Housing starts stagnated in April, down 0.2% from the prior month, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
The sentiment appears to be that although this marks the second straight month of dips, most are seeing today’s news as a positive, especially as construction of new homes was expected to fall 2.4% in April.
Further, housing starts are up 14.6% from April of last year, driven primarily by multifamily construction.
But it’s worth not getting overly excited, given that permits dipped 3.2% in April which is a forward-looking indicator, so expect starts to continue cooling in a time where we quite need the inventory.
Demand for housing inventory remains high, but the National Association of Home Builders reports today that confidence in the single-family housing market fell dramatically in May, marking the lowest level in two years.
Dr. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors said in a statement, “The worst of the housing shortage is ending, but market equilibrium between supply and demand is still some ways off.”
He notes that as mortgage rates increase, builders “are chasing rising rents, with fewer homebuyers and more renters being forced to renew their leases,” noting that even prior to the interest rate increases, rents were rapidly rising and vacancy rates rapidly declining.
Pointing to another market shift, Dr. Yun notes that “Some degree of a return to the office is also fueling back-to-city living where high rises are concentrated.”
That’s a problem.
“Even as home sales look to trend back to pre-pandemic levels after the big surge of the past two years,” concludes Dr. Yun, “inventory will not return to pre-pandemic conditions. That means home prices will get pushed even higher in the upcoming months, albeit modestly, given the supply-demand imbalance.”