Bubil: Less-visible indicators of housing's health


LAS VEGAS — Statistics released by the government and trade associations — regarding GDP, unemployment rates, housing starts and home sales — get all the headlines, but I have found over many years covering real estate that two little-noticed facts are as good an indicator of the health of the housing industry as those newsy numbers.

One is the size of the Herald-Tribune's two real estate sections. For the past two weeks, the Saturday section has had 36 pages, as compared to 24 pages for the same two weeks a year ago. This section has four more pages than it did in the same week in 2012.

Another little-noticed indicator is the attendance at the International Builders Show, the 2013 edition of which concluded here Thursday.

A year ago, about 55,000 people attended IBS in Orlando. This year, an estimated 62,000 came.

That is measurable improvement. By contrast, in 2006, at the height of the housing bubble, 115,000 people attended the IBS show in Orlando.

Back then, the National Association of Home Builders had about 235,000 members. Now it has 140,000. That is about 95,000 people who are either saving money on association dues or doing something other than building, developing, selling or designing new homes, or making and selling products with which to build or furnish them.

Many people here commented that the people attending the event with them also seemed to be in a better mood than in recent years.

Perhaps that can be attributed to improving conditions in the housing market. Or it just could be Las Vegas, which for many adults offers a more appealing entertainment venue.

Aside from the casinos and the entertainment (comedian and presidential candidate Roseanne Barr is now playing the Tropicana, where I stayed), I do not know why the IBS has decided to hold its convention in Las Vegas for the next three years, before returning to Orlando for two. The Orange County Convention Center, besides being bigger, is much more attractive and convenient than the Las Vegas Convention Center, in my view. In Vegas, you have to take a cab or bus to many of the hotels.

But while IBS intends to shift back and forth between the two cities, it won't be alone in Sin City, at least for the near future, maybe longer.

For the next three years, IBS will "co-locate" with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, which usually draws about 20,000 attendees.

That should make the taxi-cab lines here even longer, and the action in the casinos even hotter.


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: January 26, 2013
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