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In this Issue

In Memoriam Bill Kiefer

Old Man Winter Takes a Bite Out of Starts

Existing Home Sales Up Slightly

In Memoriam
Bill Kiefer

Bill Kiefer passed away on Friday, March 20, 2015. He owned and operated B&G Fireplace & Patio in Canton, Ohio, for the past 45 years. His daughter, Susan, now runs the business. Bill also operated a two-step distributorship for many years, selling hearth and barbecue products to dealers in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

Bill was definitely a “hands on” owner. He worked with many of his dealers in their stores, helping them to become better businessmen. He always had a smile on his face and would gladly help anyone who asked.

He was also very active with the national association. Whether it was the Fireplace Institute in the ’70s, the Wood Heating Alliance in the ’80s, the Hearth Products Association in the ’90s or the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association in the 2000s, he was always involved.  

Many of his years of service were dedicated to the Trade Show Committee, on which he later served as chairman. The industry owes a debt of gratitude to people such as Bill, who oversaw the growth and expansion of the HPBExpo to what it has become today. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Karen, four daughters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


Old Man Winter Takes a Bite Out of Starts

Breaking its five-month string of headline starts above the one-million mark, housing starts plunged a sharp 17 percent in February, marking the largest monthly decline since February 2011. Single-family starts fell almost 15 percent and multifamily starts declined 20.8 percent during the month.

The only silver lining in the report was the increase in permits. Housing permits increased 3.0 percent in February, with all of the gain concentrated in multifamily. Multifamily permits were up 18.3 percent in February, while single-family fell for the second consecutive month. Is this the beginning of a troubling trend or just an anomaly due to weather effects?

Major Snowstorm Takes a Toll
Weather most likely played a large role in the significant monthly drop. Looking at starts on a regional basis, activity in the Northeast dropped a whopping 56.5 percent and starts in the Midwest were down a solid 37.0 percent. Based on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), which scores snowstorms by the amount of snow and the number of people living in the path of the storm, February had two major storms, of which one (January 29–February 3) was ranked in the top third of all high-impact snowstorms dating back to 1956. 


Existing Home Sales Up Slightly

Existing home sales grew 1.2 percent in February to a 4.88 million unit annual pace. Weather still appears to be playing a negative role in sales, but low inventories and weak demand continue to plague the market.

Sales in the Northeast dropped 6.5 percent in the month, while in the Midwest they remained flat. In other parts of the nation, sales looked a bit stronger in February, with the West rising 5.7 percent and the South posting a 1.9 percent increase.

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