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Newsmakers

New Home Sales Strong in February

March 23, 2017

Sales of new homes climbed 6.1% above January’s revised figure, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000, according to the latest data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Year-over-year, February sales of new homes were up 12.8%.

By region, the Northeast saw new homes sales drop 21.4% from January, while the three other regions saw sales rise; the Midwest was a standout with sales increasing 30.9%, HUD said.

The median price of new homes in February was $296,200.

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

Existing-Home Sales Drop Off in February

March 22, 2017

Existing-home sales slipped in February by 3.7% after a blockbuster sales month in January, as rising costs and reduced availability kept buyers from purchasing.

Year-over-year in February, existing sales stayed higher by 5.4%, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

"Realtors are reporting stronger foot traffic from a year ago, but low supply in the affordable price range continues to be the pest that's pushing up price growth and pressuring the budgets of prospective buyers," Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said. "Newly listed properties are being snatched up quickly so far this year and leaving behind minimal choices for buyers trying to reach the market."

Homeowners polled by NAR also said it’s a good time to sell, but home prices will likely rise until there’s an increase in listings, Yun said.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in February rose 7.7% to $228,400 from a year prior and have seen 60 consecutive months of year-over-year gains, NAR said. Meanwhile, total housing inventory increased in February by 4.2% to 1.75 million existing homes available for sale, though the figure is 6.4% lower than it was a year prior. Inventory has fallen, year-over-year, for 21 consecutive months.

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

Construction Hiring Accelerates in January

March 20, 2017

Hiring in the construction sector has accelerated recently as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ count of unfilled jobs was below trend for the second month in a row.

In January, there were about 147,000 job openings in the construction sector, while the open position rate on a smoothed, yearly moving average was 2.7%, near the cycle high, said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chief Economist Robert Dietz. The hiring rates in December and January, 5.9% and 5.6% respectively, represent the strongest two months since late 2014, despite a larger trend of difficulty in finding qualified labor.

In a separate post on residential construction employment, NAHB’s Paul Emrath wrote that many of the more than 700,000 jobs gained in the sector since 2011 have been hires of younger employees, instead of older, more experienced staff members returning to the field. About 63% of those polled in a recent NAHB survey said they’ve seen a trend of more experienced construction workers retiring and being replaced by younger workers with considerably less experience. The most common effects of this hiring trend have been that firms have to devote more resources to training, monitoring and maintaining quality, while companies are seeing projects take longer to complete. Meanwhile, only 10% of survey respondents said hiring younger workers helped them keep hourly wage rates in check.

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

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