New Home Supply Falls To 5.6 Months

New Home Supply 2010-2012

The new construction market rolls on.

As foreshadowed by February’s Homebuilder Confidence survey, which rose to a 4-year high, the Census Bureau reports new homes are selling more quickly than builders have built them, lowering the national “home supply” to levels not seen since 2006.

A “new home” is a home that is considered new construction and, at the current pace of sales, the nation’s entire new home inventory of 151,000 homes would be sold in 5.6 months.

Anything less than 6.0-month supply is thought to connote a “sellers’ market”.

321,000 new homes were sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. 7 of 10 new homes sold for less than $300,000. 

The South Region continues to account for the majority of new construction sales, posting a 59% market share in January. South Region sales were up 9 percent as compared to December. The other 3 regions turned in mixed results. 

  • Northeast Region : +11.1% from December 2011 
  • Midwest Region : -24.5% from December 2011 
  • West Region : -10.6% from December 2011 

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau’s New Home Sales data could be wrong.

Although New Home Sales were said to fall by about one percent nationally from December to January, the government’s monthly report was footnoted with a ±16.6% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales reading may have been as high as +15%, or as low as -18%. 

Because the range of values includes positive and negative values, the January New Home Sales data is of “zero confidence”. However, that’s not to say that it should be ignored. The aforementioned homebuilder confidence survey shows builders optimistic for the future, and a bevy of home sale data since October 2011 suggests a market in recovery.

If you’re in the market for new construction in Orlando , therefore, consider going into contract sooner rather than later. Home prices remain low and mortgage rates do, too — a terrific combination for today’s buyers.

In a few months, the landscape may look different.

Housing Starts Stay Strong; Building Permits Rise.

Single-family housing starts

The housing market has carried forward its year-end momentum. 

According to the Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, January’s Single-Family Housing Starts crossed the half-million unit marker for the second straight month.

This hasn’t happened in close to 2 years and is the latest in a series of strong data that suggests the beleaguered housing market has turned a corner — both nationally and locally in Winter Park.  

Although single-family starts slipped 1 percent from December, January’s annualized 508,000 figure represents a 16% spike from January 2011 and is the second-highest reading since April 2010 — the last month of 2010’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started.

The strength of January’s Housing Starts data surprised Wall Street analysts and is partially responsible for Thursday’s unexpected mortgage rate spike. 

In hindsight, though, we should have seen this coming.

Earlier in the week, the National Association of Homebuilders announced that homebuilder confidence had climbed to its highest point since 2007 amid builder reports of rising sales volume and the most foot traffic from buyers in more than 4 years.

In addition, builders expect to sell more homes in 2012 than in 2011.

Builders are building and buyers are buying.

Meanwhile, as another sign of housing market strength, the Census Bureau reports that, in January, Building Permits moved to a multi-year high as well. Permits issued for single-family homes in January rose 1 percent from December, a statistic that suggests housing will continue its run through the spring season, at least.

86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.

It’s a good time to be a home buyer. Mortgage rates and home prices are low. Housing market momentum, however, is building. If you’re on the fence about whether to buy a home , ask your real estate agent for additional market information.

The cost of home-ownership may never be as low as it is today.

The 10 Longest Commutes In The United States

Longest CommutesAccording to the Census Bureau, more than 3.2 million U.S. workers spend over 3 hours commuting to and from work each day.

Commutes exceeding 90 minutes in each direction are known as “extreme commutes” in Census Bureau parlance. As compared to typical commute times nationwide, they’re aptly named.

The national, average commute time is just 25.1 minutes

For home buyers in Orlando or in any U.S. city, make sure to make commute times a consideration before placing an offer on a property. The length of your daily commute will make an impact on your life.

Studies shows that shorter commutes are linked to higher levels of life satisfaction. Long commutes are linked to low levels of life satisfaction.

As ranked by the Census Bureau, here are the 10 cities with the longest average commute times, where commuting is defined as the total time to arrive at work, inclusive of all modes of transportation (i.e. automobile, train, subway, foot, or other) :

  1. New York / North New Jersey / Long Island : 34.6 minutes
  2. Washington, DC / Arlington / Alexandria : 33.4 minutes
  3. Poughkeepsie / Newburgh / Middletown, NY: 32.2 minutes
    Bremerton / Silverdale, WA : 30.8 minutes
    Chicago / Naperville / Joliet, IL : 30.7 minutes
    Winchester, VA : 30.3 minutes
    Atlanta / Sandy Springs / Marietta, GA 30.1 minutes
    Riverside / San Bernardino / Ontario, CA : 30.0 minutes
    Stockton, CA : 29.8 minutes
    Baltimore / Towson, MD : 29.7 minutes

    Poughkeepsie / Newburgh / Middletown, NY: 32.2 minutes

  4. Bremerton / Silverdale, WA : 30.8 minutes
  5. Chicago / Naperville / Joliet, IL : 30.7 minutes
  6. Winchester, VA : 30.3 minutes
  7. Atlanta / Sandy Springs / Marietta, GA 30.1 minutes
  8. Riverside / San Bernardino / Ontario, CA : 30.0 minutes
  9. Stockton, CA : 29.8 minutes
  10. Baltimore / Towson, MD : 29.7 minutes

By contrast, the shortest commute belongs to residents of Great Falls, Montana. The average commute for the city’s 58,000 residents is 14.2 minutes.

A long commute to work should not deter you from moving to a particular home or neighborhood, but your time-en-route should be a consideration. Before making an offer on a home , therefore, practice the rush hour commute from your potential new neighborhood in the morning, and back to it again that evening.

Then, imagine making the commute every day.

Supply Of New Homes At 6.1 Months Nationwide

New Home Supply 2010-2011

New Home Sales slowed into the New Year but the market for newly-built homes remains strong. For home buyers in FL and nationwide, December’s New Home Sales report is yet one more signal that the housing market recovery may be underway.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold in December 2011 slipped 2 percent to 307,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis nationwide.

A “new home” is a home that is considered new construction; a home for which the buyer will be the first owner and tenant.

As compared to December 2010, last months’ sales volume fell seven percent. It’s a statistic that suggests housing market weakness. However, in looking at a different component of the New Home Sales report — the supply of homes for sale — we’re forced to reconsider.

At the current pace of sales, every new home for sale nationwide would be “sold” in a matter of 6.1 months. 

Economists believe that a 6.0-month supply defines a market in balance — anything quicker is termed a “seller’s market”. Statistics like that are enough to create urgency among today’s Winter Park home buyers. 

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau’s data may be wrong.

Although December’s New Home Sales report shows sales down 2 percent, the government’s data was published with a ±13.2% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales figure may have been as low as -15.2 percent, or as high as +11.2 percent. And, because the range of possible values includes both positive and negative numbers, the Census Bureau had no choice but to assign its December data “Zero Confidence”.

It will be a few months before final revisions are made to December New Home Sales data. Until then, therefore, buyers should take cues from the market-at-large and the market-at-large hints at recovery. One example of this is homebuilders showing more confidence in their product than at any time in the last 5 years.

If your plans for 2012 call for buying new construction, therefore, consider using this lull to “make a deal”. As the year progresses, the great values in housing may be gone.

New Home Sales Approach Bull Market Territory

New Home Supply 2010-2011New home inventory is approaching bull market territory.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold rose 2 percent in November. On a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, home buyers bought 315,000 newly-built homes last month.

November’s New Home Sales data marks the 4th straight month of rising sales volume, lifting the housing-market metric to a 7-month high, and adding to the housing market’s recent show of strength. 

Last week, we learned that Existing Home Sales also climbed in November.

The big story in the New Home Sales report, though, is the remaining new home supply nationwide.

With just 158,000 homes “on the market” and the pace of home sales hastening, the complete, national inventory of “new homes” would now be sold in just 6.0 months, a 0.2-month improvement from October. This is the quickest home sales pace in nearly 6 years for the new construction market. 

It’s even faster than in April 2010 — the buyer-deadline month of last year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

Home builders expect the trend to continue, too. Buyer foot traffic is on the rise and builders have a strong outlook for the next 6 months.

It’s an unsettling series of developments for today’s Orlando home buyers. As home supplies drop and builders gain confidence, the ability of an buyer to negotiate for price reduction and/or upgrades shrinks.

If you’re a home buyer in search of new construction, therefore, consider that the best new construction “deals” of the next 12 months may be the ones you find today.

Housing Starts Show Strength In Housing

Housing Starts 2007-2011

The new construction housing market continues to show strength across the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Single-Family Housing Starts rose to 447,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis in November — a 2 percent increase from October.

A “Housing Start” is defined as breaking ground on new home construction.

November’s figures mark the third straight month of Single-Family Housing Starts gains. The new construction metric is now 15 percent above its all-time low, set in February of this year.

None of this should be a surprise to new home buyers in Orlando.

Housing data has been trending better since September with sales volumes rising and home inventories falling. Basic economics tells us that home prices should soon rise.

The good news is that low mortgage rates should keep homes affordable.

Since mid-November, the average, conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage has hovered near 4.000% nationwide with an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus closing costs. 1 discount point equals one percent of your loan size. This is down from near 4.500% six months ago, and the drop has made a big impact on home affordability. 

  • June 2011 : $200,000 mortgage costs $1,013.37 per month
  • December 2011 : $200,000 mortgage costs $954.83 per month

This represents $700 in savings per year. It’s no wonder home builders report the highest buyer foot traffic in 3 years

Meanwhile, the market shows little signs of slowing down. Building Permits are on the rise, too.

Permits for single-family homes rose to their highest levels of year in November and 89 percent of those homes will start construction within 60 days. This means that Single-Family Housing Starts should stay strong through the early part of 2012, and into the spring.

If you’re planning to buy new construction in Florida , therefore, talk to your real estate agent soon and consider moving up your time frame. With mortgage rates low and next year’s buying season approaching, you may find that the best “deals” will come within the next few weeks only.

Housing Starts Rising; New Construction Turns The Corner?

Housing Starts (2009-2011)Another day, another signal that the market for newly-built homes is improving.

Single-Family Housing Starts rose to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 430,000 units in October — a 4 percent increase from September and the highest reading in 3 months.

A “Housing Start” is a home on which ground has been broken.

The increase in surprised Wall Street analysts, although it shouldn’t have.  

Earlier this week, the National Association of Homebuilders showed that Homebuilder Confidence is at its highest point since May 2010, the effect of better market conditions and more sold units. Rising housing starts amid a lift in builder confidence is to be expected — the two metrics have moved with loose correlation since mid-2000.

However, as with everything in real estate, Single-Family Housing Starts volume varied by location. The nation’s 4 regions posted wide-ranging results :

  • Northeast Region : + 10.0% from September
  • Midwest Region : -4.1% from September
  • South Region : +11.3% from September
  • West Region : -10.2% from September

Buyers of new construction in Orlando can infer two key points from last month’s data.

First, with more homes will being built, home supply should rise, thereby softening pressure on rising home prices. This should help keep homes affordable.

However, the second point is that, with builder confidence rising, buyers are less likely to win price concessions and “free upgrades” in negotiations.

The last 6 weeks of 2011 may be your optimal time to buy new construction. Home prices remain affordable and mortgage rates are rock-bottom. In addition, because there are typically fewer active home buyers during the holidays, you’ll be more likely to locate one of the few remaining new construction “deals”.

Talk to your real estate agent about local trends and new construction. 

New Home Inventory Keeps Sinking

New Home Supply Sep 2010 - 2011Home builders continue to sell homes and work through inventory.

According to data from the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold in September jumped 6 percent from the month prior, beating analyst expectations. On a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, buyers in FL and nationwide closed on 313,000 newly-built homes last month.

It’s the highest reading since April and a major reason why the available number of new homes for sale is shrinking. 

As compared to September 2010, there are 19% fewer homes for sale nationwide. At today’s sales pace, the complete new home inventory would be “sold out” in 6.2 months – the quickest sell-out pace since the April 2010 federal home buyer tax credit expiration.

It’s no wonder builder confidence is rising.

After averaging 15 through the first 9 months of the year, homebuilder confidence jumped 4 points for October, carried by low mortgage rates and the expectation for a strong winter/spring selling season.

For buyers in Orlando , this could be construed as a housing market-shifting signal. As builder confidence rises, it becomes more difficult to negotiate for upgrades and price reductions on a new home. “Great deals” get scarce.

Furthermore, it’s unlikely that mortgage rates will sustain their current, ultra-low levels into 2012. Rising rates lead to higher housing payments on a month-to-month basis. 

If you’re in the market for a newly-built home, in other words, today’s homes may represent your best value of the year.

Finding Truth In September’s Housing Starts Report

Housing Starts 2009-2011Headlines in newspapers can be misleading — especially with respect to housing figures. Media coverage of the most recent Housing Starts data serves as an excellent illustration.

Wednesday, the Census Bureau released its September Housing Starts report. In it, the government said that national Housing Starts rose 15 percent in September as compared to August 2011, tallying 658,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

The September reading is the highest monthly reading since April 2010, the last month of last year’s home buyer tax credit.

The sudden surge in starts is big news for a housing market that has struggled of late, and the press was eager to carry the story. Here is a sampling of some headlines:

  • U.S. Housing Starts Rise 15%, Hit 17-Month High (MarketWatch)
  • Home Building Jumps 15% in September (ABC)
  • New Construction Surges In September (LA Times)

These headlines are each accurate. However, they’re also misleading.

Yes, Housing Starts did surge in September, but if we remove the “5 or more units” grouping from the Census Bureau data — the catgory that includes apartment buildings and condominium structures — we’re left with Single-Family Housing Starts and Single-Family Housing Starts rose just 1.7 percent last month.

That’s a good number, but hardly a great one. And for home buyers and sellers throughout Orlando and nationwide, it’s the Single-Family Housing Starts that matter most. Individuals like you and I don’t buy entire apartment buildings. Most often, we buy single-family homes. Therefore, that’s the data for which we should watch.

The good news is that media tales work in both directions.

Building Permits dropped 5 percent last month when the volatile 5-unit-or-more-units category was included from the math. Isolating for single-family homes, we find that permits were unchanged.

This is good housing because 82% of homes begin construction within 60 days of permit-issuance, hinting at a steady, late-fall housing market.

Retail Sales Expected To Rise; Mortgage Rates Should Rise, Too

Retail Sales 2008-2011

The American Consumer is alive and well, it seems.

Friday morning, the Census Bureau will release its Retail Sales figures for September. The report is expected to show an increase in gross receipts for the 15th straight month with analysts predicting a 0.6 percent increase from August.

The projected increase represents the largest jump in Retail Sales in six months and would likely lead mortgage rates higher for buyers in Orlando and   nationwide.

The connection between Retail Sales and mortgage rates is fairly straight-forward. Retail Sales are the majority component of “consumer spending” and consumer spending represents the majority of the U.S. economy — up to 70 percent, by some estimates.

And, as the economy goes, so go mortgage rates.

10 months ago, mortgage rates shot forward to start the year. This is because expectations were high for a strong economic rebound. Conforming and FHA rates crossed 5 percent at the time and were headed toward six.

By mid-April, though, it was clear that economic data was falling short of predictions. As a result, mortgage rates declined, kicking off the 2011 Refi Boom. Then, by August, on ongoing economic softness, mortgage rates in Florida fell further, making new all-time lows.

Expectations for a recovery have returned. Rates are now rising.

Last week’s strong jobs report sparked hope for the U.S. economy and investors have been voting with their dollars. Mortgage rates are now up 7 consecutive days and Friday’s Retail Sales report could cement the trend.

If you’re shopping mortgage rates today, there’s risk in “floating”. You may want to lock your rate before Friday’s Retail Sales report drives rates even higher.

The Retail Sales report will be released at 8:30 AM ET.

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