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Housing starts up, sales unchanged

By
From page C25 | December 07, 2012 |

National Association of Homebuilders

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Nationwide housing production rose 3.6 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 894,000 units, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. This is the highest pace of new-home construction since July 2008.

“This report is in line with our latest builder surveys, which show improving confidence and optimism in the marketplace as buyers take advantage of low mortgage rates and very attractive prices,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “Builders are acting to meet rising demand while continuing to exercise caution by pulling a modest increase in the number of single family permits as the market continues to gradually gain its footing.”

“Today’s report bears out similar changes in other economic indicators that housing continues to recover at a slow but steady place, and is right in line with our expectations of modest month-to-month growth,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “However, we still have a long way to go to get back to normal production as inaccurate appraisals, tight lending conditions for home buyers and policy uncertainties continue to impede the recovery.”

Single-family housing starts in October were virtually unchanged at 594,000 units while multifamily production posted an 11.9 percent gain to 300,000 units – the best pace since July of 2008.

On a regional basis, overall housing starts rose 17.2 percent in the West and 8.9 percent in the Midwest while posting a storm-related decline of 6.5 percent in the Northeast and 2.5 percent in the South.

Permit issuance, which can be a harbinger of future building activity, fell 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 866,000 units in October. The drop in permits was focused in the apartment sector as multifamily permits fell 10.6 percent from an unusually high September level to 304,000 units. Meanwhile single-family permits rose 2.2 percent to 562,000 units.

On the sales side, sales of newly built, single-family homes in October held virtually unchanged from a downwardly revised pace in the previous month, at a seasonally adjusted, annual rate of 368,000 units, according to figures released by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.

“New-home sales have been occurring at a fairly steady pace since this summer, with October sales running about 17 percent ahead of the pace set at the same time last year,” noted Rutenberg. “While this is encouraging, housing’s recovery is being significantly constrained by overly tight mortgage lending conditions at this time, and policymaker discussions about changes to the mortgage interest deduction could cast a shadow on future housing demand.”

Regionally, new-home sales numbers were mixed in October. The Midwest posted a 62.2 percent gain following a big dip in the previous month, and the West posted a solid 8.8 percent increase. Meanwhile, the South and Northeast posted declines of 11.6 percent and 32.3 percent, respectively – the latter of which was likely impacted by storm preparations at the end of the month.

The inventory of new homes for sale rose marginally to a still-slim 147,000 units in October, which is a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace.

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