Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes fell two points in October from a downwardly revised reading in the previous month to a level of 55 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). "Builder optimism remains above 50 and we are still seeing signs of pent-up demand in many markets across the country," said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "This slight dip in builder sentiment is the result of continuing challenges in the marketplace with regard to the cost and availability of labor and lots and uncertainty in Washington"
"A spike in mortgage interest rates along with the paralysis in Washington that led to the government shutdown and uncertainty regarding the nation's debt limit have caused builders and consumers to take pause," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "However, interest rates remain near historic lows and we don't expect the level of rates to have a major impact on sales and starts going forward. Once this government impasse is resolved, we expect builder and consumer optimism will bounce back."
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 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.
All of the HMI's three components each fell two points in October. The component gauging current sales conditions registered 58, while the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months posted a reading of 62 and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers was 44.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the South held steady at 56, the West declined a single point to 60 and the Northeast fell three points to 38. The Midwest posted a one-point gain to 64.
With the partial shutdown of the federal government preventing the U.S. Census Bureau from releasing a housing starts estimate for September, NAHB has prepared its own.
NAHB estimates that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of construction for single-family homes was between 620,000 and 630,000 units in September.
NAHB estimates that the pace of construction of multifamily units was an additional 255,000 to 270,000, bringing the anticipated pace of total housing starts in September to between 875,000 and 900,000 units.
"The NAHB estimate of 875,000 to 900,000 total housing starts is based on continuing improvement in single-family starts and ongoing volatility in multifamily construction," said Crowe.
"Single-family starts dipped in July but rebounded in August, and we expect continued strength in September," Crowe added. "The Fed meeting in mid-September provided additional relief to builders and buyers that interest rates would remain near historic lows for the immediate future, encouraging consumers back into the housing market.
"Meanwhile, multifamily starts have been unusually volatile since the beginning of the year, swinging between 250,000 and 400,000 units from month-to-month. We expect some bounce back from the August pace of 263,000 as multifamily starts continue to trend around 300,000 units."