The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a treasure trove of data, its 2018 report on Characteristics of New Housing.  The report, based on data collected by the Bureau's Survey of Construction, covers a huge array of stats about new single-family housing on both a national and a regional basis.

Much, but not all of the information dates back to 1973 and is presented by way of a series of spreadsheets and is used by researchers, policymakers, builders, and the housing finance industry. The longitudinal data, which is somewhat limited, is useful in identifying trends, and the whole database is actually sort of fun - potentially an enormous time sink for housing info junkies.

The Bureau found there were 840,000 single-family homes completed in 2018. While this was the largest number since the end of the previous housing boom in 2007, it clearly shows why there is such concern over residential construction. There were only three years prior to the housing crisis when there were fewer completions, 1981 and 1982 when interest rates were in the high double digits, and 1991. There were also 345,000 multi-family units completed.

Less than one-quarter of the homes built were smaller than 1,800 square feet, with 60 percent ranging from 1,800 to 2,999 square feet.  Ninety percent had three bedrooms or more. While a lot has been written about builders seeking to cut costs using modular methods, 97 percent of the homes completed last year were site-built.

The information has only been tracked as a separate category since 2013, but the number of homes specifically constructed as rentals has been steadily increasing, from 33,000 that first year to 44,000 in 2018. Sixty-five percent of sales were financed using conventional loans, a fairly consistent number since 2009, but significantly lower than the 80 percent plus share from 1999, when that data was first collected, until the end of the boom.  FHA loans and all-cash purchases each have assumed some of the GSE's (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's) earlier share.

The details available in the report are comprehensive - very comprehensive. Want to know how many homes were constructed with a two-story foyer? There were 131,000. Every last house was built with a laundry room, 590,000 of them were on the first floor.  Outdoor amenities? Patio, porch, deck, or all three? It's all there. Like we said, a total time sink.

The complete database, also sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is available here.