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New home construction data is out, and the numbers are both horrible and awesome

If new home construction data slipped this month, how can a leading economist call this “the best year since the recovery began?”

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, housing starts in July fell 16.0 percent, but were up 10.1 percent for the year. Falling to 1.206 million, housing starts are at historically low levels, and after a jump last month, permits saw a 6.3 percent dip during this reporting period (although permits are up 7.5 percent for the year).

Although multi-family saw the biggest decline, pulling the overall number down, it is not time to panic, as it is typical for this sector to decline after frantically making up for lost winter productivity. All regions but the Midwest are doing well when looking at year to date numbers.

So why then does Trulia’s chief economist, Dr. Selma Hepp proclaim that “Despite the volatility, construction activity is in the best year since the recovery began.” Because of data.

How can this be good news?

Hepp explains by offering in her own words below the combination of single-family starts, annual growth in multi-family construction, and builder confidence:

  1. Single-family construction starts are moving up ever so slowly, and reached 782,000 annualized units in July 2015. Finally a little bit stronger than multi-family starts, the single-family starts are still below long-run average in most major metros across the county. In fact, Trulia’s latest study reveals that the single-family component is still well below historical norms even in metros seeing improvement in annualized permit activity. Only 13 out of the 100 largest U.S. metros saw increases in single-family construction over their historical norms, most notably in Austin, Houston, Charleston and Nashville.
  2. The annual growth in multi-family home construction has slowed markedly but in line with expectations, particularly among 5+ units construction which recently reached highest levels since mid-1980s. Trulia’s analysis of permit activity for multi-family construction shows that 53 out of the 100 largest U.S. metros are now building more than their historical average. In some of the top 10 markets, multi-family construction was higher than the historical norm by several fold. For example, New York’s activity is more than four times higher, while both Boston and Newark are almost three times higher. In many of these markets, multi-family construction is reaching a cyclical peak and will soon see some slowdown.
  3. Many housing markets are still building well below their historical norm. Trulia’s analysis of permit activity shows that 7 in 10 homebuilding markets t are building below their long-run norm. Most simply, areas with slower home price appreciation and fewer new jobs are still the construction laggers, but also the markets with some residual distressed inventory since the housing bust.
  4. Builder confidence for newly built, single-family homes yesterday showed the index continuing to increase to the highest level since November 2005. High confidence among builders is an encouraging indicator of future construction activity.

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Hepp concludes, “All in all, the housing recovery has reached a new milestone. Builders have become much more bullish on the housing market, with homebuilder confidence haven risen to a near-decade high. New construction is now being driven by steady home price appreciation, but more importantly by stronger economic fundamentals, job growth, and demographic trends which are key fundamentals necessary for a sustainable healthy recovery.”

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Real Estate Big Data

Median home prices hit $407K, home sales fall 3.4%

(REAL ESTATE NEWS) Home sales dip for a fourth consecutive month in May – what does this mean for the housing market going forward?

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For the fourth consecutive month, existing home sales (real estate contracts signed) fell 3.4% in May from April, and slumped 8.6% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The average days on market fell from 17 days in April (and May 2021) to 16 days in May, and 81% of all homes listed sold in under a month.

The median home price rose 14.8% over the last year to $407,6000, the first time it has ever exceeded $400K. May marks the 123rd consecutive month of annual increases, the longest-running streak in history.

Inventory remains tight, but did rise 12.6% from April to 1.16 million by the end of May, marking a 2.6 month sales pace. Inventory is down 4.1% from May of 2021.

“Home sales have essentially returned to the levels seen in 2019 – prior to the pandemic – after two years of gangbuster performance,” said NAR Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun.

“Also, the market movements of single-family and condominium sales are nearly equal, possibly implying that the preference towards suburban living over city life that had been present over the past two years is fading with a return to pre-pandemic conditions,” Dr. Yun added.

He notes that it is expected that home sales in coming months will continue to decline in light of rising mortgage rates, yet appropriately priced homes will continue to sell quickly.

First time buyers made up 27% of sales in May, down from 28% in April. This diminishing number remains troubling, as the average hovered around 33% for years, and was at 31% in May 2021.

All-cash sales rising to 25% (up from 23% in May 2021), and individual investors or second-home buyers accounted for 16% of sales in May.

“Declining home purchases means more people are renting, and the resulting rent price escalation may spur more institutional investors to buy single-family homes and turn them into rental properties – placing additional financial strain on prospective first-time homebuyers,” said NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith.

“To counter this trend,” Rouda notes, “policymakers should consider incentivizing an inventory release to the market by temporarily lowering capital gains taxes for mom-and-pop investors to sell to first-time buyers.”

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Real Estate Big Data

NAR Chief Economist predicts housing market uncertainty

(BIG DATA) Warning bells on the housing market have been ringing for over a year. While this prediction isn’t a surprise, it’s disappointing news.

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Multitude of colorful homes representing housing market.

The housing market is booming. Many experts are concerned about another bust like we experienced in 2008, but the conditions are much different today. Homeowners aren’t extended like they were when the market crashed in 2008. National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun suggests that the housing market is still uncertain, even though he says, “housing kept the economy afloat” during the pandemic.

What is impacting the housing market? 

Yun cites record-low inventory and inflation as “curveballs” to the housing market. Many economists, including Yun, have been concerned about low inventory for many years, especially in certain markets. Even though builders are working hard to construct new residences, supply chain and labor issues are not accelerating the process.

Yun is more concerned about inflation impacting the housing market. He says,

“wages have risen by 6% from one year ago…but inflation is 8.5%.”

Rising mortgage rates have made mortgages cost $300 to $400 a month more, according to Yun. Many working families can’t afford that. Yun predicts inflation is going to be high for several months. The market will slow as the Federal Reserve raises rates.

Yun also cites the Russia-Ukraine war as another contribution to the uncertainty of the market. The war is also driving inflation, not just overseas, but in the United States. With gas prices climbing higher each week, this is impacting the housing market.

Is real estate a good investment in this market?

Last year, when Yun opened the Residential Economic Issues & Trends Forum at NAR’s annual REALTOR® Conference & Expo in San Diego, he expected the “housing sector’s success to continue,” but he did suggest that 2022’s performance wouldn’t exceed 2021s.

“Rising rents will continue to place upward pressures on inflation,” he said. “Nevertheless, real estate is a great hedge against inflation.”

There’s a lot we don’t know about the future. It’s disappointing to think that the housing market may be uncertain, but real estate is still a good investment.

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Real Estate Big Data

Housing starts stagnate, market conditions are rapidly shifting

Housing starts for April stagnated, marking the second consecutive months of declines, and more renters being left out of this shifting market.

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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.”

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