In another sign that the slowdown in the housing market continues, builder sentiment fell for the ninth straight month in September as the combination of elevated interest rates, persistent building material supply chain disruptions and high home prices continue to take a toll on affordability.
Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes fell three points in September to 46, the lowest level since May 2014 with the exception of the spring of 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The HMI is projecting ongoing decline for the volume of single-family housing starts, as noted in the graph below.
In another indicator of a weakening market, 24% of builders reported reducing home prices, up from 19% last month. Builder sentiment has declined every month in 2022. Due to tightening monetary policy, mortgage rates increased above 6% last week, the highest level since 2008, which is pricing buyers out of the market. In this soft market, more than half of the builders in our survey reported using incentives to bolster sales, including mortgage rate buydowns, free amenities and price reductions.
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 September. Current sales conditions dropped three points to 54, sales expectations in the next six months declined one point to 46 and traffic of prospective buyers fell one point to 31.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast fell five points to 51, the Midwest dropped five points to 44, the South fell seven points to 56 and the West posted a 10-point decline to 41.
The HMI tables can be found at nahb.org/hmi.