Housing Starts Hit Ten Year Low While Builder Confidence Sets Even A Longer Record
Residential building permits and housing starts
continued to fall in July with the latter measure of the nation's economic
health dropping more than at any time since January 1997.
The monthly report on new residential construction issued by the U.S. Census
Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed permits
for privately-owned building permits for residential construction being issued
at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,373,000, a drop of 2.8 percent below
the revised June rate of 1,413,000 and 22.6 percent below the revised estimate
of 1,774,000 units in July one year ago.
Single family permits fared slightly better; 1,003,000 permits were issued
in July, 1.6 percent less than the June figure of 1,019,000.
Housing starts for the month were at an annualized rate of 1,381,000, a drop
of 6.1 percent from the June estimate of 1,470,000 and nearly 21 percent off
of the July, 2006 pace. Single family housing starts were down 7.3 percent from
Builders were holding around 194,000 permits on which construction had not
yet begun in July compared to 206,900 in June. A staggering 103,800 of those
permits were in the Southern states as were nearly 50 percent of the 117,500
unused permits for single family construction.
Not surprisingly, builder confidence is also eroding. The
latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index
(HMI) took another hit in August, reaching its lowest level in over16 years.
The HMI asks builders to respond to three measures of confidence each month;
how they measure current single-family home sales and what they expect from
those sales over the next six months - both on a scale of "good,"
"fair," or "poor," and whether current traffic of prospective
buyers is "high to very high," "average," or "low
to very low." Each measure is ranked separately and then used to calculate
a seasonally adjusted index. Any number over 50 for the components or the main
index indicates that more builders view sales conditions as positive rather
Following a slide that has gone on for months, the HMI declined another two
points in August to 22, the lowest level the 20 year survey has seen since January,
1991. The index gauging current single-family home sales fell a single point,
to 23, while the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months declined
two points to 32 and that gauging traffic of prospective buyers declined three
points to 16.
National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) President Brian Catalde
said, "Builders realize that issues related to mortgage credit cost and availability
have become more acute, filtering some prospective buyers out of the market
and prompting others to delay their decision to purchase a new home. Builders
are responding by trimming prices and stepping up non-price incentives to bolster
sales and limit cancellations, although we're dealing in a difficult market
NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders cited the subprime
mortgage situation as being a part of the problem but said, "... the
government-related parts of the mortgage market still are functioning well and
the underlying economic fundamentals promise to remain solid for some time -
providing support to the longer-run housing outlook. We now expect to see home
sales return to an upward path by early next year and we expect housing starts
to begin a gradual recovery process by mid-2008. From there, the market will
have plenty of room to grow in 2009 and beyond."