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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In order to promote business in Old Mandeville and unincorporated Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish, the St. Tammany Parish Council amended a zoning designation from 2009 which originally gave a block on both sides of Highway 59 the NC-4 (Neighborhood Institutional District) zoning.  This zoning allowed small commercial businesses to establish locations in these areas.  These types of businesses included dance and music studios, weight loss studios, learning centers, churches and day care centers.  While these types of businesses have popped up all around Highway 59, and business is booming, the problem began with new home buyers and home sellers trying to conduct “residential business” in this same area.  Highway 59 from Lake Pontchartrain to Abita Springs has always featured a mix of residential and commercial properties.  So, when the real estate market in St. Tammany Parish began to become active again, home buyers and sellers alike were stymied by their mortgage companies and banks who would not issue a loan on the land that was zoned NC-4.

The reason for the lack of lending was because of the zoning.  A bank would not lend money to a residential location in the NC-4lafitte zoning because it had a commercial designation.  Because of this, the residential property in this area became essentially worthless.  The St. Tammany Parish Council amended this detrimental mistake in a quick and efficient vote on March 6, 2014, without any discussion.  They voted to approve the new language describing the NC-4 zoning to include residential properties in this zoning.  This would make it so that a zoning of NC-4 would include residential properties as well as commercial properties.  Normally a measure approved by the Council takes 15 days to become active, however, the Council waived the waiting period and made the measure immediately active.  Banks, lenders, buyers, and sellers will now be able to immediately push through any loans that were outstanding before the Council put it to a vote.

Even though the immediate cause for concern for the vote by the St. Tammany Parish Council was the area around Lafitte St. south of Florida Street on Hwy. 59 in Mandeville, Louisiana, apparently, the problem exists for the NC-4 zoning in many other parts of St. Tammany Parish as well.  This vote was crucial to freeing up the commerce of residential buying and selling all throughout St. Tammany Parish.  Hopefully with this vote, residential real estate will once more thrive in St. Tammany Parish.

 

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D.R. Horton, one of the nation’s largest home builders reported an 86% increase in quarterly earnings at the end of the 4th quarter of 2013.  Since the beginning of the Recession, builders have been struggling to see the very far light at the end of the tunnel, and new-homes-1the end may be in sight for most of the nation’s builders.  The January jobs report stunned many economists by showing an increase of 48,000 jobs in the construction sector of the country.  These jobs had dipped by 22,000 in December, 2013, but they were not lost in residential construction, just commercial construction.  The residential construction employment market has increased by over 200,000 since those jobs were lost during the fall of the real estate market during the Recession.  This pace has had small surges here and there as indicated by the January, 2014 jobs reports, but for the most part, the growth has been consistent and steadily ticking upwards.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has consistently claimed that construction leads to jobs, and jobs lead to economic growth…which leads to more construction.  This theory has very few flaws in it as numbers for the final quarter of 2013 showed that housing’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) was 15.3%, with home building yielding 3.1 percentage points of that total.  Builder confidence has been on the rise despite the government shutdown in October, and builders now have a “good worry” to consider when quoting a timeline for completion of a new or custom home – contractors to actually perform the work.

The latest trend in the recovery of the housing market is that builders cannot find enough contractors and sub-contractors to complete the work on their new home projects in a timely fashion.  The reason for this is that the demand for these contractors has doubled and even tripled in some markets, and there are simply not enough working contractors anymore to do the building.  new-homes-2Many of these companies went out of business or suspended their businesses due to the inactivity of builders during the Recession.  In order to pay the bills, they had to stop what they were doing and start doing something else.  As a result, when builders are going to start their new homes, they are coming up short on the hands needed to build their homes.

The increase of 48,000 jobs in the construction sector shows that contractor and sub-contractor confidence is on the rise as people are once again being employed by the construction industry and residential and commercial builders.  In fact, employment in other sectors of the economy are also going to be important for the complete recovery of the residential new home building market.  The reason for this is the first-time home buyer market.  Many first time home buyers are in the 25 – 34 age range.  Because there is no longer a “guarantee” that a college graduate will be able to find a job, many young people in this age range are without employment.  In fact, close to 20% are unemployed and are living with friends or relatives and do not have the income or credit to be able to buy their first home.  However, the good news is that only 12 percent of 25-34-year-olds who have jobs live with friends or relatives.

“If one is looking for a positive sign for home buying later this year as well as for autos, this is the most powerful one,” wrote Steve Blitz, the chief economist at ITG Investment Research.

Robert Denk, an economist for the NAHB, also reported that the labor force is expanding and that even hourly rates for construction workers has gone up.  Ron Lee Homes in St. Tammany Parish in Covington, Louisiana has maintained a rate of building throughout all of the past years.  We specialize in building new, semi-custom and custom homes all throughout the northshore of the Greater New Orleans area.  We have been fortunate to keep a working relationship with all of our vendors, suppliers, and contractors.  Because of this, we are completely prepared with an efficient staff to be able to build your new home either on your lot or on one of our existing homesites in the many subdivisions and neighborhoods throughout St. Tammany Parish.  To learn more about building a new home in St. Tammany Parish with Ron Lee Homes, Contact Us at 985-626-7619 or e-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

 

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Known to have one of the most established, networked clientele in the Gulf Coast Region, NOLA Lending Group, LLC will bring to nola-lending-logothe table a massive portfolio of consumers, real estates professionals, and experienced sales & marketing staff to its purchase by Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank.  In the last 2 years alone NOLA Lending Group did $1.25 billion in mortgage loans for purchases and refinances in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama.

On the northshore, NOLA Lending Group, LLC has corporate headquarters off of the West Causeway Approach in Mandeville, Louisiana in St. Tammany Parish.  As a win-win move for both companies, Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank will be opening their business doors to the opportunity to be able to sell their new home loans and sales purchase loans, as well as their refinancing loans on the secondary market.  In the past, the bank has taken a a very traditional approach to mortgages by managing their loans and processing payments for mortgages in-house.  With the purchase of NOLA Lending Group, Fidelity Homestead will now be able to start selling some of its existing portfolio on the secondary market.

“It’s a situation where two organizations can come together and match up expertise and strengths to complement each other,” McRee said. “Two solid organizations running different business models but combining forces.”

The reason for the purchase, according to McRee, was because of a 100-year-old model for Fidelity Homestead that was completelyfidelity-homestead shaken to its foundation with the dramatic decrease in interest rates earlier this year.  Long-time customers whose loans were being serviced in-house by the bank quickly moved to other loan companies both in-state and out-of-state to refinance their loans for these historically low rates.  Fidelity held $308.8 million in single-family to four-family mortgages as of Sept. 30, 2013, down from $518.7 million in loans total at the end of 2008.

In addition to instantly having access to the secondary market, Fidelity mentioned that one improvement that they will be looking to implement in the loan application process for NOLA Lending Group will be to focus on new customers that will have loans that are attractive to secondary market buyers who are looking for low-debt-to-income ratio customers.  Richard LaNasa and Ashton Noel, managing partners at NOLA Lending, will continue to oversee the operation as executive vice presidents and will serve on Fidelity’s senior management committee. The bird’s eye view of the purchase shows two established, strong companies joining together to complement each others strengths to cover more territory and successfully service more customers across the entire southern region of the U.S. including the Greater New Orleans area.

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CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED INFORMATION REGARDING THE KOOP DRIVE HOLIDAY OF LIGHTS EVENT IN MANDEVILLE, LOUISIANA (2017).

Visitors from all over see the lights from I-12 as they drive through St. Tammany Parish, a seemingly 20’ – 30’ “Christmas Tree” which is constructed by lights hanging from the top of a structure in the St. Tammany Parish government complex off of Koopholiday-of-lights-mandeville Drive in Mandeville, Louisiana.  This is the northshore’s version of the Celebration in the Oaks, which is an annual display of Christmas lights and lighted sculptures in City Park in New Orleans, LA which can be walked or driven by visitors in the week leading up to Christmas Day.

The light show on the north shore is called The Holiday of Lights and is paid for and sponsored by the Tammany Trace Foundation and the St. Tammany Parish Government.  The event, which will be lit up on December 6th and 7th and December 13th and 14th from 6pm – 8:30pm, offers a full-featured light display, as well as theatrical and musical events featuring local drama troupes and artists from the Greater New Orleans area.  The light display will be available for viewing by all visitors from 5pm – 8pm in the weeks before and during the holidays.

Entertainment performances are planned for the following dates:

  • December 6, 2013: Mandeville Show Choir, Marigny Elementary School, Mary Dees Dance Studio and Mandeville High Choir.
  • December 7, 2013: Northlake Academy of Music Choir, Fifth Ward Junior High, and Woodlake Elementary School.
  • December 13, 2013: Abita Springs Children’s Academie, Abita Springs Elementary Third-grade Choir; Abita Middle School Warrior Band; and Creative Arts of St. Tammany.
  •  December 14, 2013: Covington High Talented Theatre, Mother Goose’s Christmas Cooking Spectacular; The Singstions, and Fontainebleau High Talented Music.

A cause for celebration this year, which is also being promoted by the Holiday of Lights show sponsors is the commencement of the new construction of Kids’ Town, which is being described by the Tammany Trace Foundation and the St. Tammany Parish Government as a historical experience through the eyes of a child. This construction for Kids’ Town is scheduled to begin early 2014.

If you are looking for something to do over the holidays in Mandeville, Louisiana, come out and view the Holiday of Lights with your family in St. Tammany Parish.

 

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