According to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released this week, U.S. builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rose one point to 68 in September 2019 from an upwardly revised August 2019 reading of 67.
Sentiment levels have held in the mid-to upper 60s since May and September's reading matches the highest level since last October 2018.
"Low interest rates and solid demand continue to fuel builders' sentiments even as they continue to grapple with ongoing supply-side challenges that hinder housing affordability, including a shortage of lots and labor," said NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde.
"Solid household formations and attractive mortgage rates are contributing to a positive builder outlook," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "However, builders are expressing growing concerns regarding uncertainty stemming from the trade dispute with China. NAHB's Home Building Geography Index indicates that the slowdown in the manufacturing sector is holding back home construction in some parts of the nation, although there is growth in rural and exurban areas."
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 index gauging current sales conditions increased two points to 75 and the component measuring traffic of prospective buyers held steady at 50. The measure charting sales expectations in the next six months fell one point to 70.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast posted a two-point gain to 59, the West was also up two points to 75 and the South moved one point higher to 70. The Midwest was unchanged at 57.
According to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 6, 2019, U.S. mortgage applications increased 2.0 percent from one week earlier.
According to Freddie Mac's latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate in the last week of August 2019 averaged 3.58 percent in the U.S., a slight increase from last week.
According to the National Association of Realtors, pending U.S. home sales fell in July 2019, reversing course on two consecutive months of gains. Of the four major regions, each reported a drop in contract activity, although the greatest decline came in the West.
The changes, many of which NAR has championed for over a decade, should yield thousands of new homeownership opportunities and help alleviate affordability restraints impacting markets across the country.
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