Reflecting the growing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes plunged 42 points in April to 30, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The decline in April was the largest single monthly change in the history of the index and marks the lowest builder confidence reading since June 2012. It is also the first time that builder confidence has been below the key breakeven reading of 50 since June 2014.
The unprecedented drop in builder confidence is due to the coronavirus outbreak across the nation, as unemployment has surged and gaps in the supply chain have hampered construction activities. Builders have also expressed confusion over eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program, as some builders have successfully submitted loan applications while others have not been able to. NAHB is working with the White House, Treasury and Congress to get the broadest builder participation possible. Home building remains an essential business throughout most of the nation.
Before the pandemic hit, the housing market was showing signs of strength with January and February new home sales at their highest pace since the Great Recession. To show how hard and fast this outbreak has hit the housing sector, a recent poll of NAHB members reveals that 96 percent reported that virus mitigation efforts were hurting buyer traffic. While the virus is severely disrupting residential construction and the overall economy, the need and demand for housing remains acute. As social distancing and other mitigation efforts show signs of easing this health crisis, NAHB expects that housing will play its traditional role of helping to lead the economy out of a recession later in 2020.
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.
The HMI index gauging current sales conditions dropped 43 points to 36, the component measuring sales expectations in the next six months fell 39 points to 36 and the gauge charting traffic of prospective buyers also decreased 43 points to 13.
Looking at the monthly averages regional HMI scores, the Northeast fell 45 points in April to 19, the Midwest dropped 42 points to 25, the South fell 42 points to 34 and the West dropped 47 points to 32.
The HMI survey took place between April 1 and April 13.