When National Home Remodeling Month kicked off in May, which highlights the benefits of hiring a professional remodeler, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers released survey results on the most popular remodeling jobs by its members. The results revealed that bathroom and kitchen remodels remain the most popular projects.

“Whatever type of home improvement project consumers are looking for, NAHB Remodelers remains committed to professionalism and helping home owners create the home of their dreams,” said NAHB Remodelers Chair Mike Pressgrove, a remodeler from Topeka, Kan.

Bathroom remodels were cited as a common job by 65% of remodelers, followed by kitchen remodels (61%). After baths and kitchens, the most popular remodeling categories were:

• Whole house remodels (50%)
• Bathroom additions (23%)
• Windows/doors replacement (22%)
• Decks (20%)
• Enclosed/added porch (20%)

“There are many positive factors right now in the marketplace that are helping to support remodeling demand, including the low inventory of homes on the market, aging housing stock and growing equity that owners have in their homes,” said Pressgrove. “Residential remodeling activity is estimated to hold steady in 2024 compared to 2023.”

As homeowners continue to invest in updating their homes, remodelers can promote the value in working with highly skilled professionals to complete these projects using NAHB’s National Home Remodeling Month Toolkit. It provides resources that remodelers can use to build local media campaigns that help elevate the industry. Consumers will find tips on how to choose a professional remodeler and where to locate them in their area.

Recently the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs informed Residential Warranty Company, LLC (RWC) that we are responsible to verify ownership of the new home that is being sold to the new home owner(s) in the state of New Jersey, before issuing any warranty paperwork. This requirement is per Directive 15, dated June 26, 2018.

The directive indicates that we can accept a copy of the contract for sale or a copy of the deed. A construction contract may be used when there is no transfer of title. This is typical when the homeowner owns the land and contracts with a builder to build a new home for his or her own personal use and occupancy.

Effective May 1, 2024, RWC will require this proof before issuing the NJ Affidavit to obtain your Certificate of Occupancy, the RWC Application for Enrollment form, and Limited Warranty booklet. Warranty Express will have an option for you to upload these documents or they can be emailed to NJDocs@RWCWarranty.com

Any questions should be directed to Ron Sweigert at 800-247-1812, x2178.

NAHB, a leader in safety and health education and compliance assistance for residential construction, has released a new mobile tool called the NAHB Jobsite Safety Handbook. This application — available in both the Apple and Google Play app stores — was built to help home builders, contractors, and workers identify safe work practices.

This app covers the main safety issues residential builders and trade contractors need to focus on to reduce worksite accidents and injuries. Information is meant to provide a basic guide to understanding and conforming with the federal safety and health requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA standards and regulations.

The app features resources for both classroom learning and on-the-job compliance, such as NAHB’s full Jobsite Safety Handbook, more than 50 safety video toolbox talks, all NAHBNow safety content, and an interactive quiz for users to test their safety knowledge. The app’s content is available in 15 languages.

This handy new app is a great tool for home builders and managers to engage workers onsite. Use the video content during safety stand downs on specific topics, or have new employees or trades take a “pop quiz” on jobsite safety in the app.

The NAHB Jobsite Safety Handbook app is free to download for both members and non-members.

The tragic March 26 collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, following a collision with a massive container ship that lost power, is expected to cause supply-chain disruptions.

Imports will not be able to enter the port, and exports cannot leave as the collapsed bridge blocks the primary route into the Baltimore port. Imported commodities from overseas will need to be diverted to other ports of entry.

Based on Census data, the United States imported more than $3.08 trillion worth of goods from overseas. Baltimore imported $58.8 billion worth of goods in 2023, making it the 5th largest port of entry on the eastern seaboard and 15th largest overall in the U.S.

Baltimore’s largest import for 2023 was personal motor vehicles ($22.47 billion import value), followed by heavy duty machinery such as bulldozers and excavators ($3.62 billion). Unwrought aluminum was the 5th highest valued import for Baltimore at $1.25 billion.

Top imports related to the home building industry include:

• Plywood, veneered panels and similar laminated wood ($425.07 million), which represents 16% of the U.S. total import value for 2023, making it the most important port for plywood imports.

• Gypsum ($23.99 million), representing 14% of the U.S. total import value for 2023 and the highest level of gypsum imports for any U.S. port.

• Sawn lumber ($198.22 million), which represents 3% of the U.S. total import value for 2023, making Baltimore the 11th most important port for sawn lumber imports.

Other items of note include electrical transformers ($263.74 million), which represents less than 1% of the U.S. total import value.

NAHB will continue to monitor the data and provide updates as they become available.

With the prices of existing homes remaining largely unaffordable, the number of available home listings shrinking, and record high mortgage rates, potential homebuyers are looking to newly constructed homes to fill the gap. As a result, builders are expected to meet the rising demand for new homes while also dealing with soaring construction costs. The solution? New homes are being built smaller and much closer together than before.

It’s important to note that America’s housing affordability crisis has not surfaced suddenly. Many experts believe the problem snowballed since the Great Recession and has reached a precarious situation – at present, many families earning the median annual income can no longer afford to buy a home in any of the major markets, not to mention younger, first-time homebuyers.

A shift has occurred in the conventional thought process regarding what a home should look like and how it should function. For example, more emphasis is being placed on elements such as natural light rather than a targeted bedroom count or specific floor plan. And to address the smaller footprint, builders are allocating more space to heavily trafficked areas. Instead of building a formal dining room, the focus is shifting to larger kitchen islands with seating, and primary bedrooms with walk-in closets are being sacrificed for an additional small bedroom or home office.

Not only are builders addressing affordability for buyers, but they’re also doing so for themselves. Relative to 2019 levels, costs for builders are still up around 35%. By reducing the size of the homes that are built, material costs can be kept at a more manageable level.

Fortunately, builders' ability to pivot quickly amid the higher interest rate environment should be good news for hopeful home buyers. Small and micro homes help keep housing prices affordable, require fewer materials to build and lower utilities to live comfortably, while also encouraging the forward-thinking concept of living with less “stuff.”

Check out building/warranty/industry news, RWC announcements, upcoming events, etc.

Millennia ago when solar eclipses caused the world, or at least the little piece of it occupied by a primitive culture, to slip into darkness as the sun disappeared in the middle of the day, ancient man often saw it as a mystical battle among gods or as an omen of bad times to come. Ancient Chinese believed that a dragon had attacked and devoured the sun. In India, a common belief was that a demon named Rahu disguised himself as a woman for the purpose of crashing a banquet of the gods, where he hoped to drink all the gods’ nectar. A major god Vishnu caught onto Rahu’s plan, cut off his head and hurled it across the sky. Ancient Indians believed that it was Rahu’s decapitated head that blocked out the sun. According to a Native American Choctaw legend, a mischievous squirrel gnawed on the sun, which caused it to slowly disappear.

The reactions to eclipses by our early forebears were even more bizarre than their explanations for the celestial events. Mayan rulers would cut themselves, collect their blood and offer it as a sacrifice to whichever god needed placated. Aztecs would become hysterical and sacrifice the people among them with the fairest hair and the lightest skin, which they believed kept demons from descending from the sky and eating everyone. In Mesopotamia and in Greece, after having developed the ability to predict that an eclipse was coming, the king would place an imposter on the throne as a decoy to fool the gods and keep any bad omens from affecting the real king. When the eclipse passed, the imposter was usually killed.

Even those cultures who did not engage in barbaric practices like blood-letting and human sacrifice saw eclipses as omens. As late as 1598, when William Shakespeare wrote King Lear, the king remarked that “these late eclipses in the sun and the moon portend no good to us.” This was the view of most societies since the beginning of time. There were exceptions like the Batammaliba people of West Africa, who believed that the eclipse occurred because the gods were angry with people for fighting with each other. During and after an eclipse, villagers would put petty arguments aside, stop fighting with their neighbors, and even give each other gifts.

The recent solar eclipse that carved a path of totality across the United States demonstrates how far modern man has come in his understanding of the universe. Many years of observation and study allow us now to predict not just when an eclipse will occur, but also how much of the sun will be blocked by the moon in any location around the globe. Thus, some of our friends and co-workers left our home office where there was about 92% coverage of the sun to travel to Cleveland and to eastern Indiana, where they were able to watch the total eclipse. All who chased totality mentioned how awe-inspiring an experience it was.

Rather than fearing and overreacting to an eclipse like ancient man did, 21st Century Americans can plan for, travel to, and embrace a total eclipse for what it is--an awesome display of the universal and physical principles by which our universe works. And we can do that because for centuries mankind looked at the sky, asked questions about what was happening, and eventually figured it out through hard work and study.
This same principle applies to business, and particularly to the business of home building. We have heard friends oversimplify it this way: “You build a home and sell it for more than it cost to build.” Those folks might just as well believe that a squirrel ate the sun on April 8th or that the fender-bender they had last week was foretold by the eclipse. We know better. But do we know enough or all that we can know?

Just like the astronomers and physicists who figured out solar eclipses, every builder should look at his company’s universe and ask hard questions. What kind of homes are people buying now? What are people likely to buy five years from now? What can my potential clients afford to build? Will the price of timber rise or fall in the next year? How will interest rates and the cost of financing affect sales over the next eighteen months? Is the population in my area aging or getting younger on average, and how will that affect my customers’ housing choices? Big houses or small houses? Singles or towns? Town or country?

You get the idea. By asking and answering these kinds of questions, any builder will gain a better understanding of his business and its challenges and will increase his profitability. A good project is to write out twenty such questions (or as many as you can think of) and then put in the study, thought and effort necessary to answer them. We think you will enjoy and benefit from the project. (And you better get to it soon before that squirrel gobbles up the sun!)

If one of the questions you ask yourself is, “How can I best protect my customers and my company from construction defect claims?”, we have the answer for you. Place an RWC warranty on every home you build.

In our more than four decades of home warranty experience RWC has covered more than four million homes. We offer a wide variety of warranty options like our standard ten-year warranty, our Day 1 coverage warranty, our extended appliance and system warranties, and our specialty warranties for remodeling projects, detached garages, and commercial construction. Only RWC has developed and offers its members a customized state warranty that mirrors each state’s statute of repose and accommodates other state specific issues. All RWC warranties provide clear performance standards that help create realistic homeowner expectations and provide a road map to resolving even the stickiest customer complaints.

At RWC, every guarantee our warranties make is backed by Western Pacific Mutual Insurance Company, RRG. Western Pacific has an A- rating from A. M. Best and only insures home warranty and similar new home construction risks, like builders’ general liability, which can be offered through the RWC Insurance Advantage program to RWC members. No other warranty company has an insurer with this kind of strength solely dedicated to covering builders and their homes.

Don’t be eclipsed by your competitors. Give your customers the best warranty under the sun—an RWC warranty.

Have a wonderful Summer!

The building sector in New Jersey is undergoing a dramatic transition in 2024, one that is focused more on innovation, sustainability, and community-centered development. Statewide, developers and architects are adopting a number of ideas that are changing both the built environment and how people live and work.

The use of green building techniques has made sustainability a prominent theme in architectural design. Buildings are being constructed with the least amount of negative environmental impact and maximum energy efficiency in mind. This covers passive design principles and the use of environmentally friendly materials.

Smart building technologies are at the forefront of innovation and have fundamentally altered the way buildings work. By optimizing energy consumption, enhancing security, and improving occupant comfort, IoT devices and advanced automation systems are helping to create more responsive, efficient, and user-friendly buildings.

Mixed-use developments—which combine residential, commercial, and recreational spaces—are growing in popularity, especially in urban areas. With the help of these projects, communities will be able to live, work, and play close to one another, promoting convenience and a sense of community.

The growth of adaptive reuse projects, which entail converting pre-existing buildings—such warehouses and factories—into new spaces like lofts, offices, or cultural centers, is another noteworthy development. By preserving the architectural history of the past and meeting modern needs, these initiatives help to preserve the uniqueness and individuality of the local community.

All things considered, these architectural innovations demonstrate a dedication to creativity, environmental responsibility, and neighborhood involvement, influencing New Jersey's construction scene going forward.

The days of supply chain shortages may be in the rearview mirror, but a new challenge now plagues the construction industry - an increasing lack of skilled construction labor. To meet market demand, the construction industry needs approximately 723,000 new workers each year. The number of open construction sector jobs currently averages between 300,000 to 400,000 every month.

Home Builders Care, the charitable arm of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, recently opened the Home Building Academy in Phoenix. Here students participate in a nine-week, rapid worker training, resulting in industry-recognized certificates in either carpentry or electrical work. The academy is tuition-free for qualified students, and students maintaining “satisfactory” academic progress will receive a weekly stipend for living expenses. Successful graduates will also receive a set of tools, boots, work clothes, and personal protective equipment.

But is simply providing the avenue of study enough of a draw to the next generation of potential contractors? To answer that question, one must understand the mindset and motivations of the Millennial and Gen Z generations. They are digital natives who grew up with the internet and technology and are used to constant stimulation and fast-paced living. They also value work-life balance, diversity, and flexibility in the workplace, and seek to make a social impact through work. They expect employers to care about their well-being. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are important. To attract and retain the next generation of workers, companies must take steps to adapt their workplaces and recruiting practices to meet these needs and values.

A company’s brand and reputation can be just as important as its salary or benefits. While a company can have a fantastic reputation with clients, it’s irrelevant if young workers don’t have the same perception. If they feel like it’s not keeping up with modern trends or providing them with the opportunity to make an impact, they may be less inclined to work there. To overcome this barrier, companies must take a proactive approach to build a positive market reputation and brand. This may involve volunteer projects, community partnerships, social media presence, or other marketing initiatives highlighting the company’s values and commitment to progress.

Young workers are drawn to companies that have transparent, inclusive cultures where employees feel valued and respected. One way to create this type of workplace is by investing in opportunities for professional development. For example, offering classes on topics like leadership and management, communication, digital technologies, or DEI. Allowing workers to develop their own ideas and solutions can also help foster a sense of belonging, ownership, and engagement in company culture.

Today’s young workers also seek companies that can provide career growth and development opportunities. They need to know that their job is important to the company’s success and that they’re not just a number. Offer mentorship, growth, and development opportunities such as hiring or promoting individuals with knowledge and expertise in a certain area, pairing young workers with more experienced employees, or offering training workshops to improve their skills and help them advance in their careers.

And, let’s face it, money is always a huge motivating factor. No one is looking to work for free, and if compensation or benefits packages don’t meet expectations, employees are quick to leave. At a minimum, to attract a young construction crew, a company should be offering competitive base salaries and benefits packages. This may include things like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans. Disability and life insurance and other perks, such as gym memberships, health and wellness programs, or free lunches, are another way to set a company apart.

Millennials and Gen Zers are tech-savvy and expect construction companies to be as up-to-date and innovative when it comes to technology, just as they are in other industries. The construction industry is often slow-paced when it comes to adopting new technologies, but if they want to attract and retain the best young talent, they need to start investing in technology that will help them stay competitive.

Then there is the actual hiring process - most construction companies rely only on traditional recruitment methods, such as job boards or recruiting agencies. But the reality is that only a fraction of available talent will appear on these lists - and they may not be the best candidates for a company. To attract and retain young workers, a more proactive approach needs to be taken. Build relationships with local universities and colleges, offer internships, co-op programs, or attend job fairs. Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to engage with potential candidates and share information about company culture and opportunities. Host recruitment events or offer internship programs to connect with young workers and give them a chance to see what working in construction is like.

Attracting and retaining construction workers has never been easy. But by focusing on the needs and preferences of younger workers, investing in a company’s culture and workplace environment, and actively reaching out to potential employees helps the industry build a strong team of young talent that will help an organization thrive for years to come.

Check out building / warranty /  industry news, RWC announcements, upcoming events, etc.