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  Housing Starts Declined 11.3% in August
Posted Under: Data Watch • Government • Home Starts • Housing • Markets • Interest Rates
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Implications:  Housing starts posted the largest monthly decline in over a year in August, falling to the slowest pace since the worst of the COVID pandemic in 2020.  However, we don’t see this as a sign of persistent weakness ahead in home building.  While both single-family and multi-unit projects contributed to the decline, a massive 26.3% drop in the multi-unit category was largely responsible for today’s bad headline number.  Looking at the big picture, during COVID, a combination of extremely low interest rates and pressure to work from home led initially to big migration to the suburbs and high demand for single-family homes.  Then the economy reopened, causing many people to flock back to cities, sparking a boom in apartment projects.  Currently, the number of multi-unit properties under construction is hovering near record levels going back to 1970 when records began. Now it looks like the move back to the cities has petered out leaving a glut of apartments.  In contrast, owners of existing homes are hesitant to list their properties and give up fixed sub-3% mortgage rates, so many prospective buyers have turned to new builds as their best option.  This has created a huge gap in the data, with construction of single-family homes up a modest 2.4% in the past year while multi-unit activity is down 41.6% over the same period.  In other words, home building isn’t falling off a cliff like in the prior housing bust.   Home completions rose 5.3% in August and permits for both single-family and multi-unit properties posted gains. In other recent housing news, the NAHB Housing Index, a measure of homebuilder sentiment, fell to 45 in September from 50 in August.  This is the second decline in eight months and coincides with a recent jump in mortgage rates. An index reading below 50 signals that a greater number of builders view conditions as poor versus good.

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Posted on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 @ 11:15 AM • Post Link Print this post Printer Friendly

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