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The Huntsville, Alabama, metro area is the best place for engineers by far.

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The north Alabama city with the country’s highest concentration of engineers and technology workers was recently named the best place for engineers in the U.S.

NerdWallet ranked Huntsville the nation’s top engineering city in a study published online Monday. The personal finance website, which analyzed 350 metropolitan areas, praised the Rocket City for its heavy engineer base, high average engineering salary and low rent costs.

About 25 miles from Huntsville, Decatur fell at No. 8 on the list, which also featured cities from Georgia, Florida, Michigan, California, Texas, Washington and Ohio.

“The South has a concentration of the best places for engineers,” said NerdWallet author Sreekar Jasthi. “Six of the top 10 places on our list were in southern states. Most of these areas have military bases, manufacturing centers and companies that provide competitive career opportunities for engineers.”

Click here to see the full list.

To determine the ranking, NerdWallet looked at two factors: size of the engineering industry using 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and engineering income levels.

This week wouldn’t be the first time Huntsville has landed in a “top cities” list on NerdWallet. The city ranked No. 25 on NerdWallet’s list of America’s Most Innovative Tech Hubs. Huntsville, Montgomery and Birmingham were also among the best places for black-owned businesses in early February.

Here’s what NerdWallet had to say about Huntsville and Decatur’s engineering prowess:

Huntsville: With a NASA flight center and an Army arsenal, Huntsville is nicknamed “The Rocket City” for good reason. Engineers make up 6% of its employed population and make nearly $103,000 a year, which is higher than the national mean. Median rent is the second lowest in our top 10, at around $725 a month. Huntsville, a northern Alabama city near the Tennessee border, is a hub for aerospace engineers.

Decatur: Just 25 miles west of our list’s leading place, Decatur engineers have access to many opportunities in Huntsville. But Decatur itself is home to a United Launch Alliance facility, where spacecraft launch equipment is manufactured. Engineers make up about 2% of Decatur’s workforce, making it the smallest engineering industry in our top 10. However, it still has more engineers per 1,000 employees than the national average.

2 north Alabama cities within 25 miles of each other make NerdWallet’s best places for engineers | AL.com.

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Alabama new home starts in January rise 13 percent from last year

Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE)By Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE)
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Click here to view or print the entire monthly report compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

Demand: Alabama’s new home sales in January slipped 2 units or .9 percent from the same period last year.

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Alabama new home sales in January on par with last year while inventory has increased 4% from the same period. Infograph courtesy of ACRE. All rights reserved.Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) 

Supply: Housing starts have increased 13.0 percent since last January. New construction inventory has also increased 4.0 percent since January 2014.Three of five metro areas experienced increases in inventory levels from last January (Birmingham – up 10%, Mobile – up 7% and Tuscaloosa – up 6%).

Alabama’s metro markets in January reflect 8.4 months of new home supply, up 6 percent from last January’s 8.0 months and up 83 percent from 4.6 months in December.

Pricing: Alabama’s metro market’s median new home sales price in January was $235,510, an increase of 2.1 percent from last January and 5.6 percent from last month.

New Home Pipeline: January statewide housing starts increased by 13.0 percent from January 2014 but slipped 2.0 percent from the prior month. 2014 starts were down 2.0 percent. Housing starts were up 7.8 percent in 2013 and 6.5% in 2012. January statewide building permits were up .5 percent from January 2014 but down 5.6 percent from last month. 2014 permits were down .8 percent. Building permits were up 5.6% in 2013 and 8.4 percent in 2012.

Residential Construction Employment: According to the Alabama Dept. of Industrial Relations, statewide residential construction employment in December increased 1.2 percent (800 jobs) to 68,600 from last month and improved 9.2 percent (+5,800 jobs) from the same month a year ago. (Note: January figures are to be released on 3/17/15).

Local Results: 10 out of the 27 home builder associations (37% – down from 56% in Dec) reported gains in building permits from the prior month while 12 associations (44% – up from 33% in Dec) reported gains in housing starts from last month. Twenty associations (74% – up from 33% in Dec) experienced an increase from their January 2013 housing starts.

Industry Perspective: From David Crowe, NAHB chief economist: “The new year either will see the housing sector break out in a traditional, solid recovery or it will see another mundane nudge forward. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to know that. Unfortunately, any economist with two hands can list forces for both outcomes. But the scale is heavily tipped toward more growth in single-family construction in 2015 than any of the recovery years to date.”

This monthly report is provided compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

View the current monthly Alabama Residential Report here.

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The ACRE New Construction Monthly Report is work product stemming from our partnership with the Home Builder’s Association of Alabama Foundation.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our ACRE Corporate Cabinet and other statewide ACRE Partners.

For other Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog.

Alabama new home starts in January rise 13 percent from last year | AL.com.

 

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Madison mayor outlines road expansions, home and building development, new public facilities in State of the City address

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It was a sold-out speech at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Friday night as Madison Mayor Troy Trulock took center stage for his State of the City address.

Most of the mayor’s speech was spent on accolades, education and points of pride in his city. After that, Trulock gave some insight into what lies ahead for Madison with a taste of the projects that will go into play in 2015.

Some of the major developments involve improving Madison’s roads. For example, a five-lane expansion of County Line Road is being accomplished through a partnership between Madison and the state of Alabama. Trulock estimates construction will begin in the next month or two.

There’s also the continuing six-lane development of U.S. 72 from County Line Road to Providence. This is about a five and a half mile stretch, which Trulock said is “not in good shape right now.” He said the continuing effort to fix it has been acknowledged through a partnership between Madison, Huntsville, Madison County and the state.

“Right now if you drive on Highway 72, sometimes it turns into a parking lot. We’re going to fix that,” he said.

The final major road project planned this year is to open an interchange between Interstate 565 and County Line Road, another city and state partnership. The mayor expressed how the need for this interchange is a shared sentiment for those who drive through.

The discussion then turned from roads to buildings. Trulock said more homes and subdivisions will be coming in this year. As such, there will be development of the Village at Oakland Springs outside Browns Ferry Road. This residential and business district will be about two-thirds the size of the Village of Providence and is expected to be reminiscent of its setup. Trulock said the Village at Oakland Springs will hold offices and retail in close proximity to small, medium and large size homes.

A new library could be on the way too. Trulock said the 35,000 square foot plans should be a large improvement over the 15,000 square foot library on Hughes Road. He said crowding has been a problem with the branch’s limited size.

Plans are also being put together for a new recreation building, which would include an indoor pool and basketball and volleyball courts among other athletic facilities. Construction could begin over the summer.

“I know as a coach and as a parent that we need a lot of extra recreation space,” he said, adding, “Definite need for our community.”

Ground should be broken on this project by summer.

In line with the economic front, the continuing development of Town Madison is expected to bring in 1,600 new jobs on top of 1,000 jobs at Intergraph.

Trulock also promised a surprise on the way in terms of economic development. He teased two projects to be placed near the city’s center but could not reveal what they are yet. He said the first of these projects will likely be announced within the next month or two and the other in the next three or four months.

Madison mayor outlines road expansions, home and building development, new public facilities in State of the City address | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential sales in January exceed forecast

Click here to view or print the entire January report compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

Huntsville/Madison County area residential sales totaling 299 units in January were 8 units or 2.7 percent above our monthly forecast but were 4.8 percent below the same period a year ago.

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View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential sales slip 5% from last January. Inventory hits new peak in January. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 3,298 units, an increase of 475 units from last January and 16.3 percent above the 5-year January average of 2,836 units. New home inventory is up 3.8 percent year-over-year while existing single family is up 3.6 percent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio in January was 11.0 months of housing supply (7.4 months for new construction – up 17.5% from Jan’14). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 8-8.5 months during January. Huntsville is historically one of Alabama’s most balanced markets but it appears the market has, at least momentarily, got a little ahead of the recovery as it relates to additional new supply. With that said, the market in January began to mitigate the short-term excess as the inventory in Huntsville/Madison County experienced a .7 percent (22 units) decrease when compared to the prior month. This movement favorably contrast with historical data that indicate January inventory on average (‘1€0-’14) typically increases by 4.5 percent from the month of December.

Demand: Residential sales in January decreased 25.4 percent from the prior month. This direction is consistent with seasonal patterns and historical data indicating that January sales, on average (’10-‘€14), decrease from the month of December by 28.0 percent. New home sales were down 12.5 percent from January 2013. Existing single family home sales accounted for 81 percent (up from 72% in Jan’14) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 17 percent (up from 26% in Jan’14) while condos were 2 percent of sales (same as Jan ’14).

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in January was $155,000, an increase of .4 percent from January 2014 but a 8.8 percent decrease from the prior month as a result of the short-term supply/demand imbalance. This direction is consistent with historical data (’10-’14) indicating that the January median sales price traditionally decreases from the month of December by 4.0 percent. It’s important to note that pricing can fluctuate from month-to-month as the sample size of data (closed transactions) is subject to seasonal buying patterns so a broader lens as to pricing trends is appropriate. ACRE recommends contacting a local real estate professional to discuss pricing at the neighborhood level.

Industry Perspective: “Consumers are as positive about their personal finances at the start of 2015 as they have been since we launched the National Housing Survey in 2010, and this optimism seems to be spilling over into housing market attitudes,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Consumers are more optimistic about the environment both for buying and for selling a home today, and the share who plan to own on their next move has jumped back up, reversing a three-month trend toward renting. These results are in line with lender optimism about future growth in their mortgage origination business, as shown in our Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey™. Overall, these are good signs to start off 2015 and are consistent with our expectation that strengthening employment and economic activity will boost the speed of the housing recovery.” For full report, go HERE.

View the current monthly Huntsville Residential Report here.

The Huntsville Residential Monthly Report is work product developed in conjunction with the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS to better serve North Alabama consumers. The ACRE monthly report is provided to illustrate the “general” market direction & trends when comparing prior periods with the most current available data. Real estate is local and statistics will fluctuate between areas within a city including subdivisions. ACRE recommends that you consult a local real estate professional for “specific” advice associated with your market.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog. You can also follow ACRE from our facebook page, just “like” http://www.facebook.com/acreua and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

Huntsville/Madison County residential sales in January exceed forecast | AL.com.

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Huntsville makes grandparents.com list of top places to retire

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Huntsville made the short list of surprising places that make great retirement destinations.

The Rocket City and five others were recognized by grandparents.com, as 6 Best Places to Retire . . . in 10 years. The six were noted as places that “don’t always make the national top 10 lists but are a boon for retirees nonetheless,” and are “poised for big things.”

Most of the cities were in the Sun Belt that are not only warm in winter but also offer tax havens. The article pointed out that Alabama and Florida don’t tax Social Security benefits and have property tax breaks for seniors.

Huntsville was singled out for a “thriving economy” and “sophisticated, city-like feel.” The article gave a nod to award winning chef James Boyce, numerous boutiques and Huntsville being the epicenter of Southeastern craft brewing. It also complimented the natural beauty that invited outdoor recreation.

The other five cities in the list are

  • Mount Dora, Fla.
  • Sequim, Wash.
  • Dahlonega, Ga.
  • Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Bluffton, S.C.

Huntsville makes grandparents.com list of top places to retire | AL.com.

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Huntsville signs $142M all-terrain vehicle factory development deal with Polaris (Video)

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A development agreement approved by the Huntsville City Council on Thursday night clears the way for construction to begin on Polaris’ new $142 million all-terrain vehicle factory in southeast Limestone County.

The contract outlines the city’s $18 million-plus industrial incentive package to Polaris, as well as the Minnesota-based company’s promise to employ at least 1,700 people in Huntsville at a minimum average wage of $18 an hour.

Polaris is expected to begin clearing and grading the 505-acre factory site next month. Director of Urban Development Shane Davis said the 630,000-square-foot manufacturing plant should be under construction by May, with Polaris’ first Huntsville-made ATVs rolling off the assembly line in late 2016.

The factory site borders I-565 just west of Greenbrier Road and wraps around the massive Target distribution center.

The city’s promises to Polaris include free land, sales and property tax breaks, a waiver on grading and building permit fees, and speeding up construction of Greenbrier Parkway.

The limited-access roadway will branch off Greenbrier Road near the Polaris site and cut northwest for 8.3 miles through mostly undeveloped Limestone County farmland to Huntsville Brownsferry Road, creating a new route between I-565 and I-65.

Free land is the city’s most expensive contribution to the project. Huntsville will buy the factory site from the McCrary family for $14.6 million and then deed the property to Polaris.

However, Polaris is required to meet specific employment and wage targets in order to avoid the $1.2 million annual mortgage payment. The company has committed to having 400 full-time employees in Huntsville by the end of 2016, ramping up to 935 workers in 2017 and 1,700 in 2021.

Polaris would own the factory site outright in 2027, said Davis.

Up to 18 percent of the jobs created at the Huntsville plant could be filled by current Polaris employees transferring from other locations, he said. Polaris has about 7,000 employees worldwide.

When it reaches full employment, Polaris’ Huntsville plant will have an annual payroll of nearly $75 million. Huntsville expects to capture about $5 million of that each year in the form of new sales taxes as Polaris workers buy groceries, gasoline, computers, cars and other goods in the city limits.

Tax breaks were another key incentive.

Polaris is exempt from all but the education portion of sales taxes on construction materials and manufacturing equipment for the new plant. The company will also get a 10-year reprieve on non-education property taxes from both the city and state.

Alabama’s incentive package totals $80 million, including about $31 million in cash to help offset Polaris’ construction costs and a customized recruitment, screening and pre-employment training program for people who want to work for Polaris.

“The state government, for all their woes, really did come to bat for us and work very hard,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Meanwhile, Limestone County is chipping in $1 million to reimburse Polaris for temporary office and employee training space. Morgan County and the cities of Athens and Decatur are jointly contributing $950,000 toward the Greenbrier Parkway project.

Battle said Huntsville offered “the smallest amount of incentives possible” to snag Polaris, which scouted 100 different industrial sites in 14 states. The other finalists were Clarksville, Tenn., and LaGrange, Ga.

Waiving building and grading permit fees is a common industrial recruiting tactic nationwide, but this is the first time Huntsville has done it.

A new rule approved by the City Council on Thursday night says Huntsville will not charge building permit fees to new companies that invest at minimum of $100 million and create at least 1,000 jobs.

Huntsville signs development deal with Polaris; $142M all-terrain vehicle factory expected to begin rising in May | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% in December

Huntsville/Madison County area residential sales in December improved 4.4 percent from the same period a year earlier. Total sales of 401 units were 9 units or 2.3 percent above our monthly forecast. The Center’s 2014 sales forecast projected 5,219 closed transactions while the actual sales were 4,901 units, a 6.1 percent cumulative variance.

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View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% from last December. Inventory hits new peak in December. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 3,320 units, an increase of 449 units from last December and 20.7 percent above the 5-year December average of 2,750 units. New home inventory is up 75.5 percent year-over-year while existing single family is up 2.8 percent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio in December was 8.3 months of housing supply (7.1 months for new construction – up 4.3% from Dec’13). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 8-8.5 months during December. Huntsville is historically one of Alabama’s most balanced markets but it appears the market has, at least momentarily, got a little ahead of the recovery as it relates to additional new supply. With that said, the market in December began to mitigate the short-term excess as the inventory in Huntsville/Madison County experienced a 5.8 percent (203 units) decrease when compared to the prior month. This movement is consistent with both seasonal listing trends & historical data that indicate December inventory on average (€™09-€™13) typically decreases by 7.1 percent from the month of November.

Demand: Residential sales in December improved 21.9 percent from the prior month. Historical Huntsville data reflects that December sales, on average (€™09-€™13), decrease from the month of November by .1 percent so this break from the norm is encouraging news. New home sales were up 6.6 percent from December 2013. Existing single family home sales accounted for 72 percent (up from 65% in Dec’13) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 16 percent (up from 12% in Dec’13) while condos were 2 percent of sales (down from 3% in Dec’13). 2014 sales were 5.7 percent below 2013.

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in December was $169,900, a decrease of 7.4 percent from December 2013 and 4.0 percent from the prior month as a result of the short-term supply/demand imbalance. Historical data (09-13) indicates that the December median sales price traditionally increases from the month of November by 5.0 percent. It’s important to note that pricing can fluctuate from month-to-month as the sample size of data (closed transactions) is subject to seasonal buying patterns so a broader lens as to pricing trends is appropriate. ACRE recommends contacting a local real estate professional to discuss pricing at the neighborhood level.

Industry Perspective: “The housing market is likely to continue its gradual climb upward next year after a sub-par 2014,” according to Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “We anticipate a fairly strong increase in housing starts in response to stronger employment and some improvement in related household incomes. As a result, that may help to unfold some of the suppressed household formation numbers and incent builders to meet some of that increased demand. For all of 2015, we expect total housing starts to increase by about 22 percent and total home sales to rise approximately 5 percent, with total mortgage origination ticking up slightly to $1.13 trillion.” For full report, go HERE.

View the current monthly Huntsville Residential Report here.

The Huntsville Residential Monthly Report is work product developed in conjunction with the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS to better serve North Alabama consumers. The ACRE monthly report is provided to illustrate the “general” market direction & trends when comparing prior periods with the most current available data. Real estate is local and statistics will fluctuate between areas within a city including subdivisions. ACRE recommends that you consult a local real estate professional for “specific” advice associated with your market.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog. You can also follow ACRE from our facebook page, just “like” http://www.facebook.com/acreua and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

Huntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% in December; 2014 sales slip 6% | AL.com.

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