By The Numbers, vol9

alpine

Our September housing statistics in Las Vegas were very similar to what was counted in August. Several of the categories for new and resale home activity were virtually unchanged month to month. However, we counted 636 recorded new home sales in August. It was a one-month increase of 97 closings, or 18 percent. Our 2015 sum is now at 4,212, which is an annual increase of 475 transactions, or 12.7 percent. Not a bad year for new home sales, right? The month-to-month closing activity is displayed on the following graph. The Las Vegas new home segment is improving.

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The median price of the August new home closings was $305,047. It is relatively unchanged from July, actually an $881 decrease. However, year-to-year the August median price is a $15,419 increase, or 5.3 percent. There were 24 high rise developer closings included in the August figures, so when we remove them from

the August totals, the median price increases by $1,698 to $306,745 for the remaining recorded sales. The price segmentation of the new home closings in August pretty much followed the trend we have documented during 2015. The next chart displays the market share of the new home recorded sales (closings) by price range. We included two data sets from 2014 and from 2015. It appears the change in price segmentation began in 2015 and has continued during the year. The largest change was in the $400,000 – $499,999 price segment.

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There were 696 permits pulled in the metropolitan area of Las Vegas in August, putting the annual total at 5,506. This is an increase of 800 permits, or 17 percent. This seems like another nice year-to-year escalation in home building activity.

The industry has averaged 688 permits per month in 2015 up to this point. It this carries forward for the remainder of the year, we could see 8,250 or so permits. That would be an annual increase of more than 1,600 permits or 24 percent. We don’t think the total will end up that much, because typically demand will soften during the 4th quarter.

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Word On The Street, vol9

bloomberg-reportsby Bloomberg Report

The ability to get a mortgage has been one of the biggest obstacles to the housing market since the financial crisis, as only the most qualified borrowers were able to get a home loan. Now, that’s changing.

Outstanding home mortgage debt in the U.S. posted a 0.5 percent increase in the second quarter from the year before, the Fed’s financial accounts report on Friday showed. That’s the first year-over-year gain in mortgage debt since 2008, ending a streak of contraction that was unrivaled in data going back to 1949. word-on-the-street-1

“This strikes us as a key turning point for the U.S. housing market, since it is obviously much easier to support an increase in sales volume and prices with a growing pool of finance,” Michael Shaoul, chief executive officer of Marketfield Asset Management LLC in New York, wrote in a note to clients. “It also confirms some of the loan officer surveys that have suggested that mortgage lending standards are finally loosening at the same time that a stronger labor market increases the pool of willing and able borrowers.”

In the aftermath of the housing-market crash, which was sparked by lenders giving mortgages to just about anybody who wanted one, banks tightened up on their requirements for borrowers’ credit history and income. That’s part of the reason the housing recovery has been so gradual.

Near the height of the housing bubble in late 2006, the median credit score for mortgage originations got as low as 707, according to the New York Fed’s report on household debt and credit, which uses Equifax data. After the crisis the median score rose to 781 in the second quarter of 2012, which matched the highest in data going back to 1999. As of the second quarter of this year, it was 764. The New York Fed says scores in its data set range between 280 and 850, with the highest score being viewed as a better risk. Scores are calculated from credit history.word-on-the-street-2

In addition to less stringent lending standards, a labor market that’s added 1.7 million jobs this year should help potential home-buyers get back in the game. Rising rents may also provide some incentive as they rival a mortgage payment.

Data on August sales of existing homes are scheduled for release Monday by the National Association of Realtors, followed by the Commerce Department’s report Thursday on new-home sales. We’ll see then if these trends are sustained.

View From The Top, vol9

By Nat Hodgson
Executive Director
Southern Nevada Home Builders Association

 

Universal Design in Housing

An increasing number of new homes now include features and products that are part of the “universal design” movement launched in the late 1990s.

The term refers to products and environments that are designs so they are usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. These products and features are especially appealing to home buyers with disabilities, and now, the aging Baby Boom generation, many of whom have entered the “senior citizen” years of their life.

But since the concept gained traction in the early 2000s, it turns out that universal design appeals to more people than just the disabled and the aging.

Universal design takes into account the full range of human diversity, including physical, perceptual and cognitive abilities, as well as different body sizes and shapes. By designing for this diversity, we can create things that are more functional and more user-friendly for everyone. For instance, curb cuts at sidewalks were initially designed for people who use wheelchairs, but they are now also used by pedestrians with strollers or rolling luggage. Curb cuts have added functionality to sidewalks that we can all benefit from.

Here are some of the more common universal design features that are showing up in new-home construction because of the growing interest:

No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home’s main rooms.

One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are on one level, which is barrier-free.

Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move large objects, such as furniture, in and out of the house.

Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.

Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. People in wheelchairs have more space to turn. Some universal design features just make good sense.

 

For example:

  • Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They’re not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.
  • Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway. They also keep others from tripping.
  • Good lighting helps people with poor vision. And it helps everyone else see better, too.
  • Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. But others like them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You’ll never go back to knobs or standard switches.

The basic principles of universal design are the minimization of physical obstacles inside and outside the home, the addition of spaces for socializing, and a reduction in the amount of work related to homeownership.

For example, when it comes to the exterior of the home, eliminate as many stairs to the front door as possible (minimize physical obstacles), include an oversized front porch deep enough for chairs (encourage socialization) and use low-maintenance building materials such as vinyl siding, stucco, stone or brick (reduce work).

The term Universal Design was coined by Ronald L. Mace, founder and former program director of The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. In 1997 Ron Mace collaborated with a group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental designers to develop the Seven Principles of Universal Design.

The seven principles of Universal Design are as follows:

Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.

Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.

Simple and Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.

Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably with minimum fatigue.

Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

It turns out that universal design is a solution and strategy for living well.