Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rose one point to 65 in July, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This marks the sixth consecutive month that sentiment levels have held at a steady range in the low- to mid-60s.
Builders report solid demand for single-family homes. However, they continue to grapple with labor shortages, a dearth of buildable lots and rising construction costs that are making it increasingly challenging to build homes at affordable price points relative to buyer incomes.
Even as builders try to rein in costs, home prices continue to outpace incomes. The current low mortgage interest rate environment should be getting more buyers off the sidelines, but they remain hesitant due to affordability concerns. Still, attractive rates should help spur new home purchases in large metro suburban markets, where approximately one-third of new construction takes place according to the NAHB HBGI. Lower recent have driven new home sales 4% higher on a year-to-date basis thus far in 2019, while single-family permits continue to lag.
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
All the HMI indices inched higher in July. The index measuring current sales conditions rose one point to 72, the component gauging expectations in the next six months moved a single point higher to 71 and the metric charting buyer traffic increased one point to 48.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the South moved one point higher to 68 and the West was also up one point to 72. The Northeast remained unchanged at 60 while the Midwest fell a single point to 56.
The HMI tables can be found at nahb.org/hmi.