The Industry Box September 2016
Pending U.S. Home Sales Strengthened in July
More Americans signed contracts to purchase homes in July, a sign that demand for home ownership remains strong despite a shortage of listings on the market.
According to the National Association of Realtors, its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.3 percent in July to 111.3, the highest reading since April. In addition, the index of upcoming sales increased 1.3 percent from a year ago.
The number of signed contracts improved in the Northeast, South, and West, while pending sales dipped in the Midwest.
Housing has staged a solid rebound in prices and sales this year, but the real estate market still faces potential challenges as fewer properties are being listed for sale. Sales listings have slumped 5.8 percent from a year ago to 2.13 million. The shortage means that many buyers are paying higher prices and scrambling to make offers sooner.
Yet with a growth in sales contracts, an increase in home purchases is likely on the horizon. A sale is typically completed a month or two after a contract is signed — suggesting that finished sales should rebound after slipping in July.
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HUD Proposes Lowering Acceptable Lead Level for Children
The nation's top housing official is proposing lowering the level of lead that must be detected in children's blood before triggering federal action to clean up the homes where they live.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro made the announcement after touring homes where lead paint hazards have been cleaned up using federal funds.
The proposal would reduce the level that triggers intervention from 20 micrograms per deciliter of blood to 5.
Castro said the revisions will "allow us to act more quickly to make certain the homes we support are as safe as possible. The rule would also require a full environmental investigation rather than just a basic lead assessment, allowing us to more effectively locate and remediate the source of lead exposure."
Castro said that after a 60-day public comment period, the proposed change could affect about 2.9 million subsidized and public housing units built before the country's 1978 ban on residential lead paint. Any time there is a child under 6 years old living in HUD-assisted housing and found to have elevated lead blood levels above the threshold, the housing provider must report the case so HUD can launch an environmental investigation. If lead paint or soil is found to be the culprit, the hazards must be fixed.
The revisions would align HUD limits with recommendations made in 2012 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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