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New home sales: 'Really good news'

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Sales of newly constructed single-family homes spiked 11% in June to an annualized rate of 384,000 homes, according to a report released Monday.

The gain over May was much greater than expected. A consensus of housing industry analysts had forecast seasonally adjusted sales of 352,000, according to Breifing.com.

However, sales are still 21% below the levels of a year ago, when new homes sold in June at an annualized rate of 488,000, according to the report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Four years ago, during the height of the housing boom, the sales rate for June was 1,374,000, nearly three-and-a-half times higher than last month.

Still, the report was very positive, according to Peter Morici, an economics professor at the University of Maryland who had forecast June sales to be at the 350,000 level. "That is really good news. Considering what's going on in existing home sales, with all the foreclosure activity sending down home prices, for new homes to jump like that is a good indicator that the economy is bottoming out."
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Vacation Home Blog and News

April 9, 2009

Vacation Home Trends

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to home decorating, but after years of writing marketing copy for vacation homes and primary homes, you begin to notice that the main difference (in most cases)¬†between the two is location. It’s the neighborhood that really sets them apart. Interestingly, interior features seem to parallel each other.

For instance, a decade or so ago,  it was trendy cabinetry, jacuzzi tubs, and a master suite that typified the highly prized items in a home or vacation home. Typically, most walls were white, there was generally a gas or wood fireplace, and a deck or patio. Homes and condos were moderately sized.

Now, stainless appliances, granite counters, hardwood floors, a hot tub room, and trendy colored walls are all the rage. And the homes/vacation homes are huge. This has been the standard  setup for about 10 years now. Stainless appliances are much more expensive, and it makes you wonder what made these so popular. Was it because they were used in the homes of the wealthy, where professional cooks were often employed for parties, get-togethers, or even on a regular basis? Do we really need a 6-burner Viking stove to cook our meals? And, are they on their way out with a new economy model based on frugality?

0-sectional-patio-furnitureGranite counters, though appealing and useful, are very expensive, and somewhat out of kilter with the new economy. Hardwood floors have also been viewed as a huge plus. But at one time,¬†most of these¬†were carpeted over because they were difficult to maintain, scratched easily, were targets for shoe scuffs, and weren’t comfortable to walk or sit on for any length of time. Colors over the last few decades have trended from pastels to solid white, to bold colors.

All of this has to make you wonder: When will everything you treasure now suddenly seem as dated as shag carpeting or vinyl covered cabinets? And, most of all, what are the next trends likely to be? It seems many are related to outdoor living space. That’s a huge expansion area. They’re even coming out with outdoor sectional furniture and appliances. But what’s the inside of your home going to look like in the next few years? It seems as though we’re on the cusp of major changes, doesn’t it?


April 3, 2009

Alternative Energy is Essential to Moving the Economy Forward

Filed under: Economy — Tags: , , , — Jim Marks @ 11:05 am

Have you noticed how oil prices are¬†constantly one step ahead of the stock ¬†markets whenever they go up. You can take that as a warning that every time the market/economy improves, the cost of gas, food, and energy will go up, and drag things right back down again. You can watch the value of crude oil go up with every twitch in the market. That’s why it’s imperative that we change our energy sources immediately.

The moves planned in the stimulus bill and the budget will do something that should have been done decades ago. By retrofitting government buildings with green technology and providing incentives to private ventures, businesses and homeowners, this has the potential to vastly improve the renewable technologies, not only in efficiency, but in cost. Why? Because it provides a strong incentive to mass-produce these products, and it creates a highly competitive market.

A burst of economic rerouting that recreates the solar industry on a local basis will add an army of small businesses to economies both urban and rural. And it will provide higher paying jobs. This is an essential part of moving the US economy forward. Although most renewable energy projects are very expensive right now, that could change quite rapidly, especially if coupled with substantial credits for private projects by businesses and homeowners.

A surge in alternative energy sources over the next year could counter rising oil costs’ stranglehold on the economy. In my last entry, I blamed the insurance industries. Not all of them, but those that have taken advantage of consumers and small businesses, and engaged in risks well outside of their “actuarial” guidelines.

Looking back to just last year, however, our dependence on oil, and our failure to diversify energy sources on a massive scale over the last 3 decades, was the real catalyst in bringing the economy down like a house of cards. Sure, there were problems with sub-prime loans that would have to be dealt with. But, when gas and oil prices soared up to $4.00 a gallon, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Not only were most people saddled with unaffordable or substandard healthcare coverage that took thousands of dollars out of their pockets with each year they aged… Not only was the education of their children in jeopardy… Not only were their retirement savings disappearing at an alarming rate… And, at a time when salaries and wages had fallen substantially behind the cost of living. But now, the cost of commuting, groceries, electricity, travel¬†and everything around them was rising dramatically, while their wages became stagnant or went down to save costs for business.

The energy catalyst caused a major retraction in the economy, which in turn resulted in job losses, and wage cuts, and ultimately sent the foreclosure rate racing towards disaster.¬† To put it bluntly, it was like throwing gas on a worldwide tinderbox, and striking a match by raising energy prices at a blazing pace. So, as you can see, we can’t let companies, particularly those involved with insurance, go unregulated. And, we have to get oil out of the energy picture. It’s not only a danger to the environment, it’s a constant threat to a stable economy. Let’s go green everywhere possible.


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