Al’s column

Home Editorials Al's column

GOOD START: With the fiscal cliff temporarily avoided by the government at the proverbial 11th hour the year has gotten off to a good start regarding the housing market. That’s according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) rose for a 5th consecutive month to 242 in January. This is up from 201 markets listed as improving in December, and includes entrants from 48 states and the District of Columbia. IMI identifies metro areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months.

GETTING THERE: The IMI, along with other data shows the housing market recovery is fully under way, said David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, noting when the index was started in September of 2011 only 12 metropolitan areas out of 360 were on the list. Another positive sign is in the number of household formations. Before the collapse the country was generating 1.4 million new households each year; dropped to 500,000 annually during the downturn and currently new households are being formed at close to a 900,000 clip per annum. In using the 2000 to 2002 period as a baseline benchmark for normal housing activity, he said owner-occupied remodeling has returned to previously normal levels. “Multifamily production is also well on its way, back to 69% of normal. It’s the single-family market that has the farthest to go, standing at only 40% of what is considered a typical market.”

BULLISH: Despite the positive news, Crowe cautioned, “stubbornly tight lending standards for home buyers and builders, inaccurate appraisals and proposals by policymakers…could dampen future housing demand. Despite the challenges, NAHB remains bullish for 2013 and beyond, projecting single-family new-home production will post a healthy 21% gain in 2013, while multifamily is expected to grow 16%. When it comes to actual sales, after a 20% gain in 2012, it forecasts a 22% jump this year over last, and an even larger gain of 36% in 2014.

TRAVEL DELAYS: With much of the industry set to spend the next couple of months flying around the country to various markets and conventions what better time to look at the airlines with the worst on time and cancellations for 2012. The results were released by online business class travel site Lets Fly Cheaper, which used data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics over the first three quarters of 2012 to come up with its Top 15 list. Leading the way with the worst on time record was United Airlines/Continental (76.49%), which jumped from No. 7 in 2011. Adding insult was United’s regional partner Express Jet, which not only came in with the second worst on time record (76.72%), it had the most canceled flights (10,046). At the opposite end was Hawaiian Airlines, which led the way with a 93.15% on time record and only 48 cancellations.

TRAVEL EXPENSE: Along with the worst airline records, Lets Fly Cheaper also ranked the nation’s 20 most expensive, major U.S international airports to travel in and out of. Airports were ranked on the cost of a domestic, round trip ticket against the national average cost of $384.81 during the second quarter of 2012. Of the 20 airports listed, 12 were above the national average with the most expensive being Houston Bush Intercontinental at $517.50. The least expensive airport on the list is actually good news for the flooring industry and everyone who is participating in Surfaces as it is Las Vegas’ McCarran airport at $281.10. That extra money means you can buy one more show special—or take your chances at the roulette table.

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