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Building News Coast to Coast

HEADLINES AT A GLANCE


 Converted: Houses of Worship Become Homes of Distinction

 Easier Eating Now Built Into Homes

 Home Appreciation Is Slowing

 'Universal Design' Aims at Growing Group of Graying Boomers

 Cure for Empty Hotel Rooms: Go Condo

 Modular Home Owners Put Pieces Together

 The Culture of Home Sales

 

 Communing With Nature

 Habitat for Humanity Builds Experimental, Energy Efficient Home in Tennessee

 Snug in a Bungalow

 Economist Sees Boom in Remodeling

 Home Costs Outpace Wages

 Maryland: Rouse Finalizes Land Deal

 Mold-Resistant Interior Panels


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Converted: Houses of Worship Become Homes of Distinction

The real estate market in Boston and elsewhere has been flooded in recent years with church properties as shrinking congregations and depleted coffers have forced spiritual leaders to put the religious buildings — along with parochial schools, rectories and convents — on the selling block. The trend has proved to be a lucrative one for developers, who find themselves presented with a unique opportunity to meet the demands of sophisticated home buyers seeking the extraordinary. Churches not only exude architectural character, but they also are generally accompanied by a sacred history that draws buyers in. “People want a landmark,' explains Lucas Garofalo, a broker in Boston's South End. 'And because churches have such a strong connection to the history of a community, buyers love that.' (www.boston.com/globe)
Boston Globe (05/11/03) P. J1; Vigue, Doreen Iudica


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Easier Eating Now Built Into Homes

Many builders are catering to buyers' demands for snack stations and casual dining areas, moving beyond the traditional kitchen breakfast bar and formal dining room to such amenities as food-preparation islands, butler's pantries, master-suite mini-bars, basement wet bars, outdoor dining areas and second-floor family rooms with refrigerators. According to NAHB, living rooms were absent in 30% of the homes built in 2001; but 57% had formal dining spaces. Moreover, 13% of the entire floor plan of the average 2,310-square-foot dwelling was devoted to the kitchen last year. However, health experts believe builders are simply making the obesity epidemic worse. Northwestern Memorial Wellness Center medical director Dr. Robert Kushner insists, "This is architecturally enabling those who are battling weight problems." Brad Saks, a clinical psychologist at the Wellness Center, adds that home designs should encourage people to move toward the food rather than bring the food closer to them. (www.sunspot.net)
Baltimore Sun (05/11/03) P. 1L; Stangenes, Sharon


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Home Appreciation Is Slowing

The National Association of Realtors reports a 7% jump in the first-quarter median home price to $161,500, down slightly from the 8.4% appreciation rate posted in the fourth quarter. Although slower price growth gives buyers leverage in negotiations, sellers still will benefit as low interest rates continue to stoke demand. The largest price increases were seen in the U.S. Northeast, Florida and California as buyers flocked to Atlantic City, NJ; New Haven, CT; Riverside-San Bernardino, CA; and other lower-priced markets. Appreciation weakened, meanwhile, in the South, Midwest and the Pacific Northwest regions, with Indianapolis; Austin, TX; and Chattanooga, TN; counted among the eight markets that saw housing prices actually decline. (www.wsj.com)
Wall Street Journal (05/15/03) P. D2; Barta, Patrick


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'Universal Design' Aims at Growing Group of Graying Boomers

Wider hallways and doorways, door levers instead of knobs and entryways devoid of stairs are among the Universal Design features that allow home owners to age in place rather than move into senior housing if they become disabled. Builders who target over-50 buyers already incorporate these elements; but Pima County, AZ, requires them in all new homes — regardless of the resident's age or health. Even so, Universal Design is not in high demand there or elsewhere, mainly because younger home buyers do not think about aging and disabilities. In response, builders are using terms like 'Lifestyle Design' and 'Easy Living' in their marketing materials to appeal to buyers who need space to maneuver strollers, furniture, wheelchairs and other equipment as well as those whose relatives are disabled and would not be able to visit without such accommodations. (www.shns.com)
Scripps Howard News Service (05/12/03) Sergent, Jennifer


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Cure for Empty Hotel Rooms: Go Condo

The weak hotel market and a surge in condominium prices have given new life to the condo-hotel movement. While owners benefit from hotel services, rapid appreciation and the opportunity to rent their units when they are away, developers profit from the sale of the units, a share of the room-rental fees and a lighter debt load. According to Elysian Development Group LLC CEO David Pisor, developers can only secure hotel financing in today's economy with massive amounts of up-front equity or through the sale of condominiums. Since owners have access to concierge, room service and other amenities, Delta Associates CEO Greg Leisch says units in condo-hotels cost 40%-60% more than those without hotel services. Furthermore, they must comply with the hotel management's furnishing requirements. Condo-hotel projects currently underway include Setai Group LLC's conversion of a Miami Beach hotel into 88 upscale condos and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc.'s St. Regis Museum Towers, which will feature 269 hotel rooms and 100 high-end condos in San Francisco. (www.wsj.com)
Wall Street Journal (05/14/03) P. B1; Muto, Sheila


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Modular Home Owners Put Pieces Together

Though modular homes accounted for only 35,000 of the 1.6 million-plus dwellings built in this country during 2002, they are becoming increasingly popular among buyers. Modular homes are built in a factory and assembled on site in sections, but technological innovation has paved the way for customization. Moreover, modular housing closely resembles traditional stick-built homes but costs as much as 6% less; are not exposed to the elements during construction; and can be assembled in as little as one week. In another advancement, buyers can now secure financing before the home is placed on the foundation; and the builders are paid as soon as it is cemented. However, many still equate modulars with manufactured or mobile homes, which are built to different construction standards. (www.sunspot.net)
Baltimore Sun (05/11/03) P. 1L; Rivera, Patricia V.


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The Culture of Home Sales

In Santa Clara County, CA, diversity training courses are being offered to residential builders and real estate agents to help them understand the customs and beliefs of different cultures and how they can be incorporated into home design and the purchase process. Property agents cannot effectively communicate with clients without an adequate knowledge of their cultures. For example, Asians often nod or smile to acknowledge what has been said; but agents tend to view the gestures as signs of agreement. The course work also informs real estate practitioners of the housing preferences of various cultures. Chinese immigrants, for instance, will steer clear of properties with the unlucky number four in the address; and Latinos will avoid large homes with only a few bedrooms because they want enough space for their extended families. The Santa Clara County Association of Realtors has recognized the important of cultural awareness by giving certificates to members who complete Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved courses. In addition to a number of educational campaigns, the association will launch Web sites in Chinese and Spanish later this month. (www.mercurycenter.com)
San Jose Mercury News (05/13/03) P. A1; Vasquez, Daniel


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Communing With Nature

An increasing number of affluent home buyers in Southwest Florida want to live in the midst of nature and preserve the environment; and developers are responding with environmentally friendly but upscale estates. At the Estates at TwinEagles in North Naples, for instance, the Bonita Bay Group's $3.75 million 2003 Dream Green Home features floors made of recycled glass, bamboo, cork and plank from the Savannah River; toxic-free paints and materials; recycled brick pavers; native plants and trees to control temperature; and views of a lake and a private golf course. The 185-home community also boasts 800 acres of open space and a four-mile nature corridor. In the Bonita Bay community in Bonita Springs, meanwhile, multimillion-dollar mansions and three golf courses have been built near the Estero Bay, a river, a creek, marshes and mangrove stands. Elsewhere, WCI Communities Inc. plans to build 10 so-called 'environmentally sustainable residential communities' throughout the state as part of a partnership with Audubon International. Premier Properties President Todd Kendall sees the growing popularity of ecologically residential projects as less of a movement and more of a byproduct of builder sensitivity. 'As a land developer, if you use an approach to your development that's kinder to the development, you end up with a nicer development,' he explains. 'Developers are just more sensitive, and as a result, both sides benefit.' (www.uniquehomes.com)
Unique Homes (05/03) Vol. 32, No. 3, P. 128; Kauffman, Scott


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Habitat for Humanity Builds Experimental, Energy Efficient Home in Tennessee

Habitat for Humanity partnered with Oak Ridge Lab to build an energy-efficient home in Tennessee incorporating advanced features, such as a high-tech water heater, solar panels and energy-saving materials. The design team chose prefabricated insulated panels for the walls, floor and roof, in addition to installing energy-efficient appliances and strategically placing air ducts to maximize energy savings. The home cost roughly $124,000 to build and reportedly cut the family's winter power bill to less than $43 per month. NAHB reports builders are including more energy-efficient features in new homes. (www.ap.org)
Associated Press (05/08/03) Mansfield, Duncan


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Snug in a Bungalow

An increasing number of home owners prefer bungalows over large suburban homes because of their wood floors, cabinets and moldings; built-in buffets and bookcases; spacious front porches; floor plans that maximize space; and fireplaces. As a result, bungalow prices are rising nationwide. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, for instance, the price has surged from about $75,000 in 1990 to $200,000. Despite their enchantment with bungalows, many home owners are adding space for guest bedrooms, family rooms, home theaters and home offices. In addition to their charm, Twin Cities Bungalow Club President and "Bungalow Nation" author Tim Counts loves these dwellings because he can spend less time on cleaning, maintenance and landscaping. (www.tallahassee.com/mld/democrat)
Tallahassee Democrat Online (05/08/03) P. D1; O'Connor, Debra


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Economist Sees Boom in Remodeling

American Institute of Architects chief economist Kermit Baker believes home remodeling will surpass new construction before the end of the decade. Remodeling already accounts for 51% of construction work in the Northeast, while both improvements and tear-downs are on the rise in the suburbs of the South and West. Baker, also an economist for Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing, believes affluent home owners and buyers continue to drive the market. In fact, the top 20% of households have watched their earnings rise 50% since 1975 to an average of nearly $150,000. Baker attributes the success of the housing market to low interest rates and wealthy baby boomers, but he expects a few shifts in housing demand in the coming years. Demand for second homes is currently strong; but overall demand could diminish as the smaller baby bust population — born from 1964 to 1975 — enters the market, rising again when the large baby boom echo generation of the 1980s and 1990s comes of age. (www.copleynews.com)
Copley News Service (05/10/03) Showley, Roger M.


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Home Costs Outpace Wages

The National Housing Conference reports that salaries have failed to keep pace with rising home prices throughout much of the country. The nationwide median home price in 2001 was $156,000, out of the range of most middle- and low-income workers, whose paychecks have not risen in recent years prior to that. The NHC study determined that retail salespeople, janitors and other similar workers would have to earn twice their current salaries to be able to afford a home in most metro areas and as much as triple their salaries to afford homes in the more expensive zip codes. (www.indystar.com)
Indianapolis Star Online (05/06/03) Chakrabarty, Gargi


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Maryland: Rouse Finalizes Land Deal

Rouse has completed a land swap in Nevada with the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management. Approximately 1,100 acres along the northern and western edges of Summerlin, a planned community Rouse is developing in the suburbs of Las Vegas, will be transferred to the nearby Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Rouse received nearly 990 acres of land in exchange. (www.washingtonpost.com)
Washington Post (05/12/03) P. E3


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Mold-Resistant Interior Panels

Mold needs four conditions to be present in order to grow: sufficient moisture, the correct temperature range, mold spores and organic materials to serve as a food source. Among the products that building-product manufacturers have developed to help make mold harder to grow is an interior panel product that removes the paper from the front and back of the board and reducies the organics in the core, which results in a panel with fiberglass mat facings on both sides. Under the American Society for Testing and Materials' D 3273 test, a standard for testing mold growth, the two-sided fiberglass mat product gets a score of 10, the highest rating possible. Other best practices being developed by the industry include allowing proper appliance ventilation, immediately correcting leaks and using products engineered to resist mold growth. (www.buildings.com)
Buildings (04/03) Vol. 97, No. 4, P. 24; Beyer, Chris


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