shows that 55+ developments should be possible in every state where population density is sufficient to support new communities of a size that can provide a variety of attractive amenities.”

The data show 43.9 million households are headed by someone 55 years old or higher, accounting for nearly 38 percent of all U.S. households. Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the share of households ranges from 31 to 45 percent. West Virginia tops all states, with 45 percent of its households headed by someone 55 or older, followed by Florida at 44 percent, Hawaii and Maine (each at 43 percent) and Pennsylvania and Montana (at 42 percent). At the other end of the scale, Utah and Alaska are the only states where less than one-third of the households are 55+.

For 97 percent of all 3,143 counties, the share of households age 55 or older is more than 30 percent. At the high end, 44 counties have a 55+ household share of over 60 percent. Mineral County, Colo., and Sumter County, Fla., are the highest ranked counties in the U.S. with 77 percent of their households headed by someone 55 or older. Sierra County, N.M., follows closely behind at 74 percent, while both Esmeralda County, Nev., and Wheeler County, Ore., come in at 71 percent each.

“The demographic that 55+ builders and developers are focused on is the largest growing group of buyers that we have ever seen in this age group, and it continues to grow,” said NAHB 50+ Housing Council Chairman W. Don Whyte. “It is also a group that is radically different from what it was only a few years ago. The customers are fitter, more computer savvy and plan to live an entirely different lifestyle from what they might have thought previously, or what we would have aimed at providing for them. Builders and developers in the 55+ housing industry have a unique opportunity to create communities that address the specific needs of the baby boomer population.”

View NAHB's full analysis on 55+ households here.

Huffington Post: South Carolina ranks 8th in the top 15 states for female entrepreneurs

According to a report in the Huffington Post, South Carolina is the 8th best state in the nation for growth in women-owned businesses. 

According to the report, nationally women-owned businesses have grown at a rate 1.5 times faster than all businesses--50 percent since 1997.  In South Carolina, the growth rate for the same period was 63.6 percent.  There were 105,100 women-owned businesses in South Carolina in 2011. 

The number one state for women-owned businesses?: Georgia.  Eight of the top 15 states are in the South.  Read the report at by clicking here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Builders Tell Congress Inefficient Regulations Harm Housing, the Economy

Barry Rutenberg
NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg told Congress this week that an unwieldy federal regulatory process is hampering the housing and economic recovery.

Testifying on July 19 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rutenberg said that “housing serves as a great example of an industry that would benefit from smarter and more sensible regulation.”

For example, the Dodd-Frank Act required significant changes to mortgage lending practices, including an “ability to pay” provision that requires lenders to establish that home buyers have a reasonable chance of paying back the loan at the time that a mortgage is written. The law states that certain high-quality, low-cost loans known as qualified mortgages (QM) are presumed to meet this standard.

The new QM standard, which is currently being developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will define the mortgage market for years to come, Rutenberg said. For that reason, NAHB supports regulatory changes aimed at more rational lending practices, greater lender accountability and improved borrower safeguards.

“However, it is critical that such reforms are implemented in a manner that causes minimum disruption to the mortgage lending process,” he cautioned. “New reforms should not limit consumer financing options, increase the cost of financing or reduce the availability of mortgage credit.”

Overly restrictive rules for the forthcoming QM standard will prevent creditworthy borrowers from entering the housing market even as owning a home remains an essential part of the American dream, added Rutenberg.

Another key factor in housing’s current depressed state has been an ongoing lack of acquisition, development and construction lending.

“Our members are caught in an ‘argument’ between banks and federal regulators, who take turns pointing fingers at one another when we try to determine who is to blame for the serious lack of lending to the construction sector,” said Rutenberg.

Regardless of who is at fault, with many housing markets now showing signs of recovery, Rutenberg said it is essential that Congress works with regulators and financial institutions to encourage banks to provide sound construction loans so that builders can construct viable home building projects in communities across the land that want and need them.

“Restoring the flow of credit to home builders will not only help to put America back to work, it will help provide badly needed tax revenues that local governments need to fund schools, police, firefighters and other public services,” said Rutenberg.

Meanwhile, changes to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule have constrained small businesses in the home building and remodeling industry. The final rule, which went into effect on April 22, 2010, requires renovation work that disturbs more than six square feet in a home built before 1978 to follow new lead-safe work practices supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm.

“Poor development and implementation by the EPA has resulted in excessive compliance costs and has hindered both job growth and energy efficiency upgrades,” said Rutenberg.

In 2010, the EPA removed the “opt-out” provision in the RRP rule that allowed remodelers working in a home built prior to 1978 to forego more expensive work practices according to the owner’s wish if no children under the age of six or pregnant women were living in the home.

By removing the opt-out provision, the EPA more than doubled the number of homes subject to the RRP, and the agency has estimated this will add more than $500 million in compliance costs to the remodeling community in the first year alone, without making young children any safer.

Moreover, the EPA has not approved reliable lead testing kits, and in many cases consumers are needlessly paying additional costs for work practices that are unnecessary, he added.

NAHB's State of the Industry Webinar Now Available for Replay

Did you miss this year's mid-year industry update?  Do you wish you had access to the mid-year economic and advocacy information that was reported by NAHB's top officers?  Click here to watch a replay of the report by NAHB CEO Jerry Howard, Chief Economist David Crowe, and Chief Lobbyist Jim Tobin.  You must be logged in to watch the replay.

NAHB: 25 percent of new home starts occured in the South Atlantic region

Did you know that 25.7 percent of all single-family starts in 2011 were in 8 states extending from Delaware to Florida?  Seven of those states touch the Atlantic Ocean.  The South Atlantic's share of new homes is up from 23.1 percent in 2009.  The question is whether the South Atlantic is growing faster than the rest of the country, or has it just fallen off less than the rest of the country?  Read the complete report at Eye On Housing by clicking here.