The term “DIY” is thrown around a lot in today’s media.  Many people who are “in the business” know that this term means Do It Yourself, and they spend hours doing just that with practically every project around their home.  Sometimes this work is done to interior-1enhance the appearance of a home, garden, shop, or public area.  Many times, Do It Yourselfers are taking on the work themselves in order to produce affordable results which will help them sell their home.

In order to provide some helpful tips to those new home buyers who are looking to purchase a new inventory home or to build a custom home of their dreams, but they are unable to get started because they still have a home to sell; we are Ron Lee Homes would like to give some tips and tricks on how to use DIY tactics to spruce up your home to increase its value and get it ready to sell.  So, here goes, our list of DIY tips for the kitchen:

1. Apply Some Love to Your Appliances: When selling your home, think about all of the effort that you put into creating the interior-4perfect kitchen, whether you use it for catering and entertaining friends, or if it’s the heart of your family’s activities and milestones.  You may have installed specialty appliances, such as stainless steel appliances, upgraded gas appliances, or even a Viking kitchen setup.  You probably spent a lot of time and effort buying the perfect refrigerator to match your kitchen’s theme in order to blend in, as well as to offer the most square footage for cool storage and freezing as possible.  It is very important not to neglect your appliances.  One of the things that will make your home show well in order to sell is to thoroughly clean all of your appliances, both inside and out.  You should also consider completely defrosting your refrigerator and freezer, cleaning your fans, checking for cracks or leaks in either your collecting cup or an evaporating pan (dependent on the model), and if necessary replace the water filters in your refrigerator as well as your iceline.  Special cleaners are sold for stainless steel appliances.  If you are trying to sell your home, it is important to spend a little bit extra to get these specialty cleaners in order to make your appliances shine like new.

2. Clean From Top to Bottom: While spending a lot of time and focus on the actual appliances in your kitchen, don’t neglect the one item that will filter out all of your excess steam, smoke, and smell from your kitchen while you cook – your vent hood.  You may not realize it, but your vent hood collects a significant amount of grease while it is essentially filtering the air in your kitchen.  You should take special care to thoroughly clean all surfaces of your vent hood. The next part to check the type of vented hood that you have.  More modern kitchens utilize a ductless cooktop vent hood which uses a carbon charcoal filter to recirculate and clean the air along the way.  Make sure to replace this filter every 6 months if your kitchen has one of these vent hoods.

3. Gas Ovens Produce…Gas: Believe it or not, it’s important to pay close attention to your gas appliances if you cook with gas, which can be preferable for medium to high-capacity cooks and chefs.  While your stovetop may adjust your temperature perfectly013_mls for thickening your sauces or creating the perfect roux, your gas oven may not be as forgiving of drippings that may come off of the many delectable casseroles and souffles that you cook in your oven.  The more drippings that are burned off in high temperatures in your gas oven, the more carbon monoxide is produced.  Many experts recommend installing a carbon monoxide detector in the room adjacent to your kitchen (if you use a gas oven) in order to detect an unsafe production of carbon monoxide from your oven.  By acting as a responsible homeowner, you will not only have a clean oven to show potential buyers, and you will also let them know that you are keeping your home safe and maintained from harmful gas exposure.

4. Protect Your Surfaces: The surface on which you cook is the most highly used and important part of your kitchen.  These surfaces are where you set your groceries, fix sandwiches, roll out dough, cut and prep meat and vegetables, and visit with your friend when you are having a glass of wine and a long visit.  Most people worry constantly about keeping their countertops 548-terrabella-8germ-free, but whey they  may miss is that these surfaces must be kept sealed and protected in order to make them last.  Even though your builder may have explained that the countertops installed were granite countertops, there are many different types of granite countertops, so be sure to check your documentation, or if applicable, your warranty, to check to see the type of maintenance and sealing time periods are recommended in order to maintain the appearance and quality of your countertops.  Different countertop styles require different maintenance.  For marble countertops, you may want to seal them if you use a lot of acidic food because the acid mars the marble.  For soapstone or butcher block countertops, these must be sealed with oil.  While you can’t seal solid-surface (Corian or plastic top) countertops, you can “repair” them from slices or scratches by using a jeweler’s emery pad to rub out these scratches.  However you decide to take care of your countertops, or how often you decide to seal them will decide if your kitchen will show well when or if you decide to sell your home.

5. Kill the Mildew! Louisiana homeowners are no strangers to mildew, as for many, it is a constant fight to keep the mildew from creeping into the house.  However, there are some simple ways to ensure that your kitchen sink or sinks don’t first of all grow 003_printmildew, or if they already have, how to clean them so that your kitchen does not show any mildew damage.  The most important part of your kitchen sink is how the sink is sealed to your countertops, the backsplash, or the wall.  The caulking used to seal the sink keeps water from seeping into the cabinets below or into the sheetrock against the wall.  This water seepage and settling will grow mildew in a hurry if the caulking is not repaired or replaced.  If your caulking for your sink is gone, you can simply replace it.  However, we recommend to thoroughly clean around the entire area that will be caulked with a mildew remover in order to completely kill the mildew before you reseal your sink.  Once you have cleaned off all of the mildew, then thoroughly seal the sink with the appropriate caulking.  It is very important not to remove caulking that does not have mildew damage and has not pulled away from the sink.  Caulking over this already existing caulk will only  make your seal stronger.

So, in addition to making your home’s kitchen show it’s very best, we have also given you some excellent tips to make sure that you have literally cleaned all parts, components, and appliances in your kitchen from the inside out.  So, even if your home does not sell immediately, you will still enjoy the fruits of your labor by have a perfectly clean and safe kitchen.

 

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Builders in St. Tammany Parish already seem to have a handle on new nationwide trends in home building that are being reported by media in other regions of the country.  A reporter in Pennsylvania from the Pittsburgh Tribune shared a few of his thoughts as to the trends of new home building not only in the Pittsburgh area but also nationwide.  We found it interesting that many of these trends have already been used by Ron Lee Homes in Covington, Louisiana at least for the last 10 years.  Below is a description of new home building trends according to an “expert.”

Modern Kitchens:
While the writer focused primarily on the installation of a new kitchen appliance called a steam oven – a new way to reheat food traditionally reheated in a microwave, he went on to expound on the fact that buyers prefer a more custom, high-end, possibly catering kitchen.  Some of the features added a standards in semi-custom and custom homes by Ron Lee Homes in their modern kitchens include solid granite, custom marble, or other custom material for the kitchen countertops.  Most of the cabinetry installed by Ron Lee Homes and Hearthstone Homes by Ron Lee in the kitchens that we design and build include real wood, 42” or bigger custom cabinetry.  These cabinets can have double or triple moldings, glass fronts, scrollwork, and even cabinetry installed to “hide” appliance doors such as refrigerators, icemakers, wine coolers, appliance garages, and microwaves.  Our modern kitchens come standard with an upgraded lighting package including the option to install lights beneath the cabinets above the countertops.  Our buyers are proud to utilize their kitchens for parties, events, full family meals, or just a family breakfast or dinner.  Ron Lee Homes more than excels at the concept of the home building trend of a modern kitchen.

Outdoor Features:
While the author from Pittsburgh includes exterior lighting, a patio, and front porch, he goes on to say later in the article that buyers prefer a home patio that has a deck and that an outdoor fireplace is also considered a luxury.  If you have ever toured a new, custom home built by Ron Lee Homes, you will know that we have knocked this feature “out of the park” for our new home buyers.  Our exterior finishes include gorgeous all-brick patios with either brick or stucco columns and either brick or paver flooring.  Our exterior fireplaces are practically award-winning in design and implementation to create a cozy yet stylish outdoor entertainment area.  Our electronic include upgraded exterior lighting as well as up to 3 ceiling fans for the covered patio areas because of the heat and mosquitoes that are prevalent in Louisiana in general.  Our front porches are exquisite with sultry deep South porch designs complete with either spindle fence design or gracious colonial columns announcing the entrance to the home.  We even have a secret weapon in our use of paint on the porch ceiling to discourage mosquitos or pesky love bugs from taking up residence on the porch.  When it comes to exterior amenities, Ron Lee Homes has gone above and beyond national home building trends.

High-End “Everything”
Home buying trends have indicated that single professionals, couples, and even families are choosing homes that are smaller with more amenities.  Instead of the affordable “big box house,” on 1/4 or 1/2 acre lots with 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, priced right at $200,000, buyers are being more choosy as to the quality of interior amenities of their home.  They are interested in the niceties that truly make the home sell for and maintain its value.  Some of these features include the flooring.  Instead of going for builder grade hardwoods and carpeting, buyers are opting for more expensive, popular, stylish, and tasteful choices in higher-end flooring.  Also, laminate is “out” both for flooring and for countertops where buyers are interested in tile or granite finishes for either.  Crown molding has become more of the norm instead of an upgrade, and buyers are taking an interest in their kitchens being functional and accessible with walk-in pantries and a necessary kitchen eating area either built-in or spaced for a kitchen table.  The trend, according to the author, is that new home buyers are sacrificing space for high-end, quality interior features for their new or custom-built homes.

Ron Lee Homes also offers green technologies in all of the homes that we build.  As a Certified Green Builder, we utilize the latest green technologies in building with energy efficient features such as double-insulated windows, spray foam insulation, energy efficient HVAC systems, structure and roofing technologies and so much more.  If you are interested in working with a builder in St. Tammany Parish that has already been building to the latest national trends for over 10 years, Contact Ron Lee Homes today at 985-626-7619 or e-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com for more information.

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The southern region of the United States saw a 38.5% increase in housing starts during the month of November to 558,000 new construction building starts, while the overall number of new home starts and permits skyrocketed to above 1 million in November, 2013.  This is the first time, except for one increase in the spring of 2013, that new housing starts and permits have risen above 1 million since 2008.  The South’s 558,000 housing starts also breaks a record of new home starts since February, 2008.

In the real estate market, single-family home starts rose to 727,000, which was a 20.8% increase from October, 2013, and multi-family home starts rose 26.8% to 364,000.  Single-family home starts have not increased that dramatically since December of 2007, and for this increase to happen during one of the typically slower real estate months of the year – November – is a record in and of itself.

Elsewhere in the United States, the Midwest saw a 41.7% rise in single-family home starts, the most since August, 2007.  All regions in America all saw increase in new construction starts and permits for the building of new single-family homes.  The multi-family home market was a huge component in the above 1 million mark of home starts and permits, but overall, the real estate market has been a huge driver for the U.S. economy with the decrease in interest rates and the semi-flexible standards for new home construction loans.

After the government shutdown in October, the Fed’s meeting and report, at the end of September, and a slight stabilization of the “new norm” when it comes to higher interest rates; “on-the-fence buyers” have reentered the market and are starting to buy up the existing inventory.  This is reducing the amount of months of standing inventory in all regions of the United States.  The real estate market is actually turning more into a sellers’ market, drastically different from the buyers’ market and investors’ market it has been since the Recession.

Even though employment in the U.S. is sluggish to recover, the construction industry is actually experiencing a dearth in employment of contractors and subs for their jobs.  This has slowed down the production on new home construction projects because of a delay in getting quality workers to perform all of the contractor work during new home construction.  This is good news for those workers who had to change occupations while the construction industry sat idle.  Ramping back up new home construction production to pre-Recession levels will take time because of this lack of available contractors and sub-contractors.

This is good news for local builders in St. Tammany Parish, and Ron Lee Homes has been experiencing an uptick in the already busy schedule of new, custom homes for our buyers here in Mandeville, Covington, and Madisonville.  If you are interested in purchasing a new or custom home for sale in St. Tammany Parish, Contact Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or e-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

Adding well over 10,000 construction jobs, Louisiana ranked 3rd highest in the entire United States for the addition of construction jobs throughout the state.  A total of 10,700 jobs were added increasing the amount of new construction employment to 8.3% from October, 2012 to October, 2013.  It’s the largest year over year increase in the construction sector since the beginning of the Recession.  Louisiana had a high number of increase throughout the entire state because of several new commercial and industrial project starts.  Some of these projects were located in the Greater New Orleans and listed below:

  • 939 Iberville, redevelopment of a mostly vacant French Quarter building into an 87-unit residence. Plans call for unit sizes ranging from 765 to 2,164 square feet, as well as an 85-vehicle parking structure. Price of this project: $26,000,000
  • New Orleans South Market District downtown, a mixed-use development off the Loyola Avenue streetcar line. The Paramount at South Market is one of the proposed commercial construction projects and is a five-story apartment, restaurant and retail building. Price of the entire project: $200,000,000
  • Broad Community Connections, in partnership with L+M Development Partners (L+M), begins construction on the ReFresh Project, a 60,000 square-foot development on Broad Street includes a Whole Foods Market, Liberty’s Kitchen full service café and commercial kitchen, and The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. Money utilized on the project is a $1.9 million loan.
  • The nation’s first gasification plant, built by the Leucadia Corporation in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Investment of this industrial construction project $2.5 billion

Nationally, overall, 39 states out of 50 saw an increase in construction employment.  The #1 state to see an increase was Florida at 19%, and Mississippi at 11% came in second.

“It is encouraging that three-quarters of the states are now adding construction jobs on a year-over-year basis,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Employment increases are still intermittent in too many states, however, and nearly all states are far below their pre-recession highs.”

In St. Tammany Parish, the real estate market saw an upsurge of business in one of the typically slowest month of the year in November.  Ron Lee Homes has several new custom home construction projects that started in the last few months, and we have several new homes that will be built at the beginning of 2014.  The real estate industry, specifically the new home construction builders, have been a major factor in the increase of the GDP in the United States in 2013.  For information on building a new home in the Greater New Orleans area, Contact Ron Lee Homes today at 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com.

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With the news in September, 2013, that the Fed will not be tapering back its bond buying program any time soon, mortgage interest rates dipped again for the 3rd time in as many weeks to 4.22%.  The interest rate for a 1-year adjustable rate mortgage is now 2.63% while the interest rate for a 5-year adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.03% to 3.07%.

With the government shutdown underway, lenders and the stock market are watching to see how long the shutdown will last and how this will affect interest rates.  The longer the shutdown lasts, the worse the US economy will be.  However, in a twist of fate, this is good news for the real estate industry.  When the economy is performing sluggishly, interest rates drop to stimulate the economy.  So, lower interest rates, while good for new home buyers, can be a sign of a weak economy and lower consumer confidence.

Another factor of the government shutdown is the potential default on the raising of the $16.7 trillion dollar debt ceiling.  The opposite effect would be true in this case.  If the government defaults on its debts, the effect would be a domino effect on all of the world’s economies causing interest rates to skyrocket.  Lenders, in the mean time, are on hold as the government sorts through its financial and political issues.  Requests for income verification for borrowers are going “into the pile” as the IRS is closed until further notice.  Approvals for FHA loans are also experiencing a delay as those offices are also out of commission until the end of the shutdown.

However, the drop in interest rates to 4.22% came in a steady decline over a period of almost a month, so this trend is not a result of the government shutdown.  However, economists predict that this downward trend will soon level off and sustain itself (barring any complications from the shutdown) over the next few months.  Another review of the economy by the Fed will happen in the 1st 2 quarters of next year to decide yet again as to the fate of the bond buying program.

If you are a home buyer looking to purchase a new home, interest rates are still at incredibly “low lows” giving you as the home buyer more buying power.  You can get more “bang for you buck” – a higher priced loan at an affordable monthly payment, and you can find new and custom home by Ron Lee Homes right here in St. Tammany Parish. Contact Ron Lee Homes Today at 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com For More Information.

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According to local designer, Neil Peyroux, owner of Peyroux’s Custom Curtains, there are certain frequently asked questions about how to decorate and cover your windows in your home.  Most floorplans designed by builders heavily accentuate natural light by creating as many windows as tastefully possible within the space of each room of the home.  However, it does become necessary to block out that natural lighting especially during Louisiana summers where the combination of sunlight and the heat can bring unwanted outside ambiance into your home.  Below are some tips and trick to window covering recommended by Peyroux.

Shades or mini-blinds are a fast, easy way to cover light coming in from a window.  There are many types of shades ranging from all different colors, shapes, sizes, and prices.  How do you know if you should use shades or curtains.  Peyroux recommends using shades for smaller, more tightly fitted windows that don’t have a lot of wall space.  This is an easy way to shade the light without having billowing curtains swinging out into open space or swinging into each other if the window is in a corner.

How do you know where to hang your curtains?  Peyroux recommends hanging curtains high above the window, almost to the ceiling.  Most curtains these days are of lighter material and will fall from a high level gracefully to the floor making the window seem larger than it really is.  Older curtain styles were of heavy, brocade material which really closed out the light and muddled the space above and around the window instead of accenting it.  The same concept can be used with shades.  You can purchase a shade that is taller and wider than the window itself and hang it above the window to give it height.  However, if you own a historic or older home in the Greater New Orleans area, Peyroux recommends that you don’t cover up the custom millwork or woodworking around the window frame itself.  If the window absolutely has to be covered, he recommends hanging the shade inside the window so that you can still enjoy the artistry of the architecture on the window.

Choosing the right curtain rod and accent rings can be tricky.  There are many different styles and pricing for these items, so if you have a limited budget, you will probably be dictated by what you can afford.  Even at that, you can achieve the same look as the real thing by using faux bronze, silver, and wood finishes – even if they are made out of plastic.  Peyroux uses metal curtain rods, rings, and accents for his hardware.  The reason for doing so is that he can make the window covering look more ornate or more simple just by the type of curtain or shade that he installs.  Also, he uses 3/4″ – 1 1/4″ thick rods for durability so that they don’t bend.

For style issues such as the “puddling” of a curtain Peyroux usually installs his window an inch or two off of the floor, giving a break between the curtain and the floor.  In older times, the puddling of the heavily damasked curtain – think Gone With the Wind – was a sign of wealth and decadence.  These days, it’s just more stuff to move when you are vacuuming or something to keep away from the cat or puppy when they move into your home!  To protect your window treatments from the sometimes brutal southern sun, there is now something called UV film which protects not only your curtains but also furniture and other cloths and fabrics from the harmful rays of the sun.  This UV film blocks 90% of UV rays and can be very effective at making your accessories last.  Plus, it is a film, so you hardly even notice it is there!  These and other tips can be recommended by several designers who work with Ron Lee Homes.  After building our new, custom homes in St. Tammany Parish, we offer “after construction services” by introducing you to our designer affiliates.  These interior decorators can make recommendations for furniture or accessories in a simple consultation, or they can do a full-scale design solution for your new, custom home.  Contact Ron Lee Homes at 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com for more information.

 

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Ron and Nancy Lee with Ron Lee Homes are actively involved with the real estate industry in St. Tammany Parish.  One of the unique qualities about the St. Tammany Parish Home Builders Association is that this organization supports a strong Sales & Marketing Council.  The Sales & Marketing Councils for home builders associations across the country have 3 very important goals for which they strive – education, recognition, and networking.  To that end, the Sales & Marketing Council (SMC) of the St. Tammany Home Builders Association has become actively involved in the education process of those builders and affiliates who wish to constantly educate and improve themselves with the latest technology and information provided by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The NAHB offers the opportunity for its local home builders association members to achieve higher levels of real estate education called designations.  It offers members the opportunity to take these classes at locations both locally here in Louisiana as well as nationally. Recently, Nancy Lee achieved the NAHB designation of CMP – Certified New Home Marketing Professional.  In order to complete this education course, Nancy went through rigorous education classes and earned the nomination of a MIRM (a member who has achieved a Master in Residential Marketing designation) for her designation.  Below is a list of requirements and courses which Nancy was able to meet in order to achieve her CMP designation.

Certified Marketing Professional (CMP)

Understand how to manage the sales and marketing function for a new home community by taking the required Institute of Residential Marketing courses. With three years of new home marketing experience, you may boost your career further with the Certified Marketing Professional designation. CMP is the midlevel designation for IRM students who have completed the marketing intensive IRM courses I through IV.

Curriculum and Other Requirements:

  • Have at least three years of new home sales and marketing experience.
  • Complete the four IRM courses (see below).
  • Pass accompanying tests.
  • Earn 50 elective credits.
  • Complete IRM Professional Profile for CMP candidates (Six Steps to Professional Excellence).
  • Be sponsored by a MIRM or president of a local home builders association or Sales and Marketing Council chapter.

Required Courses:

  • Understanding Housing Markets and Consumers (IRM I) (SM 500)
  • Marketing Strategies, Plans and Budgets (IRM II) (SM 501)
  • Lifestyle Merchandising, Advertising and Promotion Strategies (IRM III) (SM 502)
  • The Challenge of New Home Sales Management (IRM IV) (SM 503)

Continuing Education Requirements:

  • Six CE credits every three years

Because of the requirements of the education and training, as well as the ongoing education courses, if you hire Ron Lee Homes to design and build your home, you can expect the very best home building knowledge as well as the latest real estate information there is in the market today.  If you are interested in discussing your new or custom home building process with Nancy Lee of Ron Lee Homes, Contact them today at 985-626-7619 or E-mail Info@RonLeeHomes.com today!

An FHA mortgage loan may be harder to come by in the future because of a change of the role of the federal government in the housing market, according to real estate professionals “in the know” about the situation.  The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has been actively lobbying in Congress about new plans to privatize the mortgage lending industry.  Unbeknownst to most, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not federally owned mortgage companies.  Both of these companies were privatized and taken public over 20 years ago.  However, the reputations of both of these companies in the real estate industry have made it so that they are relied upon by most lenders both nationally and internationally to be federally backed for FHA loans.

The majority of FHA loans are offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  With the closure of these 2 companies and the privatization of the mortgage sector, it could become very expensive in the future for home buyers to purchase a new or previously owned home.  FHA loans may be phased out altogether or modified so that they do not achieve the purpose for which they were created in the Roosevelt era – to provide an “easy” way for low-income families to qualify for a mortgage. The names Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are actually based on the departments of the federal government which were in charge of their structure and development – Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie).  Mortgage bonds issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae still fund more than 90% of new home loans. Bank portfolios and other private lending make up the rest.

A legislative proposal called the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners (PATH) Act is now being discussed by Congress and the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders).  As of now, the PATH Act is shying away from ANY government involvement.  However, this is not the direction in which the NAHB wants it to go.

“NAHB believes federal support is particularly important to ensure that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages, the bedrock of the nation’s housing finance system since the 1930s, remain available at reasonable interest rates and terms,” said NAHB CEO Jerry Howard. “As currently drafted, the PATH Act does not provide the federal support necessary to ensure a strong and liquid housing finance system, and we urge the committee to make the necessary changes. The historical record clearly shows that the private sector is not capable of providing a consistent and adequate supply of housing credit without a federal backstop,” he said.

As of now, FHA loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make it so that first-time home buyers can have a lower down payment as well as a lower interest rate when they apply for a loan.  Turning over all mortgages to the private sector would make it virtually impossible for lower income families to afford a home loan.  Nationally in the real estate industry, trending opinions are that FHA loans and the federal government should remain a part of the mortgage industry.  Right now, the United States has the highest rate of homeownership compared to other first world countries in Europe.  Most in the industry would like it to remain that way.

“Once people are putting their own money on the line instead of the government’s, I think you would see a rate increase, the cost to access mortgages would probably be higher,” says Chris Brinson, Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank regional lending manager.

As of now, no agreement has been reached either in government or amongst lenders.  The fate of the future homeowner lies in the hands of Congress as well as representative of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The dream of homeownership must not be allowed to “die” as the real estate industry is also partially responsible in rescuing the economy after the Recession.  It will be up to organizations such as the NAHB to tirelessly work on a solution until it has been finalized.

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Unlike the distribution of the last influx of money for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike from the federal hazard mitigation money which was used for grants for home elevations, St. Tammany Parish’s president Pat Brister announced that the $7.2 million in federal funds from Hurricane Isaac would instead be used for the construction of detention ponds in the Lacombe area.  18 parishes split approximately $5.2 million from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, of which Mandeville received $420,000.  This $420,000 was allocated for grants to residents to raise their home elevations to avoid damage in any future hurricanes.

The City of Mandeville has made it clear to St. Tammany Parish that they would like the new amount of $7.2 million in federal hazard mitigation money to also be allocated to home elevation.  The Parish disagrees.  In a letter to Pat Brister, Mayor of Mandevillle Donald Villere said the city “philosophically disagrees with the parish’s approach to flood mitigation, which officials said involves construction of large “detention ponds” designed to reduce the risk of flooding to thousands of homes.”  He has asked the Parish to reconsider.

In addition to the philosophical disagreement on the distribution of the federal monies, Villere also would like the monetary distribution of the $5.2 million to be recalculated based on areas which received the most damage during the hurricanes.  The City of Mandeville offered a formula which was loosely based on the state’s formula for distributing disaster money.  This recalculation would give Mandeville $1.6 million of the $5.2 million instead of $420,000.  Instead of basing the calculation of money disbursed on population numbers, the city suggest using the amount and percentage of damaged or flooded homes in a particular area.

“We believe that using this methodology is fair and equitable for both the parish and all municipalities,” Villere wrote.

The reason Mandeville feels so strongly about the disbursement of the grant money is because of the damage done to Old Mandeville during the slow-moving Hurricane Isaac last summer.  Over 200 structures were damaged prompting an engineering study to be commenced by GEC Engineering to come up with a flood protection plan for most West St. Tammany Parish residents.

Brister’s response to the City of Mandeville was apologetic, yet practical.  According to St. Tammany Parish’s estimates, over 3,200 homes in St. Tammany Parish fall into a “repetitive loss” category which means that these homes received damage in the last 2 hurricanes.  Of which, 260 homes had severe repetitive losses.  In order to be fair, if money was allocated to the City of Mandeville for home elevation grants, it would need to be done parish-wide.  The cost to cover the elevation of more than 3,200 homes would be approximately $650 million.  With only $12 million plus to work with, the feasibility of the allocation would not be realistic. However, the good news is that the creation of the detention ponds could be a first step to an overall flood plan for St. Tammany Parish.

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The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) addressed Congress today with a laundry list of recommendations which will help spur and maintain growth in the now blossoming real estate industry.  One of the biggest fears for new home builders and all of the vendors and sub-contractors who are involved in the building and completion of new homes is that the fragile state of the economy will be derailed by legislation on the table which does not make sense for the home building industry.  Also, there are a couple of incentives which have spurred builder growth throughout the Recessions, which if not renewed, could slow down the momentum in the growing construction market.

One of the first topics addressed was the interest rate deductions for current homeowners.  NAHB’s chairman Rick Judson, a home builder and developer from Charlotte, N.C., in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade strongly recommended leaving this program in place.  His platform echoed many presidential statements on the necessity of a strong middle class in America.  Judson contended that because the interest rate deduction program helped and affected many young homeowners, that they were more apt to buy new homes and use the deductions to reduce the amount of taxes paid.  Young home buyers were then able to build credit and equity in their home investment and therefore create more wealth both in the equity as well as the savings from the interest rate deductions.

Another issue that was addressed was that of the energy efficiency tax credits for both builders and homeowners which are set to expire soon.  Judson urged the Committee to renew these tax credits in order to make builder more energy efficient homes and do more energy efficient renovations more affordably.  Energy efficiency tax credits such as the Existing Home Retrofit Tax Credit (25C) that provides consumers a tax credit of up to $500 for the purchase of qualifying energy-efficient products and the New Energy Efficient Home Tax Credit (45L) available to builders who construct energy-efficient new homes are important policy tools to provide home owners and builders with incentives to perform energy efficiency upgrades on homes.  With the advent of energy efficient products, more people in general look to buy a home instead of rent a home because the monthly utility payments become more affordable, the more modern and “green built” a home is.

While the economy and the real estate market have taken an upturn, because of the Recession and inflation, the cost of building materials has skyrocketed over the past 6 years.  Judson urged the government to do all that it could to lower the increasing costs of building materials especially imported products.  Citing a shortage of materials especially for framing lumber, oriented strand board and gypsum, Judson explained that vendors have a hard time buying up what they need because of price and availability constraints.

Another issue addressed before the Committee was the lack of labor available for the building or remodeling of homes.  Because of the Recession, those who used to be in the construction industry had to find jobs elsewhere because work on new home construction and building was temporarily unavailable.  A recent survey of NAHB members shows that since June 2012, residential construction firms have been reporting an increasing number of labor shortages in all aspects of the industry – from carpenters, excavators, framers, roofers and plumbers, to bricklayers, HVAC, building maintenance managers and weatherization workers.

“With congressional attention shifting to immigration reform, I believe strongly that this debate provides an important opportunity for the country to implement a new market-based visa system that would allow more immigrants to legally enter the construction workforce each year,” said Martin. “This would complement our skills training efforts within the nation’s borders, and fill the labor gaps needed to meet the nation’s housing needs.”

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