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.

Behind The Housing Starts Headlines, The Story That Matters

Housing Starts 2010-2011

When it comes to housing data, sometimes you have to look past the headlines. December’s Housing Starts data offers a terrific illustration of why.

Each month, the Census Bureau tallies Housing Starts for the month prior. A “housing start” is a home on which construction has started.

The Housing Starts report is separated by property type. There is a count for single-family homes; a count for 2-4 unit homes; and a count for buildings of 5 units or more, a category including apartments and condominiums.

In December, as reported by the government, Housing Starts fell 4 percent nationwide overall. This runs contrary to recent strength in housing and the story was quickly picked up by the press :

Now, although these headlines are factually true, they’re also are a little bit misleading.

Housing Starts did fall 4 percent last month but that was for all Housing Starts, across all three property types. Data like this is somewhat irrelevant to home buyers in FL or anywhere else nationwide.

Few buyers purchase 2-4 unit homes, and almost nobody purchases an entire apartment building. Rather, it’s the Housing Starts reports’ “single-family” tally that matters because that’s the home type that the majority of home buyers purchase.

In December, for the fourth straight month, Single-Family Housing Starts increased.

Single-family housing starts climbed 4 percent last month to 470,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is the highest number of Single-Family Housing Starts since April 2010 — the last month of last year’s home buyer tax credit.

The Single-Family Housing Starts data is the latest in a series of data that point to a housing rebound nationwide. New Home Sales, Existing Home Sales, Pending Home Sales and Homebuilder Confidence has each posted multi-month highs and all are poised for strong gains into 2012.

If you’re planning to buy a home in 2012, consider buying in between now and March rather than at some point later. Home prices — and mortgage rates- are likely to move higher.

Home Supplies Fall To 7.0 Months Nationwide; Buyer Demand Strong

Existing Home Supply 2010-2011

Home resales moved to a 10-month high in November, the latest in a series of strong showings from the housing sector.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, November’s Existing Home Sales rose to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 4.42 million units nationwide —  a 4 percent climb from October 2011.

An “existing home” is a home that has been previously occupied and cannot be categorized as new construction.

Home buyers and sellers throughout Orlando should take note of November’s numbers because — behind the headlines — there’s a series of statistics that foretell higher home prices ahead.

First, the total number of homes for sale nationwide dipped to 2.58 million, an 18% reduction from November 2010 and represents the fewest number of homes for sale since February 2007. 

At the current sales pace, the complete home resale inventory would be sold in 7.0 months.

And, second, the real estate trade group reports that 33% of all homes under contract “failed” for some reason last month.

Contract failures can occur because of mortgage denials in underwriting; home inspection issues; and homes appraising for less than their respective purchase prices.

In other words, despite a reduction in the number of homes for sale, and a rash of failed contracts, Existing Home Sales volume is still on the rise.

Broken-down by buyer-type, here’s to whom home sellers were selling in November :

  • First-time buyers : 35% of home resales, up from 34% in October 2011
  • Repeat buyers : 46% of home resales, down from 48% in October 2011
  • Investor buyers : 19% of home resales, up from 18% in October 2011

Given high demand for home resales and shrinking home supplies, we should expect that home prices will rise through December 2011 and into early-2012, at least. Recent Housing Starts data supports this notion. 

Thankfully, mortgage rates remain low. Low mortgage rates help keep homes affordable.

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. 

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.

Building Permits Rising Nationwide; Housing Starts To Follow

Housing Starts 2009-2011Single-Family Housing Starts fell for the second consecutive month, dropping to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 417,000 units in August 2011.

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

We shouldn’t put too much faith in the findings, however. Although housing starts were lower last month, as noted by the Census Bureau, the margin of error in the August Housing Starts report exceeded the actual result.

From the official report:

  • August’s Published Results : -1.4% from July 
  • August’s Margin of Error : ±10.3% from July

Therefore, August’s Housing Starts may have actually increased by up to +8.9% from July, or it may have dropped as much as -11.7%. We won’t know for sure until several months from now, after the Census Bureau has gathered more housing data.

One thing is certain, though — the long-term trend in Housing Starts is “flat”. There has been little change in new home construction since last summer.

The same can’t be said for Building Permits.

Considered a pre-cursor to Housing Starts, Single Family Building Permits climbed 2.5 percent with a minuscule Margin of Error of ±0.9 percent.

As is common in real estate, results varied by region:

  • Northeast : +3.3 percent from July
  • Midwest : +6.3 percent from July
  • South : -1.3 percent from July
  • West : +11.3 percent from July

When permits are issued, 86 percent of them begin break ground within 60 days. Therefore, expect Housing Starts and new home inventory to rebound in the months ahead.

For now, housing remains steady. And, with mortgage rates at all-time lows, homebuyer purchasing power in an around Orlando is higher than it’s been in history. If you’re in the process of shopping for a home, talk with your lender to plan your mortgage budget.

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