Home Builder Index Dips in January

January’s National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index dipped two points from December’s revised reading of 69 to 67;  the index reading forecast for January was also 69.Analysts said that January’s reading was the second highest (after December 2016) since the peak of the housing bubble in 2005. January’s dip in builder sentiment was attributed to easing of builder enthusiasm, which spiked right after the U.S. presidential election. To put January’s home builder confidence reading in context, NAHB says that any index reading over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer have confidence in housing market conditions.

NAHB SubIndex Readings for January

Three sub-index readings are used in compiling the NAHB Housing Market Index reading. Builder confidence in current housing market conditions fell three points to 72; builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months fell two points to 76. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new housing developments dropped one point to 51.

Builders surveyed continued to cite the cost of new lots for development and the lack of skilled labor as obstacles to higher builder confidence.

After releasing January’s index readings, the NAHB said that while January’s readings were lower than those for December, a majority of builders have expressed confidence that the new administration will reduce regulatory pressure on home builders. NAHB also cited home builder concerns over mortgage rates, which rose nearly a percentage point in November and December before falling. Despite ongoing concerns, builder sentiment has steadily improved over time. On average, builder confidence averaged a reading of 61 in 2016 against 2015’s average reading of 59 and the 2014 average reading of 52.

Builder Outlook Seen as Key to Easing Home Shortage

Real estate and mortgage pros have consistently said that building more homes is necessary to ease the ongoing shortage of available homes. NAHB’s Housing Market Index is closely followed as a benchmark of home builder confidence. Higher builder confidence in current and future housing market conditions is viewed as a potential indicator of home building activity, but housing starts have not been uniformly allied with builder confidence.

Shortages available homes creates high demand creates concerns for potential buyers seeking affordable homes. Rapidly rising home price, particularly in high demand metro areas, have sidelined buyers who cannot compete against buyers making cash offers on homes with rapidly escalating prices. 

S&P Case-Shiller: Home Prices Gain in August

Home prices gained in August per the 20-City S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Analysts said that home values continue to expand in spite of challenges including low inventories of available homes and strict mortgage qualification requirements.

National Home Price Index Near 2006 Peak

According to the national Case-Shiller Home Price Index, August home prices are 0.10 percent below their 2006 peak and all metro areas in the 20-City Home Price Index posted gains. Top gains in the 20-City Home Price Index were posted by Portland, Oregon with a year-over-year gain of 11.70 percent, Seattle, Washington home prices gained 11.40 percent and Denver, Colorado home prices gained 8.80 percent year-over-year.

All metro areas included in the 20-City Index posted year-over-year gains in excess of one percent. New York City had the lowest year-over-year price gain with a year-over-year reading of 1.70 percent in August. Washington, D.C. home prices rose 2.30 percent year-over-year. Home prices in the Cleveland, Ohio metro area increased by 2.90 percent year-over-year.

New Housing Bubble Unlikely

With home price gains close to peak prices seen before the housing bubble burst, concerns may arise over the potential for a new housing bubble to occur in coming months. Analysts say this is unlikely as home buyers are not taking out extreme levels of mortgage debt seen at the onset of the Great Recession. David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Index Committee, said “There is no reason to fear another massive collapse is around the corner. The run-up to the financial crisis was marked with both rising home prices and rapid growth in mortgage debt.”

Possible Fed Rate Hike Won’t Cause Mortgage Rates to Explode

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve is expected to raise the Fed’s target federal funds rate in December. This action will lead to interest rate increases for consumer credit and mortgages, but not at levels that would make mortgage loans suddenly unaffordable. While gradual increases in federal interest rates would cause mortgage rates to rise over time, market conditions and related factors could potentially cause home prices to slow or even dip in some areas. Regional influences including employment and demand for homes are examples of factors contributing to home price growth or decline in specific areas.