Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes was unchanged in March from a revised level of 28 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This means that following five consecutive months of gains, the HMI is now holding at its highest level since June of 2007. Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
"While builders are still very cautious at this time, there is a sense that many local housing markets have started to move in the right direction and that prospects for future sales are improving," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the NAHB and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "This is demonstrated by the fact that the HMI component measuring builder expectations continued climbing for a sixth straight month in March, to its highest level in more than four years."
While the HMI component gauging current sales conditions declined one point to 29 in March, the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months gained two points to 36 and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers held unchanged at 22.
"Builder confidence is now twice as strong as it was six months ago, and the West was the only region to experience a decline this month following an unusual spike in February," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "That said, many of our members continue to cite obstacles on the road to recovery, including persistently tight builder and buyer credit and the ongoing inventory of distressed properties in some markets."
Regionally in March, the HMI gained five points to 25 in the Northeast, two points to 32 in the Midwest and two points to 27 in the South, but fell 10 points in the West following a 22-point gain in the previous month.