According to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, U.S. builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes held steady at 62 in March 2019.
"Builders report the market is stabilizing following the slowdown at the end of 2018 and they anticipate a solid spring home buying season," said NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde, a home builder and developer from Torrington, Conn.
"In a healthy sign for the housing market, more builders are saying that lower price points are selling well, and this was reflected in the government's new home sales report released last week," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Increased inventory of affordably priced homes - in markets where government policies support such construction - will enable more entry-level buyers to enter the market."
However, affordability still remains a key concern for builders. The skilled worker shortage, lack of buildable lots and stiff zoning restrictions in many major metro markets are among the challenges builders face as they strive to construct homes that can sell 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.
The HMI component charting sales expectations in the next six months rose three points to 71, the index gauging current sales conditions increased two points to 68, and the component measuring traffic of prospective buyers fell four points to 44.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast posted a five-point gain to 48, the South was up three points to 66 and West increased two points to 69. The Midwest posted a one-point decline to 51.
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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