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BREAKING: State Supreme Court rules in favor of Sussex County in suit against DNREC

The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Sussex County in the county’s lawsuit against DNREC.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in Delaware Superior Court in February which said that buffer regulations imposed by the state on private properties within the Inland Bays Watershed usurps local land use control. The county had joined several landowners as plaintiffs in the suit.  Read Full Article Here.

BEWARE: Many States Require Registration to Market to Their Residents

Interstate Land Sales: Many States Require Registration to Market to Their Residents

It goes without saying that all builders should be aware of laws governing land sales in their states and should have an attorney to consult on land development questions. In addition, though, you should know that federal law and more than 30 state codes include  consumer protection provisions that regulate interstate sales, marketing, and leasing of subdivision properties.

Builders who, unknowingly or otherwise, violate these laws, can be (and have been) slapped with fines. Criminal penalties may include jail time.

These laws may include requirements to “register” details about a subdivision in which lots are being sold through an application process and payment of a filing fee. To enforce these requirements, states have been known to “mystery shop” land sellers via the Internet; when the targeted company responds with marketing materials, a fine is incurred.

Registration fees may be hundreds of dollars, with the amount sometimes tied to the number of lots being advertised or sold. The registration may need to be renewed annually.

Advertising may be defined—as in Minnesota’s law—as “any communication made to induce prospective purchasers to visit or attend an offer or sales presentation,” including by printed means or electronic vehicles. Some state laws, such as New Hampshire’s, prohibit using gifts or prizes to encourage prospects to attend sales presentations or visit communities.

In some cases, buyers have years to rescind a land purchase if the sale is found to be in violation of state law. Violations can bring both civil and criminal penalties to a developer, those who control the developer (either directly or indirectly), and salespeople. These laws may require bonds to be posted and may also include specific contract and escrow requirements.

Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act

The Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (ILSFDA) is a federal law with its own requirements that is separate and distinct from individual state laws.

Under the ILSFDA, developers of 100 or more lot subdivisions must register with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provide a Property Report before a contract or agreement is signed. That report contains information such as distances from the property being offered to nearby communities over paved or unpaved roads; present and proposed utility services and charges; and soil and foundation conditions.

Arizona, California, Florida, and Minnesota are certified under HUD so that if a builder has effectively registered with those states, HUD will accept that state’s disclosure document in lieu of the standard federal registration. Similarly, some states will accept specific elements of a federal filing as a substitute for their own paper work requirements. However, sellers still must meet all other filing, registration, and fee requirements applicable in that state.

For more information on ILSFDA, including a Q&A for developers, go online to HUD’s Interstate Land Sales page at http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/ils/ilshome.cfm.

Click Here for State by State Resources on Interstate Land Sales


Registration Required When Targeting New Jersey Residents for Sales of Out of State Homes
by L. Stephen Pastor
posted from the Hill Wallack LLP news and Publications

Over the past several years the number of New Jersey residents leaving the State to live elsewhere has increased. Many factors have caused this migration, which has not gone unnoticed by the real estate develop­ment community. New Jersey builders are under increased pressure from the home-buying public to provide modern home designs and more and better amenities in order to maintain new home sales. But there is also increased competition from out of state builders— notably those in Pennsylvania—who specifically market new homes for sale to New Jersey residents. More…

NAHB Continues to Make Headway on Fixing Broken New-Home Appraisal System

posted from:   Nation’s Building News, The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB
Special Edition 11-7-2011

On improving the residential appraisal process — an issue that continues to hold major implications for the nation’s housing markets -— NAHB has been working hard behind the scenes on several fronts and has been able to make significant headway.

Deficiencies in the current system for evaluating homes have become glaringly evident in the unprecedented housing downturn of the past few years.

Faced with declining home prices, rising foreclosures and plunging new-home sales, builders have had to contend with inaccurate appraisals that have further undermined the health of their businesses and the housing market.

Widely reported around the country, poor appraisals have reduced home sales, taken a vicious swipe at the profitability of builders and have made it difficult for them to project whether they will be able to attain the prices they need to cover the construction costs of their new homes. … Read More

Appraiser Experience and Education Often Inadequate, Appraisal Summit Hears

Shortcomings in the education, knowledge and experience of some in the current pool of appraisers are adding to the difficulties home builders are facing in the current marketplace in obtaining good valuations of their properties, according to participants at NAHB’s fourth appraisal summit.

Also discussed in-depth at the Oct. 19 meeting at the National Housing Center, NAHB’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., was the need to give top priority to addressing the complexity of property valuations in distressed markets and impediments to the flow of appropriate information on homes between appraisers and interested parties.

More than 40 individuals attended — including representatives of federal banking regulators, the appraisal industry, the housing finance industry, and the real estate and residential construction sectors. …… Read More

Builders Advised Not to Hold Back From Giving Relevant Information to Appraisers

NAHB has developed a set of guidelines to help builders communicate with appraisers and lenders to ensure that they receive an accurate valuation of the new homes they are selling.

The two-page document advises builders to meet with the appraiser on the site of where the home has been or will be built and provide direct support for the price with whatever relevant information they can.

For example, builders should provide the appraiser with all appropriate comps, market and absorption data, specifications of the property, materials in the property and why they were chosen, buyers’ reactions to products selected, and sales information. …… Read More

Green Remodeling Program Bringing in Higher Appraisals for Pre-1980 Homes

Even as low appraisals are slowing home sales and undermining contracts, an innovative green remodeling program is bucking the trend and delivering solid results.

The G Home Program is a partnership between Lowe’s Commercial Services, the NAHB Research Center and G Street, a green remodeling firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Launched on Aug. 1, the program targets contractors, builders, Neighborhood Stabilization Program recipients and organizations that remodel at least 10 pre-1980 homes annually. …… Read More

Distressed Properties Don’t Compare With New Homes, Nielsen Tells Appraisers

In an effort to improve a flawed housing appraisal system, NAHB has been reaching out to key stakeholders to find common ground on potential reforms.

As part of that effort, NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen addressed the Appraisal Institute, the leading trade group for the appraisal industry, in August during the institute’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.

“The appraisal industry carries a heavy burden regarding the condition of the U.S. economy,” said Nielsen. …… Read More

Major Overhaul of Appraisal System Long Overdue, White Paper Says

The nation’s home appraisal process is behind the times and needs a major, long-term overhaul, according to a white paper prepared by appraiser Joan Trice and members of the Collateral Risk Network, whose more than 300 members represent lenders, government agencies, Wall Street, vendor management companies and appraisers.

Trice, who is currently working as a consultant for NAHB in its ongoing efforts to address the appraisal issue, is preparing a primer geared to providing association members with information on the appraisal system and appraiser’s role that will help them head off problems with valuations of their homes.

The appraisal process has not been examined since the Great Depression, Trice notes in her paper, “Reengineering the Appraisal Process Redux,” an updated version of which was published last month. …… Read More

NAHB Figures Prominently in Multi-Year Reform of Appraisal Process

In response to criticism that lax appraisals contributed to the financial crisis, tighter appraisal policies have been implemented by lenders, federal banking regulators, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These actions almost immediately triggered reports of homes failing to appraise at the sale price — or even to cover construction costs.

Lower appraised values for land also led some financial institutions to either cease lending to developers and home builders altogether or to demand that they contribute additional equity.

NAHB has been a leading advocate for correcting the valuation process and has undertaken a number of actions beginning in 2008, when appraisal problems first begin to surface, to raise awareness and address the toll inaccurate appraisals are taking on the housing industry. …… Read More

How Housing Plays Politics in 2012

Published: Wednesday, 14 Dec 2011 | 2:00 PM ET
By: Diana Olick
CNBC Real Estate Reporter
Phillip Spears | Digital Vision | Getty Images
Fixing the economy should come before housing policy, according to a new survey by real estate website Trulia.com.

Housing may have been the catalyst for the Great Recession, but it is not number one on America’s fix-it list for our next President.

Fixing the economy should come before housing policy, according to a new survey by real estate website Trulia.com.

Americans first want to see lower unemployment, more employment growth and reducing the federal budget deficit.

“The partisan split in Washington and the recent housing policy debates are not what Americans want from their government,” said Trulia’s chief economist Jed Kolko. “Although Washington and lobbyists have been debating the conforming loan limit, Americans would rather see more action to make refinancing easier and to deal with vacant homes.”

Still, those same respondents, 72 percent of them, said government policies should encourage home ownership. Wasn’t that “encouragement” kind of what got us into this mess?

The Trulia survey seeks to draw distinctions between what Republicans want from housing policy and what Democrats want, but the answers don’t differ all that much, except when it comes to helping troubled borrowers. 74 percent of Democrats want government to encourage mortgage loan modifications that reduce principal balances. Just 61 percent of Republicans support that.

For respondents from both political parties, the number one sign of housing recovery would be fewer defaults and foreclosures; at the bottom of the list is rising homeownership.

This is perhaps the most troubling finding for the near future of the housing market, because we are going to see more foreclosures in the first half of 2012, as banks work through the enormous backlog of delinquent loans that were on hold this year due to the so-called “robo-signing” foreclosure paperwork mess.

Since consumer confidence is going to be the driving factor in housing’s recovery, increased foreclosures and the headlines that go with them, regardless of where they are locally, will have an overall impact on home buying nationally. Sales have been stabilizing slightly this Fall, but likely only because foreclosures had been stalled, so the distressed share of the market was not so blatant; that’s about to change.

Most analysts are predicting that the big pain will be in the first half of 2012, and as those foreclosures are supposedly quickly absorbed into the market, organic home buyers and sellers will come back. However, more than half of those surveyed by Trulia said they were not at all confident that the President can stabilize the housing market in the next year. This is a notable increase since he took office.

Check out the GREAT topics being covered in the webinars!

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Leadership Orientation Kicks Off 2012 Leadership Training Webinars

Whether you’re on staff or a volunteer, you provide necessary support and leadership to the HBA. But sometimes the goals of your position and the role you serve can seem ambiguous. There’s no reason to remain in the haze when you can get clear on your responsibilities.Register for Leadership Orientation–part of the 2012 webinar series–on January 5 at 2:00 PM ET. In this webinar, you will learn valuable information including:

  • Useful information about the federation
  • Fiduciary responsibilities
  • Clarity of your role within the association

The Leadership Training webinars are free, but you must pre-register in order to participate.Login and Like the Facebook Leadership Connection group, then start a discussion about 2012 professional and volunteer resolutions.For a full schedule of the 2012 Leadership Webinars, go to the Leadership Webinars Education page.

The National Association of Home Builders

Blazing Trails: Innovators take action to shape their own destinies.

From: BUILDER December 2011Posted on: December 6, 2011

By:  John Caulfield
Peter Drucker, the management theorist and business guru, once called innovation “the specific instrument of entrepreneurship.” Modern builders who take that message to heart—who are willing to look at their products, markets, and customers in new ways and adapt accordingly—give their companies a much better shot at attracting reluctant buyers who need a compelling reason to purchase a house.

The following pages give a shout out to just a few of those who seem to see beyond a dismal present to a future of possibilities. In an industry too often accused of gazing into its rearview mirror for trends and ideas, these companies and people have been willing to risk offering something different to a public that can be indifferent, even hostile, to newness. But legends always begin somewhere, so why not with these housing innovators?

Meritage Homes Puts Energy Efficiency on Center Stage

As much as any production builder, Meritage Homes has made energy efficiency the sun around which its marketing revolves. “We’re approaching energy efficiency and sustainability as ways of extending the life of the house,” explains C.R. Herro, Meritage’s vice president of environmental affairs, about his company’s “Meritage Green” products, which promise up to 50 percent reductions in homeowners’ energy bills. Speaking at Builder’s Housing Leadership Summit earlier this year, Herro noted that Meritage’s 400-home Lyons Gate community in Gilbert, Ariz., where houses come with an array of energy-saving standard features, had produced three times the traffic count and was closing buyers at three times the rate of other communities in that market. Herro added that the “absolute linchpin” of Meritage’s green construction has been working with its trade partners on everything from variances to installing right-sized mechanicals. The one missing ingredient so far has been consistent profit: Meritage made money in 2010, but it reported losses through the first nine months of 2011.

Passive House Institute US Makes an Imprint

Let’s face it: How many Americans knew what a “passive home” was three years ago? Even the most eco-aware home buyer had a hard time wrapping his or her mind around the concept of a house designed to be airtight enough to stay toasty in frigid temperatures without relying on a furnace. But since it started certifying residential design and construction toits rigorous performance standards in 2008, the Passive House Institute US, based in Urbana, Ill., has been gaining followers among buyers (particularly in the Pacific Northwest), architects, and even builders who are attracted to the idea of marketing a product that consumes 90 percent less energy than a conventional stick-built house. Maybe more manufacturers will sign on, too, now that Passive House Institute US has joined forces with the U.S. Green Building Council—after severing ties with Germany-based Passivhaus Institut in August—to craft a certification for the domestic market.

Trumark Homes Goes Where Customers Are and Homes Aren’t

Since launching four years ago, Trumark Homes’ infill strategy has focused on acquiring distressed land in markets with scarce new-home inventory. That strategy registered with buyers in Upland, Calif.—part of the state’s depressed Inland Empire—where, through August, Trumark’s Wyeth Cove community sold 33 of its 39 homes in 17 months. Last spring, Trumark worked with Resmark Equity Partners to redevelop an eight-acre commercial property in Santa Clara, Calif., into a 183-unit community, and to develop a 4.3-acre lot in San Jose, Calif., for 94 three-story townhouses. Trumark is also one of the industry’s savvier marketers, and part of its strategy has been to create a social media persona for its communities and brand to lure prospects. Michael Maples, a principal at Trumark Cos., tells Builder that in Northern California’s tech-oriented Silicon Valley, his company targets younger buyers who are researching homes online at all hours of the day or night. “So we do Facebook, we do websites, and we try to track our response rates … and how many actually buy.”

LGI Homes Pitches Ownership to Renters

From July through September of this year, Texas-based LGI Homes closed an eye-popping 224 homes. Not bad for a company that builds in only four markets, and a testament to LGI’s deceptively simple sales formula: Woo renters with basic houses whose no-payment-down mortgages are comparable to or less than what they’re currently paying in rent. The company’s business model has proven to be exportable, which is a good thing because LGI’s success depends on volume, according to its CEO Eric Lipar. Having expanded into Austin, Texas, and Phoenix in 2011, the builder continues its hunt for new markets to enter.


Woodley Architectural Group Goes Micro in Portland, Ore.

Woodley Architectural Group in Colorado has long been on the cutting edge of innovative house design. Recently, it rose to the occasion again when, in collaboration with builder D.R. Horton, it came up with plans for Division 43, an infill project of 29 minuscule condos built on a 15,000-square-foot lot in southeast Portland, Ore. That’s the equivalent density of 86 homes per acre. The living spaces range from an almost impossibly tiny 364-square-foot studio to a still-compact, 687-square-foot unit that includes two bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. The project appealed to the city because it promotes an autoless lifestyle. In fact, Woodley’s design includes racks to accommodate 1.5 bikes per housing unit. Michael Woodley, president of the architectural firm, notes that each unit sits on a 14-foot-by-26-foot foundation, comes with the same size kitchen, and uses only one window size. Contractors framed the first house in one day. While a change in divisional management reportedly has cooled Horton’s enthusiasm for this project, Woodley says he’s getting inquiries from other builders interested in market-specific ideas. “When the market is bored with traditional solutions, that’s when you need to come up with innovations.”

Ferrier Custom Homes Undaunted by New Products

In early October, Don Ferrier led a convoy of delivery trucks hauling autoclaved aerated concrete blocks to the jobsite of one of Ferrier’s clients who had requested them. Ferrier had never worked with these blocks, which are commonly used in Scandinavia and Germany. But that didn’t deter the builder, whom one magazine dubbed Texas’ “Godfather of Green.” Ferrier has gained a reputation for meeting customers’ demands and, in the process, walking on the wild side of products and construction techniques. He has been a pioneer since the early 1980s when he specialized in building energy-efficient underground “earth shelter” houses. He claims to have been the first builder in Texas to install tankless water heaters and solar water systems. And he built the state’s first LEED Platinum house. “That’s why people come to me; they want something different.” And Ferrier isn’t resting on his laurels, either: He recently drew up plans for a net-zero–energy house using Dow’s Powerhouse solar shingles that would cost $100 to $120 per square foot to build.

Architect Dennis Wedlick Keeps It Practical

When he started out 25 years ago, architect Dennis Wedlick focused on “how small we could make homes that still felt modern and bright and spacious.” Over the years, he’s never lost confidence in the power of architecture to make buildings more efficient. His approach, though, has been “more pragmatic than bells and whistles,” and his ideas often come from grassroots sources such as builders and homeowners. He also gets inspiration from “prototype stuff,” which represents about a quarter of his work, where his company partners with manufacturers, other designers, and government agencies. From these collaborations emerged such signature projects as the LIFE Dream House and the Hudson Passive Project. Now Wedlick is advancing the notion that architects’ talents can be useful even when far fewer projects are being built. “People don’t realize that architects are creative project managers. We’re like chess players—we play out moves in our head rapidly, and we’re trained to think outside the box.”

BASF Tightens Up

<strong xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">Built Tight</strong> This 2,500-square-foot home in Asheville, N.C., represents the latest application of BASF’s research into and development of insulating building materials. The owner—BASF’s director of sustainable construction Rick Davenport—spends only $18 per month to heat and cool the house.

Built Tight This 2,500-square-foot home in Asheville, N.C., represents the latest application of BASF’s research into and development of insulating building materials. The owner—BASF’s director of sustainable construction Rick Davenport—spends only $18 per month to heat and cool the house.

Credit: Courtesy BASF

On a hilltop in Asheville, N.C., sits a new 2,500-square-foot home whose energy-efficient construction helps keep down its heating and cooling bills to $18 per month, without relying on a renewable energy source such as solar or geothermal. Its owner is Rick Davenport, director of sustainable construction for BASF, the world’s leading chemicals company. And the house—which BASF calls its Mountain O.A.SYS (for Optimizing Affordable Systems)—represents the latest application of BASF’s research into and development of insulating building materials. The test house was built using advanced framing techniques that reduced the lumber needed by $4,400. BASF created a wall system by encapsulating exterior panels with a continuous sheathing called Neopor that elevates the whole wall’s thermal resistance. Inside the house are behavioral monitors that Davenport expects to help reduce his energy and water consumption by as much as 25 percent annually. The house cost about $150 per square foot to build, compared to $225 for other custom homes in that area. The builder BASF worked with is using the same specs to build 1,200-square-foot houses in the valley for $80 a foot. Davenport says this kind of construction is needed in order for the industry to comply with new ICC codes that call for more stringent air tightness levels and regular testing. He proposes “massive re-education” of contractors on how to deal with ramifications of tightness such as moisture and pollutants.

Ritz-Craft Works Hard for Its Trade Partners

The modular-home manufacturer Ritz-Craft Corp. is “performance driven,” says its CEO Paul John. And in recent years, Mifflinburg, Pa.–based Ritz-Craft has devised several ways to help its trade partners—including a network of 200 builders—to become more successful. Last spring, the manufacturer launched its Total Marketing Solution, which helps marketing-challenged builders reach more home buyers effectively by tying together the builders’ customized websites, email marketing, lead management, and results tracking. Ritz-Craft enhances its own productivity through vertical integration. Its cabinet division took “a huge step” in 2010, says John, by acquiring a 250,000-square-foot facility from Yorktowne Cabinets that allows Ritz-Craft to control quality and cost. Ritz-Trans, an internal trucking company that supports Ritz-Craft’s building materials distribution entity Legacy Building Products, last year expanded the scope of its operations by offering backhauling services for Ritz-Craft’s suppliers to other builder-clients.

Kohler Derives Design Ideas From Employees

Kohler and unique product design are practically synonymous. So confident is this kitchen and bath products maker in its status as an idea factory that it sets an ambitious annual metric of generating a specific percentage of overall revenue from products designed within the previous three years. But ideas don’t arrive out of thin air. The company’s business units are required to come up with a “star” product for each category every year that is either best in class or taps into growing markets. “We challenge people to compete but not to copy,” says president and COO David Kohler. One recent creation drawing lots of attention, including more than 600,000 YouTube downloads, is Kohler’s Numi toilet, with a heated seat that raises automatically, a bidet washlet, and a built-in music system. Before designing the product, Kohler studied toiletry habits worldwide. Made in China with vitreous materials from the U.S., Numi “is an incredible product that’s worth the money,” says Kohler. He should know: He installed one in his house.

Rise in Home Construction Suggests a Turnaround

by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON December 20, 2011, 05:27 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — The depressed housing market has held the economy back for four years.

No longer.

Home construction has finally begun a gradual comeback and should add to the nation’s economic growth in 2011, a turning point in the recovery from the Great Recession.

The main reason appears to be a positive consequence of the weak economy: Apartments are being built almost twice as fast as two years ago. Renting is the only option for many people who have lost their jobs, their homes or both.

Builders in November broke ground on homes — houses and apartments alike — at an annual rate of 685,000, the government said Tuesday. That was a 9.3 percent jump from October and the fastest pace since April 2010.

The numbers show how far the housing industry has come and still has to go:

— Builders should start at least 600,000 homes this year. That’s up from 587,000 last year and 554,000 in 2009 — the worst year on record. In a healthy market, economists say, about 1.2 million homes are started each year.

— The pace of apartment construction has soared. About 175,000 will be started this year, also roughly half the number in a healthy economy. But it’s far more than the 97,000 apartments begun in 2009.

— Single-family home construction, which accounts for about 70 percent of the housing industry, has essentially stalled for three years. This year will probably turn out to be the worst in the half-century records have been kept.

Construction of single-family homes this year could reach 440,000. That would be below last year’s 471,000. In a good economy, builders would break ground on about 840,000 homes.

New homes are 20 percent of the housing market but have an outsize economic impact. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Since the recession began in December 2007, housing has subtracted between 0.5 and 1.1 percentage points from U.S. economic growth each year. Cuts in spending by homeowners have further reduced growth.

But economists say apartments are going up so fast that housing should add to economic growth this year, even if fewer families are buying houses. The U.S. economy grew at a 2 percent clip last quarter.

“Finally, it appears that the process of healing is under way,” says Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economics.

The better-than-expected housing data helped the stock market shoot higher. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 337 points, its fifth-best performance of the year, and closed back above 12,000.

Housing stocks had an even bigger day. PulteGroup Inc., a home construction and mortgage company, rose more than 10 percent, the best performance in the Standard & Poor’s 500.

Patrick Newport and Michelle Valverde, U.S. economists at IHS Global Insight, said in a note to clients that the figures demonstrate that the housing industry is “finally getting off the mat.”

The industry seems to think so, too. A survey of industry sentiment this week found builders were more optimistic than at any time since May 2010.

But the numbers remain weak, even though mortgage rates are near record lows and home prices have fallen by a third since 2006.

Tighter lending standards are preventing many families from buying houses, and diminished prices on single-family homes have given the industry little reason to build more. Builders are also competing with foreclosures, which hold prices down.

Yet they have found a way to make money — by serving the rising demand for rental apartments.

“When you have a slowdown in home sales and a growth in population, there’s a lot of pent-up demand for apartments,” says Mark Dellonte, president of Love Funding, which provides loans for apartment construction across the country.

In July, Love Funding started work on a 130-unit apartment building in Bethesda, Md., near Washington, with a $60 million government loan. The builder says it expects every apartment to be occupied when the project is completed at the end of 2012.

Builders have a strong incentive: Rents are rising as people flock to apartments. The average rent has risen 2.4 percent this year to $1,004 a month, according to the real estate data firm Reis Inc. It rose 1 percent last year and fell 2.7 percent in 2009.

Between 2005 and 2010, including the Great Recession, 4 million American households became renters, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies — 10 times what would be expected in a normal economy.

And if government population estimates hold true, at least 2 million households will become renters each year through 2020. That means 400,000 apartments will need to be built each year to keep up with demand.

“For a lot of reasons, many Americans, especially young people, don’t want to buy a home anymore,” says Dan McCue, research manager for Harvard’s Housing Studies Center. “That means the renting population is going to keep growing, and builders are just starting to catch on.”

Builders typically begin construction on single-family homes six months after getting a permit. With apartment projects, the lag time can exceed a year. That helps explain why the surge of apartment construction is happening now when rents have been rising for two years.

CRM 2.0: Automate your Follow Up, Double Your Sales

This week on BuilderRadio:
CRM 2.0: Automate your Follow Up, Double Your Sales
We speak with Robert Musa, Computer Presentation Systems
You may already have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, but are you using it to automate time-consuming tasks? The new generation of CRM combines database management with lead capture tools and broadcast email allowing salespeople to put much of their early follow up and nurturing on autopilot.

Robert Musa, of Computer Presentation Systems, presents this video on how to more effectively use CRM to close more sales.

And if you don’t have a CRM program, check out the special offer CPS is making. It’s all on this week’s blog page!

Listen to the program or read the blog...

Books Worth Reading…

Conquer the Chaos
by Clate Mask & Scott Martineau
We are in an Entrepreneurial Revolution. New businesses are being launched in record numbers. The Internet has eliminated the entry barriers and leveled the playing field. Entrepreneurs are now setting out to find their freedom.

Despite all this, most small businesses fail. Running a small business is much harder than people realize. Chaos enters in and quickly consumes the entrepreneur?s life?and too often it destroys everything along the way.

So where’s the freedom?

It’s there, but you have to search to find it. There is a better way to run a small business. You can grow a successful small business and still have a life.
Read more…

Selling New Homes the Easy Way
by Jerry Rouleau
Can selling new homes really be easy? Author/Trainer/Consultant Jerry Rouleau shares 16 easy-to-read and simple-to-implement techniques for improving your sales performance.

“The book, a step-by-step presentation, covers the subject thoroughly and allows readers to absorb ideas one at a time while accumulating a vast arsenal of knowledge. Most important, Selling New Homes the Easy Way shows how to put this information to work to ensure success.”

– Roland Sweet, Editor, Homebuyer Publications

A must-read for builders, contractors, realtors, new home sales professionals and sales managers. 148 pages.
Order here.


Turn – 101 Ways to Improve Your Business NOW by Erik Cofield
Erik Cofield is a solution strategist. He helps homebuilders and housing companies find solutions to their most pressing problems.
In ‘Turn’, Cofield not only gives straightforward answers to common questions, he does so in a way that teaches a process for overcoming problems that any business owner should pay close attention to. ‘101 Ways to Increase Your Business’ is an understatement – Cofield goes way beyond that with sage advise and practical tips that any owner, manager, or salesperson will find invaluable.

Order here.

Don’t Forget These Year-End Tasks

Posted by INC, Online Magazine
By Michael Alter |  Dec 14, 2011

Before you ring in 2012, you’ll want to get a head start on taxes, insurance, suppliers, among other things.

For many people, the end of the year means shopping for last-minute gifts, going to holiday parties, and maybe working in a few final days of paid time off. For small business owners it’s often a little more intense. You’re not just winding down 2011, you’re gearing up for 2012.


That’s why along with your shopping list and New Year’s plans, you should also be making a year-end check list—and checking it twice.

Here are five things I think should be at the top of your list.

  1. Reserve cash for taxes. It’s important to remember that even if you’ve had a good year, cash is not the same as profit. You don’t want to get hit with a big tax bill on April 15 that’s going to deplete your cash reserves. The end of the year is an excellent time to shore up your balance sheet.
  2. Be ready to file. Along with the cash supply, you want to have all the right documents in place for filing taxes. Remember, if you terminated an employee back in March, you still need to file his W-2. Also, incorrect Social Security or name information on a W-2 could lead to penalties, you have to account for 1099 employees, and the list goes on. Don’t wait until the last minute to put everything together.
  3. Eliminate insurance headaches. Give your agent or payroll provider a call and make sure you’re covered and up-to-date. A great example is workers’ comp insurance. The old way of doing it was to pay a big premium based on your number of employees and risks associated with your business (you’ll pay more if you’re selling knives), and then face the possibility of an audit at the end of the year that could mean another big check. With pay-as-you-go, offered in partnership with payroll companies, it’s a bimonthly payment and both parties know the risks, so there are no billing surprises.
  4. Review your suppliers. You may be paying more than you have to for various suppliers. In today’s market, cloud computing and software can you save a lot. Online tools to help you manage customer relationships, content, and expenses are all typically less expensive than traditional software.
  5. Build your road map. Don’t forget about the big picture while you’re taking care of the nitty gritty. You need to have a vision for the future. Where is your company going in 2012? What are your goals? How will you grow from what you’ve learned so far?

These last questions are not easy to answer. In fact, I think they require a separate column. Next month I’ll write about resolutions for the new year.

Michael Alter

Michael is president of SurePayroll, America’s leading online payroll service. A nationally recognized spokesman on small business issues, Michael regularly appears on Bloomberg TV and other national business programs. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University. He resides with his family in the Chicago area.

How to Give Your Customers More of What They Love

Posted on: December 16, 2011
Source: Fast Company


In today’s information age and social media world, we always want more – and so do our customers. Remember that it is always easier, less expensive, and more effective to sell more to existing customers than it is to attract, court, and sell to new ones. The problem is that many entrepreneurs come to the plate with only one pitch. … So how do entrepreneurs and small-business owners quickly capitalize on the need to have multiple products at multiple price points to satisfy the needs of the marketplace and more importantly, their customers?

Create Multiple Products–Quickly

The first is to develop a customer product and sales cycle based on your customers’ needs and levels of attention that you can give them. During this stage you need to look at your market and the resources in your company and see where they intersect to solve your customers’ problems. Come up with as many solutions as possible, including your existing products and development demands. Now it’s time to create multiple touch points and apply price points to them. Think about it like a musician that you love.

  • The single costs $.99. That gives you one level of access.
  • The album costs $9.99. That gives you another level of access.
  • Then they come into your town and charge $50 for a general-admission ticket. Again, another level of access for what can be considered the same content.
  • For those in the fan club, you get another level of access and also the ability to pay $200 to come backstage during the concert.
  • And then you can bring this band in for a private function for $10,000. Again, increasing your access to them.
  • Lastly, while at the concert, you can buy T-shirts, hats, buttons and for the seasoned band, other albums, B-sides, solo records, and DVDs from other live shows.

Do you see the common themes? The musician is using the same content and charging for multiple levels of access to their personal time. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to give your new raving customers what they desire in the form of multiple products.

The Coach or Consultant

Let’s put this into a different context. Let’s say you run a sales coaching and consulting business. At the core of your business is coming into an organization and spending one or two days with them and providing information to their sales team, live and in person. When you leave, they might want more. What do you do?

  • You can offer more sales content in a book.
  • You can record your time at their office and offer it in a digital package.
  • You can hold a follow-up live training event in the area for multiple businesses that you connected with.
  • You can blog and offer other related products from other trainers that you recommend.
  • You can hold mastermind or group coaching calls where the students can get direct access to ask you questions about handling objections or closing the sale.

In this situation, you are multi-purposing content and creating new levels of access that are essentially new products for your marketplace.

The Widget Maker

The last example that I want to give is for the widget company; the company with the physical thing that they sell. What do they do about creating multiple products and satisfying the needs of their customer base?

They can do a few things. They can offer multiple levels of the widget; a bare-bones version, a standard version, and an advanced version. This creates 3 products and a great opportunity to get a customer to buy multiple copies of the same product as their needs and their consumption levels increase. After you create multiple versions of the product, you can then go in a few more directions to add to your customer value and give into their demanding needs.

  • You can create accessories, attachments, and resources that add to the overall value and experience of your product.
  • You can create how-to videos, books, and CDs that help your customer experience your product (also think about including case studies and testimonials from happy customers who can share how they use the product).
  • You can create a community of happy users that connect online (or offline at meet-ups) to talk about what your product does. If you sell something like scissors, think about the things people do with scissors like scrapbooking, and create a community around that kind of an activity.
  • You can crowdsource new ideas, joint-venture with another company, or buy another company to get products that are closely related to yours and put them into the marketplace and into your promotional plans.

There are multiple ways that you can begin to satisfy the hunger of a market that is looking for more and collect the money that is left on the table by only having one product or service to offer. They key starts with knowing your market and doing everything that you can to fulfill their needs, and once that need is fulfilled, look for new products, services, or levels or access to get them further ingrained into your brand and the results your brand can provide.

How are you satisfying the hunger?


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