The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for June fell by two points to 67 after a revision of May’s reading. Components of the Housing Market Index were lower for June with builder confidence in current market conditions two points lower at 73; June’s reading for builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months also fell two points to 76. Builder confidence in buyer traffic fell two points to 49. According to the Index, any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident than those who are not.
Labor and Lot Shortages Continue to Stifle Single–Family Home Building
NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that builder confidence remains high despite ongoing shortages of buildable lots and skilled labor. Meanwhile, NAHB reported lower readings for its regional 3-month rolling average of home builder confidence. The Northeast region was two points lower at 46; Builder confidence in the Midwest was one point lower at 67 and the Southern region was also one point lower with a 3-month reading of 70. The West had the highest builder confidence with a three-month average reading of 70.
Mortgage and consumer credit interest rates are likely to move higher after the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise its target federal funds rate by 0.25 percent on Wednesday. This was the third uptick for the Fed rate this year. As interest rates and other consumer costs increase, would-be buyers of new homes may be sidelined. Future builder confidence readings could be influenced by a variety of economic factors including employment, interest rates and consumer confidence.
Housing Starts Expected to Lag Behind Pre–Bubble Level
While housing starts are expected to increase to approximately 1.23 million on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, they are significantly lower than the near 2-million housing starts reported prior to when the housing bubble burst. Analysts noted that the overall economic recovery remains steady with some glitches expected along the way. Closing the gap between builder confidence and housing starts is seen as the solution for easing high demand for homes and unusually low inventories of homes on the market.
According to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for April, Builder Confidence dropped three points to an index reading of 68 in April. While any reading over 50 indicates positive builder confidence, home builders said that they continue to face obstacles including higher costs for materials and elevated costs associated with regulatory issues. Builders have repeatedly cited concerns including a lack of buildable lots and labor shortages in past months.
Home Builder Component Readings Fall But Remain in Positive Territory
Component readings of the Housing Market Index include builder confidence in current market conditions for newly built homes, which dropped three points to 73. Builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months fell three points to 75. Home builder confidence in buyer traffic volume for new housing developments dropped one point to an April reading of 52.
Regional Readings for Builder Sentiment Vary
Regional readings for April were included in the three-month rolling average in four U.S. regions. Builder confidence in the Northeastern region fell by two points to 46; The Midwestern region added one point for a builder confidence reading of 68, while the Southern region’s reading was unchanged at 68. The Western region added one point for a three-month reading of 77.
Housing industry groups and analysts watch the NAHB Housing Market Index for indications of future volume in housing starts, but builder confidence and housing starts are not always closely connected. The Commerce Department will release readings for March housing starts and building permits issued on Tuesday.
September’s 20-City Housing Market Index from Case-Shiller showed signs that rapidly rising home prices in some metro areas may be losing momentum. San Francisco, California, posted a month-to-month reading of -0.40 percent and a year-over-year reading of 5.70 percent. Home prices stayed flat in Seattle Washington from August to September, but posted the highest home price gain of 11.00 percent year-over-year. Slowing home price growth in high-demand areas suggest that affordability concerns are impacting rapid gains in home prices seen in recent years.
Case-Shiller’s National Home Price Index achieved its highest gain with a reading of 5.50 percent as compared to August’s reading of 5.10 percent.
Year–over–Year: Western U.S. Holds Highest Gains in Home Prices
In addition to Seattle’s year-over-year home price growth rate of 11 percent, Portland, Oregon closely followed with a year-over-year reading of 10.90 percent. Denver, Colorado rounded out the top three cities in the 20-City Home Price Index with a year-over-year growth rate of 8.70 percent. September was the eighth consecutive month that the top three cities held their places in the 20-City Index. Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index posted a year-over- year gain of 5.10 percent.
September Home Prices Cap Recovery, Usher in New Progress for Housing Market
According to David M. Blitzer, Chairman of S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, September’s record national reading for home prices marks a transition from housing recovery to “the hoped for start of a new advance.” Mr. Blitzer cited recent data on sales of new and pre-owned homes and said that housing starts reached a post-recession peak.
September’s peak in national home prices was 0.10 percent above the pre-recession peak set in 2006. Adjusted for inflation, the September peak remains approximately 16 percent below the pre-recession peak. During the recession, national home prices reached a trough that was 27 percent lower than Case-Shiller’s September reading. Analysts expressed some caution and noted headwinds to housing markets including slower-than-normal rates of homes construction, higher mortgage rates and strict mortgage approval requirements.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, overall builder confidence in housing markets dropped two points in October to an index reading of 63. September’s reading of 65 was the highest posted since the housing bubble peak. Component readings for October’s housing market index were mixed; the reading for builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months rose one point to 72. Builder confidence in current housing market conditions fell two points to 69. Builder outlook for buyer traffic in new home developments over the next six months fell by one point to an index reading of 46.
Approaching winter weather likely contributed to lower readings, but builder confidence remained strong. Any reading above 50 signifies that more builders are confident about specific index components than fewer. While home builders continue to be encouraged by low mortgage rates and a stronger job market, they also face obstacles including shortages of labor and buildable lots for development.
High Demand, Low Inventory of Homes Present Ongoing Challenges
High demand for homes coupled with depleted inventory of available homes is sidelining some buyers. As demand continues to drive home prices higher first-time and moderate income buyers are faced with affordability and mortgage qualification challenges. Limited inventory also makes it difficult for home buyers to find homes they want and contributes to competition for available homes. Buyers depending on mortgage financing typically compete with investors and cash buyers for homes in high demand areas.
Real estate pros and analysts monitor home builder sentiment as an indicator of future home supplies, but builder sentiment and housing starts don’t necessarily correspond. Given high home prices and strict mortgage qualification standards that sideline some buyers, it appears that home builders are taking a moderate stance toward ramping up construction.
In addition to boosting real estate markets, building homes provides jobs and supports local economies. Building homes creates demand for construction materials and related products and services.