Using steel instead of wood in the construction of framing for new homes is becoming increasingly popular.
Steel has significant advantages over wood, according to Jerry Hughes, owner of Anaco Building Systems, a California-based construction company.
"Using steel in framing for residential construction is the wave of the future," Mr. Hughes said. "Steel offers many advantages, and yet it's less expensive. Only tradition and lack of public awareness has slowed the use of steel studs and trusses in home construction."
Key advantages of steel are that it's stronger and less expensive than wood, he said. Steel studs are seven times stronger. And steel doesn't burn, rot, warp or feed termites.
Steel frames also are more earthquake- and wind-resistant. And it's 80 percent recyclable, according to Mr. Hughes. And since it's non-flammable as well as stronger than wood, it often results in lower insurance premiums, he said.
"The only downside to using steel is that it can't be sanded or stained," he admitted.
The lower cost of steel is probably the most potent incentive for using this up-and-coming product and technology. About a year ago, a third of residential framing cost could be saved by using steel framing instead of wood. Now, with generally lower lumber prices, the saving is about 10 percent, Mr. Hughes estimated.
Q: Do home sales increase or decrease during winter months?
A: Typically, sales decrease during winter. This was pointed out, and documented, in a letter I received from Realtor Art Tidey.
"No business has a perfectly consistent monthly sales average," Mr. Tidey wrote. "I know of no store, chain or industry that averages exactly 8.33 percent of their annual sales volume each month. Florists do a sizable business in February, May and December. . . .
"Real estate activity is no different. Not a single November, December, January or February exceeds 8.33 percent of annual sales figures. So when resale figures for November show a lower total than October, don't be surprised. . . . Expect a 15 percent drop, on average.
Q: Are homes becoming more affordable?
A: Definitely. A recent report from the Research Department of the National Association of Realtors showed that housing is now more affordable than at any time in nearly 15 years.
The primary reason for the increasing affordability are continued declines in mortgage interest rates and home prices (in many areas).
"However, there are many families who want to buy a home right now, but can't because they don't have a job, or their employment future is uncertain, or they feel insecure about the overall economy," the NAR report stated.