Happy Anniversary Baby!

We are celebrating 20 years of business.  We’ve witnessed the horrific 9/11 attacks, Gulf War, the new millennium, OJ Simpson trial, 3 Presidents, 3 recessions and the birth of social media and google, facebook and twitter.

Although technology and building materials are the most significant change in the industry, our philosophy and customer service will remain the same.  Building a home with quality materials, by hand-picked professionals with a combined experience of over 50 years, is what we pride ourselves on. 

Twenty years is a long time for any business, especially in tough economic times, but we love what we do and like a good marriage, are hanging in there for the good times and bad.  We are looking forward to what the next 20 years will bring!

Posted in February 2011, Housing Industry, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Portland Maine: Best Housing Market

Housing Predictor put out its annual “25 Best Housing Market” forecast yesterday and Portland, Maine was ranked # 1.  According to the forecast, Portland has healthy employment, fewer foreclosures and distressed properties, which is producing a better housing market compared to other states.  Maine ranks in the five lowest states in terms of foreclosed properties.

The unemployment rate is lower in Portland than anywhere else in the state with more workers going back to jobs as businesses started hiring more workers.  Healthier employment levels should lead to more balanced housing market towards spring time with more sales.  Average home prices are projected to improve as a result, and are forecast to inflate 3.6% in 2011 according to the report.

“We are very encouraged by yesterday’s report.  It’s a long time coming.”  President and co-owner Mark Wall stated.  “Our out-of-state customers have either grown up here and had gone off to college and lived away for a while,  spent their summers here and decided to live here year round or just visited once and decided that Maine is where they want to call home.  It’s really quite remarkable the pull that Maine has on someone.”  Wall stated. 

Portland has always been Maine’s gem with its big city feel, but small town personalities.  PortlandMaine.com boasts that Portland is an old seacoast town. It is also a funky city filled with galleries, one-of-kind boutiques and shops, and incredible restaurants serving everything from New England clam chowder, lobster rolls and Maine seafood to nouvelle cuisine.

Portland is the banking capital of northern New England, home to major international law firms, import/export companies, and modern high-rise office buildings located in historic districts with centuries old architecture.

Portland stands as one of the few working waterfronts left in the United States, acting as New England’s largest tonnage seaport and second largest fishing port.

Portland is also the second largest oil port on the East Coast and the largest foreign inbound transit tonnage port in the United States.

Seeing is believing, so a visit to Maine any time of the year is worth the trip.

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No man is an island.

It’s no surprise that the kitchen is usually the favorite room in the house.  For many, it’s the only time that the entire family can be together during the day.  Our dining room table hasn’t been used since the holidays because dinner is spent at the kitchen island.  When we remodeled our kitchen having an island was a must, but the kitchen is narrow.  The solution was a narrow island.  Our kitchen island is the nucleus of the house.  It’s where meals are prepared and eaten, homework is done, bills are paid, gifts are wrapped and the grocery bags are set until someone helps put everything away.  I don’t know how I survived before without the island.

The kitchen island has transformed over the years to include a sink, stove top, microwave, trash and recycle bins, and additional storage.  The island top can range from soapstone to butcher block to granite.  Today’s island looks more like a piece of furniture with contrasting color and hand carved legs.  It’s common for the island not to match the cabinetry to break up the monotony of the main cabinets. 

With the growing popularity of cooking shows, more people choosing to cook themselves than dine out and entertaining at home, the island is the perfect complement to any kitchen.  Whether your kitchen is large or small, the island can be six foot long with 2 sinks or a small cart to house cookware.

A working kitchen includes the 3 main areas:  clean up, mix/prep and cooking.  The island can provide additional space for all of these areas while freeing up additional counter space elsewhere.

According to Fine Homebuilding’s The Daily Fix contributor Johnny Grey, Kitchen islands can be difficult to design. They not only must be functional, but they also should make an aesthetic contribution to the room without overpowering it. I’ve seen more than one island that doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Here’s where islands miss the mark:

The scale is wrong. Either too big or too small is a killer. If the island dominates
the space, then overzealous countertop planning has gotten the better of you. If the island is too small, it isn’t useful.

Cooking is not focused on the center of the room. As a result, the pleasure of socializing in the kitchen declines.

The island does not unite the functions of cabinets on opposing walls. It should shorten distances between cleaning, cooking, prepping, and serving areas.

The meal-prep area has no view. Ideally, it should overlook the table, the entry door, or the garden.

The island doesn’t free enough space for a sofa, a hutch, or an architectural feature. If any of these details can’t fit in the final design, your plan needs review.

Circulation space is cramped. Enlarge surrounding passages by shrinking the island or by moving it into the center of the room

Posted in February 2011, Housing Industry, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thanks Phil.

Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow yesterday.  But it’s hard to believe that we are going to have an early spring when there is a couple of feet of snow on the ground and more on the way.  Living in Maine means putting up with snow and all that comes with it and for most Mainers, it’s worth it.

Spring is the most promising time of the year for many industries, especially housing.  For a home builder, spring is welcomed with open arms and not just because of the prospect of no longer dealing with heating homes under construction, plowing or posted roads, it’s the prospect of more business.  Spring is typically when there is a flurry of real estate activity; homes go on the market, homes that have been on the market get more activity and it’s when people think of building a new home. 

So if the prospect of an early spring jump starts the Maine housing industry, then Phil not seeing his shadow was a good thing indeed.

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Home ownership and divorce

When I was growing up, the “American Dream” meant home ownership.  The American Dream can mean paying off the mortgage to one person or the ability to be able to afford a home to buy to another. 

The government has helped Americans buy a home through the first time home buyer programs, mortgage interest tax deductions and other tax incentives such as property tax deductions and capital gain exclusion.  Home ownership ranks highest in priorities over marriage and children and research has shown that owning a home significantly reduces the risk of divorce for couples married more than 10 years.

Home ownership may reflect a confidence and an investment in the marriage; it also means higher potential financial losses if the marriage dissolves.  Homeowners face risks for divorce that are substantially lower (by roughly one-third) than the risks faced by other couples who do not own a home.*

I’m not suggesting staying in a loveless marriage just because you want to buy a home, but perhaps owning a home together is another good reason to hang in there and work it out.  We know how stressful the process of purchasing or building a home can be and have witnessed many couples not always seeing eye-to-eye on everything, but the smiles on their faces when we hand over the keys to their new home is one of the reasons that we enjoy what we do and if we saved a marriage, well that’s even better.      

 

 

 

 

 

*Heidermann, B., Suhomlinova, O., & O’Rand, A. M. (1998) Economic independence, economic status, and empty nest in midlife marital disruption. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 219-231.

 

Posted in Housing Industry, Housing Trends, January 2011 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marketing to the Millennials

National Association of Builders just wrapped up its annual International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Orlando this past weekend.  Housing professionals from across the country and abroad attended the housing industry’s largest annual trade show and exhibition that featured the most cutting-edge designs, technologies, and products for all segments of the industry. 

A big part of the conference focused on the housing needs of an aging baby boomer population, but according to Melina Duggal, a principal with Orlando-based real estate adviser RCLCO, the baby boomer’s children actually represent an even larger demographic. An estimated 80 million people comprise the category known as “Gen Y,” youth born roughly between 1980 and the early 2000s. The boomers, meanwhile, boast 76 million.  According to Duggal,  a whopping 88% of the Y generation want to be in an urban setting, but since cities themselves can be so expensive, places with shopping, dining and transit are the biggest priorities.

Gen Y has no desire to keep up with the Joneses, especially, when the Joneses aren’t living within their means.  They have no interest in a lot of square footage, a 3-car garage and the gas-guzzling cars that occupy them.  Gen Y tend to put off marriage and having children until they are comfortable in their careers.  Being healthy and fit, ability to walk everywhere and being socially conscience is more than just a life style, it’s their way of life. They are the facebook, google, ipod and blogging generation.  They want nice things, but only if they can afford them.

“With all of this in mind, we are building smaller, more energy-efficient homes with lots of amenities.” Co-owner and President Mark Wall stated.  “Our customers come to us because they know they will get a beautiful custom, energy-efficient and affordable home without sacrificing quality.”  Wall stated.

“We are just finishing up a three bedroom, custom colonial with front porch in a lovely neighborhood in one of Portland’s suburbs.  It’s walking distance to the new park, walking and bike trails, Main Street, restaurants, shops and many area businesses.  Not only is it a custom home on a smaller scale than what we typically build, it’s affordable.  It’s the perfect house for the Y generation.”  Wall stated.

Gen Y are all about friends, family and meaningful relationships.  Staying in or entertaining at home is a must.  The popularity of the outdoor kitchen is growing.  Living in Maine means that you can only entertain outside for 3 seasons, so Mainers want to maximize that outdoor time.  Although there might be less square footage in the home, customers are putting more emphasis on landscaping, decks, fire pits, stone walls and walkways.

It’s important that we keep up with what the latest building trends are, but more importantly we listen to what our customers want and don’t want regardless of what generation they are.

Posted in Housing Industry, Housing Trends, January 2011 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

House fluffing and Feng shui

My sister told me that I should be a house fluffer.  Whenever I am at her house we can’t help but rearrange her entire house.   I have been known to take a night stand out of their bedroom and put it next to the couch or put their love seat in the dining room.  I move lamps, pictures, rugs, pillows and accessories and find a new home for them.  My sister is always pleased, but my brother-in-law?  Not so much.  My sister said that when he returned home from a business trip, he said:  “I can tell your sister has been here doing her feng shui thing.” 

We know that feng shui is a little different from house fluffing, and is perhaps, more meaningful.  According to freedictionary.com, the definition of feng shui is “The Chinese art or practice of positioning objects, especially graves, buildings, and furniture, based on a belief in patterns of yin and yang and the flow of chi that have positive and negative effects.”  Feng shui was suppressed in China during the cultural revolution in the 1960s, but has since seen an increase in popularity, particularly in the United States.

Although feng shui is not a practice of ours at Home Construction, Inc. we make every effort to make sure that the house is situated on the lot to maximize the most sunlight as well as to gain the most yard.  It’s also our goal to try to keep as many trees as possible.  The flow of the floor plan is important to make sure that each room suits its purpose and is conducive to how the homeowner lives.  A dining room that will never be used is space that can be utilized to open up the kitchen or family room.  A living room with small windows that don’t open up the view of the landscape, is simply poor planning. 

We work with our customer’s architects, landscapers and interior designers to be sure that the home that they have trusted us to build has all the yin and yang and ebb and flow they can stand.

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The jolly rancher

It’s no surprise that the new trend in house building for 2011 will be downsizing.  We have seen it coming over the past couple of years.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, McMansions are a thing of the past.  Less square footage without sacrificing quality is a must. The perfect example of reducing size, but not quality is a ranch style home.

Once popular in the 1950’s the ranch style home is regaining popularity and not just with baby boomers about to retire.  A ranch is one-level, so it is less expensive to build, less expensive to heat and keep cool and the ability to change the layout makes a ranch very appealing. 

The ranch was often criticized for not having any style or personality.  Today’s ranch is quite the opposite.  The ranch homes that we have built have great rooms, open floor plans, dormers, porches, french doors & lots of windows.

While the colonial style home continues to remain popular, especially with families, the ranch is making a big comeback and should be a trend that will last.

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Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Somehow Maine, at least the southern part, has managed to avoid any snowfall this winter until recently.  Over a foot of snow was dumped on us the other day.  Snow plows, snow blowers, snow mobiles and snow boards are out in force.

Although the snow can slow the construction process, it doesn’t halt it.  Having built over 250 homes since 1990, we have experience in dealing with what winter will bring us.  The holiday season is typically a quiet time in the building industry, but the latest news from the National Association of Builders continues to encourage us.

According to U.S. Commerce Department, as reported by NAHB, New Home-Sales Rise 5.5% in November.  Sales of newly built, single-family homes increased 5.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 290,000 units in November, according to newly released figures from the U.S. Commerce Department. The gain represents a partial bounce-back from a near-record low, downwardly revised number of new-home sales in October.

“While builders continue to face a great deal of competition from short-sale and foreclosure properties, the improvement registered in new-home sales in November is a good sign,” said Bob Jones, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “With consumer interest in new homes expected to continue to revive as the economy and job markets improve, and inventories of new homes for sale near record lows, our concern now is that a lack of construction financing will keep builders from being able to expand the selection of what they have to offer buyers heading into the spring.” 

“Builders in our latest surveys have indicated that they are starting to see more buyers who are seriously considering a new-home purchase, and today’s numbers showing that sales headed in the right direction in November bode well for what the future may hold,” agreed NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “The extremely low inventory of new homes on the market is also a positive sign that builders have been exercising tremendous caution with regard to new construction activity. That said, unless builders’ access to financing for new development improves, many will not have a product to sell when the opportunity arises, which in turn would slow a market recovery as well as potential job generation from new home building.”  Read complete article.

Posted in December 2010, Housing Industry, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To build or not to build

The decision to build a new home sometimes happens by accident.  Many of our customers have come to us because they couldn’t find what they wanted in the existing home market.  The inventory of homes available just didn’t fit the bill. 

Is building a new home the only way to go?  Absolutely not.  An existing home can be modified, renovated or can be perfect just the way it is.  You also don’t need to wait for the house to be completed.  An existing home will most likely have established gardens, mature trees and landscaping in place.   

The benefits of a new home is that everything is new of course and comes with a warranty.  A custom home will be built to suit your needs not someone else’s.  The size of the rooms, the layout, where it sits on the lot and amenities are all chosen by the customer. The customer has input throughout the process and is involved every step of the way, from choosing what trees should remain, to how the house sits on the lot.  We know that building a new home can be a huge decision and we want to make the process go as smooth as possible.

Posted in December 2010, Housing Industry, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment