Leaders are Listening: “Mission Drift” is Making an Impact

22 April 2014

Mission DriftIn March 2014, I was excited to tell you all about the book “Mission Drift,” written by HOPE International President and CEO, Peter Greer, and Chris Horst. Since the book’s release, it has gained incredible attention and five star reviews from other authors, CEOs of large companies, Christian leaders and more.

The book takes a deep look into how organizations, especially Christian-based organizations, have strayed from their original goals and how they can return to being in line with their missions. Through research and observation, Greer and Horst provide leaders with the appropriate tools they need in order to get back to the organization’s original goals.

If you read through the book’s reviews on Amazon, you’ll see recurring themes of, “you have to read this book,” and, “this book inspired me to make some changes.” Seeing such positive reviews for my good friend’s book means that leaders are reading these important messages and will hopefully implement the book’s suggestions within their organizations in order to refocus on their missions.

I don’t think HOPE International could have a better President and CEO than Peter Greer. He has done so much for the organization and has helped HOPE stay focused on the original goal of investing in the dreams of the poor while teaching and living the Gospel in underserved areas of the world.

For more information about “Mission Drift” and to learn more about the author and HOPE International leader, check out the website of Peter Greer.

Until next time,

Jeff Rutt

Join us for a Celebration of HOPE

15 April 2014

Celebrate HOPEIt’s always a great time to celebrate and thank all of the individuals who encourage and support HOPE International. This year, we are shining a spotlight on all of the hard work that has gone into the organization.

HOPE International is hosting the Celebrate HOPE Annual Dinner on Friday, May 15, 2014 at the Lancaster Convention Center. This is a time for HOPE International to give thanks to how God is working through supporters, staff and clients around the world. Tickets for the dinner are $50 and include dinner and hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction featuring items from around the world and a special message about remaining Mission True from President and CEO of HOPE International, Peter Greer. (more…)

Spreading HOPE on “Good Day PA”

9 April 2014

Being invited to speak with Amy Kehm on ABC 7’s “Good Day PA” about HOPE International in March was an amazing opportunity. HOPE International President, Peter Greer, also joined me to spread the organization’s message of hope and empowerment. Check out the interview above.

Amy Kehm: “We continue today’s special “Good Day PA” focusing on HOPE International. Back with me now is HOPE International President Peter Greer. Also joining me is HOPE International founder Jeff Rutt of Keystone Custom Homes. Jeff, again, you’re the founder. So, take me back. How did this all come to be? How did you start HOPE International?”

Jeff Rutt: “Thanks for asking, Amy. It’s really an exciting ride that we’ve had here over the past 16 years. Prior to starting HOPE International, we had actually been involved with a church committee that was sending containers of food and medical supplies to a small church in Zaporizhia, Ukraine. We had gotten to know the pastor there, and we were excited about the fact that we had these great intentions and we were sending these containers out to Ukraine. What we didn’t realize is that as these containers of flour, rice and other things we sent—which were free—we were actually having an impact on the lady down the street who was trying to sell flour for some kind of a profit. We would send one container, then two containers then three, and we were feeling really good about it. But what we were actually practicing, which is traditional charity, is what we call today ‘toxic charity’ where you have that first gift—the first container we sent—there was a lot of appreciation. For the second container, there was a lot of anticipation, like, ‘when is the second container coming?’ The third container, there was some expectation, like, ‘when’s the container going to be here? When is my container going to be here?’ The fourth container, there was some entitlement, like, ‘When are you sending me my container?’ Then the fifth container, it was just full blown dependency. So, we started looking at that and said ‘what can we do to completely turn this around and help these folks use their gifts and talents and God-given skills to work themselves out of poverty?’ (more…)

Homes for Hope Projects on the Rise

4 April 2014

Homes for HopeProjects take on a whole new meaning when you know they could change someone’s life. In January, McCall Homes began building a home in Montana that will help pave a hopeful road for many people looking to get out of poverty around the world.

This Homes for Hope project is expected to raise approximately $100,000, which will be donated to HOPE International. For this home, McCall Homes has teamed up with almost 40 subcontractors and vendors to donate their time, products and craftsmanship. Once complete, the home will be sold to a home buyer, and the profit will go straight to HOPE International.

With such a large financial goal, this Homes for Hope project will help approximately 1,000 people in 16 poverty-stricken countries. Loans of $50 to $100 and mentoring and savings services will be given to people in these countries in order to help them get out of poverty. (more…)

Housing Market Rebounding in Many Cities

19 February 2014

After so long, it’s great to see the housing market ticking upward. Cities across the country are seeing housing prices rise as more buyers start to look for new homes.

In fact, home builders can’t keep up with the demand for new homes. In the Pittsburgh area, more than 6,000 new homes broke ground in 2013. That’s a 68 percent increase from the previous year. New home sales increased nationally for the second year in a row, a nice change after six years of declining sales.

Success stories like this one are everywhere. Houston and Austin are back to their 30-year averages for home building, and Raleigh, N.C. is improving too. New York, Seattle, Boston and Miami have all rebounded to previous highs, and some are even reaching new heights.

For everyone in the real estate industry, whether builders or agents or lenders, it’s good to see the market improving. We have spent the last few years waiting for the tide to turn.

With spring approaching, expect builders to work hard to catch up to the sudden demand. You will also see more homes on the market as many owners begin putting their houses up for sale. Potential buyers will have a nice pick of new homes and older ones, and that could help keep prices from skyrocketing.

It’s an exciting time for families looking to upgrade their homes or for first-time buyers looking for special places to raise their children. Are you getting in on the action this spring? I’d love to hear from you. Good luck whether you are selling or buying!

Until next time,

Jeff Rutt

A Father’s Dream Comes True with Hope International

27 January 2014

Maldova is not a country many of us could find on a map. Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, it’s a small, landlocked country with a population of about 3.5 million people as of 2012. However, its citizens are like those of any other nation, including our own.

Boris Timofei Tentuic is a farmer with a family and a dream. He wants to provide the education his eight children deserve to have a good life and contribute to society. To do that, he needed to enhance his farm with better equipment and more supplies. However, banks see a farm not as an investment but as a liability.

Hope International was different. Boris was not just a farmer with a small business that might not succeed. He was a husband and father with plenty of potential but not the means to visualize his aspirations. Six years ago, he received his first of what would be three loans from Invest-Credit, a partner of Hope International in Maldova.

Boris proved his business savvy and used the money to purchase fertilizer, seed and more. The fertilizer helped his crops grow larger and stronger. His were some of the best at the market, and the large amounts of seed allowed him to plant earlier in the season instead of having to wait for the harvest.

Later, he purchased a water pump and irrigation system. What was once a family farm with no signs of growth, became a thriving business. Homes for Hope uses the money it raises here in the United States to provide more than handouts in other countries. Loans like the ones Boris received, give men and women with a dream the ability to reach new heights of success and leave the chains of poverty. The loans are paid back and loaned out to others. It’s a cycle of success.

Boris is still hard at work on his farm, and he is planning to apply for another loan for a tractor. On the other side of the world, Homes for Hope is working on new homes with the proceeds from the sale going to create more success stories. More than 500,000 people have been helped by the 90 homes constructed by Homes for Hope and its partners. Together we can use our skills here to make dreams come true on the other side of the globe.

Until next time,

Jeff Rutt

Common Features of 2013’s Most Popular Floor Plans

5 December 2013

Keystone Custom Homes The world of home building is constantly in flux. What’s popular with buyers one month may be something completely different than what they are looking for a year or even just a few months later. Thanks to ever changing technology and trends, home builders are having a constant need to revise their floor plans and feature offerings to keep up with not only what their buyers need, but what they want.

Here’s a look at the common features of the top-selling house plans for 2013 based on sales from house plan subsidiaries of Hanley Wood:

  • Presentation: Buyers are more likely to pay attention to your home designs if they are presented well. Sixty percent of this year’s best-selling plans included photography, and the rest at least had high quality 3D renderings.
  • Social: The best selling plans are also popular on social media. These are the plans that people are pinning to their dream home boards on Pinterest and Houzz.
  • Size: Top-selling plans averaged 3,179 square feet this year, a significant increase from last year’s average of 2,646 square feet.
  • Multi-story: While 80 percent of the top plans last year were ranch-style designs, this year, 70 percent of the favorite plans were two-story designs. However, sales indicate an even split between one and two-story homes.
  • Master on the Main: Nine out of the top 10 plans included a master suite on the main level. Having a master suite on the first floor appeals to a wide range of audiences, including empty nesters and parents.
  • Heart of the Home: An open kitchen is truly the heart of the home. All of this year’s top layouts included kitchens with islands that were open to the main living area.
  • Formal Dining: While buyers want a space they can eat at in their kitchen, they still want the option for formal dining. Six out of the top 10 plans had a formal dining room separate from the eat-in breakfast area.
  • Work Space: Six out of the 10 most popular plans included an office, study or room that could serve this function.

What do you think? Builders, I’d love to hear what features of your floor plans have been most popular this year. Buyers, what are you looking for in a new home? Feel free to leave a comment below with your opinion.

Until next time,

Jeff Rutt

The Importance of Getting Preapproved

18 November 2013

Keystone Custom HomesWe’ve all been there, we fall in love with a home and then find out it’s out of our price range. However, falling in love with a home you can’t afford doesn’t have to happen. By talking with a lender to get prequalified before you even begin the home search, you can save yourself from a lot of heartache down the road.

Prequalification letters state the amount that the lender thinks you can borrow based on your credit profile and income without having to provide any actual documentation. On the other hand, preapproval letters give your preapproved amount that you can borrow based on verified financial information.

In today’s market, most sellers require a prequalification or preapproval letter before they will accept your offer. Neither party wants to have to walk away from a deal due to lack of available funding. However, these letters are also important because they can alert you to any problems with your credit that you may need to fix before purchasing a home and having one of these letters will help you speed up the process once you do find the right home.

So, how do you go about finding a lender? Many times you real estate agent will recommend a couple of different lenders for you to talk with. However, you can also ask friends, family members and colleagues who they have used. But, you shouldn’t just take their word for it. You’ll want to meet with prospective lenders to talk about the different types of programs, terms and financing they can offer you.

It is also important to note that the lender generates their approval number based on your credit score and debt-to-income ratio, so you still need to consider your own budget and comfort level of monthly payments instead of just seeking for homes at the top of your qualified price range. Another factor for consideration when setting your budget is monthly maintenance and utility costs.

In the end, working with your lender and agent to find a home that you can realistically afford is the best way to prevent getting the new home blues.

Until next time,

Jeff Rutt

Making Homes Useful

1 November 2013

new home built by Jeff Rutt's companyJeff Rutt here. Today, I want to talk about making homes useful again.

In a news article I was recently reading, the writer brought up a point that I believe many people in the industry would agree with; while the buyers are back, they aren’t the same. Today’s buyers are looking for a house filled with spaces that they can use.

What does this mean exactly? It starts with less formal living spaces and more flexible living areas. This means instead of designating a purpose for every room, you can allow for more “flex rooms” in your home designs; these rooms are meant to be used as a study, extra bedroom, craft room, media room…whatever the homeowner actually needs the space for. Buyers also expect more luxurious bedrooms and bathrooms where they can escape to and relax after a busy day.

Another major component of usability for homeowners is the ability to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out. For many builders, this means incorporating expansive window walls that flood the room with natural light or outdoor living areas that flow seamlessly into the indoor spaces.

However, usability isn’t just about living space, it’s also about storage. Homeowners want areas like mud rooms or “drop zones” for storing and charging, and they want home offices actually designed for work with other spaces in the home designed for play. More storage also means larger closets; it isn’t uncommon today to find walk-in closets as a standard feature for many secondary bedrooms instead of just the owners’ suite.

Today’s homes have a space for everything, but as builders, we need to use that space wisely. In the past 40 years, the average new home size has increased 44 percent. A majority of today’s buyers expect their townhome or single-family home to have 1,800 to 2,400 square feet, so we are challenged to build smarter aka larger homes with less wasted and more useful space.

How are you building smarter? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below.

Until next time,

Jeff Rutt

Government Shutdown Leaves Minimal Effect on Home Prices

23 October 2013

Keystone Custom HomesWhile we will not know the total effect the government shutdown had on the housing industry for another couple of months, in the short term, it appears as if the effects were minimal on home prices.

According to data from Trulia, asking prices were up 1 percent (seasonally adjusted) between September and the first half of October. This slight month-over-month increase maintains the slight rise in prices we’ve seen on a monthly basis over the last few months.

Trulia also looked at key metro areas that would have been most impacted by the federal government shutdown versus metros that would have had less impact. Again, here the findings were not significant as home prices didn’t take a big dive in areas such as Washington D.C. as a result of loss of wages.

However, while the shutdown didn’t affect home asking prices, it has had other impacts on the housing market. The most important of these is that mortgage processing slowed or stopped nationwide for a variety of reasons. The first being that lenders rely on data from the government such as borrowers’ income and verification of tax returns, and with the IRS partially shut down, many lenders were forced to make loans without this data or find another way to access it. The second reason was that many non-traditional loans were also stopped or delayed; FHA and VA loans were both slowed down especially if they were complicated, and USDA loans were completely stopped since the department was shut down.

A second impact on the housing market is that releases of vital data such as the monthly home stats and job reports were also delayed.

Now that the government is back up and running again, hopefully we will see the housing market return to normal.

Did you notice any impact from the government shutdown? Let me know in the comments section below.

Until next time,

Jeff Rutt

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