February 10, 2013

"Reflections on 2012: A Return On Your Membership Investment"

                                              Theodore Roosevelt

2012 may be in the rear view mirror but the road that we traveled as a Federation, was significant. 

President Roosevelt's quote lends itself to today and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). With fewer staff and association volunteers that never tired, NAHB challenged the laws of chaos echoing from the last gasps of the "Great Recession."

The average member may not be familiar with their national membership and what it truly means to them as a benefit, but I can assure you that your national dues investment pays dividends.

To keep you informed on the latest legislative, regulatory and other policy developments concerning your association and what NAHB is doing to highlight the value of membership and save you money, I strongly encourage you to act now and subscribe to the Washington Update and the Monday Morning Briefing by clicking on the link below.

"Reflections on 2012"
(A Return On Your Membership Investment)

To help put into context the enormous value that NAHB provides to builders, remodelers and associates on an ongoing basis, let me take a moment and reiterate what was discussed at the International Builders’ Show last month in Las Vegas. Throughout the event, Senior Officers spoke at numerous committee meetings to articulate the value of NAHB membership and how your national association worked doggedly to add to the bottom line of every member.

At any given time, NAHB is working on more than 100 complex issues – and doing its utmost to save members money – in areas including the tax code, federal housing programs, environmental laws, building codes, OSHA, building materials, qualified residential mortgages, residential appraisals and many others.

Such issues can severely impact our industry; a single win can save builders thousands of dollars on every home they build. Likewise, a single loss can cost builders thousands of dollars on every home they build.

Below is a list of some of the more significant advocacy victories NAHB has achieved recently in terms of monetary impact. Please note that the dollar values below are based on averages across the industry and that these numbers do not necessarily apply in all areas of the country. 

1.      Challenge to EPA storm water regulations saved builders $1,970 on each home built. 

2.      Advocacy on form 1099 reporting requirements saved each member $230 per year.

3.      Saved Remodelers $260 per room on lead testing requirement.

4.      Flood insurance victory will preserve 10,100 new home sales in 2013.

5.      Fire sprinkler victories will save $6,316 per home in some areas in 2013.

6.      Supreme Court win could save $200,000 for those seeking wetlands permits.

7.      Higher FHA loan limit saved 6,300 new home sales in 2012.

8.      Elimination of visitability porch requirement will save $1,350 per home.

These represent just a fraction of the issues that NAHB addresses on an ongoing basis. More details on these and other NAHB initiatives are available on the following pages. In addition, NAHB continues to advance the policy priorities determined by its Board of Directors.

A Closer Look at NAHB’s Value

NAHB logged significant victories advocating for members in the legal, legislative and regulatory arenas during 2012. It leveraged the association’s power to testify before Congress and shine a light on key issues, got pro-housing bills introduced and passed, challenged regulations that do more harm than good, and leveled the playing field against powerful interests that could put struggling builders, remodelers and their suppliers  out of business.

NAHB’s advocacy efforts saved the typical home builder roughly $7,250 per housing start in 2012, including both single-family and multifamily. Below are just a few examples of NAHB policy victories that led to big savings for builders and remodelers. Note that the dollar values below are based on averages across the industry. These numbers do not necessarily apply in all areas of the country.

1.     NAHB challenge to EPA storm water regulations saved builders $1,970 on each home built. NAHB actions related to EPA storm water regulations helped builders with their bottom line. Following regulatory and legal challenges by NAHB, the EPA acknowledged that the government did not have sufficient data to support a numeric limit for storm water discharges. EPA then withdrew its onerous proposed numeric limit, an action that saved builders $1,970 on each home built in 2012.

2.     NAHB advocacy on form 1099 reporting requirements saved each member $230 per year. Another example of savings comes in tax policy. Expanded 1099 reporting requirements in the tax code would have required companies to file a 1099 form for every corporate purchase over $600 in 2012. NAHB strongly objected to the reporting requirement, and it was removed. This saved members roughly $230 – and countless administrative headaches – per year.

3.      NAHB saved Remodelers $260 per room on lead testing requirement. In a victory for NAHB Remodelers, the EPA rejected a proposal to add third-party clearance testing to the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, a requirement that would cost NAHB members $260 per professionally remodeled room (923,000 rooms in 2012). This issue concerns a requirement for a “swipe test” following professional remodeling in all pre-1978 houses. This rule was expected to cost $260 per professionally remodeled room and that, according to the EPA, would cost $400 million nationwide.

Thus, annual savings are: $260 x the number of rooms to be professionally remodeled in 2012 = Total 2012 savings. NAHB estimates that 60% of remodeling work was done professionally (2009 American Housing Survey) and that 1.5 million rooms were remodeled in 2012. That saved the industry $240 million in 2012.

4.     Flood insurance win will preserve 10,100 new home sales in 2013. NAHB advocacy averted the loss of approximately 10,100 new home sales that would have been prevented by the expiration of the NFIP. The National Flood Insurance Program has endured many short term lapses in recent years, which caused costly delays for home builders and buyers and even resulted in canceled sales. Reauthorizing the program for five years will prevent such lapses and the resulting delays and sale cancellations.

NAHB also worked with lawmakers to successfully remove unfair requirements that would have caused countless owners of property behind dams or levees to purchase coverage regardless of flood risk.

NAHB’s efforts on the National Flood Insurance Program saved NAHB members $2.42 billion in gross revenue in 2013 by preserving the sales of approximately 10,100 newly constructed home sales that would not have occurred otherwise due to higher costs for home buyers in these areas ($60,000 on average).

5.     Fire sprinkler victories will save $6,316 per home in areas where the victories have been achieved. Since a requirement for residential fire sprinklers was adopted in the 2009 and 2012 IRC, NAHB’s Construction, Codes and Standards staff has worked with state and local associations to defeat mandatory sprinkler requirements in many states. The Construction Codes and Standards staff maintains an online record of states where sprinkler mandates have been defeated. In these areas, builders will save an average of $6,316 per home, based on the average in the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s “Home Fire Cost Assessment Study” (which includes costs of design, permits, additional equipment needed, and increased tap and water fees; but not a builder’s overhead, profit margin, or possible increases in financing costs or broker fees).

6.     Supreme Court win could save $200,000 for those seeking wetlands permits. Agreeing with NAHB arguments (submitted in the form of two amicus briefs) that a property owner who receives a Compliance Order from the EPA should be able to obtain judicial review in court, the U.S. Supreme Court on March 21 handed down a unanimous decision in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that brought relief to property owners on this matter. The case means that any builder who receives a Clean Water Act Compliance order can challenge that order in federal court. In addition, whereas builders have previously had no place to turn when the EPA or Army Corps determines that a wetland or water body on their property falls under the agency’s jurisdiction, they may now be able to seek relief in court. For builders who seek judicial review and win relief in court, savings from not being forced to file a wetlands permit can exceed $200,000. 

7.     Higher loan limit saves 6,300 new home sales in 2012. Home builders and buyers won an important victory in late 2011 when Congress restored higher loan limits through 2013 for FHA-backed mortgages. NAHB advocacy prevented the loss of 6,300 new home sales in 2012 and the reduction of prices of another 20,000 new home sales. NAHB estimates three impacts from the higher FHA loan limits. (1) Sales of more than 1,300 newly constructed homes would not have occurred in 2012 if the loan limits had not been restored. (2) Just over 20,000 home sales would have occurred, but the higher finance costs would have reduced demand, lowering purchase prices by approximately 6% on average. (3) Finally, about 13,000 owners of existing homes in high cost areas would have been unable to sell their homes. That would have resulted in the loss of more than 5,000 new home sales to trade-up buyers. The total value for the industry was $1.904 billion in 2012. 

8.     Elimination of accessibility porch requirement will save $1,350 per home. Some advocates have lobbied heavily in recent years to include provisions in the IRC to make all new homes “visitable” to disabled persons, regardless of whether or not disabled persons were likely to live in or visit the home. NAHB opposed these efforts and kept visitability provisions out of both the 2009 and 2012 IRC. One of the provisions that NAHB kept out of the code called for a zero clearance entrance, which in turn would require a 4x4 front porch to prevent water from entering the house. Using a front porch estimator available from A.D. Construction, Inc., NAHB staff estimated that the cost of the 4x4 porch needed for a zero-clearance entrance would average $1,350, and that a builder would save that amount on a home normally built without a front porch in areas that have adopted the 2009 or 2012 versions of the code.

These are just a few of the more than 100 advocacy issues and initiatives that NAHB was engaged in over the last year. Other NAHB efforts include:

Sensible Fall Protection Regulations from OSHA. NAHB is committed to training and educating its members on how to reduce fall-related injuries and to comply with OSHA regulations. NAHB has been working closely with OSHA on its fall protection regulations for the construction industry. These rules affect all segments of the industry, including single-family home builders, multifamily builders and remodelers. It is important that OSHA rules provide for safety and compliance without being excessively burdensome. NAHB is urging OSHA to review its fall protection standard to make it more effective, less burdensome, and more easily understood, implemented and enforced. The standard should also recognize that alternative fall protection methods should be a viable option in certain situations.

Working for Flexible, Cost-Effective Building Codes. Keeping building codes flexible, cost-effective and product-neutral remains a top NAHB priority. Every year, NAHB analyzes thousands of proposed codes from mandatory fire sprinklers to energy conservation rules and prevents requirements that could add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building a new home without any appreciable benefit to home buyers. According to the NAHB Research Center’s 2012 IECC Cost Effectiveness Analysis, the additional cost to build a home to the 2012 IECC relative to the 2006 IECC is $7,034. The majority of that increase – $5,668 – is associated with the changes between the 2009 and 2012 versions of the IECC. NAHB’s successful effort to prevent widespread adoption of the 2012 IECC energy code in several states was a victory for sensible, flexible, cost-effective regulation.

Homeownership Campaign Reaches More than 25 Million Americans. NAHB launched a nationwide Protect Homeownership campaign in 2012 to safeguard the mortgage interest deduction and other pro-housing policies. The successful campaign attracted thousands of policymakers, business owners, community leaders and consumers to learn the facts, sign a petition and attend rallies in political swing states this election year. Overall, NAHB was able to reach more than 25 million Americans through newspapers, radio and television news and social media. Our efforts to elevate housing on the national agenda sent a powerful message to the media and members of Congress: Americans value homeownership, and lawmakers need to support pro-housing policies that will create jobs, help local communities to flourish and make it easier for buyers to purchase homes.

Taking the Lead to Ensure that Appraisals Accurately Reflect Market Values. 

Acting aggressively to identify solutions to improve the accuracy of appraisals, NAHB’s Appraisal Working Group is focusing on changes in the areas of regulation and oversight, appraisal practices and standards, appraiser education and experience requirements, and data and technology. Meanwhile, NAHB is calling on Congress and regulators to strengthen appraiser qualifications, develop new appraisal standards and oversight, and create an expedited appeals process.

NAHB has developed tools to help members secure accurate appraisals and continues to hammer home the message to lawmakers, regulators, banks and the appraisal industry that distressed properties should not be compared to new homes. Builders should not be losing sales to an appraisal process gone awry. NAHB continues to make progress with regulators and members of the appraisal industry to correct these major flaws in the appraisal process, ensure that appraisals accurately reflect true market values and prevent builders from losing sales due to faulty appraisals. For more information, go to www.nahb.org/appraisals.

Keeping Credit Flowing for Home Builders. Ensuring there is sufficient credit to produce new homes is essential to keeping builders in business. Because the difficulty of accessing and maintaining construction credit continues to be a major obstacle for home builders and the housing recovery in general, NAHB has been aggressively pushing for solutions to this crisis on both the regulatory and legislative fronts. NAHB worked with lawmakers in the last Congress to introduce legislation to address the credit issue for home builders and will seek to build on that foundation in the 113th Congress.

Meanwhile, NAHB is leading the effort to help its members find alternative sources of financing so that they can obtain the necessary financing they need to stay in business. NAHB has identified several companies that are offering financing to builders, and we have provided members with a list of non-traditional lenders willing to finance home construction. NAHB also has developed a web-based toolkit for people seeking AD&C funds from local investors such as family, friends and other high net worth individual investors. That toolkit is now available at nahb.org/FundingToolkit. 
The bottom line: Mortgage liquidity is the lifeblood of the housing industry. If builders can’t get housing production loans, they can’t build homes and they can’t stay in business. For more information, go to www.nahb.org/adc.

Lead Paint Rule Opt Out Provision Would Save Industry Millions in Compliance Costs. NAHB is in the forefront in preventing expensive, pointless regulations from impeding home building and remodeling. And no other organization has been as active in seeking sensible regulation of lead paint abatement. Just reinstating the lead paint rule opt-out provision for homes not occupied by children or pregnant women would save the industry $336 million annually in compliance costs.

Working with the Media to Boost Consumer Confidence in Housing. Setting the record straight on the housing recovery so that home buyers aren’t frightened away by negative stories in the media is an association priority. NAHB introduced the Improving Markets Index to educate the public about the increasing number of metro areas experiencing growth in jobs, starts and home prices as proof that housing is moving in the right direction.

Ensuring that Home Buyers Have Access to Affordable Mortgages. NAHB took the lead in keeping mortgages affordable and available to credit-worthy home buyers by telling Congress and the public the truth about ill-considered proposals on housing finance reform. Tightening mortgage lending standards and transitioning away from the federal backstop of the housing finance system could crush the home building industry and delay the American Dream of homeownership for hundreds of thousands of families. NAHB has presented lawmakers a detailed proposal on restructuring the housing finance system to provide a consistent supply of mortgage liquidity and retain a federal backstop while limiting taxpayer exposure.

NAHB Takes Fight for Property Owners to Highest Court in the Land. Fighting on behalf of property owners, NAHB on Nov. 28, 2012, filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, a landmark case that will have major implications for land developers across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the extent to which government can require a home builder or developer to pay money or make improvements to off-site land miles away from their own property before they can develop their own land.

The filing in support of Koontz and the rights of all property owners details how the defendant has overstepped its bounds. “No matter how well intentioned the government may be, the Constitution was not designed to make government’s life easier at the expense of private citizens,” the brief said. “Plainly, there must be some limit on the ability of government agencies to impose conditions on the issuance of permits. Otherwise, no citizen’s rights as to anything would be secure.” The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by June 30, 2013.

Top Notch Education at Below-Market Costs. Giving members the tools they need to succeed, NAHB members paid discounted rates for more than 800 NAHB education classes held throughout the year at local home building associations across the country – and got top-notch instruction on topics from OSHA compliance and setting up a business plan to universal design and marketing to seniors. 

In addition, members enjoyed free access to national webinar presentations on this year’s economic outlook, help with the appraisal process, AD&C financing and other issues. In all, NAHB has produced more than three dozen webinars (either free or offered to members at a low cost) on industry issues, trends and best practices. In recent polling of NAHB members who participated in the webinars, 98 percent said they will be able to apply what they learned to their job.

GM Affinity Program Saves Members $2 Million. Putting members in the driver’s seat, the NAHB General Motors affinity program saved members more than $2 million on the purchase of GM vehicles in 2012. Those who took advantage of this program saved $500 on their auto purchase, which more than offset the cost of their national membership dues. Further, hundreds of local dealers have joined NAHB, and many have helped to recruit new members by promoting this valuable offer and getting involved in their local HBA.

Networking Opportunities Boost the Bottom Line. Offering unparalleled networking opportunities, the NAHB 20 Clubs are comprised of similar type builders or remodelers from non-competing markets who meet several times a year to share their wisdom and learn from each other in order to improve their operations and increase their bottom lines. Statistics indicate that 20 Club members perform better than non-members in financial growth and long-term success. Members share and compare financial information, look for trouble spots, and offer each other advice on how to increase their profit ratios and improve their performance. A builder testimonial: “The 20 Club program is a necessity for any builder in any market. The program has not only helped me keep the lights on, but has helped me grow my business over 350% throughout the downturn. Gaining advice from peers in other markets across the country who face the same challenges I face is invaluable.”

Professional Designations Keep Builders a Step Ahead of the Competition. Helping members to stand out, NAHB offers several professional designation programs that enable NAHB members to set themselves apart from the competition and establish themselves as an expert in their particular field. Offerings include the Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Graduate Master Builder, Certified Green Professional, Certified Graduate Remodeler and more. In a 2012 NAHB consumer survey, 83 percent of home buyers said that contractors with professional designations are more “professional and credible,” and 64 percent said that contractors with professional designations are “worth paying a higher price for.”

A Website That Better Meets the Needs of Members. Ensuring that the association delivers relevant and timely information to all of its constituencies and audiences, NAHB is creating a new state-of-the-art website that meets the complex needs of its members and is scalable to meet the future needs of the industry.
The Year Ahead: As Congress tackles tax reform, NAHB will be deeply engaged in the debate and will work to protect current housing incentives. Moreover, the debate on how to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and determine the future role of the U.S. housing finance system is also expected to be front and center. Actively involved in this matter, NAHB has moved preemptively by issuing a white paper on restructuring the housing finance system that seeks an appropriate federal role to ensure a reliable and adequate flow of affordable housing credit. NAHB will continue to meet with Administration officials, members of Congress and federal regulators to advance these goals in the coming year. NAHB will also continue to work with all relevant stakeholders to seek major reforms in appraisal practices and oversight to ensure that appraisals accurately reflect true market values and don’t contribute to price volatility.


Sandy said...

When we bring this article up there are several broken links in it.

Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP said...

Which links? I just went over them and they all work for me.

Mike Kurpiel

John The Builder said...

Michael, I found your presentation here easier to navigate than anything I typically see on the NAHB site.
Thanks for posting this, and keep up the good work.