By Iris Richmond


Contrary to information provided to Big Builder for its May issue ("Suite Arena"), The Home Depot has no plans to carry or market American Standard's Town Square collection. However, The Home Depot has an exclusive bathroom suite collection manufactured by American Standard called "Williamsburg."

Ryland's New Look

New urbanism is on Ryland's radar screen. The Calabasas, Calif.-based company is tackling its third new urbanist project in the Minneapolis area, a 43-acre site called Hawthorne in Apple Valley that will reflect the style behind one of the builder's fastest-growing product types, according to company spokesperson Pam Krebs.

Ryland's plan helped the company win approval over several competitors to develop the site. Instead of the traditional streetscape, the company is creating communities with front-porched homes and curving roads. The project's three attached products will blend together into sub-neighborhoods within the community, rather than being segregated by buyer segments.

Sales begin in May with prices ranging from $150,000 to $300,000.

E-less Again

After successfully navigating through a delisting hearing with NASDAQ, (HOMS) shed the "E" from its ticker symbol. The letter indicated to investors that the company wasn't in compliance with the NASDAQ rule that requires financial reports to be filed in a timely manner. Under Homestore's new management team, led by CEO W. Michael Long, the company's revamped accounting structures are reportedly clean. Restated revenues for 2001 reduced its total revenue by about $39 million to $45 million, and the company's payroll fell from 3,500 to 2,500 employees. Homestore, located in West Lake Village, Calif., broadcasts its first quarter results this month.

Industry Movers and Shakers

Gordon Mitchell becomes Whitemark Homes' first dedicated CFO, responsible for securing debt and equity financing, in addition to managing accounting and finance operations.

Toll Brothers promotes Chicago native Andrew M. Stern to assistant vice president. In his new role, Stern, who helped manage the Chicago division for the past three years, will oversee the entire division's operation.

Lee M. Thomas, former executive vice president of Georgia-Pacific's consumer products, now heads the building products and distribution businesses, a new entity formed as a result of the company's strategic separation of the consumer products and packaging business.

As previously reported, Tim Eller became president and COO of Centex Corp. in April. Eller, a 28-year veteran with the company, retains his title and responsibilities as Centex Homes' chairman. And after 15 years with Centex Corp., vice chairman David Quinn retires but will remain on the board of directors.

Fortress Sells, Baker Buys

After four years as a division of The Fortress Group, Iacobucci Homes has new ownership. As of March 1, it operates under Baker Residential of Pennsylvania, the new, wholly owned subsidiary of the Baker Cos., a developer and builder headquartered in Pleasantville, N.Y., looking to expand. Negotiations began early this year and reached the agreed price of approximately $27 million, which includes $11.6 million in cash and assumption of secured debt. The acquisition ends operations along the East Coast for Fortress, which continues to build in Colorado, Arizona, and Texas.

Iacobucci Homes, located in Havertown, Pa., will continue under the leadership of the Iacobucci cousins, Francis and Edward. The builder sold 232 homes last year in its two markets, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Inland's Edge

In 2001, the Inland Empire captured 40.4 percent of Southern California's new-home market, reports John Husing, head of the economics consulting firm Economics and Politics, in Highland, Calif., who expects this figure to grow dramatically in 2002. Employment and population growth, combined with the most affordable housing in the region, are the critical factors, he says. The Inland Empire should create 42,500 jobs in 2002 ? more than any other metropolitan area in Southern California ? and the population will grow by 1.8 million from 2000 to 2020. That's more people than all but three states (California, Florida, and Texas) will add, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Despite a median income of $73,700 in Orange County, more residents in the Inland Empire, where the median income is $49,900, can pay for a home.

Percent of residents able to afford median-priced home:

(Source: California Association of Realtors)

Inland Empire ? 51%

Ventura County ? 36%

Los Angeles ? 34%

Orange County ? 31%

San Diego County ? 27%

Billions in SoCal

In its latest effort to stimulate homeownership, Fannie Mae intends to tackle affordable housing needs in Southern California. A partnership with CitiMortgage will provide $1 billion in affordable mortgage lending in Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties over the next five years. Under this initiative, CitiMortgage will originate the mortgage loans and Fannie Mae will purchase all the eligible loans.

California's February 2002 housing affordability index stood at 31 percent, down five points from February 2001, and 26 points below the national average, according to the California Association of Realtors.

California Housing Costs

Double-digit home price appreciation pushed the statewide median price to a

record $289,548 in February, a 19.8 percent increase compared to a year ago.

Median Price of Home Month
$289,548 February 2002
$289,517 January
$285,110 December 2001
$274,677 November
$272,319 October
$275,377 September
$277,429 August
$267,275 July
$267,047 June
$253,933 May
$256,022 April
$262,047 March
$241,693 February
Source: California Association of Realtors

Here Comes the Sun

Basements and closets stand to see the light of day. Steven Winter Associate's passive fiber-optic daylighting system brings sunlight to every nook and cranny. By reducing the need for artificial lighting, homeowners will have lower electric bills and better interior air quality, claims the company. The Norwalk, Conn., firm plans to mass produce the product, the winner of the 2002 Science Innovative Housing Technology Award, for less than $1,000.

Published in BIG BUILDER Magazine, June 2002