ABC Convention Oct 6-8
The Automated Builders Consortium Convention will converge this Oct. 6-8 at the Park Hyatt in Philadelphia, PA. Hundreds of industry professionals attend the ABC conventions each year to see everything that is new and emerging in the factory-built housing industry.

This year’s educational seminars will help you get a step ahead of your competition with a great slate of seminars. Topics include Architectural Design and Engineering, Using Factory Built Products in an Urban Environment, Building Code, Business Management & Finance, Land Development, Building Code Issues and more.

See for registration information and convention details. The toll-free reservation number for the Park Hyatt is: 800-233-1234. Tell them you are attending the ABC convention to receive the special $149 room rate.

Japan’s Systems More Advanced?
Are the Japanese using their expertise in manufacturing of autos, TVs and household appliances in the creation of new building systems? A recent book gives an interesting glimpse into that culture’s building technologies.

According to The Japanese Dream House: How Technology and Tradition are Shaping New Home Design, by Azby Brown and Joseph Cali, manufacturers such as Misawa Homes in Japan are employing robot-equipped, fully automated factories that employ bar-code stickers to identify each individual component of a home. Orders and designs for homes are fed electronically to a series of strategically located factories, which produce the homes in a matter of days.

“The system is highly refined and borrows heavily from the Japanese automobile industry. Working from a master schedule, the computer will initiate the fabrication of doors, windows and other fittings two days prior to the date when they will be needed for insertion into wall panels and so on,” according to the book.

Steady New Home Sales
Sales of new single-family homes easily set a record for the May-June period, the Commerce Department reports. Fueled by strong population and household growth, improving economic conditions, a favorable financing climate and the continued solid investment potential of new homes, sales of new single-family homes hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.326 million units in June. This rate was only marginally below the record 1.337-million unit pace set in May and stood 11.1% above sales in June 2003.

Three regions registered sales decreases for the month. The Northeast posted a 14.2% decline from May. The Midwest dipped 2.9% and sales in the West declined 13.1%. The South posted a 9.6% increase for the month. All four regions, however, posted second quarter averages that exceeded the performances in the first quarter of the year.

The inventory of new homes for sale in June was 374,000 units, representing a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace. “It now appears that home sales for 2004 will easily surpass the record set last year,” says NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders.

Used Homes Sales Up
Sales of existing homes rose 2.1% to a new record in June as rising mortgage rates prompted a rush by Americans to close deals before rates went even higher. The National Association of Realtors reports that the increase in sales pushed the annual rate of existing home sales to an all-time high of 6.95 million units, beating the old record set in May of 6.81 million units.

The pace of home sales this year has surprised analysts, who had been predicting that sales would begin to slow, reflecting the fact that interest rates have started to increase.

“Although we’ve been expecting sales to ease, it’s clear that the market has tremendous momentum,” says David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “The improving job market and higher consumer confidence are feeding into a large demographic demand for housing.”

Still, Lereah says it is unlikely that the June record will be surpassed as he expects sales to cool this fall. But the National Association of Realtors says they are still looking for sales for all of 2004 to set a new record, based on the surprising strength exhibited through the first half of the year.

FHA Multifamily Stayin’ Alive

Who says congressional action is glacial? Just before its summer recess in July, congressional members rolled up their sleeves in time to prevent the shutdown of a critical Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance program for multifamily housing. Congress prevented a shutdown by giving it an additional $4 billion in loan commitment authority.

The increased FHA commitment authority cleared the House as its final order of business before it adjourned. The deal had been approved earlier by the Senate. FHA’s multifamily volume has been stronger than expected in large part due to increases in the size of loans that FHA is now authorized to insure.

NAHB worked closely with Congress during the past three years to update the loan limits for FHA multifamily programs, to index the loan limits for inflation and to increase exception limits for high-cost markets.