It seems that the faster that you keep up with the latest, state-of-the-art technology, the faster technology changes.  Builders both nationally and locally in St .Tammany Parish are learning very quickly that they either have to stay abreast of their knowledge of high-techn options and accessories for the new homes that they build, or they may lose potential home buying clients.  At Ron Lee Homes, there is a constant stream of education and educational coursessmart-home and seminars that are offered by the National Association of Home Builders, and both Ron Lee and Nancy Lee of Ron Lee Homes continually are attending these classes and courses in order to stay on the cutting edge of building technology.

Informational articles are also helpful to advise and inform both builders and home buyers alike about the latest trends in technology and how these trends affect the real estate market.  Below is a list of up and coming products that are being offered as high-tech accessories or necessities for new homes being built.

1. Lighting by Bluetooth: Technology has advanced so much that you can now build a network throughout your home where all of your lighting and light switches are on what is called a mesh network.  Each part of the network works off a node that “talks” to the other parts of the network, and the network can be accessed through Bluetooth and any smart device.  When using this network, you can install a new light switch by sticking a new plate to the wall by using double-sided tape if you would like.

2. Talk to Your Home: As you may or may not already know, there is technology out there that makes it so that you can control your thermostat, alarm system, lighting system, and garage door openers by using a smart device like a smart phone, tablet, or pad.  The systems are already “wired” or networked together and you can access them by using an app. The newest technology makes it so that you can use a language processor like Siri to “talk” to your home.  You simply speak the commands into your smart device, and then that device talks to the systems in your home.

3. Low Power Wifi: This is a fairly new development on the market . The idea behind this device which is a super long-lasting “battery” that has Wifi capability, is that it will “retrofit” existing features of your home which use batteries and turn them into “smart devices.”  One of the examples of this product is called the Roost.  The Roost is installed in your smoke detectors, and if smoke is detected, it sends a notification to your smart device.  This is just one of the many ways that such a device could be used to retrofit existing appliances and features of your home.

With technology moving, it seems sometimes, faster than the speed of light, it is the goal of Ron Lee Homes to stay on top of the latest trends and to be able to troubleshoot solutions to make the technology in the new custom home that you build with us user friendly for you and your family.  Contact Us Today to discuss your technology needs.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

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The Tammany Trace is a highly unique lifestyle feature that sets the St. Tammany Parish community apart from other parts of the Greater New Orleans area.  Originally part of the Illinois Central Railroad corridor, the tracks were removed and paved over to form a walking, running, and biking path as well as an equestrian track in some areas. tammany-trace-facelift The Tammany Trace is dotted with trailheads in Mandeville, Covington, and Abita Springs in West St. Tammany as well as where the trace ends in East St. Tammany Parish in Slidell, Louisiana.  The total length of the trace is 28 miles long, and parts of extend as far southward as the Mandevillle lakefront.

Residents of St. Tammany Parish are able to use the trace for exercise and recreation for even beginning workout enthusiast because most of the trace is very flat and easy to navigate.  It winds through scenic areas of the parish offering a nature experience as well as a scenic tourist experience for those individuals visiting Southeast Louisiana.  The Tammany Trace is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and to highlight that occasion, officials are updating, repairing, and adding to the safety and directional aspects of the Trace.  The work includes replacing signage with brighter more modern signage to signal caution, stops, and yields.  They are adding warning signs and repainting the crosswalks on the major road crossing to try to make the Trace safer, and they are also lowering the speed limit from 20 MPH to 15 MPH for that same purpose.

In 2013, a $92,000 grant was awarded to the City of Slidell to take the trace all the way to the Neslo Road terminus, but new plans are the works to extend the Trace all the way to Heritage Park in the center of town.  In the spirit of expanding the Trace so that all residents of St. Tammany Parish can enjoy it, a feasibility study is currently being conducted to see what it will cost and take to lengthen the Tammany Trace to Highway 21 in Covington where it will then turn South to Madisonville to the other waterfront are of the Tchefuncte River.  St. Tammany Parish is located on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain directly across from the City of New Orleans.  For those home buyers who are wishing to relocate to the Greater New Orleans area, this parish is an ideal place to settle down with a family because of our amazing school districts, family lifestyle, and land-based and water-based recreational activity opportunities.  The Tammany Trace is just one way to spend time with your family while living in our community.  To learn more about building or buying a new home in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

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SMC LogoSt. Tammany Parish Home Builders Association’s
Sales & Marketing Council’s (SMC)
Monthly Membership Meeting

When: Tuesday, November 11, 2014
9:00am – 10:00am

Where: Iberia Bank Board Room
850 N. Causeway
Mandeville, LA 70471

What: Sales & Marketing Meeting

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The lakefront in Mandeville, Louisiana is an enchanting, charming location where tourists and residents gather to enjoy the walking / biking path, the children’s playgrounds and play areas, the seawall, the Lake Pontchartrain Yachtrest-a-while-fortified Harbor and several selections of bars and restaurants that serve food, drink, and good company.  As visitors stroll, bike, or drive along the few miles of Lakeshore Drive, they will also notice the myriad of historic homes and renovated and raised homes along the way.  Many of these visitors don’t realize that these homes can be over 100 years old with roots dating back to before 1859.

One such location on the Mandeville lakefront is the Rest Awhile (sometimes called Rest A While).  This building, along with a few cottages that align the sides and back of the property, is located on a 180-by-506-foot tract of real estate.  Actually, one the cottages, which was constructed around 1859, was relocated to an adjacent lot and restored to its original Creole cottage aesthetic.  The Rest Awhile began as Frapart’s Hotel which had a restaurant, a grand dancing hall, and an architectural structure built to catch the cool breezes coming off of Lake Pontchartrain during the stifling hot summer months in the New Orleans area.  It rest-awhilewas owned by Edward Frapart and his wife, and during the 1880’s the landmark thrived as a destination location on the Northshore for vacationing New Orleanians.  In 1894, it was taken over because of bankruptcy, and sold to a private owner.  After 10 years, the building was donated to the International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons, a New York based charity.  For nearly a century after that, it was operated as a safe haven for abused women, destitute women and children and orphans.

The building itself was still inhabitable and operational up until Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Unfortunately irreparable damage was done to the structure during the hurricane, and it was shut down.  However, this historic landmark now has a chance at a revival because it has been purchased by Barrett C. McGuire of McGuire Real Estate Group, LLC.  Work had begun to fortify the building because of the damage it sustained during the hurricane.  So far, the only plans for the building include raising and establishing the exterior structure.

“Columns and steel beams to support the raised structure will be added over the next few weeks, said McGuire, “The building’s elevation will be set at 12 feet, which meets FEMA Velocity Zone requirements,” he said.

historic-mandeville-lakefront

Many residents of Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish are anxious to see what is next for this treasured piece of real estate along the historic Mandeville lakefront.  Although, anything to maintain its historic value and renovate it to a better condition to prevent decay is a good start in the minds of most locals.

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After over 24 hours of steady rain and constant swirling wind that kept pushing water again and again against the Mandeville Lakefront shoreline, the walking and biking path bridge that currently spans the Ravine Aux Coquille Stop sign is seen on flooded street after Hurricane Isaac hit Mandevilleadjacent to Lakeshore Drive in Old Mandeville is in need of repair from Hurricane Isaac’s effects. As part of the network of walking, biking, and riding paths that wind throughout the entire Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain – the Tammany Trace – this pedestrian bridge is a highly trafficked piece of real estate in the area and could be dangerous to residents and visitors alike if it were to fall into disrepair. Originally a corridor for the Illinois Central Railroad, the Tammany Trace is now a hike and bike trail that spans from downtown Covington, through Abita Springs, Mandeville and Lacombe and ends in Slidell. Also, a separate equestrian path parallels the Trace in several places.

That is where the Mandeville City Council comes in. The Council has just approved a contracted bid by Sealevel Construction Inc., of Thibodeaux for $235,964 to completely replace the bridge. Because the damage was incurred by Hurricane Isaac, 75% of the cost will be covered by FEMA funding. Residents of Old Mandeville are deeply pedestrian-bridge-mandevilleconcerned about the implications of any construction that may be done in and around the lakefront area and for good reason. During the over 24 hours of rainfall during the hurricane, the Mandeville lakefront received over 4’ of water which stayed for the duration of the storm. The recently constructed downstairs bar of The Lakehouse,  originally a restaurant and casino built on the lakefront in the 1800’s, was completely demolished and swept away, leaving nothing but studs sticking out the floor where the bar once stood. And this is an “every time occurrence” for this location no matter what sort of structure is constructed on the bottom floor of the restaurant.

Because of this and other extensive lakefront flooding, such as the flooding of Fontainebleau Park and the renovation of the beach and facilities there, there is currently a study being performed by GEC Engineers to address and provide options for the problem of storm surge on the lakefront throughout St. Tammany Parish. To be on the safe side, Mandeville city engineer Henry DiFranco assured concerned citizens during the Council meeting that the bridge project would have no impact on GEC’s recommendations, but he said he would discuss the issue with the engineers before work began on the bridge.

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Caldwell Tanks, Inc. out of Louisville, KY is building the 3rd water tower and 2nd working water tower in Mandeville, Louisiana.  The new tower will be built near Fontainebleau State Park on Rapatel Street off U.S. 190.  Currently, the ground is being cleared to accommodate the new tower.  Construction on the new water tower will be completed by June, 2015 and should be functional, ready for use by August, 2015.  In addition to land development to make room to build the single-pedestal water tower, the Kentucky-based company, will be moving water distribution lines around the structure in order to accommodate the transfer of water for the entire city of Mandeville.

The other two standing water towers in Mandeville include the working water tower at St. Ann Street and a decommissioned water tower at Monroe St.  This water tower was leased to communication companies for cell phone antennas.  The water system in Mandeville consists of 5 underground wells.  The water tower at St. Ann St. holds 750,000 gallons of water.  The new water tower should assist with the demand for residential and commercial water needs from new development within the city of Mandeville.  It will also help with fire fighting capabilities and allow the St. Ann St. water tower to be maintenanced when necessary without any loss in water pressure.

The tower was designed under a separate $211,306 contract with Richard C. Lambert Consultants, LLC.  The total cost of construction will be $2.85 million.  It will be 6 feet higher than the St. Ann location.  In business since 1887, Caldwell Tanks is one of very few companies that specializes in building high-rise water towers in the United States.  They also built the St. Ann Water Tower over a decade ago, so they are familiar with the challenges of excavating and building in the St. Tammany Parish Area.

 

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As Pelican Park, a “staple” landmark in Mandeville, Louisiana, approaches  its 25th anniversary, St. Tammany Parish and Mandeville are partnering up to honor its family tradition by approving a road expansion as well as an expansion for the Park itself.  An alternate entrance to the park was announced at a news conference held by Pat Brister on July 15th.  Along with a 2.5 mile road which would begin just east of Forest Brook Subdivision on 1088 and go the northern end of Pelican Park, some of the rest of 296 acres of land, the purchase that is about to be completed between St. Tammany Parish and the state, will be used for an expansion of Pelican Park itself.  The land which encompasses land that was in and around the old Southeast Louisiana Hospital campus just east of Pelican Park may be sold to the Park in order to expand it just before the 25th anniversary.

pelican-park-road-map

The new road will extend from 1088 to the current Hwy. 190 entrance.  There are plans to combine the new entrance and the old entrance to allow access to the cut-through road as well as Pelican Park.  The road will go completely around the east side of the park, so plans are also in the works to possibly create a new entrance on both the north side and mid-section of the park.  This road will also ease traffic on Hwy. 59 and 190 as well, roads currently used by residents in the densely populated area between 1088 and 190 starting in the West at Hwy. 59 and going to Interstate 12 on the East side.

“It has been a quite congested area going in and out of Pelican Park for years . . . and this will relieve that pressure,” Pat Brister said at the news conference at the parish government complex. Other attendees of the news conference included Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere, City Councilman Rick Danielson, Parish Council members Reid Falconer and Maureen O’Brien, and Pelican Park Director Kathy Foley.  The construction project budget is approximately $11 million with design currently being solicited.  Construction work should start by Fall of 2015.

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With a standing home inventory of 4.5 months, the home industry nationwide had an incredible month in May of 2014 where all regions checked in with an increase in new homes.  The Northeast showed an increase of 54.5% which was the highest home sales increase in the United States, the West followed next at 34% and the South showed a 14.2% increase in sales.  The only region which showed only a slight increase was the Midwest at 1.4%

Nationwide, new home sales increased by 18.6% to an amount of 504,000 new construction, single-family homes.  Builder surveys 039_mlsconducted by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo have been announcing positive trending market attitudes by builders in the United States which showed an upward outlook for the real estate industry as the midpoint of 2014 approaches.  The National Association of Home Builders in conjunction with Wells Fargo performs a nationwide survey of its builder members to determine the status of the housing market according to the builders’ attitudes towards it.  Their results are published each month in the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).  There are 3 factors by which the HMI gauges builder confidence – current sales conditions, prospective buyers, and expectations for future sales.  The good news is that results in April, 2014 showed that 2 out of the 3 factors were above 50 (considered good by builders) with current sales conditions at 51 and futures sales expectations coming in at 57.  These numbers were reflected in May’s phenomenal new homes sales increase, the highest increase since May, 2008.

Ron Lee Homes, a builder in St. Tammany Parish in New Orleans, Louisiana, has been “feeling” the positive trends of the local and national housing market because of the sheer number of new home and new, custom home projects on which we have been working since the middle of 2013.  We have completed numerous projects in all areas of St. Tammany Parish – Covington, Mandeville, Madisonville, and Abita Springs – and have had many testimonials from our wonderful new home buyers.  The housing market is skyrocketing, and our business is so busy, we have been keeping meticulously tight deadlines and timelines in order to manage our customers’ expectation.  To start your new home or new custom home project on the Northshore, Contact Us Today at 985-626-7619 or E-mailing Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

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In a move that aims to lighten up the lending standards for national lenders and banks, Melvin Watt, the new director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has authorized 3 changes in the FHFA rules pertaining to the purchase and buyback of loans on the open market.  These rules are aimed at reducing the risk to banks and lending institutions as listed below:

  1. Banks will not be responsible for mortgages paid by borrowers consistently on a monthly basis after a 3-year time period even if borrowers are late twice on payments during that time period.
  2. Lending institutions who undergo the new underwriting spot checks will likewise be off the hook for liability on these mortgages.
  3. Lenders will not be expected to cover the cost of a bad loan, if the mortgage insurer instantly denies the mortgage insurance claim.

With high hopes, Watt went on to claim that he expected the relaxation in these crucial rules should increase home sales and new homes sales by 5% in 2014.  Economic analysts also adjusted their home sales numbers from $4.96 million to $5.21 million which will exceed 2013’s sales numbers of %5.07 million by 2.8%.

The reason that the implementation of the new rules is so critical to the recovery of the real estate market in the United States is because the cost to “buy back” all of the bad loans made on subprime mortgages from 2001 – 2007 was the reason for the government bailout of the major banks on Wall Street.  This caused banks and lenders to tighten up their own credit standards in addition to new Federal standards for credit for buyers of new homes.  The banks and lenders now use what are called overlays to “overlay” the Federal credit standards for programs such as FHA loans, which are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  In fact, the money given to these two lenders to bail them out has helped these organizations reach record sales during the real estate recovery.

The overlays that lenders and banks have put in place require buyers to not only qualify for the loan for their new home with proof of consistent income in the form of check stubs and income taxes, but also, they cannot have a debt-to-income ratio that exceeds 36%.  The relaxed credit standards for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow an FHA-backed loan of up to 43% debt-to-income ratio.

“It means a restart for the real estate recovery,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics Inc. “We’re not going to get back on track until we start making credit more available to potential buyers.” He said he expects Watt’s moves to spur “meaningful” sales growth.

Another bit of good news from this meeting is that unlike his predecessor, Edward Demarco, Melvin Watt has committed himself to working with banks and lenders, keeping an open line of communication, and even hoping to ease some of the regulatory practices of the previous administration.  This along with steady interest rates and less liability to lenders and banks, which will be implemented on July 1, 2014, should help to convince the lenders and banks to loosen up slightly on the almost impossible credit standards now required of new home buyers and home buyers as well as those existing homeowners who are interested in refinancing.

Ron Lee Homes, a new home builder in St. Tammany Parish has been in the real estate business in the Greater New Orleans area for over 20 years.  We have relationships with our local banks, lenders, and title companies, and we would be happy to direct you to a few banks and lenders that could help you get pre-qualified for your new home purchase.  Call 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com for more information.

 

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It seems that all of the speakers at the recent bi-annual Construction Forecast Webinar could agree on one thing – without the growth of the economy and employment, the housing market would not be doing as well as it is right now.  The growth is slow and sometimes hard to see as it speeds up and slows down over each quarter of the year.  It seems that Wall Street waits with bated breath to find out which sectors of the market are performing, which, of course, affects the psychological ups and downs of trading.  However, economic growth and a lowered unemployment rate have bode well for today’s real estate market.

One of the speakers of the webinar expressed optimism that there soon may be a slight easement of credit requirements from banks and lenders.  This shift would cause a positive chain reaction of events that would help new home buyers, especially those right out of college and graduates who have been living with their parents or relatives to be able to set up their own households.  There is already a lower risk associated with lending in certain financial markets, and an institution’s willingness to lend will contribute to job growth as business can increase their holdings, take on new property and contracts, and be able to do more business with more access to financial resources.  Job growth will spur the economy which will encourage economic growth.  This cyclical effect is what “normal” market conditions look like and what was lost with the crash right before the Recession.

An extremely harsh winter slightly dampened the numbers and statistics coming out of the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) economic news sector, but the NAHB was able to report a rise of 6% in single-family home starts in the month of March, 2014.  This showed a 2.8% increase month-over-month from February, 2014 nationwide.  Here at Ron Lee Homes, in St. Tammany Parish, there has been an exponential increase in the demand for proposals for both floorplan design as well as custom new home building projects.  We are currently working with close to 20 clients on plans and designs for their new home.

Ron Lee Homes also built a gorgeous new custom home for sale for the St. Tammany Home Builders Association Parade of Homes.  Come by to see what new innovative and green techniques that we use in each and every home we build.  You won’t find a better example of energy efficiency and craftsmanship than in a home built by Ron Lee.  Call 985-626-7619 or e-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com for more information.

 

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