Time to Build a Single-Family Home in 2016

The 2016 Survey of Construction (SOC) from the Census Bureau shows that the average completion time of a single-family house is around 7.5 months, which usually includes almost a month from authorization to start and another 6.5 months to finish the construction. The timeline from authorization to completion, however, which is not consistent across the nation, depends on the housing category, the geographic location, and metropolitan status.

Among all the single-family houses completed in 2016, houses built for sale took the shortest time, 7 months to completion after obtaining building permits, while houses built by owners required the longest time, 13 months. Homes built for rent took 10 months from permit to completion, and those built by hired contractors normally needed around 9 months. A large proportion of single-family homes built for sale and custom homes built by contractors on owners’ land began construction within the same month after obtaining building authorizations. However, homes built for rent and custom homes built by owners serving as general contractors had a one-month lag between obtaining permits and construction start in 2016.

The average time from authorization to completion also varies across the nation. New England had the longest time of 10.5 months, followed by the Middle Atlantic division of 10 months, East South Central, East North Central, and Pacific of 8 months in 2016. These five divisions had average time from permit to completion exceeding the nation’s average. The shortest period, 6.5 months, is registered in the South Atlantic division.

The average waiting period from permit to construction start are different across the nine Census divisions. Pacific division registers the longest time of 35 days, while Mountain division shows the shortest time of 17 days form permit to start.

Houses in metropolitan areas, on average, took nearly 8.7 months to completion, which was 1.3 months shorter than those in non-metropolitan areas. This pattern was quite consistent across the nation, except for the Middle Atlantic division where the average time to completion in metropolitan areas was longer than in non-metropolitan areas in 2016.

The SOC also collects sale information for houses built for sale, including the sale date when buyers sign the sale contracts or make a deposit. Looking at single-family homes completed in 2016, 32% was sold before construction started, 34% sold while under construction, 11.5% sold during the month of completion, and 16.5% sold after completion. The percent of single-family houses completed in 2016 and remaining unsold as of the first quarter of 2017 was 6%.

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