Affordability Challenges Persist in U.S. Housing Market
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, sales of newly built, single-family homes in the U.S. fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000 units in October 2018, after an upwardly revised September report. This is the lowest sales pace since December 2016. However, on a year-to-date basis, sales are up 2.8 percent from this time in 2017.
"The November reading is consistent with reports from our builders, who say that the job market and demographic tailwinds bode well for housing demand but rising interest rates and home prices are forcing customers to take a pause," said Randy Noel, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. "Policymakers should see this drop in sales as an indicator that housing affordability will continue to slow down the market."
"Home sales declined this month as housing affordability continues to be a hurdle for consumers," said NAHB Senior Economist Danushka Nanayakkara-Skillington. "While a solid economy and positive demographics support future demand for housing, it is critical to address this mounting affordability crisis."
A new home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit is accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the October reading of 544,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if this pace continued for the next 12 months.
The inventory of new homes for sale rose to 336,000 in October. The median sales price fell 3.6 percent to $309,700, as the market is shifting to townhomes and other lower-cost houses.
Looking at the regional numbers on a year-to-date basis, new home sales rose 6.3 percent in the Midwest, 4.1 percent in the West, and 3.8 percent in the South. Home sales fell 17.1 percent in the Northeast year-to-date.
The Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni also commented on October 2018 new home sales data stating, "New home sales fell in October and are running substantially behind last year's pace. However, the September number was revised up substantially. The hurricanes in the South and wildfires in the West likely impacted both month's numbers, and continue to cloud the picture of the housing market's overall strength. The strong job market and rising wages should continue to support housing demand, but the lack of affordability has been a major constraint this year. The increase in supply on the market will be a positive as we move into 2019."