Housing starts posted a notable drop in November after a strong October pace. Total starts were down 18.7%, falling to a 1.09 million seasonally adjusted annual rate after a 1.34 million rate in October. However, the decline was concentrated in the volatile multifamily sector. The single-family sector continues to show anon improving trend, consistent with rising home builder confidence.
According to estimates from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, single-family starts declined 4.1% to an 828,000 annual rate from a robust October pace of 863,000. Year-to-date, single-family construction is 9.6% higher than this time of 2015. And as measured on a three-month moving average, single-family starts are at a post-cycle high, as seen on the graph below.
Single-family permits point to more growth in 2017. Single-family permits, as measured on a three-month moving average, are also at a cycle high (778,000 annual rate) and are 8.1% higher on a year-to-date basis.
Multifamily development was the primary reason the headline starts number declined in November. Total multifamily starts were down 45% for the month, dropping from a strong but unsustainable October pace of 477,000 to a 262,000 annual rate in November. On a year-to-date basis, multifamily starts are approximately 4% lower than this time in 2015, as the market levels off and finds a balance between supply and demand.
On a monthly basis in November, single-family starts were up 19.8% in the Midwest, but fell by 4.6% in the South, 7.6% in the Northeast and 15.3% in the West. However, the monthly numbers mask the improvement seen around the county during 2016 for single-family construction. On a year-to-date basis, single-family construction is up 12.4% in the Midwest, 10.9% in the Northeast, 9.5% in the South, and 7.6% in the West.
Focusing on housing’s economic impact, in November 57% of homes under construction were multifamily (599,000). This multifamily count is 9% higher than a year ago. There were 445,000 single-family units under construction, a gain of 7% from this time in 2015. This is the highest count of single-family units under construction since September of 2008.
NAHB will be releasing its 2017 forecast at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando. Today’s numbers are consistent with that modeling, which indicates continued growth for single-family construction (limited by availability of workers and lots) and continued leveling off of multifamily production in the year ahead.