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Attending the National Association of Homebuilders' International Building Show always gives me insight into the current state of the housing industry. While the NAHB does a great job putting on this annual event, it is hard not to notice that the attendance was half of what it was five years ago, when 100,000 people regularly attended this show. And while the 900 exhibitors was a similar number to last year's show, I noticed that sizes of many exhibitors' displays were smaller and more budget conscious. In addition, some notable names were missing this year from the exhibitor list, including Andersen, GE, Masco, Pella and Whirlpool, just to name a few.
As always, when I go to these shows, I try to find new and unique products that may be of interest for Michigan homeowners. Here are a couple of products I saw that piqued my interest:
Azek, (877)275-2935, www.azek.com, was introducing its VAST Pavers at the show, a composite landscape and resurfacing pavers' product. These pavers are made with up to 95 percent post-consumer recycled rubber from scrap tires and plastics. The composite pavers are about one-third of the weight of concrete pavers, and offer a variety of colors and are also slip resistant.
Santa Fe, (800)533-7533, www.santa-fe-products.com, highlighted its new Impact XT dehumidifier unit. According to the Santa Fe representatives I talked with, it is the most energy efficient dehumidifier on the market — exceeding Energy Star® standards by 50 percent. The Santa Fe Impact removes up to 105 pints of water a day and can effectively dehumidify up to 2,500 square feet. It can be a great solution for both damp basements or a crawl space.
An annual feature of every IBS is the New American Dream Home, a home that is specially designed and built somewhere in the area of the show to showcase innovative construction technologies and the latest building products. I toured the home along with my executive producer, Rob David, and our wives, Barbara (Mrs. Handyman) and Marcia David.
The 2012 New American Dream Home cost $2.5 million to build and was located in Winter Park, Fla. This year's home is a re-interpretation of the Classic White Box homes of the 1960s and 1970s that were popular in Florida. The home included such things as movable glass walls, motorized screens and a waterfall table on the poolside patio. While the house had some unique features, we all agreed that the features were not very practical for most people who are in the market to build a new home, not to mention the price, which seemed out of range for most buyers.
The lower attendance numbers and more economical displays are really a snapshot of the current building industry. New starts are down 75 percent from their peak in 2005 with 1.7 million new home starts. Last year, there were only 429,000 new home starts. On a positive note, after talking with a lot of builders at the show, it appears the home building industry has transitioned to a more stable industry that has come to grips with the current housing situation. In fact, according to the recent NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes increased for the fifth consecutive month in February.
While builders should be happy to be stabilizing, compare IBS attendance that to the recent Novi Home Show, where attendance was up 18 percent — the largest crowd in five years. The growth in home remodeling is also echoed in national statistics, as the NAHB indicated that the residential remodeling market will continue to experience measured growth in 2012 after the NAHB's Remodeling Market Index rose to a five year-high at the end of 2011.
Long story short: This means "people aren't moving, they are improving." At the same time, the current home improvement industry is facing an evolution, not a revolution. People are spending their money on smaller, more affordable "have to" improvements to their home rather than major renovations. Statistics indicate that countertops, flooring, faucets and fixtures are being replaced at a rate of 55 percent of all home improvement projects. So get going now, you're in the majority!
If you would like to suggest a question for this column, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege personally, call his "Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The HANDYMAN SHOW can be heard on more than 130 radio stations nationwide.
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