Friday, September 1, 2017

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may pose challenges for Home Builders in the Upstate

By: Michael Dey, CEO, Home Builders Association of Greenville

Hurricane Harvey directed the bulk of its punch on Texas, and Irma is headed our way.  However, Approved Professional Home Builders in the Upstate may not be free of the impacts of these hurricanes.  Hurricane Katrina should be a guide to the potential impacts that Harvey may have in store for the Upstate in the coming weeks.

Fuel prices and availability
The first impact is already being felt, and may continue for days or weeks: gasoline availability and price.  Half of the nation's oil refineries are located in Texas and Louisiana, and they are all closed.  As a result of the lack of flow, the Colonial Pipeline, the means by which gasoline is shipped to the Southeast from the Gulf Coast, has been closed also. This is the source of half of our state's fuel.  Gasoline prices have already jumped, and shortages may follow.

Building materials shortages
Following Katrina, building materials, particularly lumber and plywood, were in short supply for several months as these materials were diverted to devastated areas following Katrina.  Approved Professional Home Builders can expect the same with Harvey and Irma.  Texas and Florida get some of their lumber from the same suppliers as South Carolina.  These suppliers are in Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia.

If you are not using an escalation clause in your contract with your customers, you should consider using one.  Your attorney can help you add one to your contract.  Your Home Builders Association can provide you with a sample.  Simply email

Labor shortages
Another issue Approved Professional Home Builders experienced following Katrina was labor shortages as subcontractors traveled to hurricane-effected areas to help and in search of bigger pay days.  No matter the reason, some of your labor may head to Texas and Florida to work on clean up and repair efforts there.

In a meeting yesterday with Federal Reserve officials, labor availability was front and center as the number one concern of business people in all industries.  Labor availability is reaching crisis levels, and Harvey could be a catastrophe that pushes the labor problem for construction in the Upstate to a crisis situation.

Approved Professional Home Builders should plan for these contingencies, and prepare for the customers for possible delays in their projects.

IBS early bird discount extended to September 15

Those who snooze, typically lose. But if you happened to “hit the snooze button” on August registration — and the savings that came with it — for the 2018 NAHB International Builders’ Show® (IBS), do not despair.

Organizers have decided to extend those incredible August deals to all who register by September 15. That means there is still time for HBA members to obtain a free expo pass (non-members save 50%) and save $100 on a full registration. Additionally, spouse registration is free before the September 15 deadline.

Savings like these can certainly help make the typical burdens of traveling seem much less onerous. Plus, registrants can rest assured that IBS 2018 will be well worth the effort.

Don’t miss your opportunity to save before the September 15 deadline. Register today at

Federal judge overturns overtime rule

Yesterday a Federal judge in Texas struck down the U.S. Department of Labor's overtime rule that was set to increase the Federal minimum salary to be exempt from overtime from $23,660 to $47,476.

The Obama-era overtime rule, which was set to take effect December1, 2016, was stayed from enforcement by the same judge shortly before it was set to take effect.

The judge, in his ruling yesterday, said that the Department of Labor improperly considered salary in drafting its rule instead of considering job descriptions.  The judge also ruled, "the salary level was set so high that it could sweep in some management workers who are supposed to be exempt from overtime protections."  The National Association of Home Builders estimated that nearly 100,000 construction supervisors were affected by the rule.

Read more about the ruling at Fortune and The Hill.

The Trump Administration recently announced that it has directed the Department of Labor to review the overtime rule and the thresholds for exemption from overtime.

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson was one of 21 states Attorneys Generals who challenged the Obama Administration's overtime rule.  The National Association of Home Builders weighed in with briefs making the home building industry's case on the rule.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

FHFA: refinance volume is slowing

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported this week that more than 356,709 refinances were completed in the second quarter of 2017, compared with 510,074 in the first quarter. FHFA’s second quarter Refinance Report also shows that more than 9,700 loans were refinanced through the Home Affordable Refinance Program, bringing the total number of HARP refinances to 3,470,804 since inception of the program in 2009.

According to new data released today, 143,051 borrowers could still benefit financially from a HARP refinance as of March 31, 2017. These borrowers meet the basic HARP eligibility requirements, have a remaining balance of $50,000 or more on their mortgage, have a remaining term on their loan of greater than 10 years, and their mortgage interest rate is at least 1.5 percent higher than current market rates. These borrowers could save, on average, $2,400 per year by refinancing their mortgage through HARP.

Click here to view a U.S. map showing the number of HARP-eligible borrowers by state, Metropolitan Statistical Area, county and zip code. Of interest: only 60 loans are eligible in the Greater Greenville area, while nearly 1,000 loans are eligible in the Columbia area.

Also in the Refinance Report:
  • Through the second quarter of 2017, 25 percent of HARP refinances for underwater borrowers were for shorter-term 15- and 20-year mortgages, which build equity faster than traditional 30-year mortgages.
  • Nine states and one U.S. territory accounted for more than 60 percent of borrowers who remain eligible for HARP and have a financial incentive to refinance: Illinois, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.
  • Borrowers who refinanced through HARP had a lower delinquency rate compared to borrowers eligible for HARP who did not refinance through the program.

HBA Hurrican Harvey Relieve Efforts

Texans are fighting floodwaters rising to historic levels as Hurricane Harvey pounds the Lone Star State.

While the reports of damage and devastation in Houston, Victoria, Rockport, and other towns and cities continue to pour in, weather forecasts indicate that the disaster area will likely grow as the storm moves inland and swings toward Louisiana.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will be working closely with state and local home builder associations in the region to help them meet the needs of members who have been affected by the storm. NAHB also will provide resources to support HBA members as they help families rebuild.

There also are many ways you can help right now.  The Department of Homeland Security encourages donations to be funneled through the National Voluntary Organizations Involved in Disaster.

Donations also are being directed to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts by the Red Cross and Salvation Army via their websites and by texting UWFLOOD to 41444 to donate to the United Way Flood Relief Fund.

These Houston-area food banks are seeking donations to help feed families, while the Texas Diaper Bank is accepting donations to purchase diapers, formula and other needs for children, seniors and the disabled.

Programs such as Star of Hope Mission, Homeless Houston, and Samaritan's Purse are also funneling contributions to disaster relief, while the SPCA and Austin Pets Alive are helping to house evacuated pets.

Other groups targeting the areas impacted by the hurricane include:
The Texas Association of Builders also has advised its members of the following resources for more information:
We know HBA members are anxious to help as much as they can. NAHB will be adding information to its Disaster Resources Page from time-to-time. 

FHFA: Mortgage rates decline in July

Nationally, interest rates on conventional purchase-money mortgages decreased from June to July, 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 3.99 percent for loans closed in late July, down 1 basis point from 4.00 percent in June.

The average interest rate on all mortgage loans was 3.98 percent, down 2 basis points from 4.00 in June.

The average interest rate on conventional, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages of $424,100 or less was 4.14 percent, down 1 basis point from 4.15 in June.

The effective interest rate on all mortgage loans was 4.08 percent in July, down 3 basis points from 4.11 in June. 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 $317,000 in July, down $1,900 from $318,900 in June.

Greenville Fire Department Recieves Highest Rating

The Insurance Services Office (ISO), and organization that rates communities on fire protection effectiveness, officially announced the City of Greenville’s receipt of a Public Protection Classification of 1.  The announcement was made at the August 28 City Council meeting.

ISO evaluates municipal fire protection efforts in communities throughout the United States through its Public Protection Classification (PPC) program and assigns a PPC from 1 to 10. Class 1 is the highest rating and represents superior property fire protection. Consequently, fire insurance premiums for communities with better public protection are significantly lower than those areas served by departments with higher ratings. According to ISO data, out of an estimated 46,042 fire protection areas in the United States, only 241 are currently classified as Class 1. There are 21 Class 1 departments in South Carolina, including Spartanburg, Columbia, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach.

According to Fire Chief Steve Kovalcik, the Greenville City Fire Department has worked diligently over the past few decades to improve its response capabilities through ISO classification. “This prestigious designation as a Class 1 department marks the culmination of that hard work, as well as the beginning of a process of excellence,” said Kovalcik. “In addition to being proud of this accomplishment, we’re also extremely gratified that our citizens can be assured that they’re receiving the highest quality protection and that home and business owners may also see a decrease in the cost of their fire insurance.”

According to the ISO, a community’s PPC depends on:
  • Emergency communications systems, including facilities for the public to report fires, staffing, training, certification of telecommunicators and facilities for dispatching fire departments
  • The fire department, including equipment, staffing, training and geographic deployment of fire companies
  • The water supply system, including the inspection and flow testing of hydrants and a careful evaluation of the amount of available water, compared with the amount needed to suppress fires
  • Community efforts to reduce the risk of fire, including fire prevention codes and enforcement, public fire safety education and fire investigation programs
The Greenville City Fire Department (GCFD) has had a Class 2 ISO rating for more than 15 years, and Chief Kovalcik attributes the change to a number of key initiatives, including the location and construction of the new fire station in the Verdae area; the creation of an additional engine company with additional firefighters; the addition of several new positions, including a Community Risk Reduction Coordinator; and GCFD’s cooperation with other agencies in Greenville County.

“On this special day, I want to take the opportunity to recognize and thank the men and women of the Greenville City Fire Department, and to express my appreciation to our elected officials, the city manager, our City leadership team and all the other City departments for their support and commitment to the sustainment of our fire prevention services and fire suppression resources,” said Kovalcik. “While we’ve become accustomed to being on national ‘best of’ lists here in Greenville, joining the ranks of the Class 1 fire departments in the U.S. is something we should all be proud of.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Remembering Frank Clark

Frank Clark
Franklin David Clark, 81, of Chapin, SC, passed away on, August 22, 2017. Frank was born on November 7, 1935, in Live Oak, Florida.

Frank is survived by his beloved wife, Darlene Prevatt Clark; his loving children, Janet (Scotty) Tisdale and David (Dawn) Clark; loving step-child Wen (Lisa) Cromer; cherished grandchildren Jamey (Megan) Clark, David Clark III, Bailee Clark, Brandon (Jessi) Tisdale, and Josh Tisdale; cherished step-grandchild Caydence Cromer; and extraordinary great-grandchildren Izzy Tisdale and Declan Clark.

Frank also is survived by his brother Jared (Jan) Clark. He was preceded in death by his parents, W.D. and Oleta Clark, and by his brothers Raymond Clark, Dale Clark, and sister Wynelle Rogers.

After graduation from Suwannee High School (Florida), Frank attended college in Aurora, Illinois, until the U.S. Army called. After being honorably discharged, he worked in insurance and in the pest control business, starting his own business in 1963.

Frank was an experienced and successful home builder and demonstrated a genuine interest in the home building industry on the local, state and national level. He was a licensed residential home builder, licensed home inspector, and a licensed pest control operator in South Carolina. 

Frank served as President of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina in 1995 and was named Builder Member of the Year by the HBA of Columbia in 1994, 1999 and 2003.  Frank also served as Chairman of the HBA of South Carolina's Housing Hall of Fame, Land Developers Council, and Disaster Relief Committee. He was elected a Life Director of the National Association of Home Builders in 2003, and a Senior Life Director of the National Association of Home Builders Association in 2013.  He also held the CGR, GCB, and CAPS professional designations. 

In 2004, Frank was inducted into the SC Housing Hall of Fame. Also in 2004, Frank was appointed to the South Carolina Residential Builder's Commission.

Frank was well-known as being, "Marvelous, Simply Marvelous!" His favorite poem was "The Dash" by Linda Ellis. The poem exemplified the way he tried to live his life. "For that dash represents all the time that he's spent alive on earth...And now only those who loved him know what that little line is worth. But it matters not how much we own. The cars...the hours...the cash. What matters is how we live and love. And how we spend our dash."

A memorial celebration will be held at Riverland Hills Baptist Church, Thursday, August 31, 2017, 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The family has asked that contributions be made to his favorite charity, the Building Industry Charitable Foundation, 625 Taylor St, Columbia SC 29201, in lieu of flowers.