According to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rose four points to 62 in February 2019.
"Ongoing reduction in mortgage rates in recent weeks coupled with continued strength in the job market are helping to fuel builder sentiment," said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel. "In the aftermath of the fall slowdown, many builders are reporting positive expectations for the spring selling season."
February marked the second consecutive month in which all the HMI indices posted gains. The index measuring current sales conditions rose three points to 67, the component gauging expectations in the next six months increased five points to 68 and the metric charting buyer traffic moved up four points to 48.
"Builder confidence levels moved up in tandem with growing consumer confidence and falling interest rates," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "The five-point jump on the six-month sales expectation for the HMI is due to mortgage interest rates dropping from about 5 percent in November to 4.4 percent this week. However, affordability remains a critical issue. Rising costs stemming from excessive regulations, a dearth of buildable lots, a persistent labor shortage and tariffs on lumber and other key building materials continue to make it increasingly difficult to produce housing at affordable price points."
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.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the South posted a one-point gain to 63 while the Northeast dropped two points to 43. The Midwest and West each remained unchanged at 52 and 67, respectively.
According to HUD, the U.S. national vacancy rate in the first quarter 2019 was 7.0 percent for rental housing and 1.4 percent for homeowner housing. The rental vacancy rate of 7.0 percent was virtually unchanged from the rate in the first quarter 2018.
According to a report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department, total housing starts fell 0.3 percent in March 2019 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.14 million units from a downwardly revised reading in February 2019.
According to Freddie Mac's latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, U.S. mortgage rates rose modestly this 2nd week of April 2019, with the 30-year fixed-rate averaging 4.12 percent. Rates moved up slightly this week while mortgage applications decreased following last week's jump in rates.
A total of 161,875 U.S. properties with a foreclosure filing during the first quarter of 2019, down 23 percent from the previous quarter and down 15 percent from a year ago to the lowest level since Q1 2008.
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