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Why Grenfell Tower Burned | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Flames and smoke engulfed Grenfell Tower in London this month, resulting in at least 79 deaths.CreditToby Melville/Reuters

LONDON — The doorbell woke Yassin Adam just before 1 a.m. A neighbor was frantically alerting others on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower about a fire in his apartment. “My fridge blew up,” the man shouted.

Residents of Grenfell Tower had complained for years that the 24-story public housing block invited catastrophe. It lacked fire alarms, sprinklers and a fire escape. It had only a single staircase. And there were concerns about a new aluminum facade that was supposed to improve the building — but was now whisking the flames skyward.

The facade, Mr. Adam said, “burned like a fire that you pour petrol on.”

The incineration of Grenfell Tower on June 14, the deadliest fire in Britain in more than a century, is now a national tragedy. The London police on Friday blamed flammable materials used in the facade for the spread of the blaze and said the investigation could bring charges of manslaughter. Hundreds of families were evacuated from five high-rises that posed similar risks.

Flames consumed the tower so quickly that arriving firefighters wondered if they could even get inside. People trapped on the higher floors screamed for their lives through broken windows. At least 79 people died, a toll that is expected to rise as more bodies are recovered. Survivors have charged that the facade was installed to beautify their housing project for the benefit of wealthy neighbors.

A formal government inquiry into the fire has just begun. But interviews with tenants, industry executives and fire safety engineers point to a gross failure of government oversight, a refusal to heed warnings from inside Britain and around the world and a drive by successive governments from both major political parties to free businesses from the burden of safety regulations.

Promising to cut “red tape,” business-friendly politicians evidently judged that cost concerns outweighed the risks of allowing flammable materials to be used in facades. Builders in Britain were allowed to wrap residential apartment towers — perhaps several hundred of them — from top to bottom in highly flammable materials, a practice forbidden in the United States and many European countries. And companies did not hesitate to supply the British market.

A Lethal Wrapping

The building was recently renovated. New insulation and cladding were installed on the exterior; both contained flammable materials.

SPREADING OF FIRE

CREATING A CHIMNEY EFFECT

CAVITY

CLADDING

PANELS WITH

PLASTIC CORE

OLD WALL

INSULATION

OLD WALL

CAVITY,

ABOUT

2 INCHES

AIR

Radiant heat from the burning cladding and insulation, combined with air rushing through the gap, increased the intensity of the fire.

Flammable cladding and insulation enabled the fire to spread rapidly on the exterior of the building.

The facade, installed last year at Grenfell Tower, in panels known as cladding and sold as Reynobond PE, consisted of two sheets of aluminum that sandwich a combustible core of polyethylene. It was produced by the American manufacturing giant Alcoa, which was renamed Arconic after a reorganization last year.

Arconic has marketed the flammable facades in Britain for years, even as it has adjusted its pitch elsewhere. In other European countries, Arconic’s sales materials explicitly instructed that “as soon as the building is higher than the firefighters’ ladders, it has to be conceived with an incombustible material.” An Arconic website for British customers said only that such use “depends on local building codes.”

Emergency services personnel inside Grenfell Tower, where a flammable facade — which had all burned away in the fire — helped spread the blaze. CreditRick Findler/Press Association, via Associated Press

For years, members of Parliament had written letters requesting new restrictions on cladding, especially as the same flammable facades were blamed for fires in Britain, France, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and elsewhere. Yet British authorities resisted new rules. A top building regulator explained to a coroner in 2013 that requiring only noncombustible exteriors in residential towers “limits your choice of materials quite significantly.”

Fire safety experts said the blaze at Grenfell Tower was a catastrophe that could have been avoided, if warnings had been heeded.

“How could that happen in our country at this time?” asked Dennis Davis, a former firefighter who is vice chairman of the nonprofit Fire Sector Federation.

Mr. Adam, 44, had seen posters hung by the management company telling tenants to shut their doors and stay inside in the event of a fire. But Mr. Adam, his wife, his daughter and his pregnant sister ignored the instructions and ran.

“Anyone who listened to the fire brigade and stayed where they are,” Mr. Adam said in an interview the next day, “they lost their lives.”

Locals watched as the fire ripped through the building, a 24-story public housing block.CreditDaniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

‘How Is That Possible?’

The first call to the London Fire Brigade came at 12:45 a.m., according to an official statement. Six minutes later, as the first firefighters reached the scene, brigade veterans struggled to fathom the speed of the blaze.

“That is not a real block with people in it!” one firefighter exclaimed, his astonishment captured in a video that later was shown on the BBC and Sky News and was shot inside his vehicle as it sped toward the building.

Other firefighters in the vehicle were heard gasping in horror.

“There are kids in there,” one said.

“How is that possible?”

“It has jumped all the way along the flats — look!”

How “are we going to get into that?” another asked, using an expletive.

Flames in an ordinary fire burst out of windows, moving from the inside out. Grenfell Tower burned in reverse, moving inward from the building’s exterior. The flames quickly tore upward in streaks through the facade, filling apartments with toxic black smoke. Torrents of orange and red branched out of the first streaks and shot upward. The flames encased the building in a cylinder of fire.

“I have never seen such a phenomenal fire, a building engulfed top to bottom in flames,” Dany Cotton, the London fire commissioner, said later that day. More than 200 firefighters battled the blaze. They brought 40 fire engines and other vehicles.

“Committing hundreds of my firefighters into a building that at points looked like it couldn’t possibly stand up due to the level of fire — I actually felt physically sick with anxiety about what was happening,” Ms. Cotton added. But the firefighters went in.

Firefighters stood amid debris in a children’s playground near the tower. CreditNeil Hall/Reuters

The building they entered was built in 1974 in an architectural style known as Brutalism, and the original concrete structure, built without cladding, would have contained the fire in one apartment long enough for firefighters to prevent it from spreading very far. But the building’s floor plan gives a picture of what happened. Refrigerators in most apartments appear to have been positioned against an exterior wall, next to a window and just a few inches from the cladding installed in the renovation.

When the refrigerator on the fourth floor burst into flames, the fire ignited the flammable cladding and shot up the side of the building. The London police confirmed that on Friday and identified the refrigerator brand as Hotpoint. But experts who saw footage of the blaze had known the culprit at once. “You can tell immediately it’s the cladding,” said Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

The first well-known use of aluminum cladding on a high-rise was on the Alcoa Building, in Pittsburgh, erected as the manufacturer’s headquarters. Makers of cladding promoted it as both aesthetically striking and energy-efficient, because the aluminum surface reflects back heat and light. Demand for cladding surged with rising fuel costs and concerns about global warming, and over time, producers began selling it in a thin “sandwich” design: Two sheets of aluminum around a core made of flammable plastics like polyethylene.

The cladding is typically paired with a much thicker layer of foam insulation against the building’s exterior wall, as was the case at Grenfell Tower. Then the cladding may be affixed to the wall with metal studs, leaving a narrow gap between the cladding and the insulation.

But by 1998, regulators in the United States — where deaths from fires are historically more common than in Britain or Western Europe — began requiring real-world simulations to test any materials to be used in buildings taller than a firefighter’s two-story ladder. “The U.S. codes say you have to test your assembly exactly the way you install it in a building,” said Robert Solomon, an engineer at the National Fire Protection Association, which is funded in part by insurance companies and drafts model codes followed in the United States and around the world.

No aluminum cladding made with pure polyethylene — the type used at Grenfell Tower — has ever passed the test, experts in the United States say. The aluminum sandwiching always failed in the heat of a fire, exposing the flammable filling. And the air gap between the cladding and the insulation could act as a chimney, intensifying the fire and sucking flames up the side of a building. Attempts to install inflammable barriers at vertical and horizontal intervals were ineffective in practice.

As a result, American building codes have effectively banned flammable cladding in high-rises for nearly two decades. The codes also require many additional safeguards, especially in new buildings or major renovations: automatic sprinkler systems, fire alarms, loudspeakers to provide emergency instructions, pressurized stairways designed to keep smoke out and multiple stairways or fire escapes.

And partly because of the influence of American architects, many territories around the world follow the American example. But not Britain.

Protesters tried to enter Kensington Town Hall as they sought more information about missing relatives and friends. CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images

Safety vs. Cost

British schoolchildren study the Great Fire of London, in 1666, the way American pupils might learn about the Boston Tea Party or the first Thanksgiving. But the legacy of the fire is also still felt in Britain’s building codes, experts say. London’s original great fire leapt across wooden buildings. And since then, British building codes have focused primarily on the principle of stopping the spread of flames between buildings or, within larger structures, between units.

With fire prevention in Britain, “you put all your eggs in one basket,” said Edwin Galea, director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at the University of Greenwich. And for decades, this was fairly effective. Britain has long reported far fewer deaths from fires relative to population than the United States, and typically, fewer than 350 residents die each year in fires (compared with more than 3,000 in the United States).

But as early as 1999, after a fire in Irvine, Scotland, British fire safety engineers warned Parliament that the advent of flammable cladding had opened a dangerous loophole in the regulations. The Irvine fire saw flames leap up panels at Garnock Court, a 14-story public housing block. One resident died, four others were injured and a parliamentary committee investigated the causes.

“To a certain extent, we are hoisted by the petard of what happened here in 1666, the Great Fire of London, and we look at fire as a horizontal problem, with a fire in one building affecting the exterior of another building,” Glynton Evans, a fire safety adviser to the firefighters’ union, said to Parliament. “The problem with cladding is that it will, if it is able, spread fire, and it will spread it vertically.”

The firefighters and engineers warned Parliament that British codes required only that the aluminum used in cladding resist ignition, even though the heat of a fire would breach the surface and expose the flammable material inside. Nor did the British rules require a test to evaluate risks in real-world conditions.

A fire in 2015 at the Address Downtown Dubai, a hotel in the United Arab Emirates that had flammable cladding on its exterior. CreditNicolas Cornet/European Pressphoto Agency

“If the cladding cannot resist the spread of flame across the surface, then it will vertically envelop the building,” Mr. Evans warned, in testimony that now seems prophetic. “In other words, the fire will spread to the outside of the building, and it will go vertically.” Many other fire safety experts would repeat those concerns in the following years.

But manufacturers argued against new tests or rules. Using fire-resistant materials was more expensive, a cost that industry advocates opposed.

“Any changes to the facade to satisfy a single requirement such as fire performance will impinge on all other aspects of the wall’s performance as well as its cost,” Stephen Ledbetter, the director of the Center for Window and Cladding Technology, an industry group, wrote in testimony to Parliament

“Fire resistant walls,” he added, “are not economically viable for the prevention of fire spread from floor to floor of a building,” and “we run the risk of using a test method because it exists, not because it delivers real benefits to building owners or users.” (In an interview last week, Mr. Ledbetter said his group had updated its position earlier this year to warn against the type of cladding used at Grenfell Tower.)

Business-friendly governments in Britain — first under Labor and then under the Conservatives — campaigned to pare back regulations. A 2005 law known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order ended a requirement for government inspectors to certify that buildings had met fire codes, and shifted instead to a system of self-policing. Governments adopted slogans calling for the elimination of at least one regulation for each new one that was imposed, and the authorities in charge of fire safety took this to heart.

“If you think more fire protection would be good for U.K. business, then you should be making the case to the business community, not the government,” Brian Martin, the top civil servant in charge of drafting building-safety guidelines, told an industry conference in 2011, quoting the fire minister then, Bob Neill. (“Should we be looking to regulate further? ‘No’ would be my answer,’” Mr. Neill added.)

Mr. Martin, a former surveyor for large-scale commercial projects like the Canary Wharf, told his audience to expect few new regulations because the prime minister at the time, David Cameron, wanted to greatly reduce the burden on industry, according to a report by the conference organizers.

An apartment at Grenfell Tower showed the devastation of the fire.CreditLondon Metropolitan Police, via European Pressphoto Agency

Two years later, in 2013, a coroner questioned Mr. Martin about the application of building regulations in the case of another London fire, which killed six people and injured 15 others at a public housing complex called Lakanal House. Mr. Martin defended the existing regulations, including the lack of a requirement for meaningful fire resistance in the paneling on the outside of an apartment tower.

A questioner told him that the public might be “horrified” to learn that the rules permitted the use of paneling that could spread flames up the side of a building in as little as four-and-a-half minutes. “I can’t predict what the public would think,” Mr. Martin replied, “but that is the situation.”

Moving to a requirement that the exterior of a building be “noncombustible,” Mr. Martin said, “limits your choice of materials quite significantly.”

After the coroner’s report, a cross-party coalition of members of Parliament petitioned government ministers to reform the regulations, including adding automatic sprinklers and revisiting the standards for cladding. “Today’s buildings have a much higher content of readily available combustible material,” the group wrote in a letter sent in December 2015 that specifically cited the risk of chemicals in “cladding.”

“This fire hazard results in many fires because adequate recommendations to developers simply do not exist. There is little or no requirement to mitigate external fire spread,” added the letter, which was first reported last week by the BBC.

In 2014, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, an organization in the United States, counted 20 major high-rise fires involving cladding. In at least a half-dozen — in France, Dubai, South Korea, the United States and elsewhere — the same type of panels installed at Grenfell Tower caught fire. A 2014 fire in Melbourne, Australia, resulted in multiple investigations into the dangers of combustible cladding. Another fire broke out in Dubai, around a 60-story skyscraper, on New Year’s Eve of 2015, and yet another, around a 70-story skyscraper there, this April.

But in Britain, still no changes were made. “The construction industry appears to be stronger and more powerful than the safety lobby,” said Ronnie King, a former fire chief who advises the parliamentary fire safety group. “Their voice is louder.”

A wall covered with tributes to the victims. CreditMarko Djurica/Reuters

‘Pray for Us’

As recently as March, a tenant blogger, writing on behalf of what he called the Grenfell Action Group, predicted a “serious and catastrophic incident,” adding, “The phrase ‘an accident waiting to happen’ springs readily to mind.”

For many tenants, an object of scorn was Grenfell Tower’s quasi-governmental owner, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization. It was created under legislation seeking to give public housing residents more say in running their buildings, and its board is made up of a mix of tenants, representatives of local government and independent directors. But Kensington and Chelsea is the largest tenant management organization in England, a sprawling anomaly supervising roughly 10,000 properties, more than 30 times the average for such entities. Tenants came to see it as just another landlord.

The organization had promised residents of Grenfell Tower that the renovation last year would improve both insulation and fire safety. Board minutes indicate that it worked closely with the London Fire Brigade throughout the process, and local firefighters attended a briefing afterward “where the contractor demonstrated the fire safety features.” During a board meeting last year, the organization even said it would “extend fire safety approach adopted at Grenfell Tower to all major works projects.”

Dany Cotton, the London fire commissioner, said that she had never seen “such a phenomenal” blaze, and that sending hundreds of firefighters into it made her “sick with anxiety.” CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

But the principal contractor, the Rydon Group, based in East Sussex, England, assigned the facade work to a specialist firm that was struggling financially during the project. The firm, Harley Curtain Wall, went out of business in 2015 and transferred its assets to a successor, Harley Facades.

Another subcontractor, Omnis Exteriors, said on Friday that it had not been told that the flammable Reynobond cladding was going to be combined with flammable interior insulation. That was a problem, the firm said in a statement, adding that the cladding “should only be used in conjunction with a noncombustible material.”

The cladding itself was produced by Arconic, an industry titan whose chief executive recently stepped down after an unusual public battle with an activist shareholder. Arconic sells a flammable polyethylene version of its Reynobond cladding and a more expensive, fire-resistant version.

In a brochure aimed at customers in other European countries, the company cautions that the polyethylene Reynobond should not be used in buildings taller than 10 meters, or about 33 feet, consistent with regulations in the United States and elsewhere. “Fire is a key issue when it comes to buildings,” the brochure explains. “Especially when it comes to facades and roofs, the fire can spread extremely rapidly.”

A diagram shows flames leaping up the side of a building. “As soon as the building is higher than the firefighters’ ladders, it has to be conceived with an incombustible material,” a caption says.

But the marketing materials on Arconic’s British website are opaque on the issue.

“Q: When do I need Fire Retardant (FR) versus Polyethylene (PR) Reynobond? The answer to this, in part, depends on local building codes. Please contact your Area Sales Manager for more information,” reads a question-and-answer section.

For more than a week after the fire, Arconic declined repeated requests for comment. Then, on Thursday, the company confirmed that its flammable polyethylene panels had been used on the building. “The loss of lives, injuries and destruction following the Grenfell Tower fire are devastating, and we would like to express our deepest sympathies,” the company said. Asked about its varying product guidelines, the company added, “While we publish general usage guidelines, regulations and codes vary by country and need to be determined by the local building code experts.”

Aluminum coils at a plant in Tennessee belonging to Arconic, the manufacturer of the combustible cladding used at Grenfell Tower. CreditLuke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Hassan Ibrahim, who lived in an apartment on the 23rd floor of Grenfell Tower, was traveling outside England the day of the fire. His wife, Rania, and their two small children were not so lucky. As the smoke and flames drifted upward, Ms. Ibrahim debated with a neighbor whether to risk opening her door.

“Don’t open the front door,” her neighbor told her. “You are not going to be able to breathe — you are just going to bring the smoke in. You have your children. Standing near the door with all the smoke is not going to help you.”

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https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/24/world/europe/grenfell-tower-london-fire.html?_r=0

Home Prices in the First Month of 2017 | Bedford Corners Real Estate

S&P Dow Jones Indices released the Home Price Index for January 2017 today. The Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index rose at a seasonally adjusted annual growth rate of 7.9%, slower than the 9.2% increase in December. House prices dropped to the lowest level in the first month of 2012. Five years later, house prices surpassed the pre-recession peak of 2006 and hit the highest level historically.

Along with the increases in national home prices, local home prices also increased in varying degrees in January. Figure 2 shows the annual growth rate of home prices for 20 major U.S. metropolitan areas.

Most of the 20 metro areas had positive home price appreciation, except Cleveland. Cleveland was the only one that had negative home price appreciation (-0.8%). The positive home price appreciation ranged from 5.2% to 22.6%. Seattle had the highest home price appreciation at 22.6%, followed by Chicago (16.5%) and Denver (14%). Miami had the lowest positive growth at 5.2%. Fifteen out of the 20 metro areas had the same or higher home price appreciation than the national level of 7.9%.

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2017/03/home-prices-in-the-first-month-of-2017/

Lumber prices on the rise | Bedford Corners Real Estate

The price of softwood lumber rose by 2.3% in December, while prices paid for ready-mix concrete, gypsum products, and OSB all fell, according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Ready-mix concrete, gypsum products and OSB prices fell by 0.1%, 0.2%, and 1.3%, respectively. The 2.3% increase in the softwood lumber price index is the largest monthly increase since April 2016.

Over the course of 2016, softwood lumber prices rose nearly 8.7% while prices paid for OSB spiked by 13.8%.  In November, the cost of ready-mix concrete and gypsum products rose 3.5% and 5.0%, respectively, on a year-over-year basis.

In contrast to the price of softwood lumber–which has been relatively stable over the last two years–OSB prices have risen almost 30% during the same period.  OSB prices leveled off in August 2016, but remain near their two-year high.

The economy-wide PPI increased 0.3% in December, 80% of which was driven by a 0.7% rise in prices paid for goods. Prices for final demand services rose only 0.1%.  A 0.3% increase in the final demand prices for core goods (i.e. goods excluding food and energy) continued a positive trend that started with a 0.2% increase in November.  Prices for core goods less trade services climbed 0.1% and rose 1.7% in 2016, far outpacing the 0.3% rise seen in 2015.

Sixty percent of the rise in prices for goods—the fourth straight increase—was due to the increase in prices of final demand energy.   Gasoline prices alone (+7.8%) accounted for nearly half of the increase.  In contrast, prices of fruit and residential electric power led declines among goods. The increase in prices for final demand services was led by securities brokerage, investment advice, and related services, which advanced 4.4%.

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2017/01/osb-prices-climb-14-in-2016/

U.S. EPA settles with firm for failure to protect residents from lead-based paint | Bedford Corners Real Estate

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Powerstar Home Energy Solutions for failing to comply with federal lead-based paint rules at several residential properties in Southern California.  The company will pay a civil penalty of $11,429.

Powerstar has also agreed to spend about $34,000 to purchase equipment to test blood lead levels in children. Blood lead analyzers will be donated to ten community health clinics in San Bernardino and Orange counties. The analyzers measure lead in blood samples and give results in as little as three minutes, allowing immediate follow-up by health care providers. The clinics will receive enough kits to test 480 children.

“Children are highly susceptible to lead-based paint and symptoms are not easily recognized,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This settlement will give hundreds of families the opportunity to have their children tested, giving parents the information they need to protect their loved ones.”

Powerstar Home Energy Solutions, a trade name of Smithlum & Friend, Inc., is headquartered in Anaheim and offers residential coatings and window replacements. In 2014, EPA found the company violated EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting rule by renovating five homes built before 1978 in the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Chino and Redlands without following practices required to reduce lead exposure. The company failed to:

  • Become certified by EPA to perform residential work;
  • Distribute the “Renovate Right” brochure to educate occupants about lead-safe work practices;
  • Keep complete records documenting whether the work followed lead-safe practices.

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips. When companies fail to follow lead-safe practices, the resulting lead dust and chips can contaminate home surfaces. Contractors who disturb painted surfaces in pre-1978 homes and child-occupied facilities must be trained and certified, provide educational materials to residents, and follow safe work practices. The U.S. banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978 but EPA estimates that more than 37 million older homes in the U.S. still have lead-based paint.

Though harmful at any age, lead exposure is most dangerous to children because their bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its damaging effects. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. The effects of lead exposure can include behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, and diminished IQ.

Often lead poisoning occurs with no obvious symptoms, so it may go unrecognized. Parents or caregivers who think their child has been in contact with lead should notify their child’s health care provider who can help decide whether a blood test is needed or recommend treatment.

EPA enforces the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and its Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule and the lead-based paint Disclosure Rule. The Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule protects residents and children from exposure to lead-based paint hazards from activities that can create hazardous lead dust when surfaces with lead-based paint are disturbed. The Disclosure Rule requires those who sell or rent housing built before 1978 to provide an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet, include lead notification language in sales and rental forms, disclose any known lead-based paint hazards and provide reports to buyers or renters, allow a lead inspection or risk assessment by home buyers and maintain records certifying compliance with applicable federal requirements for three years.

 

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https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/us-epa-settles-anaheim-home-improvement-firm-failure-protect-residents-lead-based-paint

Housing Affordability Edges Lower in Third Quarter | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Ongoing home price appreciation offset a small decline in mortgage interest rates to move housing affordability slightly lower in the third quarter of 2016, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).

In all, 61.4 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of July and end of September were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $65,700. This is down from the 62.0 percent of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the first quarter.

hoi-ppt-q316

The national median home price increased from $240,000 in the second quarter to $247,000 in the third quarter. Meanwhile, average mortgage rates edged lower from 3.88 percent to 3.76 percent in the same period.

Elgin, Ill., was rated the nation’s most affordable major housing market, where 94.3 percent of all new and existing homes sold in this year’s third quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $82,500. Meanwhile, Fairbanks, Alaska, was rated the nation’s most affordable smaller market, with 97.7 percent of homes sold in the third quarter being affordable to families earning the median income of $93,800.

For the 16th consecutive quarter, San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, Calif., was the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 9.7 percent of homes sold in the third quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $104,700.

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2016/11/housing-affordability-edges-lower-in-third-quarter/

British house prices flat in October | Bedford Corners Real Estate

British house prices were unchanged in October after rising in monthly terms each of the previous 15 months, mortgage lender Nationwide said on Wednesday, a new sign of the market cooling after the Brexit vote.

House prices were flat last month, compared with a monthly increase of 0.3 percent in September and a median forecast for a rise of 0.2 percent in a Reuters poll of economists.

Compared with October last year, prices rose by 4.6 percent, slower than September’s increase of 5.3 percent and below a median forecast of 5.0 percent in the Reuters poll.

It was the slowest annual price growth since January, but Nationwide economist Robert Gardiner said it was still in line with rates since early 2015.

He said a 10 percent fall in housing market activity in recent months might be a lingering after-effect of April’s introduction of a higher level of tax on properties bought by landlords and second homes.

Howard Archer, an economist with Markit HIS, said he expected house prices to fall by about 3 percent next year when Britain launches its negotiations to leave the European Union, probably adding to uncertainty about the economy.

Another mortgage lender, Halifax, said last month that British house prices rose at their slowest pace in more than three years in the three months to September.

But there have been other signs recently that the housing market slowdown might be bottoming out

 

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http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-houseprices-nationwide-idUKKBN12X0LH

Builders see gradual improvement | Bedford Corners Real Estate

A gauge of home builder sentiment remained steady at 60 in January, the National Association of Home Builders said Tuesday.

That was unchanged from a downwardly-revised reading in December. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a reading of 62.

Readings over 50 signal improvement, and readings in the low 60s show “a gradual improvement, which should bode well for future home sales in the year ahead,” NAHB Chairman Tom Woods said in a statement.

The index is down from a 10-year high of 65 in October, but still higher than the overall 2015 average of 59.

The sub-gauge that tracks current sales conditions rose 2 points to 67 in January, but the future sales component dipped 3 points to 63. The traffic gauge slid 2 points to 44. It hasn’t been above the neutral 50 mark since 2005.

Builders have gained confidence as the improving economy tugged the jobless rate to a 7-year low and started to nudge wages higher. Sales of new homes were stronger in 2015 than 2014. But builder still face headwinds, including pricier lots and scarcer labor.

That’s made many investors wary of builder stocks. KB Home shares slid earlier this month when fiscal fourth quarter earnings missed forecasts, even though orders and revenue both grew by double digits.

 

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http://www.marketwatch.com/story/home-builder-confidence-stays-steady-in-january-2016-01-19

Existing Home Sales fall 4.8% | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Existing Home Sales in the United States fell 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5310 Thousand in August from a downwardly revised 5580 Thousand in July of 2015. It is the lowest figure since April, below market expectations. The median sale price went up 4.7% yoy and the months’ worth of supply rose 0.3 to 5.2. Existing Home Sales in the United States averaged 3842.52 Thousand from 1968 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 7250 Thousand in September of 2005 and a record low of 1370 Thousand in March of 1970. Existing Home Sales in the United States is reported by the National Association of Realtors.

United States Existing Home Sales

 

Actual Previous Highest Lowest Dates Unit Frequency
5310.00 5480.00 7250.00 1370.00 1968 – 2015 Thousand Monthly
SA
Existing Home Sales occurs when the mortgage is closed. Mortgage closing usually takes place 30-60 days after the sales contract is closed. . This page provides the latest reported value for – United States Existing Home Sales – plus previous releases, historical high and low, short-term forecast and long-term prediction, economic calendar, survey consensus and news. Content for – United States Existing Home Sales – was last refreshed on Monday, September 21, 2015.

 

Calendar GMT Reference Actual Previous Consensus Forecast (i)
2015-07-22 03:00 PM Jun 5.49M 5.32M(R) 5.4M 5.2M
2015-08-20 03:00 PM Jul 5.59M 5.48M 5.44M 5.4M
2015-09-21 03:00 PM Aug 5.31M 5.58M 5.53M 5.4M
2015-10-22 03:00 PM Sep 5.6M
2015-11-23 03:00 PM Oct 5.6M
2015-12-22 03:00 PM Nov 5.5M

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http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/existing-home-sales

 

Exterior Home Improvements That Increase Value | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Yesterday on Housecall, we discussed ways to increase your home value with indoor décor. Today, we’re focusing on what you can do outside the home to give it an added monetary boost.

Curb appeal is everything when it comes to selling your home, and that means your home’s exterior needs to be in optimal condition. In fact, 71 percent of prospective home buyers say that a home’s curb appeal is an important factor in their buying decision. This infographic fromLawnStarter shows seven exterior home improvements that can increase resale value and help sell your home even faster:

LawnStarterIG

Replace Your Front Door

Believe it or not, a front door says a lot about you and your home. A quality front door can be a huge asset for your home’s value, and how secure your home feels upon entrance. Kelly Fallis of Remote Stylist says, “It’s the first thing a buyer walks through. Repaint or replace; their first impression rests on it.” According to House Logic, a standard 20-gauge steel door can cost around $1,230, but that investment can more than pay for itself with the amount of value it adds to your home. A quality front door replacement can bring you a return of around 102 percent, which makes it a great bang for your buck.

Updated Landscaping

Over 92 percent of prospective home buyers use the Internet at some point during their search process, meaning a lot of eyes are going to be looking for pictures of your home. You want to be able to showcase your property in the best light possible to drive interested parties in for a closer look. According to Bankrate, a quality landscaping job has the potential to net you a whopping 252 percent return in increased home value. John Harris, a landscape economist, has stated that updated landscaping can increase a home’s value by 28 percent and have it sold 10-15 percent quicker.

New Paint

Most prospective homeowners tend to look at what they need to update or work on in the homes that they look at. Repainting your home can cause less stress on the buyer since they know that the job is fresh and adds to the look of the home. That being said, don’t go overboard with color choices. Choose warm and inviting colors, such as taupe, tan or white. “Individuals too often minimize the impact of a first impression,” says James Alisch, managing director of WOW 1 DAY PAINTING. “The exterior paint job of a home greatly impacts how potential buyers feel about a place.” You want to make sure that potential buyers can envision themselves inside your home, and having a neutral exterior color is appealing to a larger pool of buyers. If you do feel the need to add some brighter colors, make sure that they aren’t overpowering and can work well with the neutral base. It’s best to consult your local home improvement store to discuss your options and budget.

 

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http://blog.rismedia.com/2015/7-exterior-home-improvements-that-increase-resale-value/

The color Watery Blue Is Summer’s Best Hue | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Summer’s in full swing, which hopefully means plenty of pool and beach time for many of you. Whenever I’m working with a homeowner who wants to add some color to their home, but doesn’t necessarily want to travel down the bold road, I recommend watery blue hues — colors inspired by summertime spent by the sea.

These soft, muted greenish-blue hues work especially well for bedrooms and bathrooms, where they offer a calming, spa-inspired vibe. I’ve gathered together some paint color options as well as examples of how to work with this pleasing, ocean-inspired hue.