Builder confidence plunged in July as high inflation and increased interest rates stalled the housing market by dramatically slowing sales and buyer traffic. In a further sign of a weakening housing market, builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes posted its seventh straight monthly decline in July, falling 12 points to 55, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This marks the lowest HMI reading since June 2020 and the largest single-month drop in the history of the HMI, except for the 42-point drop in April 2020.
Affordability is the greatest challenge facing the housing market. Production bottlenecks, rising home building costs and high inflation are causing many builders to halt construction because the cost of land, construction and financing exceeds the appraised value of the home. In another sign of a softening market, 13% of builders in the HMI survey reported reducing home prices in the past month to bolster sales and/or limit cancellations.
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 35 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI 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 three HMI components posted declines in July: Current sales conditions dropped 12 points to 64, sales expectations in the next six months declined 11 points to 50 and traffic of prospective buyers fell 11 points to 37.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast fell six points to 65, the Midwest dropped four points to 52, the South fell eight points to 70 and the West posted a 12-point decline to 62.