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Housing StartsSometimes, the housing data headlines tell just half the tale. The stories on May’s Housing Starts figures are proving to be a terrific illustration.

Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its monthly Housing Starts report. A “housing start” is a home on which construction has started.

The report is separated by property type with a separate count for single family homes such as detached residences and town homes; for multiple-unit homes such as 2-unit, 3-unit and 4-unit structures; and, for buildings of 5-units of more such as new condominiums.

In May, Housing Starts fell 4.8 percent nationwide. This runs contrary to recent housing market statistics and home builder confidence data which both have suggested a recovery. The press picked up the story and ran the following headlines :

  • Housing Starts In U.S. Fall 4.8% In May (BusinessWeek)
  • Housing Starts Plunge, But Permits Surge In Mixed Market (CNBC)
  • Housing Starts Slump In May (US News)

Although factually correct, these headlines are somewhat misleading. 

Housing Starts did slip 4.8 percent last month but that figure accounts for all Housing Starts. It fails isolate the single-family starts that matter to today’s buyers and sellers throughout Wisconsin. Homeowners rarely buy multi-unit homes or entire apartment buildings.

If we remove the report’s tally of 2-4 unit homes and apartment buildings, we find that, in May, single-family housing starts rose for the 4th straight month, registering 516,000 homes started on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is the highest tally since April 2010, the last month of that year’s frderal home buyer tax credit. 

Single-family housing starts are up 26% as compared to last year. 

The housing starts report, therefore — headlines aside — is the latest in a series of housing market data that points to a sustained recovery nationwide. If you’re planning to buy a home in 2012, consider buying in between now and September because after that point, home prices and mortgage rates are likely to be higher.

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Housing StartsThe new construction housing market continues to improve.

One day after the National Association of Homebuilders reported a 5-year high in homebuilder confidence, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that single-family housing starts rose 2 percent for the second straight month last month.

In April, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, the government reports 492,000 single-family housing starts. A “housing start” is a home on which ground has broken.

In addition, March’s single-family housing starts were revised higher. What was previously reported as a three percent loss was re-measured and changed to a 0.2% gain.

The April tally marks a six percent increase over the one-year moving average and, along with the March revision, suggests that the springtime housing market may have just been seasonal. 

In March, a number of reports suggested a housing retreat :

Since then, though, low mortgage rates and affordable home prices appear to have sustained the new construction market, which now appears poised for a strong 2012. 

As one mark of proof, active buyers of newly-built homes in Lake Geneva and nationwide are scheduling “model home” showings at the fastest pace since 2007. The burst of foot traffic high has builders upping their sales expectations for the next 6 months.

A scenario like this would normally lead new home prices higher, but the pressure for prices to rise may be offset by the amount of new home supply coming online.

In addition to a rise in Housing Starts, the Census Bureau also reports that, in April, the number of Building Permits for single-family homes rose 2 percent to move to its second-highest level since March 2010 — the month preceding the end of the 2010 federal Home buyer tax credit.

86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.

It’s unclear whether housing is on a steady path higher, but there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests the market bottom has already passed.

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Lake Geneva Mortgage - Housing Starts Tuesday, the government released its March 2012 New Residential Construction report. 

The report is made up of three sections, each related to a phase of the “new home” market.  The report’s first part is Building Permits; the second is Housing Starts; the third is Housing Completions.

Of the three sections, it’s Housing Starts that gets the most attention from the press — mostly because, of the triad, it’s the simplest for a layperson to understand.  However, the manner in which Housing Starts data is reported can be misleading.

Today’s newspapers offer up an excellent example.

According to the Census Bureau, total Housing Starts fell by 6% in March as compared to the month prior. 654,000 units were started on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

For Housing Starts, it’s the lowest reading in 5 months, a statistic suggesting that the housing market may have lost some momentum.  Much of the press covered the story from a “housing is slowing” angle.

A few published headlines include: 

Although these headlines are accurate, they tell just half of the story.

Housing Starts did drop in March, but if we remove a subset of the data — structures with “5 or more units”; a grouping that includes condominiums and apartment buildings — we’re left with Housing Starts for single-family residences only.  It’s this data that matters most to Lake Geneva home buyers and nationwide. 

Few home buyers buy entire apartment buildings.  Most buy single-family homes. 

In March, single-family Housing Starts were down 0.2% from the month prior, or just 1,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

That’s hardly a drop at all.

Lake Geneva Mortgage – Building PermitsThe new construction housing market appears primed for growth this season.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of single-family building permits issued in February rose to 472,000 on a seasonally-adjusted, annual basis, marking the highest building permit tally since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

Building permits are a pre-cursor to new home construction.

In 2011, from the date of permit-issuance to the date of “ground-breaking”, an average of 27 calendar days passed.  February’s data, therefore, is a signal that the market for newly-built homes should be strong this year, an idea supported by the most recent homebuilder confidence survey.

As buyer foot traffic soars, homebuilders expect to make more sales in the next 6 months than at any time since the housing market’s collapse.  Builder confidence is at a 5-year high.

Last month, however, single-family housing starts slipped.

As compared to January, February’s single-family housing starts fell by 50,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.  The 10% drop represents the largest one-month drop since February 2011.  It’s a statistic that may suggest that this year’s results are simply seasonal.

For buyers of new construction, the news is mixed.

Rising permits and builder confidence may mean that Williams Bay, Wisconsin homebuilders will be less willing to negotiate with today’s buyer on upgrades and/or home prices.  However, as more new home supply is set to come online, excess housing stock could help keep home prices low. 

If you’re planning to buy new construction in Wisconsin this year, be sure to ask your real estate agent about the local home supply, and how the market is currently trending.  With Lake Geneva real estate mortgage rates low and the summer buying season approaching, you may find some of your best deals of the year available in just the next few weeks.

Single-family housing starts

The housing market has carried forward its year-end momentum. 

According to the Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, January’s Single-Family Housing Starts crossed the half-million unit marker for the second straight month.

This hasn’t happened in close to 2 years and is the latest in a series of strong data that suggests the beleaguered housing market has turned a corner — both nationally and locally in Delavan.  

Although single-family starts slipped 1 percent from December, January’s annualized 508,000 figure represents a 16% spike from January 2011 and is the second-highest reading since April 2010 — the last month of 2010’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started.

The strength of January’s Housing Starts data surprised Wall Street analysts and is partially responsible for Thursday’s unexpected mortgage rate spike. 

In hindsight, though, we should have seen this coming.

Earlier in the week, the National Association of Homebuilders announced that homebuilder confidence had climbed to its highest point since 2007 amid builder reports of rising sales volume and the most foot traffic from buyers in more than 4 years.

In addition, builders expect to sell more homes in 2012 than in 2011.

Builders are building and buyers are buying.

Meanwhile, as another sign of housing market strength, the Census Bureau reports that, in January, Building Permits moved to a multi-year high as well. Permits issued for single-family homes in January rose 1 percent from December, a statistic that suggests housing will continue its run through the spring season, at least.

86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.

It’s a good time to be a home buyer. Mortgage rates and home prices are low. Housing market momentum, however, is building. If you’re on the fence about whether to buy a home in Geneva National , ask your real estate agent for additional market information.

The cost of home-ownership may never be as low as it is today.

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Lake Geneva Mortgage - Housing Starts 2009-2011Headlines in newspapers can be misleading — especially with respect to housing figures.  Media coverage of the most recent Housing Starts data serves as an excellent illustration.

Wednesday, the Census Bureau released its September Housing Starts report.  In it, the government said that national Housing Starts rose 15 percent in September as compared to August 2011, tallying 658,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

The September reading is the highest monthly reading since April 2010, the last month of last year’s home buyer tax credit.

The sudden surge in starts is big news for a Lake Geneva, Wisconsin housing market that has struggled of late, and the press was eager to carry the story.  Here is a sampling of some headlines:

  • U.S. Housing Starts Rise 15%, Hit 17-Month High (MarketWatch)
  • Home Building Jumps 15% in September (ABC)
  • New Construction Surges In September (LA Times)

These headlines are each accurate.  However, they’re also misleading.

Yes, Housing Starts did surge in September, but if we remove the “5 or more units” grouping from the Census Bureau data — the catgory that includes apartment buildings and condominium structures — we’re left with Single-Family Housing Starts and Single-Family Housing Starts rose just 1.7 percent last month.

That’s a good number, but hardly a great one. And for home buyers and sellers throughout Lake Geneva mortgage and nationwide, it’s the Single-Family Housing Starts that matter most. Individuals like you and I don’t buy entire apartment buildings.  Most often, we buy single-family homes.  Therefore, that’s the data for which we should watch.

The good news is that media tales work in both directions.

Building Permits dropped 5 percent last month when the volatile 5-unit-or-more-units category was included from the math. Isolating for single-family homes, we find that permits were unchanged.

This is good housing because 82% of homes begin construction within 60 days of permit-issuance, hinting at a steady, late-fall housing market.

Lake Geneva Mortgage – Housing Starts (Apr 2009 - Mar 2011)According to the Census Bureau, seasonally-adjusted, single-family Housing Starts rebounded in March, increasing 8 percent over February’s 2-year low.

We can’t put too much faith in the data, however, because for the second straight month, the government reports that the data’s margin of error — 15 percent — exceeds its actual measurement.

As written in the footnotes, there’s no “statistical evidence to conclude that the actual change [in Housing Starts] is different from zero.”

In other words, single-family Housing Starts may have dropped up to 7 percent last month, or may have increased by as much as 22 percent.  We won’t know for certain until several months from now.  As the Census Bureau gathers more data, it will revise its initial monthly findings.

Such adjustments are common.  February’s starts were revised higher by 4.5%, for example.

Also included in the Census Bureau’s report is the March 2011 Building Permits tally.  As compared to February, permits were higher by 6 percent nationwide.  This is a noteworthy development because permits-issued is an excellent forward-predictor for housing.

When permits are issued, 86 percent of them will start construction within 60 days.  This means that new Lake Geneva home sales and housing stock should follow the Building Permits report trend, but on a 2-month delay.

Permits were strong in all 4 regions last month:

  • Northeast: +2.6 percent from February
  • Midwest: +10.0 percent from February
  • South: +5.3 percent from February
  • West: +5.3 percent from February

With Building Permits rising, we can infer that the housing market is improving.

Therefore, if you’re currently looking for new construction, consider that the market may be less favorable for buyers 4-6 months from now than it is today.  Especially because homebuilders are already projecting higher sales volume.

The better time to buy new construction — relative — may be now.