The volume of residential construction loans increased by 1.8% during the fourth quarter of 2016, marking 15 consecutive quarters of growth. However, the growth rate at the end of the year was the smallest since the start of 2013.
Tight availability of acquisition, development and construction (AD&C) loans has been a limiting factor for home building growth, but easing credit conditions and a growing loan base have helped expand residential construction activity in a thin inventory environment.
According to data from the FDIC and NAHB analysis, the outstanding stock of 1-4 unit residential construction loans made by FDIC-insured institutions rose by $1.2 billion during the last quarter of 2016, raising the total stock of outstanding loans to $69.6 billion.
On a year-over-year basis, the stock of residential construction loans is up 14.3%, as indicated by the red bars in the graph below.
Since the first quarter of 2013, the stock of outstanding home building construction loans has grown by 71%, an increase of $28.8 billion.
It is worth noting the FDIC data represent only the stock of loans, not changes in the underlying flows, so it is an imperfect data source. Nonetheless, recent consistent growth in the stock of AD&C loans is a positive development. NAHB surveys of builders also suggest improving lending conditions, although recent Fed survey data indicates some tightening for commercial real estate lending purposes.
However, lending remains much reduced from years past. The current stock of existing residential AD&C loans now stands 66% lower than the peak level of residential construction lending of $203.8 billion reached during the first quarter of 2008.
The FDIC data reveal that the total decline from peak lending for home building construction loans continues to exceed that of other AD&C loans (nonresidential, land development, and multifamily). Such forms of AD&C lending are off a smaller 44% from peak lending. This class of AD&C loans has now registered 14 quarters of expansion (3.8% for the final quarter of 2016).
Some land development loans connected to home building are grouped in this other class. NAHB survey data indicate land development loans face tighter lending conditions than loans for residential construction purposes.
Despite the steady increases in residential AD&C lending, there exists a lending gap between home building demand and available credit. This lending gap is being made up with other sources of capital, including equity, investments from non-FDIC insured institutions and lending from other private sources, which may in some cases offer less favorable terms for home builders than traditional AD&C loans.