Saturday, September 20, 2014

US home construction adjusts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department reports on U.S. home construction in August.
STARTS DOWN: Economists forecast that housing starts fell 5.3 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.04 million, according to a survey by data firm FactSet.
This decrease comes after starts experienced a strong rebound in July. Home construction has fallen below that 1 million start threshold in five of the past seven months.
APARTMENTS LEAD GROWTH: Apartment construction has surged almost 50 percent in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, single-family starts have risen just 10.1 percent. The shift among builders to increased apartment construction is a sign that a rising share of Americans will be renters, rather than homeowners.

The shift toward rentals may be a reflection of a sluggish, five-year economic recovery. Most incomes remain below their pre-recession levels, making it harder for families to save for a down payment and qualify for a mortgage. The Census Bureau said this week that median household incomes were $51,939 in 2013. Adjusting for inflation, that's 8 percent lower than in 2007, when the recession began.

However, solid job growth for much of 2014 has increased the total number of paychecks in the economy, which should provide a boost for home construction.
One measure of building confidence has been steadily improving for the past four months.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose in September to 59, the highest reading since November 2005. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor.

Builders see sales activity and traffic from would-be buyers as improving. Still, interest from first-time buyers continues to lag historical averages.
New homes are selling for an average price of $339,100, according to the Commerce Department. Those prices, coupled with weak wage growth, have made affordability a problem for potential buyers seeking a new home.

But economists are still looking for a rebound heading into the tail end of the year. Job gains through August have averaged more than 215,000 a month this year.
Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the Home Builders.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The importance of listening

We typically display our most ideal self when communicating with a child. Stripped of agenda, we unleash a reciprocal innocence that triggers confidence and courage.

The result can nurture self-esteem and bolster pride. Think of a child the next time you’re in any important conversation. To paraphrase a well-known truism — listen to others with the best that you have and the best will come back to you.

Still, knowing that listening is important and being a good listener are different. Ask employees about their bosses’ listening skills and most will give them an average grade.
Why do employees continue to ding their bosses on listening?

In my experience, most leaders can be great listeners. Let their 8-year-old come home crying about a neighborhood conflict and you’ll see great listening.

Yet mix the normal pace of work and the traditional orientation that “employees don’t need to be babied” and you have the prescription for “just get to the punch line” leader listening.
How do mentors evade the demands of daily distractions to listen well? Effective listeners don’t start doing anything special. Great mentors get focused and stay focused. When listening is their goal, they make it the priority.

Try this the next time you need to listen to someone: Imagine that you’re a newspaper reporter from another culture sent on assignment to report a story. Your readers cannot see, hear or feel this story except through your words.

Your first interviewee is sitting before you. It’s your protégé. In your role as a reporter, describe every subtlety in the protégé’s tone, gesture or expression. Is there a deeper meaning behind the sentences?

If you ask a question, how quick is the protégé’s response? What might be implied by his or her silence? Is his or her laughter polite or hearty? If the protégé’s words and tone could be a song, what style of music is it — a country song or a gospel hymn? What color is the tone?

Listening is complete and sincere absorption. The mission of listening is to be so tuned into the other person’s message that understanding becomes a copy-and-paste function from one mind to another.
Dramatic listening is not just a rendezvous of brains; it’s a uniting, a linkage, a partnership. Like all human connections, it requires constant effort and commitment.

One of the biggest challenges for anyone with children striving to be a good parent is to listen without an agenda. Whenever a child begins to catalog his or her concerns, it’s natural for a parent to feel the need to make a point or offer some caution.

But when a parent finally gives up trying to be smart and simply works at being a mirror, a child will begin to open up, trust and feel heard.

Being a poor listener is habit forming. Focusing takes effort; mirroring takes patience. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on getting that order out, two calls are on hold, three people are pacing the waiting room and you’re finishing up a meeting with your protégé. Who could be a great listener under these circumstances?

You need assistance from the only person who can help you — your protégé.

Here’s how you ask for it: “I know there are times when I’m not the listener I want to be. When you think you’re not getting my undivided attention, I’d appreciate your letting me know.”

Protégés will hear the words of your request, but they’ll be skeptical until they see you act. You may have to ask several times before your protégé takes you at your word. And unless you express your gratitude, your protégé may decide not to risk your displeasure and withdraw.

Good mentors do not listen passively; they listen dramatically. When people feel heard, they feel valued. Feeling valued, they are more likely to take risks.

If your goal is to be a great mentor, start by using your noise-management skills to help you fully use your talents as a great listener.

Marshall Goldsmith is an authority in helping leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. He is the author or co-editor of 32 books, including “Managers as Mentors,” with co-author Chip Bell. He can be reached at

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rental Apartment Construction in U.S. at 25-Year High, Says Freddie Mac

By Michael Gerrity

Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft said, "The apartment market has been vibrant, reflecting the desire of many Millennials to live in an urban setting and retain locational flexibility. Unfortunately, if they're looking to live in the larger cities, that's where rents are rising the fastest, especially in the West or Northeast regions of the United States, places like Los Angeles and New York City. In the South region, areas like Miami and the Washington-Baltimore metro have seen real rents exceed the U.S. average. But in the Midwest, only the Chicago metro area has outstripped the U.S. average."

Freddie Mac September 2014 Highlights Include:
·         Construction of buildings with at least five apartments hit the highest monthly construction pace since the beginning of 2006.
·         One big difference in the development mix today compared with 2006 is the scant construction of condominium complexes.
·         The latest absorption rates for unsubsidized, unfurnished newly built apartments have been at the fastest pace in a decade: The Census Bureau reported that the latest 3-month and 6-month absorption rates had risen to 64 percent and 83 percent, respectively. Thus, demand is there to absorb the new supply.
·         Over the past four quarters all the growth in net household formations has been among renters. The decline in homeownership rates has been primarily concentrated among younger households. For example, for those 35 years and younger, their homeownership rate has fallen from 43.6 percent to 35.9 percent over the past decade.
·         The increased number of tenant households has pushed vacancy rates down to the lowest level since 2000, and on average, inflation-adjusted rents in the U.S. have returned to their prior peak levels of 14 years ago.
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