Door and Window Musings
by Tara Taffera
March 6th, 2008

The Finger Pointing Starts and Stops Here

When I listened to a conference call hosted recently by executives from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) discussing the dire state of the housing market, it was odd to hear NAHB CEO Jerry Howard point fingers at Congress. Howard talked a lot about what lawmakers could have done to prevent the current housing crisis. (CLICK HERE for more on DWM’s news coverage of the conference call.)

“It’s incumbent upon policymakers to take action—actions they could have taken several years ago, and if they had, perhaps we wouldn’t be in such trouble,” Howard said.

However, he did go on to highlight several measures for Congress to take now in an attempt to get the United States out of its current housing crisis.

Howard and NAHB chief economist David Seiders talked a lot about the problem of excess inventory. As I lay in bed that night I couldn’t help doing a little finger pointing of my own.

If we’re going to place blame, isn’t the home-building industry in part responsible? When the housing market was at record highs, builders kept building and building. So shouldn’t they take some responsibility for these excessive inventory levels? Okay, who can blame them? Homebuyers and investors were buying so it makes sense that they would keep building.

And as long as we’re doing this, the mortgage industry made some contributions as well by offering high-risk loans, etc. It is evident from the high rate of foreclosures that many of the receivers of these loans, cannot in fact, repay them. During the call, Seiders stated that, regarding mortgage rates, the outlook is positive but that it will be more difficult for potential buyers to get loans as banks are tightening their standards.

I’m sorry, but it should be difficult. We can’t just keep building new homes and give credit to whoever comes along—that’s why we’re in this mess, isn’t it?

I know hindsight is 20/20, and I won’t just pick on the builders and mortgage lenders. I’m sure there are some door and window manufacturers who overextended themselves in the “fat” years, and are feeling it now in the “lean” years. Maybe there are companies who opened new plants to increase production and now that production has slowed they are forced to close these plants that they invested so heavily in. We’ve all read about companies closing plants, so there’s no doubt this is occurring—in any industry. But what was the alternative? Let the business go elsewhere? Help build a competitor?

So instead of doing more finger pointing—let’s learn from our “mistakes” and move forward. If you’ve taken any lessons from the last year, I’d love to hear from you. Are there things you would have done differently, things that everyone in this and other industries can learn from? (E-mail me at ttaffera@glass.com.) That way when the next boom happens we’ll be ready for the fall that will inevitably come afterward.

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