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Builder Confidence for Single-Family Homes Rises, May Continue

May 18, 2018
Following a decline in April, builder confidence for newly built single-family homes rose two points in May, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), surveyed monthly. The HMI has reached 70, making this month the fourth time in 2018 the HMI has achieved a level of at least 70.
The demand for new, single-family homes will likely continue to increase, setting a steady upward trend for the forthcoming months. A number of factors contributed to this change, including tight housing inventory, employment gains and demographic tailwinds. Lumber is still at a record-high price, which can potentially hurt builders’ bottom lines and stunt the speed at which these competitively-priced homes can be built and put on the market. 
According to the HMI chart, current sales rose by two points to 76 in May. Indices measuring buyer traffic and expectations throughout the next six months were stagnant at 51 and 77, respectively.
In terms of three-month moving averages in regional sectors of the HMI, the South and Midwest saw downward trends, dipping to 72 and 65. The West and Northeast remained steady at 76 and 55.

-Christie Citranglo, editorial associate

Worrying Construction Sector Watches Softwood Lumber Prices Climb

May 16, 2018

Tight supply and trading tariffs are causing softwood lumber prices to climb, becoming one of the costlier raw materials for the U.S. construction sector. Despite the recorded price decline from March to April, as seen in the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Producer Price Index (PPI) last week, many economists are finding a surge in softwood lumber prices month-over-month, including analysts from Bloomberg.

The news of rising lumber prices comes after a 3.7% drop in April’s housing starts, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on May 16. A combination of building material price hikes and lack of skilled workers has especially impacted residential construction.

“Single-family housing starts, which use about three times as much wood as multifamily construction, continue to increase, and orders are expected to rise now that spring building season has arrived,” Bloomberg reported. “The framing-lumber composite price probably will rise 20% in 2018 to a record high.”

U.S. tariffs on Canadian imports also contribute to the supply woes and, therefore, contribute to the price increases. Bloomberg noted that domestic builders get more than a quarter of softwood lumber from Canada but now struggle to do so because of the 21% tax on these shipments that was enacted by the administration in November. NAHB added that the tariffs are expected to increase single-family home prices by nearly $1,400 this year.

-Andrew Michaels, editorial associate

Digitizing Data Entry Reduces Risks, Costs for Construction Industry

May 11, 2018

While some in the business credit world are staying in touch with the latest and greatest technological advancements for data collection, those in the construction industry still prefer the good old-fashioned method of manual systems. However, a new study by software company Trackvia suggests that sticking with manual data collection is both risky and costly to companies.

According to the Manual Processes in Construction and Engineering industry survey and report, almost half of the 500 construction and engineering executives and managers surveyed said they still use manual data entry for critical data. The survey was conducted in February. Furthermore, 88% of executives said they spend 1,300 hours per year, at minimum, assembling data for their reports—this pertained to those who use four or more data systems.

“Manual processes inhibit executives and managers from making timely decisions and from staying ahead of potential issues before they become big issues,” the survey stated. “Executives are also challenged with making decisions with incomplete data, as well as not having the information they need for compliance and audits.”

Manual data collection risks such as this can create costly endeavors for executives and managers, who then find themselves redoing work, providing additional downtime for employees or purchasing and/or replacing supplies, materials and equipment. The positives of data collection technology outweigh the negatives, the study noted, and respondents were encouraged to implement certain automated tools one step at a time.

An example of such implementation was using mobile apps to record information, which would replace paper and spreadsheets. With barcode scanners, geotag location software, weather data and standardized forms in the palm of their hand, the survey stated that executives and managers can access data information online or offline as well as improve completeness and accuracy, safety observations and quality inspections.

“More than half of executives (52%) believe digitizing data collection would help alleviate several of the issues related to manual processes, including costs related to rework or damaged supplies and materials,” the study added.

-Andrew Michaels, editorial associate

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