As we neared the end of 2012, the National Association of Home Builders was trumpeting that builders across the nation were reporting the best sales conditions in five years, even as stringent lending standards continue to make it difficult for families to qualify for a mortgage.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index was at 47.50 at the end of November, compared to 21 in December 2011.
And, the National Association of Realtors reported in December that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.7 percent to 106.4 in November from October, the highest since April 2010 which was caused by the temporary homebuyer tax credit. According to NAR, if you exclude the months spurred by the tax credit, this most recent reading was the best since February 2007.
But, December’s overall figures could be a little “iffy” because of the total impact of the 2012 stalemate between the President and Congress as many builders became concerned about the pending “fiscal cliff” and started hedging their bets by laying off workers and delaying projects.
I found it interesting that the CEO’s of 18 of the nation’s largest home building organizations wrote a letter to President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner that urged them to avoid the fiscal cliff — even if it meant raising taxes on the builders.
While the Congress finally agreed on January 1 to a stopgap measure that will avoid completely going over the cliff for now, it will be interesting to watch and see if any economic anxiety has been removed, or if the markets — including the housing market — will continue to be nervous and tentative until something final and concrete takes place.
Closer to home, right here in Florida there are several good reasons to be positive about the future, many being promoted by Florida Realtors.
Home sales are rising again; prices are good; inventory is high in all price ranges; mortgage rates remain at the lowest levels since the 1960s; Florida will continue to grow in population; and, there are federal, state and local housing programs available to help buyers.
So, for a moment, let’s ask: “What if?”
As we shuffle the chairs of leadership with slates of new officers in both the builder and Realtor organizations, what if 2013 turns out to solidify the economic turnaround in housing and construction that many have been sensing for the last few months?
What if our industries are back in 2013?
Will we be ready?
Have we built a strong enough foundation from which we can launch ourselves into success?
Can we seize the moment and capture the momentum?
Will we be able to parlay a housing market turnaround into organizational and individual opportunities for our members?
Over the past many years, there has been a legacy of leadership built into our organizations, including elected officers, appointed chairs and professional staff.
Obviously, strong leaders are very important when times are tough, like times have been for the last few years. But as we begin to prepare for what we hope will be a potential wave of better times in the months ahead, I believe strong leadership is more important than ever.
All of the organizations associated with real estate and construction need to be innovative, responsive and responsible as we face and cope with a changing environment.
How do we implement a strategy that will capture and capitalize on the ability to be aggressive instead of being on the defense?
How do we cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit and creative behaviors to boost personal and professional growth?
How do we continue to make our two major organizations NEFAR and NEFBA — cornerstones in the foundation of this community?
As you read this issue of Realtor/Builder Connection, pay close attention to the individuals who will lead your organizations in 2013.
They always need and want help. If we are moving into an economic turnaround, don’t be someone who just rides in the wake of waves created by others. Get involved. Become engaged.
— Jim Bailey is publisher of Realty/Builder Connection and president of Bailey Publishing & Communications Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.