February, 2008
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Economic Census

EDITED BY ASHI STAFF

In Dec. 2007, more than 4 million American businesses, including 450,000 professional, scientific and technical services businesses, received 2007 Economic Census forms. Responses to the questionnaire are required by law (Title 13, U.S. Code) and are to be returned by February 12, 2008.

Every five years, the Economic Census develops a comprehensive portrait of American business, from the national to the local level. Timely and accurate data are vital to effective public policy, and important to your association and your members.

The U.S. Bureau of Census created a special Web page at www.business.census.gov to explain the Economic Census and to provide statistics about business operations.

NAHB believes Washington policymakers can help housing begin its recovery in 2008

In a Dec. 20, 2007, year-end housing forecast, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), with help from Congress and an accommodating policy from the Federal Reserve, the housing industry will begin its recovery in the second half of 2008.

“We are in a down time, and many markets that overheated during 2003-2005 such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami are undergoing a natural correction,” said Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of NAHB. “But all housing is local, and the reason we think that the market will stabilize and come back is because many smaller markets that did not experience overheating are still performing at a relatively healthy level. If you balance those markets against those that are undergoing major corrections, we see a solid recovery down the road.”

The forecast is based on assumptions that the economy avoids recession, Congress passes key reforms to address the subprime lending crisis and the central bank remains ready to step in if needed to keep the economy moving forward.

NAHB is looking to Congress to quickly pass an FHA modernization bill and legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so they can play a larger role in restoring stability in the mortgage markets. It views as positive recent lowering of interest rates, Hope Now and FHASecure programs, designed to limit the number of homes that go into foreclosure, and mortgage debit forgiveness, but calls for additional action by Congress.

NAR applauds mortgage forgiveness debt relief  
 
President Bush has signed a bill that ensures that any debt forgiven on a mortgage secured for a principal residence will not be taxed. In the past, those who had suffered the loss of their homes due to a short sale, foreclosure, deed in lieu of foreclosure or any similar arrangement that relieves the borrower of the obligation to pay some portion of the debt could be taxed on the forgiven debt. By making the forgiven debt taxable income, individuals in already unfortunate situations most likely faced IRS actions because they did not have the money to pay the additional taxes. This legislation will relieve that additional burden and may also encourage families to work with their lender to negotiate terms, knowing they will now not be subject to an IRS bill.

The National Association of Realtors® applauded the new legislation, saying that it “will ensure that any debt forgiven on a mortgage secured for a principal residence will not be taxed. This is very significant legislation. This may also mean that some day in the future these families can once again achieve the dream of homeownership.”

Business.gov unveils state & local search features

Business.gov, the official business link to the U.S. government, has launched new search features and expanded content that make it easier for small business owners to find essential information they need to run their operations, including forms, licenses, permits and regulatory information from federal, state and local governments.

In addition to federal government resources, business owners now have access to over 9,000 state, territory, county and city government Web sites providing information on starting and managing a business while complying with regulations from all levels of government.

Business.gov's new search service is a “mashup” — a unique service created by combining content from separate Web applications — of Google-based services that include Google’s Custom Search Business Edition, Google Maps, the Google Search Appliance and publicly available compliance information culled from federal, state and local government Web sites.

The new service improves upon general search services by delivering results directly aligned with doing business in a specific geographic area, saving business owners time by getting to the right information more quickly. For example, if a user types in “business license Richmond, VA” the relevant results on licenses will be returned from the City of Richmond and State of Virginia Web site.

“The inclusion of state and local content on Business.gov means that small business owners can go to one Web site to find what they need to successfully manage their operations,” said Nancy Sternberg, program manager of the Business Gateway Initiative.