December Housing Starts and Permits Figures Sag

Building permits and housing starts in
December were both below levels reported in November ‘according to data
released this morning by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
and the Census Bureau.  Both statistics
were, however, well above the levels one year earlier.

Building permits for privately owned
housing units were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 679,000, 0.1 percent
below the revised November rate of 680,000. 
Permitting activity was 7.8 percent higher than in December 2010 when
the pace of permits was 630,000.  The
November figure was revised downward from the 681,000 originally reported.

Permits were issued for single-family
houses at the rate of 444,000, up 1.8 percent from the 436,000 reported in
November.  Multi-family authorizations
(permits in buildings with five or more units) were at a rate of 209,000
compared to 223,000 in November.

The report estimates that there were 611,900
housing units issued during the whole of 2011, a 1.2 percent increase over the
604,600 issued in 2010.

On a regional basis, permitting
increased month-over-month in the Midwest by 5.8 percent and was up 13.4
percent on an annual basis.  Permits in
the West were unchanged from November and down 1.2 percent year-over-year.   Permitting fell 6.5 percent in the Northeast
and was 36.8 percent below that of one year ago while the South had a
fractional -0.6 percent change since November but permitting was still up 31.1
percent for the year.

Building Permits

Click Here to View the Housing Permits Chart

Privately-owned housing starts in
December were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 657,000, 4.1 percent below the
revised November estimate of 685,000 but a 24.9 percent increase from the
December 2010 rate of 526,000.  
Single-family starts were at a rate of 470,000, up 4.4 percent from the
previous month’s pace of 450,000 and 11.6 percent higher than in December 2010. 

There were an estimated 606,900 housing
units for which construction was started in 2011 compared to 586,900 in
2010.  This is an increase of 3.4
percent.

There were strong regional differences
in housing starts.  The Midwest saw a
jump of 54.8 percent in housing starts since November and a year-over-year
increase of 121.5 percent.  The other
regions did not fare nearly as well.  The
Northeast was down 41.2 percent for the month and 1.7 percent since December
2010.  The change in the South was -3.0
percent for the month and 19.0 percent for the year, and the West was down
-17.6 percent since November but up 1.5 percent annually.

Housing Starts

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Housing completions in December were at
a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 605,000, up 9.2 percent from the upwardly revised
(from 542,000) November figure of 554,000. 
Single family completions were at a rate of 448,000, a -0.9 percent monthly
change.

An estimated 583,900 housing units were
completed during 2011, 10.4 percent below the 2010 figure of 651,700.  At year’s end there were an estimated 78,800
permits that had been issued but for which work had not yet been started.  More than half of these permits (43,100) were
in the South.

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Census Construction Data Goes Beyond the Basics

Trade industry groups like the National Association of Realtors® and National Association of Home Builders, private corporations and government agencies spew out reams of housing statistics, but when it comes to the real nitty-gritty it is hard to beat the U.S. Census Bureau.  And the grittiest has got to be its annual report The Characteristics of New Housing.  This report tells you, as Johnny Carson used to say EVERYTHING you wanted to know about the houses Americans build and buy.

The report for 2011 was released on Friday and here is some of the information about completed homes you can glean its dozens of tables.

  • The average house completed in 2011 measured 2,480 square feet (sf) and was on a 16,663 sf lot.
  • The average price for houses sold was $83.38 per sf. Regionally the average was $111.37 in the Northeast, $87.53 in the Midwest, $76.73 in the South, and $96.12 in the West.
  • Forty-eight percent of single-family houses had three or more bedrooms and 39 percent had 4 or more. Of those with 4+ bedrooms, 57 percent had three or more baths.
  • Almost half of the houses completed had fireplaces and 5 percent had two or more.
  • Fifty-six percent of homes were heated by a warm-air furnace and 88 percent of those were fueled with gas, 11 percent with electricity and 1 percent with oil.
  • 19% of new homes sold had a garage that could hold 3 or more cars.
  • 62% of all new single-family homes sold were financed by a conventional loan compared to 58% in 2010 and 62% in 2009. Twenty percent were financed by an FHA-insured loan compared to 25% in 2010, and 24% in 2009.

The report doesn’t neglect the multi-family sector. For example, of the 138,000 multi-family units completed, 44 percent had one bathroom, 4 percent had 1-1/2 baths, and 53 percent had two or more bathrooms.  The average square footage was 1,408 and 12 percent of all units were age restricted.

The data covers construction materials, systems, and allows comparisons between houses built and houses sold.  Some of the data is available back to the 1970s and information is available both nationally and by region.  Tables are available in both PDF and EXCEL and in the latter format the user can manipulate the data to obtain greater detail.

The summary report and data tables are available at http://www.census.gov/construction/chars/.

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April New Home Sales Bounce Back after March Drop

Sales of new single-family houses in April 2012 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 343,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 3.3 percent above the March rate of 332,000 and is 9.9 percent above the April 2011 estimate of 312,000.  The March rate had originally been estimated at 328,000 so this revision somewhat moderates to -5.9 percent the sharp 7.1 percent decline which had been the focus of the March report.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis there were an estimated 33,000 homes sold during the month, up from 32,000 in March.  This was the highest number of estimated monthly sales since April 2010 when there were 41,000 sales.  Sales one year earlier, April 2011, totaled 30,000.

At the end of April there were 146,000 new homes for sale (seasonally adjusted), more than half of which (88,000) were in the South.  The total represents a 5.1 month supply at the current sales pace, down from 6.7 months one year earlier when there were 174,000 new homes on the market.

Sales rose in all regions except the South where the annual rate was 177,000 units, down 10.6 percent from March but up 4.7 percent year-over-year. The rate in the Northeast was 28,000 units, up 7.7 percent from March and 16.7 percent from one year earlier.  The rate in the Midwest was 50,000, an increase of 28.2 percent and 22.0 percent respectively while in the West sales were at a rate of 88,000 units, up 27.5 percent and 12.8 percent.

The median sales price of new houses sold in April 2012 was $235,700 and the average sales price was $282,600 compared to $224,700 and $269,900 in April 2011.

MND received some reactions from industry analysts.  Andrew Grantham, an economist with CIBA World Markets said of the Census data “The slightly better figure reflected both a sharper rebound during the current month and some slight upward revisions to previous data. However, following a still sharp decline in March, the underlying trend in new home sales since the start of the year remains broadly flat, following the gradual uptrend towards the end of 2011. While this morning’s figures were slightly better than expected, reaction should be limited as markets remain preoccupied with events and news flow out of Europe.”

“The new homes sales data is much like what we saw from existing home sales yesterday,” according to Sean Incremona, Economist, 4Cast Ltd. “There is progress but still at a gradual pace. It is still baby steps. This increase of 343,000 still comes in below that February high, which was probably inflated by weather. It does look like we have found a bottom, which is encouraging, but it is still very slow progress at this point.”

Subodh Kumar, Chief Investment Strategist, Subodh Kumar and Associates said, “I don’t think this adds anything new for the market at this stage because there was some indication housing was bottoming out from yesterday’s numbers.

“It’s positive in the sense there have been various signs the pressure on housing is starting to abate. If new housing starts to pick up, it has a chain effect on the rest of the housing market.”

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Single Family Construction Strengthens, Multi-family Falls Sharply

Permits for construction of multi-family housing plummeted in
April, offsetting a small increase in single family permits  and
dropping the total down 7 percent from revised April figures.  Permits
for all privately owned residential construction were issued at a
seasonally adjusted annual rate of 715,000, down from the March rate of
769,000.  The March rate was revised substantially upward from the
original estimate of 747,000.  The April permitting rate is 23.7 percent
higher than that of April 2011 when the annual rate was estimated at
578,000.

Permits for single family authorizations were at a rate of 475,000, up 1.9 percent
from the March rate which was upwardly revised from 462,000 to
466,000.  The April figure is 18.5 percent higher than the rate of
401,000 one year earlier. Permits for construction in buildings with
five or more units dropped sharply from the April rate of 281,000
(revised from the original estimate of 262,000) to 217,000, a drop of
22.8 percent.   Multi-family permits were issued at a rate 40.0 percent
higher than a year earlier.

Building Permits

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Privately owned housing starts rose modestly to 717,000, a 2.6
percent increase from March and a 29.9 percent increase from the April
2011 rate of 552,000.  The March figure was revised from an original
estimate of 654,000 to 699,000.

Housing Starts

Click Here to View the Housing Starts Chart

This month the Construction Report produced by the U.S. Census Bureau
and the Department of Housing and Urban Development added a
non-seasonally adjusted set of data giving the actual numbers for
construction activity in the current month.  There were 62,000 permits
issued for residential construction during the month, 44,000 for single
family houses, and 16,000 for units in building with five or more
units.  There were also a small number of permits for units in buildings
of two to four units.

Single-family home starts were at a seasonally adjusted rate of
492,000, an increase of 2.3 percent from the March rate of 481,000 and
construction starts for multi-family housing were at a rate of 217,000
up from the March rate of 208,000.  Again the April report showed
substantial revisions of the March figures.  Single-family starts were
revised from the original estimate of 462,000 and multi-family starts
from an estimate of 178,000.

There were 64,200 units for which construction was started during the
month; 45,800 single family dwellings and 17,800 units in multiple unit
buildings. 

The housing completion rate in April was 651,000, a 10.0
percent increase from March and a 20.1 jump from one year earlier when
the rates were 592,000 and 542,000 respectively.  Single-family
completions were up 11.4 percent to 489,000.

There were 457,000 units under construction at the end of April.

On a regional basis, there were 6,900 permits issued in the
Northeast, up from 5,800 in March and 6,200 starts compared to 6,900 the
previous month.  There were 10,600 permits and 11,500 starts in the
Midwest compared to 10,300 and 8,600 in March.  In the South 30,800
permits were issued, down from 34,300 and 34,100 units were started, up
from 29,400.  In the West there were 13,600 permits issued and
construction was started on 12,400 compared to 17,000 permits and 12,500
units started in March.

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Public, Private Construction Spending Declined in February

Construction spending during February was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $808.9 billion, 1.1 percent below the revised January estimate of $818.1 billion.  The estimate was released Monday by the Census Bureau which at the same time revised the January spending figure down from an original estimate of $827.0 billion.   February spending was 5.8 percent above the estimate for February 2011 of $764.2 billion.  So far in 2012 construction spending has totaled $111.3 billion, 7.4 percent higher than one year earlier.

Private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $527.3 billion compared to $531.7 billion in January and $478.7 billion in February 2011, an increase of 10.2 percent.  Private residential construction was at an annual rate of $253.5 billion, virtually unchanged from January but 4.6 percent higher than the $242,369 billion rate in February 2011.  Private residential construction spending in the first two months of the year totaled $33.4 Billion.

Total public construction dollars were spent at a rate of $281.6 billion, a decrease of 1.7 percent from January and 1.4 percent from one year earlier.  Public residential construction for new single family houses was at a rate of $111.5 billion compared to $113.2 billion in January and $107.0 billion in February 2011 for changes of -1.5 percent and 4.2 percent respectively.  Public multi-family construction was at a rate of $17.2 billion compared to 16.9 billion in January and was 25.7 percent higher than one year earlier when spending was estimated at $13.7 billion

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