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Newsmakers

Existing Home Sales Down Year-Over-Year

April 24, 2018

Limited supply and rising prices are believed to have contributed to the latest existing-home sales numbers for March, as the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported a year-over-year (YoY) decline despite a modest increase over February.

According to the NAR’s report on April 23, existing-home sales rose 1.1% month-over-month, just shy of the 1.2% gain in March 2017. Although inventory in March 2018 showed a slight gain of 5.7% over February, it was more than 7% lower than the prior year—the 34th consecutive month of decreases YoY. Existing homes include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.

“The unwelcoming news is that while the healthy economy is generating sustained interest in buying a home this spring, sales are lagging year ago levels because supply is woefully low and home prices keep climbing above what some would-be buyers can afford,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in the report.

In an analysis of the NAR report, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said last month’s unsold inventory was equivalent to a 3.6-month supply compared to last year’s 3.8-month supply. Prices continued to rise nearly 6% YoY for single-family homes and townhomes and nearly 5% YoY for condominiums and co-ops.

“The seasonal spring increase in demand is facing the combination of increasing mortgage rates and a tight inventory,” NAHB reported. “However, the economy continues to add jobs, and new residential construction offers buyers a wider choice in homes. These prospective buyers contribute to builder confidence remaining in solid territory.”

-Andrew Michaels, editorial associate

Multifamily Housing Lifts March Construction Starts

April 19, 2018

Multifamily housing construction is paving a promising path for overall housing starts, following a National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) report this month that showed a 1.9% increase from February. Although the bigger picture was described as a “small gain,” multifamily construction jumped 14.4%—a high that hasn’t been seen in more than a year.

On April 17, one day after the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) showed a slight dip in builder confidence, NAHB Chairman Randy Noel clarified in another report that builders are still optimistic. Noel noted that single-family housing starts saw a modest decline in March but were up 5% in permits year-over-year. Meanwhile, permits for multifamily starts reached 19%, raising overall permit issuances 2.5% last month.

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said the decline in single-family housing was most likely caused by production delays because of the winter weather.

“With ongoing job creation, wage increases and rising household formations, we can expect continued, gradual strengthening of the housing market in the coming months,” Dietz said in the report.

The Midwest saw the most combined single- and multifamily housing starts and permit issuance. While production decreased in the southern and western regions, permits declined in the northeast.

-Andrew Michaels, editorial associate

Builder Confidence Still High Despite April Decline

April 16, 2018

Builder confidence has slowed yet still remains in positive territory, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Confidence for newly-built single-family homes slipped one point in April to a reading of 69. This is the fourth-straight drop in the index, stated a release from Wells Fargo Securities.

Despite the solid outlook for the rest of the year, “builders are facing supply-side constraints, such as a lack of buildable lots and increasing construction material costs. Tariffs placed on Canadian lumber and other imported products are pushing up prices and hurting housing affordability,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel in a release.

Regional averages also saw optimism take a step back this month. “While weather is behind part of the pullback in the HMI, all four regions have posted declines on a 3-month moving average basis,” added Wells Fargo. The index has been “out of kilter” in part due to hurricanes last fall, noted Wells Fargo. While the South was unchanged at 73, the Northeast dropped one point to 55, the Midwest fell two points to 66 and the West declined three points to 76.

Buyer traffic barely stayed inside positive territory at 51. Sales expectations in the next six months decreased one point to 77, and current sales dropped two points to 75, both well above the teetering point of good conditions.

-Michael Miller, managing editor

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