Home Starts Regain Some Ground in February
U.S. housing starts in February turned upward for the first time in eight months, posting a 22.2% gain that was primarily due to a big jump in often-volatile multifamily construction, according to numbers released by the U.S. Commerce Department on March 17.
"While welcome news, this gain only reflects a modest rebound from January, which was the worst month in history for new-home production," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The majority of the gain was due to characteristic volatility on the multifamily side, while single-family housing starts were up just over 1% for the month."
"Builders did pull a larger volume of single-family permits in February, suggesting a glimmer of hope for the prime home buying season, which is near at hand," said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson. "That said, we realize there's a need to be extremely cautious in terms of new building activity going forward, because there's still quite a lot of inventory out there that needs to be absorbed as foreclosures continue to flood the market in many areas."
Total U.S. housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units in February — reflecting an 82.3% surge in new multifamily production to a yearly pace of 226,000 units and a 1.1% rise to an annual rate of 357,000 single-family starts.
Regionally, the only area of the country losing ground in February was the West, whose total housing starts skidded 24.6%.
The Northeast was up 88.6%, the largest regional gain, with a rebound that was just about equal to its decline the previous month. The Midwest posted a 58.5% gain following a deep plunge in January, and the South climbed 30.2%. January-February averages were well below the monthly averages for the final quarter of 2008 in all regions of the country.
Building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose 3% overall to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 547,000 units in February. Single-family permits rose 11% to 373,000 units, while multifamily declined 10.8% to 174,000 units.
By region, building permits registered a 27.6% gain in the Northeast, no change in the Midwest, a nearly 6% hike in the South and a 13.6% slump in the West in February.
Tax Credit Web Site Looks at Opportunity of a Lifetime
Builders and other industry professionals can help spur home sales by referring prospective first-time home buyers to www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com. The NAHB Web site provides detailed information on the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers included in the economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Obama.
Consumers can use the Web site to find information on the tax credit – including a detailed question and answer section. It also includes information about other housing-related and small business measures in the legislation and a number of home-buying resources for consumers.
“The new tax credit provides a great opportunity for first-time home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson. “Combined with today’s near record low interest rates, the large selection of homes on the market and very competitive pricing, the tax credit should provide the extra incentive needed to get prospective buyers who have been sitting on the fence into the market.”
Industry professionals are encouraged to highlight the tax credit Web site when marketing to their potential first-time home buyer market.
Plan to Attend Construction Forecast Conference
Plan to attend or watch the 2009 Spring NAHB Construction Forecast Conference & Webcast on Thursday, April 23 in Washington, D.C. to get the latest facts, insights and analysis of the housing industry.
Panels of nationally recognized experts at the day-long conference will discuss economic trends, government policies, developments in the housing industry and the results from NAHB's recent surveys.
For more information and to register, visit www.nahb.org/cfc.
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