Through The Roof The average U.S. home price increased 9.36 percent from the second quarter of 2003 through the second quarter of 2004—the fastest four-quarter increase since 1979, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. In contrast, the price of other goods and services only increased 3.03 percent during that period. The four states experiencing the greatest increases this past year were Nevada, Hawaii, California, and Rhode Island. The smallest increases in the second quarter of 2004 occurred in Utah, Texas, and Indiana. No state experienced negative quarterly growth during the same period.

KB's One-Stop Registration Los Angeles-based KB Home announced a national, non-partisan initiative to provide voter registration forms to new home buyers, many of whom must update their voter registration information after they move. KB Home CEO Bruce Karatz called the program, “a logical extension of our one-stop-shop home buying model, which allows our customers to easily take care of their needs under one roof.”

In August, KB tested the initiative in a successful pilot program in Las Vegas. The builder is also distributing registration forms to the general public. The forms will be available at KB Home sales offices across the country.

EPA Storms In The EPA will start rigorously enforcing stormwater permit requirements for construction site operators that disturb one or more acres of land and have water leaving their site. David Rockman, a Pittsburgh attorney who monitors EPA regulations, warns that the agency may soon be looking for a few “headline” enforcement actions against large companies or developments to publicize the requirement of a general permit authorized under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The permit requirement now applies to developments of one to five acres, including non-contiguous sites.

“It has the potential to catch people on projects where they've never needed a permit before,” Rockman warns.

Ryland Rises Moody's Investors Service raised its senior implied rating on The Ryland Group of Calabasas, Calif., from Ba1 to Baa3. Moody's stated, “The company's financial results and profile have shown sustained improvement in recent years. At the same time as it has been reducing its home building debt leverage (debt/capital and debt/EBITDA) to among the lowest in its peer group, Ryland has managed to increase its returns (ROE and ROA) to among the best in its group."

Moody's announcement also noted that the company has had seven consecutive years of revenue and earnings growth, like many others in the home building industry. “A key difference, however, is that Ryland's growth was all organic, which reflected a conscious management decision to deemphasize acquisitions, concentrate on internal growth, and manage the balance sheet so as to continue reducing its debt leverage,” Moody's stated.

Bradshaw Picks Builder Terry Bradshaw spotlighted First Home Builders of Cape Coral, Fla., on national television's “Pick of the Week,” a network news series hosted by Bradshaw, a sports analyst and four-time Super Bowl champion. The program aired on CNBC in late August.

“First Home Builders' innovative business practices combined with their dedication to putting homes within the reach of more people were just two of the reasons they were selected for the national cable series,” said Doreen Stevenson, director of operations at Broadcast News Channel, which produces “Pick of the Week.”

Fortune's Fastest Big builders were widely represented in Fortune magazine's 16th annual list of the country's fastest-growing companies, which was released Sept. 6. Joining the list for the first time: Pulte Homes. Both Hovnanian Enterprises and Orleans Homebuilders made the list for the third year in a row; Meritage Corp. made its fourth appearance on the list in six years. Here's where builders ranked based on a combination of annual revenue, earnings, and stock performance measures over the past three years:

Safety Site The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a Web site containing information and tips specifically aimed at the safety and health of workers in the nation's residential construction industry. The service was created with guidance from the NAHB and went live in August.

OSHA's Residential Construction Safety and Health Web site features information about OSHA standards that apply to residential construction as well as the hazards present in residential construction and solutions available to the home building industry as a whole. It also provides information about electrical safety, fall protection, fire safety, forklift safety, hand and power tool safety, scaffolding safety, personal protective equipment, and developing and implementing safety programs. Visit for more information.

Gender Bender Finally, the room everyone loved to hate is getting some respect. The laundry room is moving upstairs, sporting pricey options, and even attracting the attention of, believe it or not, men. The emergence of high-powered washers and dryers in black, stainless steel, and blue has made men more interested in laundry rooms. Research conducted by Maytag reveals that men play a major role in more than half of its top-of-the-line sales, but men only constitute 40 percent to 45 percent of purchases involving standard units. The findings reinforce NAHB research showing laundry rooms, which were once about 50 square feet in size, now often take up six times that amount of space.

Correction The photos in “Managed Chaos” (July, page 76) were incorrectly identified. They are of McMillin Homes' Liberty Station community.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.