September’s Top Effects on the Housing Market
While the total number of sales is softer this year compared to last year, builder confidence remains strong according to the most recent National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released This Week in Real Estate. The West enjoys the highest regional HMI score of 74 as well as the largest year-over-year increase in single family construction starts at 14.6%. Below are a few highlights from the third week of October that influence our business:
Builder Confidence Rises One Point in October, Remains at Summer Levels
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rose one point to 68 in October on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Builder confidence levels have held in the high 60s since June. Builders continue to view solid housing demand, fueled by a growing economy and a nearly 50-year low for unemployment. Lumber price declines for three straight months from elevated levels earlier this summer have also helped to reduce some cost pressures, but builders will need to manage supply-side costs to keep home prices affordable. Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast rose three points to 57 and the South edged up one point to 71. The West held steady at 74 and the Midwest fell two points to 57.
Existing-Home Sales Decline Across the Country in September
Existing-home sales declined in September after a month of stagnation in August, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All four major regions saw no gain in sales activity last month. Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 3.4 percent from August to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.15 million in September. Sales are now down 4.1 percent from a year ago (5.37 million in September 2017). First-time buyers were responsible for 32 percent of sales in September, up from last month (31 percent) and a year ago (29 percent). All-cash sales accounted for 21 percent of transactions in September, up from August and a year ago (both 20 percent). Single-family home sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.58 million in September, down from 4.74 million in August, and are 4.0 percent below the 4.77 million sales pace from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West fell 3.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.08 million in September, 12.2 percent below a year ago.
Single-Family Starts Flat in September
Total housing starts posted a decline in September due to flat conditions for single-family construction and a pullback for apartment development. Total starts declined 5.3% in September but are 6.4% higher for 2018 on a year-to-date basis, according to the joint data release from the Census Bureau and HUD. The pace of single-family starts was roughly flat in September, decreasing 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 871,000. Slight gains off the summer soft patch for single-family mirror a minor uptick of the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, now registering a score of 68. While builders are benefitting from recent declines in lumber prices (at least relative to spring and summer’s elevated levels), they continue to report concerns about labor access issues. On a year-to-date basis, single-family starts are 6% higher as of September relative to the first nine months of 2017. Single-family permits, a useful indicator of future construction activity, were up slightly (2.9%) in September and have registered a 5.6% gain thus far in 2018 compared to last year. With respect to housing’s economic impact, 54% of homes under construction in September were multifamily (607,000). The current count of apartments under construction is down slightly from a year ago. In September, there were 522,000 single-family units under construction, a gain of more than 9% from this time in 2017. Regional data show – on a year-to-date basis – mixed conditions. Single-family construction is down 1% for the year in the Midwest and flat in the Northeast. Single-family starts are up in the larger building regions of the South (4.9%) and the West (14.6%).