Small Gain for Custom Building in 2017

NAHB’s analysis of Census Data from the Quarterly Starts and Completions by Purpose and Design survey indicates that with a small gain for the year, 2017 set a post-recession peak for custom home building starts (homes built on an owner’s land, with either the owner or a builder acting as the general contractor).

There were 40,000 total custom starts for the final quarter of the year. Over the course of 2017, there were 172,000 custom single-family home starts, an increase of approximately 2% over the 2016 total. Note that this definition of custom home building does not include homes intended for sale, so the analysis uses a narrow definition of the sector.

As measured on a one-year moving average, the market share of custom home building in terms of total single-family starts is now 20%, down from a cycle high of 31.5% set during the second quarter of 2009.

The onset of the housing crisis and the Great Recession interrupted a 15-year long trend away from homes built on the eventual owner’s land. As housing production slowed in 2006 and 2007, the market share of this not-for-sale new housing increased as the number of single-family starts declined. The share increased because the credit crunch made it more difficult for builders to obtain AD&C credit, thus producing relatively greater production declines of for-sale single-family housing.

The market share for custom home building will likely experience ups and downs in the quarters ahead as the overall single-family construction market expands. Recent declines in market share are due to an acceleration in overall single-family construction, especially in spec home building.

For a look at the geography of custom home building, read this recent review of 2016 annual data.

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