The month of July, 2014, bodes well for the health of the real estate market in the United States according to the National Association of Home Builders.  1st quarter, 2014, construction numbers were cause for alarm after a harsher-than-normal winter essentially shut down the construction industry and crippled recovery numbers for the housing industry.  2nd quarter of 2014 began to show a slight increase in home construction permits and new starts, but July numbers had analysts breathing a sign of relief when housing starts increased by 8.3% year-over-year for July and a 15.7% increase from June’s dip in new housing starts.  There were housing starts increases for 3 out of 4 regions in the U.S., with one market – Midwest “breaking even” and matching typical national averages for this time of year.

Construction starts were especially fantastic for multi-family construction which reached 437,000, the highest since February, 2006.  Multifamily construction permits were at 412,000 which was a 21.5% increase from June, when starts and permits dipped slightly.  Overall, building permits were up 8.1% over June’s permit numbers, and single-family home building permits were up 3.9% over July, 2013.

Meanwhile, housing affordability went down slightly in the 2nd quarter.  Anything that goes down in the housing industry – except for interest rates, taxes, and insurance – has, in this uncertain housing market, been a cause for alarm.  However, the dip in affordability actually pushes the real estate market to pre-2000’s numbers in home pricing and affordability.  Markets in the United States are evaluated for their affordability based on the median income and monthly home sales numbers.  In June, home affordability was slightly over 65%.  In July, this number dropped almost 3 points to 62.6%.  The latest readings reflect a slow but steady march toward historically normal appreciation and interest rates, producing a more typical HOI.  The HOI is the Housing Opportunity Index that is monitored and produced by a partnership between the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo.  More good news is that interest rates actually did go down in July from 4.57% to 4.44%  This was good news for the refinance market where homeowners were waiting to see if interest rates would end up dropping again.

Overall, the NAHB is predicting that the real estate market will continue to thrive at least to the end of 2014.  Locally, home prices continue to rise in the New Orleans area. Small and medium-sized businesses have steadily been moving into the Central Business District (CBD), which has caused an influx of employees and a rise in demand for housing in downtown New Orleans areas.  Many Realtors and owners have become embroiled in bidding wars, just 24 hours after homes have gone on the market.  Real estate activity throughout the rest of the Greater New Orleans area has seen a steady increase with higher than normal sales numbers in busier real estate months of the year.

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According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), home prices and new home prices are beginning to level off.  Prices are still on the rise – 4.4% in the second quarter of 2014, over the same time in 2013.  However, this increase is still less than the 1st quarter price increases from 2013 which was an 8.3% increase.  When the housing market began its recovery, home prices skyrocketed causing major concern in interested parties.  The worry was that the prices would increase so much, they would create another housing bubble.  All throughout 2013, the real estate market technically “recovered,” and now with the slow in housing price increases, the market may finally be stabilizing.

Another important and vital factor to the stabilization and sustained health of the housing market is the increased pace of new home construction.  Builders providing a selection of new home inventory allows buyers to have more of a choice in the house that they would like to buy.  A lack of supply increases demand which raises prices.  With a full inventory of homes for sale, demand is stabilized, so prices come back to an industry average which helps with price stabilization. Total inventory of existing homes reached 2.3 million by the end of June 2014. That was 6.5 percent more than a year ago.

Due to a harsher than normal winter, home sales fell behind approximately 5% in the 1st quarter of 2014, but in the 2nd quarter new home sales and home sales increased.  Real estate sales are expected to match or even exceed sales number of 2013.  In 2011 and 2012, a lot of the sales were “playing catch-up” with the existing inventory which had sat for awhile after the collapse of real estate in 2008. 2013 seemed to reflect one the first “normal” years post-Recession.

In St. Tammany Parish, pricing did fall slightly in the slower years, but for the most part, homes in Mandeville, Covington, Madisonville, and Abita Springs held their value except for hard-hit pockets here and there.  From the point of view of a builder, our buyers get a substantial “bang for their buck” when building a new custom home with Ron Lee Homes in St. Tammany Parish. You can view the types of Projects we build as well as find out more information about our Homes for Sale by Contacting Us directly at 985-626-7619 or E-mailing

Builders nationwide are the life-source of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).  The input of builders nationwide has helped this organization keep its finger on the trends of the housing market.  Feedback from its members has made the NAHB a truly representative organization which has been strong valued and listened to in Congress.  Sweeping legislative changes have either been pushed through or reversed because of the input of small to medium-sized, to large, production builders in small and large markets throughout the United States.  In order for the NAHB to stay in touch with how housing trends are shaping up in all regions of the country, the Association, along with lending institute Wells Fargo conducts a monthly survey to evaluate builder confidence in the real estate market.

Their results are published each month in the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).   The survey allows points for builders’ attitudes toward the following three real estate topics: current sales conditions, prospective buyers, and expectations for future sales.  Any “score” that is higher than 50 is considered good – that builders are feeling positive about the housing market.  With a slight dip in the HMI score earlier in 2014, builder confidence rose 4 points in June, 2014 to 49.  In July, however, the numbers strongly rebounded again with builder confidence rising to 53. Builder confidence numbers have not been above 50 since January, 2014, so the sharp increase in 2 months is a good indication that builders are feeling better about the real estate industry in general.

All three HMI components posted gains in July. The index gauging current sales conditions increased four points to 57, while the index measuring expectations for future sales rose six points to 64 and the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers increased three points to 39. The housing inventory also currently stands at 4.5 months, which is “typical” for a normal housing market.  During the worst parts of the Recession, inventory would sometimes climb to a 16-month to 24-month inventory depending on different regions of the country.

Locally in St. Tammany Parish, new home sales and resales have both been higher than 2013, which has been an indication of a stronger-than-ever housing market.  Ron Lee Homes is currently taking orders for new and custom home designs for interested buyers.  Contact Us at 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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As a builder, Ron Lee Homes typically sells homes that are higher both in square footage in price range, but no builder is complete unless he / she considers all of the people for which we may be able to build a new home.  Homeownership has to begin for most Americans at some point, and the market for brand new home buyers is called the first time home buyer.  Building in St. Tammany Parish for over 20 years, Ron Lee Homes spent a lot of the first 10 years of our business building charming and unique, smaller square footage homes for first time home buyers.  A wonderful article clearly explains the types of strategies that all builders need to implement when they are providing inventory for the first time home buyer.  Use these ideas and strategies when you are shopping your new home builder.

1. As a new home buyer, you should definitely shop for builders who are wise about their land choices.  Building a new home further out or in an established neighborhood will help you with the cost of your lot.  Because your new home purchase doesn’t just include the four walls of your home, you will need to shop lot and land costs in your local area for the best value in a safe subdivision or community.

2. Even if your home is a scaled-down version of the fully custom home that you want to build for yourself someday, the appearance of your new home doesn’t have to be scaled down.  Builders can enhance the attractiveness of a smaller more economically priced home by increasing the home’s curb appeal.  Curb appeal is the way a home looks from the curb – landscaping, sodded front yard, brick or stone accents on the front of the home, a concrete driveway / sidewalk, or even an attractive front porch can add to the beauty and buyer interest of the home.

3. It’s all about your floorplan.  Even a 1,200 – 1,300 square foot home can be made to look and feel larger because of the type of floorplan that a builder builds.  Open spaces, such as a continuous kitchen to living room to dining room layout will make the home “breath,” as well as let in a lot of light.

4. Remarkably, building using green builder techniques can save the builder money as well as offer cost savings to home buyers.  If builders look into green building techniques which save time as well as materials costs, they can then offer the end user – you, the buyer, savings on electricity bills, which will make the new home more “sellable” and attractive.

5. Accessories, accessories, accessories – nothing can have more emphasis than the right accessories.  Simple trimmings for a first-time home buyer home, such as light dimmers, vaulted and/or treyed ceilings, frosted shower or cabinet doors, and built-in shelfs or small bookshelves can be added for low cost but add an aesthetic value to the home for the new home buyer.

6. While a builder wants to offer every buyer the amazing experience of being a part of the building process, builders can save money and save buyers a headache by offering important, yet limited design choices.  Buyers want to feel engaged by their builder, but if they are purchasing a new home for the first time, they may become overwhelmed by all of the choices that go into designing the new home.  Possibly keep choices to just flooring type, countertop color / design, and cabinet colors / styles, using a neutral yet warm and inviting wall color with contrasting trim throughout the home.

7. When you are interviewing your new home builder, try to find out who will actually be working on the building of your new home.  Good builders will have quality, experienced leadership staff as well as vendors with whom they have had ongoing and reliable relationships for many years.  As a builder, you want to make sure you can cut your costs as low as possible, but you don’t want the “cost-cutting” builder who gets new estimates from any and every sub around every time he builds a home.  The quality of the work may suffer in order to cut $100 – $1,000 here and there.

We hope these tips have been helpful.  Ron Lee Homes does build new homes that are a little larger in square footage and price, so we would love to offer our services to those first-time home buyers that are ready to move into or build their 2nd or even 3rd home.  Please contact us at 985-626-7619 or E-mail for any information you may need.


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Ron Lee Homes, a St. Tammany Parish builder which builds new, custom homes in the cities of Mandeville, Covington, Madisonville, and Abita Springs, has been consistently building what the industry terms “McMansions” on the Northshore of New Orleans for over10 years.  Now, a report has been released by the National Association of Home Builders that shows that the percentage of larger homes built since 2005 has significantly increased.

014_mlsThe AVERAGE size of new homes in 2013 is 2,600 square feet, which is up from the “housing bubble years” when it was 2,400 square feet.  Ron Lee homes builds many new homes which range from 3,200 – 6,000 square feet.  This group of homes, homes which are in the range of 4,000 square feet and up is called “mega homes.”  The percentage of mega homes built has increased almost 3% since 2005 – at 9%, up from 6.6%.   And, homes ranging in size from 3,000 – 4,000 square feet has increase from 15.6% in 2005 to 21.7% in 2013.

One factor which does affect and skew the statistics is the fact that first-time home buyers are having a difficult time qualifying for a new home.  Because of the Great Recession, students who graduated from college with an expectation of how the job market would assist them with future income found themselves without a entry-level career job and mountains of student loans.  During the Recession, the housing industry saw a huge increase of 20 – 30-year-old people moving back in with parents, friends, or relatives because of the lack of employment which would help them pay their bills.  So, with the lack of income, heightened debt, andlot-120-maison-1 many builders completely “stalling” on putting new inventory on the ground, the first-time housing market declined to 4% in 2013 compared to 9% in 2005.  A single-family, first-time home size is 1,400 square feet or less.

St. Tammany Parish’s population constitutes home buyers with a slightly higher-than-average income level, so the building of 3,000 – 4,000 square foot and “McMansions” trends normally in this area.  Even during the slower real estate years past, the business of building for Ron Lee Homes truly showed this trend with new and custom homes being built with more accessories as well as larger square footage.  For more information about building your new, custom home in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or E-mail

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Surprising facts about the new construction market reveal that green building is becoming a large percentage of single-family and multi-family construction projects. A report released by McGraw Hill called the Construction’s Dodge Construction Market Forecast states that single-family construction and multi-family construction account for 45% of the value of construction projects in the United States in 2014. A separate report released in the Forecast, “Green Multifamily & Single Family Homes: Growth in a Recovering Market,” shows that in 2014, 62% of single-family builders and 54% of multi-family builders have 15% of their business that is green building. Those numbers are supposed to increase by 2018 to 84% and 79% respectively.

Probably unknown to most people, green building has become so popular that there is a segment of the single-family builder market which is building over 90% of its projects with green building techniques. That percentage is 19%, and the report stated that this number was expected to double to 38% by 2018. Green builders have found that government incentives and grant money is available for those builders that utilize green building techniques. This has “inspired” business men and women to employ these techniques, and over the past 10 – 15 years, the market has come to a certain level of expectation when it comes to green, environmentally friendly new construction.

The report by McGraw Hill showed that the consumer market believes that green building shows a higher quality of home as well as a greater value of home and therefore will pay more for this quality. 73% of single family builders (up from 61% since the last report) and 68% of multifamily builders say consumers will pay more for green homes.

“This new study demonstrates phenomenal growth in green building, with more builders engaging in sustainable building practices than ever before,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. “While growth in green in the single family market is driven more by high quality and customer demand, the multifamily market is more driven by cost factors such as the availability of government or utility incentives, as well as enhancing their competitive position and corporate image. All are compelling reasons for the industry to engage with this continuously growing market.”

Ron Lee Homes in St. Tammany Parish is a Certified Green Builder – a designation earned from the National Association of Home Builders. Ron Lee constantly is educating himself and his staff to employ innovative green techniques in all homes built in Mandeville, Covington, Madisonville, and Abita Springs, Louisiana. For more information about building your new custom home by Ron Lee Homes, Contact Us at 985-626-7619 or E-mail


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At Ron Lee Homes, we will build you a new home or a new, custom home either on a subdivision lot or on your own lot.  Or, we can build your new home with a floorplan that you designed.  Or we can design your floorplan as well as build your new home from the ground up.  If you are interested in building the home of your dreams, but you don’t have a lot or a floorplan, national trends are starting to show that rural042_mls lots and developments will help new home buyers save money on the cost of the land on which they are planning to build their new homes.  These lots and neighborhoods are considered rural, but they still may be located very close to small retail shopping centers or even distributed between grocery stores and large shopping areas which may be as much as 5 – 10 miles away.

There are several subdivisions in St. Tammany Parish right now that have affordable lot costs, are located a little farther away, but are very close to shopping and dining on the I-12 Corridor.  These communities include the following: Bedico Creek Preserve (located off of Hwy. 1085 off of 1077), Maison du Lac (located off of Bootlegger Rd. off of Hwy. 21), TerraBella Village (also off of Bootlegger Rd. off of Hwy. 21), and Eagle Landing (located off north on 1077 above Madisonville).  All of these communities offer lots for sale as well as new homes for sale built buy quality builders in St. Tammany Parish.  Ron Lee Homes builds homes in Bedico Creek, Maison du Lac, and TerraBella Village.

Keep in mind that when you are purchasing a new lot, there are several requirements to consider:

  1. Decide on the square footage of your new home, and if you do not already have a floorplan, make sure that your new home floorplan design will fit within those square footage requirements.
  2. If you already have a floorplan designed, make sure the “footprint” of your floorplan will fit proportionately on the lot you are interested in buying.
  3. If you don’t know how to fit a floorplan to your lot, consult with your builder to help you decide if the lot in which your are interested will be a good fit for your floorplan.

039_mlsRon Lee Homes has been in the home building business in St. Tammany Parish for over 20 years.  We have built “spec” homes (where the buyer can pick out carpet, tile, and cabinet colors), semi-custom homes (already designed floorplans with minimal changes by the home buyer), and fully custom homes.  We have built a portfolio of homes ranging in square footage from 1,800 – 10,000 square feet.  We are experts in determining how your home will be positioned on your lot.  We will even go through a detailed “sitewalk,” which includes marketing out the footprint of your home and choosing the trees that you want to keep – if you happen to have a lot with a lots of trees!

So, when you are ready to purchase your land, and you may consider buying a lot that is more rural, Ron Lee Homes can guide you every step of the way from your lot selection and floorplan design to the final home building process.  For More Information on buying a new homesite in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Us at 985-626-7619 or E-mail


In many of the subdivisions in which Ron Lee Homes builds in St. Tammany Parish, there are now new additions to the gorgeous streetscapes which used to feature beautifully green cut lots waiting for the sound of hammers and saws and the smell of fresh pine and freshRon Lee Homes presents this new home for sale that is featured in the 2014 Parade of Homes at TerraBella Village. The Parade of Homes is held by the St. Tammany Home Builders Association every year. paint.  These new additions are new homes being built for sale for potential home buyers in St. Tammany Parish.  Large master-planned communities such as TerraBella Village and Bedico Creek Preserve are seeing lot sales and new builder lot sales more in 2014 than in any other year since the real estate market declined in 2008.  These communities offer multiple options both in price and size for their homesites for sale in Covington and Madisonville.  There is a reason that people are beginning to see new homes taking shape in many new home neighborhoods in St. Tammany Parish – builders are beginning to see a demand for the purchase of homes by buyers in the Greater New Orleans area.

For a long time, there was a supply of homes in our area that simply “would not go away.”  Now, there seems to be a shortage of homes, both previously owned (resale) and new.  Because of this, builders are starting to build what are called spec or inventory homes.  These homes are designed and built to builders’ already-designed floorplans, and buyers may be able to choose flooring choices / colors, cabinet and/or countertop colors, and paint colors before the home is totally complete.  However, if they miss out on this opportunity, than the home is pre-built with certain features that are attractive to home buyers in St. Tammany Parish.

002_mlsThe real estate market nationally is mirroring the activity in our local subdivisions as in April, new home sales rose 6.4% to 433,000 homes, which is even higher than the amount of homes sold in March, 2014.  Also, housing affordability rose to 65.5% in the 1st quarter of 2014 according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).  This index evaluates each major and minor market to see if homes are affordable to home buyers earning the median incomes in each of these markets.  Mortgage rates are steady, and the supply of homes available to home buyers is at 5.3 months according to the rate of sales averaged over national markets.

In St. Tammany Parish, specifically the cities of Mandeville, Covington, and Madisonville, many different subdivisions reflect both the supply of homes and home affordability to our buyers.  In fact, if we were to conduct our own index, we may find that our community is doing better than the national average.  Ron Lee Homes is so busy that we are trying to manage our customers’ expectations when it comes to building timelines on our homes.  We are busy, which is Great, and we want to make sure that we make time for your new home project.  So, if you are ready to build your new home, get in touch with us as soon as possible at 985-626-7619 or E-mail


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Louisiana has, without a doubt, experienced one of the most bitter and unusual winters on record in this state.  On the Northshore alone, there 3 ice events with one actual hazardous ice storm.  Also, the season does not seem to want to let go with temperatures dropping into the 40’s every 10 – 12 days, as if to remind us that old man winter can exact his due until spring or summer officially takes over.  Because of these colder temperatures, homeowners in Southeast Louisiana who usually enjoy a practically maintenance-free winter on our fair shores, have had a wake-up call when it comes to wrapping pipes and letting the water drip – exactly how high do you turn the faucet on anyway?  With all of this in mine, below are some tips and tricks to check out around your home as the weather thaws, and things really start to warm up.

Inspect roof: Check your roof for loose, warped or missing shingles and make sure the chimney flashing and skylight seals are intact.

Clean and repair gutters: Clear winter storm debris, such as branches and pine cones that dropped from the trees during the ice storms, from gutters and downspouts and check that they are still securely attached to the house. Blocked or loose gutters can allow water into your home and damage trim.

Look for leaks: Common culprits for hard-to-find leaks are attics and crawl spaces, such as underneath a raised house. Inspect these areas, look under sinks for damage from frozen pipes and check your water heater for signs of corrosion.

Clear exterior drains: Remove leaves from underground or exterior drains to clear the way for spring showers and prevent backups.  With all of the precipitation that we had – whether frozen or rain – there may be clogs that are not normal around your ditches.

Inspect siding: Inspect siding for pieces that have come loose or popped because of the unseasonable cold weather.

Check window and door seals: Examine the exterior caulking on door and window seals to ensure it remains watertight.

Patch cracks: Patch cracks in concrete driveways, sidewalks and steps that may have appeared because of the ice.

Paint the exterior: Painting or touching up paint on the exterior of your home not only makes it look better, but will also help protect the home from the elements.  In Louisiana, it is recommended that if you don’t paint your home that you at least clean off the mildew and put a seal on the exterior to protect it from more mildew growing back quickly.

Inspect the HVAC: Hire a qualified technician to service your home’s HVAC system to make sure it is running properly before hot temperatures call for air conditioning. Now is also the time to replace your HVAC filters.

“Winter weather can damage homes in ways that aren’t easily visible,” said NAHB Remodelers Chair Paul Sullivan, CAPS, CGR, CGP, of Waterville Valley, N.H. “Home owners should protect their investment and hire a professional remodeler to repair or replace damaged components now, before spring storms create more problems.”


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Even though Louisiana is located at the “bottom” of the states in the U.S., we still have something to brag about – Baton Rouge is leading the nation’s cities in its recovery and higher than normal levels of real estate building and buying activity.  According to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI), Baton Rouge scored a 1.42 on the index, the highest overall number nationwide.  What this number means is that Baton Rouge is showing a 42% increase over normal market activity when the housing market is at normal operating levels.  This is not the first time that this Southeastern Louisiana city has made this score.  Baton Rouge has been leading the housing market recovery “charge” in Louisiana since it drifted out of the Recession.

It is admitted by many people here in Louisiana, especially in St. Tammany Parish, that Southeast Louisiana did not experience the drastic losses that other states experienced when the housing market crashed.  However, to have an index number close to 50% above normal activity levels says a lot about the pent up demand for new homes and existing homes for sale in this region.  Overall, the report from the LMI was also very positive with 11 new metro cities joining the list of cities in recovery.  Also, the nation isn’t doing too badly – it’s running about 88% of what the normal housing market would be doing.  Meanwhile, 28 percent of metro areas saw their score rise this month and 83 percent have shown an improvement over the past year.

Other cities which posted above the norm increases in activity and sales were as follows: Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin Houston, San Jose, CA and Harrisburg, PA.  One of the major forces driving the statistics that are collected by the LMI was employment.  Builders nationwide have been reporting a shortage in labor in getting their homes built.  Contractors and sub-contractors who used to be in the housing industry had to find work elsewhere when the real estate market sagged.  Therefore, builders are holding signed contracts on homes ready to build, but they are short the labor force needed to actually do the work.  Employment in construction has gone up even in the past few months, as well as other industries including communications and IT, and unemployment has been creeping down by tenths each quarter.  Many analysts and economists expect to see a continuation of improvement in the housing markets in the 350 metros scored by the LMI.

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