After posting a double-digit gain in November, housing starts were up yet again in December, rising 1.4% month over month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.70 million according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
This is the highest level housing starts have reached in the past nine months.
Construction of single-family homes dropped 2.3% from November to 1.172 million units, the construction of multifamily units again posted a sizable increase of 13.7% to 524,000 units.
“Housing starts had one last push in store to end 2021, rising modestly from November against expectations for a small decline — a fitting conclusion to a year of remarkable stability for housing starts,” Zillow senior economist Kwame Donaldson said in a statement. “Across the United States, homebuilders reliably broke ground on between 125,000 and 140,000 homes almost every month in 2021, and by one common measure, last year was the second-least volatile year for housing starts since 2005.”
Overall, an estimated 1,595,100 housing units were started in 2021, a 15.6% increase from 2020.
“Housing demand has outstripped supply since 2009,” First American deputy chief economist Odeta Kushi said in a statement. “The last housing starts report of 2021 is a positive step towards bridging the gap between supply and demand, as an estimated 1,337,800 housing units were completed in 2021 – 4.0% above the 2020 figure. 2021 was a strong year for construction.”
Experts are attributing the stability of housing starts this year to a slowly improving labor market, low mortgage rates, high demand for housing and an extremely low level of existing housing inventory.
Also showing an increase in December was the number of building permits issued, rising 9.1% from November to 1,873,000. But while this is good news for new housing construction, homebuilders still have plenty of obstacles to overcome.
“The shortage of skilled labor, materials and lots, are headwinds to increasing the pace of new construction,” Kushi said. “The good news in the December housing starts report is the number of single-family homes permitted, but not started declined to its lowest level since April 2021, but remains elevated compared to pre-pandemic. The price of labor, lots and lumber is increasing, and these rising costs are being passed on to home buyers in the form of rising new home prices during a time when mortgage rates are expected to rise.”
As a reflection of these concerns, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) measuring homebuilder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes, fell one point in January to 83.
Regionally, on a year-to-date basis, combined single-family and multifamily starts are 0.7% higher in the Northeast, 17.1% higher in the Midwest, 9.3% higher in the South and down 18.1% in the West, compared to a year prior.
Economists told Insider in July that 2022 will be an easier time for prospective homebuyers. New signs suggest that forecast is holding up.
The past 12 months have been among the hardest in history for American house hunters. A shortage of available units fueled bidding wars and drove prices higher at a record pace. Builders were slow to shore up supply. While the broader economy healed, housing became less and less attainable.
New data signals the chaos of the 2021 housing market is giving way to a more normal buying environment. The chasm between buyers’ demand and the market’s supply is closing, albeit slowly. And while economists expect prices to keep soaring next year, signs point to 2021 serving as the peak for the housing-market frenzy.
A few indicators hint that demand is already easing.
The Common Haus Price Index — which tracks asking prices for the popular three-bed, two-bath US home — slowed to a year-over-year rate of 5.4% from 5.9% last week, according to the housing economist Ralph McLaughlin. That marks the smallest one-year jump since January 2020, again echoing precrisis trends.
Prices have fallen more dramatically on a seasonal basis. The average price of the most common US home slid to $337,000 last week from $340,000. The latest average is now $26,000 below the 2021 peak of $363,000, the largest seasonal gap in data going back to 2012, McLaughlin tweeted Tuesday.
At the other end of the market, supply is bouncing back at the fastest pace since May. US housing starts leaped to an annualized rate of 1.68 million in November, according to Census Bureau data published last week. That beat the median forecast of a 1.57-million-unit pace.
Adding multifamily units into the mix makes for an even rosier outlook. There were nearly 1.5 million single-family and multifamily units under construction in November, according to government data. That combined figure is the highest it’s been since 1973.
The pickup isn’t likely to be a one-month boom, either. Building permits rose more than expected in November to the fastest pace since August. Though permits serve as just the first step in getting new homes to market, they are a leading indicator for residential construction. The increases in both starts and permits suggest supply will swing higher later in 2022 and beyond.
Even bidding wars are slowing down. Redfin has been keeping a competition index from its own real-estate professionals’ data, and 59.5% of home offers faced competition in November. That might sound like a lot, but it’s the lowest in 11 months, down from April’s high of 74.6%.
To be sure, it will take some time before the nationwide home inventory looks anything like it used to. The supply of active listings plunged 26% in the 12 months that ended in November, according to Realtor.com. The inventory of available homes is at the latest of several record lows, a whopping 55% below levels seen in 2019.
And the indicators of an inventory rebound and price cut are set to be unequal depending on the region of the country. The Sun Belt has boomed throughout the pandemic and shows no signs of getting cheaper anytime soon. Whatever houses hit the market there are sure to be snapped up quickly.
Redfin’s competition index bears this out. While the national rate has fallen into the 50% range, some markets face a much higher percentage of bidding wars, led by Richmond, Virginia (80%); Salt Lake City (73.8%); San Diego (72%); Honolulu (71.1%); and Dallas (70.6%).
In general, homes are still selling at a blinding pace. The average time homes spend on the market fell to 47 days in November, down from 57 days the year prior. Although the measure is swinging higher as the market settles into the slower holiday season, homes are still sold faster than in any November in recent history, Realtor.com said. Inventory might be bouncing back, but it’s not rebounded enough to normalize the market just yet.
Buyers will have to wait a little longer for home shopping to cool down, but 2022 should be a better time to buy, at last.
After dipping by 0.7% in October, housing starts were back up in November. They rose 11.8% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.68 million units, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Construction of single-family homes increased 11.3% to 1.17 million units, while the construction of multifamily units increased 12.9% to 506,000 units.
“Breaking an eight-year trend, in recent months there have been more single-family homes under construction than multifamily units,” National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. “Moreover, despite some cooling earlier this year, the continued strength of single-family construction in 2021 means there are now 28% more single-family homes under construction than a year ago. These gains mean single-family completions will increase in 2022, bringing more inventory to market despite a 19% year-over-year rise in construction material costs and longer construction times.”
HUD and the Census Bureau are attributing this increase in production to strong demand for new construction. As housing inventory across the country continues to remain at historic lows, it comes as no surprise that many prospective homebuyers are turning to new construction.
November saw a decent increase in residential construction jobs with 4,100 residential building jobs and 6,200 residential specialty trade contractor jobs created. In addition, this rise in housing starts also reflects an increase in homebuilder confidence.
“Mirroring gains in the HMI reading of builder sentiment, single-family housing starts accelerated near the end of 2021 and are up 15.2% year-to-date as demand for new construction remains strong due to a lean inventory of resale housing,” Chuck Fowke the chairman of the NAHB said in a statement.
Regionally, on a year-to-date basis, combined single-family and multifamily starts are 24.4% higher in the Northeast, 9.6% higher in the Midwest, 15.4% higher in the South and 19.4% higher in the West, compared to the same time period a year prior.
Looking into the new year, overall housing permits increased 3.6%, with single-family permits rising 2.7% and multifamily permits rising 5.2%, suggesting that new inventory, in the form of new construction, will eventually hit the market, helping alleviate some of the crunch felt by such low inventory levels.
“The bottom line is we need more homes and it will take time to reduce the housing stock ‘debt’ in the face of growing demand,” First American deputy chief economist Odeta Kushi said in a statement. “But today’s housing starts report, in combination with a positive builder’s sentiment report, sends an optimistic message about the housing market as we enter 2022.”
While today’s supply of homes for sale is still low, the number of newly built homes is increasing. If you’re ready to sell but have held off because you weren’t sure you’d be able to find a home to move into, newly built homes and those under construction can provide the options you’ve been waiting for.
The latest Census data shows the inventory of new homes is increasing this year (see graph below):
With more new homes coming to the market, this means you’ll have more options to choose from if you’re ready to buy. Of course, if you do consider a newly built home, you’ll want to keep timing in mind. The supply shown in the graph above includes homes at various stages of the construction process – some are near completion while others may be months away.
According to Robert Dietz, Chief Economist and Senior VP for Economics and Housing Policy for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “28% of new home inventory consists of homes that have not started construction, compared to 21% a year ago.”
Buying a home near completion is great if you’re ready to move. Alternatively, a home that has yet to break ground might benefit you if you’re ready to sell and you aren’t on a strict timeline. You’ll have an even greater opportunity to design your future home to suit your needs. No matter what, your trusted real estate advisor can help you find a home that works for you.
Sales of new single-family homes in August increased 1.5% from the prior month, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000, according to a report from the U.S. Commerce Department released on Friday. That’s the second straight month of rising sales for homebuilders, though there’s good reason to think the height of the frenzy is behind us.
Sales of new homes were down 24.3% from a year prior, and the median sales price of new single-family homes in August 2021 reached $390,900, 20.1% higher than August 2020.
“The housing market over the summer of 2021 appears to have settled at a level lower than the surge in the second half of 2020 into early 2021,” Ben Ayers, a senior economist at Nationwide, said in a statement. “Still, new home sales remain high relative to levels since the housing market crash and show continued strong demand from buyers.”
The number of new houses for sale in August 2021 (378,000) represents a 6.1 month supply of new houses at the current sales rate, according to the report. This is a 74.3% increase over August 2020 levels, and reflects the 17.4% increase in housing starts compared to a year ago.
Industry experts feel that this is a reflection of the steadying confidence among homebuilders, which remains high, despite a recent decline.
“Builder sentiment remains strong and housing demand is being supported by ongoing low mortgage interest rates and a shortage of existing home inventory,” Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement
Despite rising housing starts and steadying confidence levels among builders, the industry still faces some challenges including continued material and labor shortages. Because of the labor and material issues, many homebuilders have delayed putting up the number of new homes up for sale.
“The solid improvement in August sales does not mean that builders are in the clear — building material supply chain issues and labor shortages are still very real challenges that buyers and builders alike are eager to see resolved,” Zillow economist Matthew Speakman said in a statement. “It’s critical that builders continue to find ways to get around these existing challenges and bring new homes to the market in higher numbers, giving even marginal relief to would-be buyers exasperated by intense competition and limited housing supply.”
Nearly 80% of homes sold in August were either under construction or yet to be built.
“This report continues to highlight the ongoing difficulties that homebuilders are facing as they attempt to work through their current construction backlog, due to a shortage of labor and elevated material costs and outright shortages,” added Mark Palim, deputy chief economist at Fannie Mae.
Regionally, on a year-to-date basis, new home sales fell 1.0% in the Northeast and 2.3% in the West, but rose 4.4% in the Midwest and 4.5% in the South.
Many consumers may not realize it, but they’re increasingly competing against institutional investors and contending with soaring building costs.
Agents are exhausted and consumers are stretched thin. But despite everyone being fed up, the ongoing housing supply shortage drags on with no end in sight.
As Inman has previously reported, the problem is multifaceted. The coronavirus pandemic, for example, has reshuffled job markets. And at the same time, a years-long building shortfall and wave of millennials hitting homebuying age has further exacerbated the problem.
But those aren’t the only issues. In fact, there are multiple other forces that have, perhaps inadvertently, conspired to make housing both more scarce and more expensive — but which are also largely off the radar of most consumers. Despite their lower profile, though, these forces are having a tremendous impact on the housing market right now.
For our purposes here, we’ll focus on two such forces: the soaring cost of building materials, and the spiking interest in housing among investors. Together, these two things are major contributors to today’s housing market, and the lack of inventory that is sweeping so many markets.
Building supplies are getting way more expensive
The cost of building supplies has been ticking upward for a long time now, but according to David Logan — a senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) — the pandemic made the problem worse. That’s because the companies that make things like lumber bet that there would be a “precipitous drop in housing demand” during the pandemic, and that bet proved to be wrong.
“Producers of lumber, they shut down like most every other business needed to,” Logan told Inman. “But when production came back, mills had curtailed their production by as much as 50 percent.”
Logan called this a “fatal mistake” on the part of lumber companies, in part because demand for housing itself has surged and in part because on top of that DIY home remodeling has also become more popular during the pandemic.
The result is a kind of triple whammy where supply is low, while demand from both contractors and everyday consumers is higher than ever. It’s no surprise then that, according to Logan, the cost of lumber has tripled since a year ago.
“I would say it’s certainly unprecedented in so far as a surge of demand unexpectedly coincides with a large decline in supply,” Logan added.
Just by February, the NAHB estimated that this trend had added more than $24,000 to the cost of a newly built single-family home.
Data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics further bears this out, showing that the prices for plywood, lumber, veneer, pallets and various other items have jumped up recently.
Lumber may be the most prominent material impacted by this trend, but Logan also said it is “by no means the only culprit in this increase of the cost to built a home.” Other materials that have seen price increases include concrete, the oriented strand board (OSB) that is used in home wall paneling, and many other products.
Another NAHB report further notes that the price of steel mill products has jumped 22 percent in just the last three months.
The consequences of these price increases are far-reaching. In a series of reports, NAHB has revealed that contractors this spring are now having difficult conversations with their clients about the cost of materials, and that those costs are delaying critical home repairs. The costs are also cutting into the supply of affordable homes, especially in lower-cost suburbs where wood-frame building is the most common construction method.
Logan doesn’t expect these conditions to last forever, but in the meantime he said the prevailing sentiment among builders is one of “concern.”
Institutional investors are flocking to the housing industry
At the same time that building homes is getting more expensive, deep-pocketed investors are also snapping up more and more housing. Rick Palacios Jr., director of research for John Burns Real Estate Consulting, told Inman that right now investors are buying 20 percent of all homes in the U.S. Asked if that was enough to sway prices and housing supply, Palacios answered without hesitation: “yes.”
“That percentage gets even higher in a lot of markets,” he added. “Almost a quarter of all housing transactions are going to investors.”
Palacios pointed to Phoenix as an example, saying that nearly 30 percent of sales in the Arizona city are to investors. Las Vegas, Houston, and Tampa, Florida, also all have higher-than-average numbers of sales going to investors. Many of these markets also happen to be iBuying hotspots, and Palacios said firms such as Opendoor can end up having a major impact on the supply landscape in cities where they are active.
Of course, “investors” is a broad category. Palacios explained that it includes everyone from fix-and-flip operators to iBuyers to rental companies. But the result of all this interest among investors is that would-be homeowners are facing more competition and higher prices.
A report from John Burns Real Estate Consulting — which was provided to Inman — further teases this idea out, showing that investors have zeroed in on lower-cost homes. The report also notes that “cash purchases account for 67 percent of homes sold below $100k and 31 percent of homes sold between $100k and $200k.”
Some of this investor activity makes obvious sense. Given that there is a supply shortfall, as well as soaring prices, flippers stand to make a significant profit by simply buying houses and then selling them a short time later. Palacios said places like Phoenix and Boise, Idaho, are ideal backdrops for that kind of activity.
Interest from landlords, on the other hand, may be slightly less understandable given that right now they have to pay top dollar for their properties. That contrasts significantly from the housing bubble in 2008, when institutional investors were able to snap up thousands of houses at a relative bargain.
However, Palacios said that “there’s a global quest for yield” going on among investors right now. At the same time, yields from vehicles like U.S. Treasuries have tanked while investment in commercial real estate became unappealing thanks to COVID-related shutdowns of stores, restaurants and hospitality businesses.
Residential real estate, and especially single-family housing, looks relatively safe by comparison. And Palacios said recent years have ultimately offered a kind of proof-of-concept that shows this type of investment works. As a result, institutions like pension and sovereign wealth funds — which may have mandates to invest in U.S. real estate — have increasingly gravitated toward housing. And if they have to pay top dollar for the properties, so be it because they’re in it for the long haul.
“Today’s investors are investing for both quick appreciation as well as yield and safety compared to other alternative investments,” Palacios added.
The John Burns report further notes that investors have gravitated toward residential real estate as a hedge against inflation and in an effort to diversify their assets.
This trend may not be readily apparent to consumers or their agents. When someone loses a bidding war, after all, they may never find out exactly who won. But like rising material costs, it is happening in the background and having a big impact. And that impact is likely to stick around for the foreseeable future.
“Housing investors are going wild, again,” the report ultimately concludes. “Limited new and resale housing supply, low mortgage rates, a global reach for yield, and what we’re calling the institutionalization of real estate investors are setting the stage for a home price boom that could stretch on for years, similar to the early 2000s.”
Baby boomers tended to make up the majority of sellers last year—at 43%—and they also saw the highest profits, too.
Overall, home sellers of all age groups who sold their homes last year saw a median gain of $66,000 more than what they originally purchased for—a $6,000 increase compared to the previous year. But for sellers ages 66 to 74, they saw a median gain of $100,000 in equity, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ “2021 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends” report.
“In a real estate market that is tipped in favor of sellers, boomers and older homeowners are really the ones holding the cards,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist.
As the housing market surges, homeowners who’ve been in their homes the longest tend to see the highest profits at resale. Younger baby boomers (those between the ages of 56 to 65) tended to live in their homes a median of 14 years whereas older segment of baby boomers (those between the ages of 66 to 74) had lived in their homes a median of 16 years, according to NAR’s report. The median tenure in a home for the overall population is 10 years.
The primary reason baby boomers cited for selling their home: To purchase a similarly sized home closer to family members and friends. The second most popular reason to sell was to downsize.
The following is a chart broken down by age group of the median equity earned on a home recently sold, according to NAR’s report.
Sales of newly built, single-family homes in January moved 19% higher than a year ago, as home buyers sought more options under a lean number of existing homes for sale.
Newly built single-family home sales increased 4.3% last month over December 2020, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 923,000, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday.
“Historically low mortgage rates and solid demand spurred an increase in new home sales in January,” says Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. “However, rising affordability issues are looming this year, particularly increasing building material costs, including lumber, which is adding $24,000 to the price of a typical newly built home. Builders also cite rising regulatory issues as a potential concern.”
As existing-home inventory remains at all-time lows, more buyers are considering new home construction, says Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. “Though rising building and development costs, combined with recent increases in mortgage interest rates, threaten to exacerbate existing affordability conditions,” he says. “Builders are exercising discipline to ensure home prices do not outpace buyer budgets.”
Inventories of new homes also remain tight at just a four-month supply at the current sales pace. New-home inventories are 6.3% lower than January 2020.
The median sales price for a new home was $346,400 in January, up 5.3% from a year earlier.
New-home sales rose by the highest amounts in the Midwest last month, up 12.6% annually. New-home sales also posted a 6.8% increase in the West and a 3% increase in the South. The only region of the U.S. to post a decline in new home sales in January was the Northeast, where new home sales fell 13.9% annually.
Experts see even better days ahead as inventory returns in spring
For the second consecutive month, existing home sales rose, as January’s numbers were up 0.6% from December.
According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, home sales continue to ascend in the first month of the year, as buyers quickly snatched up virtually every new listing coming in the market.
To him, sales easily could have been 20% higher if there had been more inventory and more choices.
Low inventory remains an enormous problem for the industry, especially with mortgage rates hanging below 3%. But experts agree better days are ahead, with more homeowners expected to move during the warmer months.
Yun also said the continued COVID-19 vaccine rollout and financial stimulus from President Joseph Biden’s American Rescue Plan will only aid in more home sales – which will in turn prop up the economy even more.
Younger-aged homebuyers are expected to continue to pack the market this year, especially with the possible passage of Biden’s $15,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.
First-time homebuyers were responsible for 33% of home sales in January, up from 31% in December 2020 and from 32% in January 2020.
In today’s housing market, there are clear financial benefits to owning a home: increasing equity, the chance to build your net worth, and appreciating home values, just to name a few. If you’re a renter, it’s never too early to think about how homeownership can propel you toward a stronger future. Here’s a dive into three often-overlooked financial benefits of homeownership and how preparing for them now can steer you in the direction of greater financial security and savings
1. You Won’t Always Have a Monthly Housing Payment
Personal finance advisor Dave Ramsey explains, “Every payment brings you closer to owning the house. When you pay your rent, that money is spent. Gone. Bye. Not returning. But when you pay your mortgage, you work toward full ownership.”
As a homeowner, you can eventually eliminate the monthly payment you make on your house. That’s a huge win and a big factor in how homeownership can drive stability and savings in your life. As soon as you buy a home, your monthly housing costs begin to work for you as forced savings in the form of equity. When you build equity and grow your net worth, you can continue to reinvest those savings into your future, maybe even by buying that next dream home. The possibilities are truly endless.
2. Homeownership Is a Tax Break
One thing people who have never owned a home don’t always think about are the tax advantages of homeownership. The same article states, “You have tax advantages. Many of the costs of owning a home—like property taxes—are tax deductible. And if you’re paying off a mortgage, you’ll get to count your mortgage interest as a deduction when you file your tax return.”
Whether you’re living in your first home or your fifth, it’s a huge financial advantage to have some tax relief tied to the interest you pay each year. It’s one thing you definitely don’t get when you’re renting. Be sure to work with a tax professional to get the best possible benefits on your annual return.
3. Monthly Housing Costs Are Predictable
A third benefit is the fact that monthly costs start to become more predictable with homeownership, something that doesn’t happen if you’re renting. Ramsey also notes, “Rent rates will go up. Even if you found a killer deal in a hot area, inflation, competition, and rising property values will cause your rent to go up year after year.”
With a mortgage, you can keep your monthly housing costs relatively steady and predictable. Your monthly costs are most likely based on a fixed-rate mortgage, which allows you to budget your finances over a longer period of time. Rental prices have been skyrocketing since 2012, and with today’s low mortgage rates, it’s a great time to get more for your money when purchasing a home. If you want to lock-in your monthly payment at a low rate and have a solid understanding of what you’re going to spend in your mortgage payment each month, buying a home may be your best bet.