Posts Tagged ‘Housing Starts’

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 25th, 2019

November 24, 2019

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 25th, 2019Last week’s scheduled economic news releases included readings on builder sentiment from the National Association of Home Builders and. Commerce Department data on housing starts and building permits issued.

The National Association of Realtors® reported on sales of previously owned homes and the University of Michigan issued its monthly report on consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Builder Sentiment Dips in November

Home builders were less optimistic about housing market conditions in November; the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index dipped by one point to an index reading of 70 for November. October’s reading of 71 was the highest in 20 months. Any reading over 50 indicates that most builders surveyed were positive about market conditions.

Sub-readings used to calculate the NAHB Housing Market Index reading were mixed. Builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months rose one point to 77, but builder sentiment dipped two points to 76 for current market conditions. Builder sentiment about buyer traffic in new housing developments dipped one point to 53; buyer traffic readings rarely exceed a reading of 50.

Relatively low mortgage rates helped offset builder concerns over tariffs on building materials, but pending winter weather conditions likely impacted lower builder enthusiasm over housing market conditions.

Commerce Department Reports Increased Housing Starts, Building Permits Issued

Housing starts and building permits rose in October; Housing starts rose to 1.314 million starts on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis as compared to September’sreading of 1.266 million starts.

Building permits issued increased from September’s reading of 1.391 million permits issued to October’s reading of 1.461 million permits issued. Building permits issued for new homes in October reached their highest level since the recession. Ongoing shortages of available homes continued to boost demand for homes; any increase in new construction helps balance supply and demand for homes.

Sales of previously-owned homes fell short of expectations with a reading of 5.46 million sales at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate in October; analysts expected a pace of 5.47 million sales based on September’s reading of 5.36 million sales. Year-over-year sales of previously-owned homes rose 4.60 percent.

Supplies of available homes continued to fall according to the National Association of Realtors® as inventories slipped to a 3.9 months supply in October. Real estate pros consider a six-months supply of homes as a healthy balance between available homes and home buyers.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week; rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell nine basis points to 3.66 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.15 percent and were five basis points lower.

The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages also fell five basis points to 3.39 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 0.40 percent.

New jobless claims were expected to drop to 218,000 claims filed but held steady at the prior week’s reading of 227,000 first-time claims filed.

The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index rose to an index reading of 96.80 for November; analysts expected the reading to hold steady at October’s reading of 95.70 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on home prices from Case-Shiller; reports on new and pending home sales and a speech by Fed chair Jerome Powell. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 1st, 2019

April 1, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 1st, 2019Last week’s economic reports included readings from Case-Shiller on home price growth, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. The Conference Board issued its monthly reading on consumer confidence. Pending home sales and weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Price Growth Slows in January

S&P Case-Shiller Indices reported the slowest rate of home price growth in six years. January readings suggested that home price growth slowed due to easing demand. Affordability concerns sidelined buyers; participation of first-time home buyers remained lower than average.

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index charted its third month-to-month decline in home price growth; the National Home Price Index fell to 4.30 percent during the three months ending in January as compared to 4.60 percent growth for the three month period ending in October 2018.

Las Vegas, Nevada led the 20-City Home Price Index with year-over-year home price growth of 10.50 percent. Phoenix, Arizona held second place with 7.50 percent home price growth. Third place was tied by Minneapolis, Minnesota, Charlotte, North Caroline and Tampa, Florida with 5.10 percent growth. This tie suggested that home prices were leveling out, and west coast cities were notably absent from the top three spots after home prices rocketed to historic levels in recent years.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Issued

Commerce Department readings for housing starts and building permits issued were lower in February. Housing starts posted on a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.162 million starts. Analysts expected 1.201 million starts based on February’s reading of 1.273 million housing starts. Single-family housing starts fell 17 percent in March.

Regional readings for housing starts were mixed: The Northeast reading was 30 percent lower; the Southern region posted 7 percent fewer starts in February and housing starts in the West fell 19 percent. The Midwest posted a positive year-over-year growth rate of 27 percent for housing starts.

Fewer building permits were issued in February with 1.295 million permits issued as compared to February’s reading of 1.317 million permits issued. While some of the slowdowns in housing starts and building permits were likely related to winter weather, real estate and mortgage lending pros continued to count on home builders to provide more homes to ease housing shortages in many cities and metro areas.

Pending home sales were lower in February; the National Association of Realtors® said pending sales were 1.00 percent lower in February, and those pending sales had declined nearly 5.00 percent year-over-year. Pending sales represent home sales for which purchase offers have been signed, but not completed.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, said a shortage of available homes in the West coupled with rapidly rising home prices contributed to lower pending sales numbers.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Average mortgage rates fell to their lowest readings in ten years last week. Freddie Mac reported that rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 22 basis points lower at 4.06 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages fell 14 basis points to 3.57 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.75 percent and were 9 basis points lower.

Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Lower mortgage rates are expected to prevail as the Fed announced its decision not to raise the target federal funds rate range in 2019.

Consumer confidence fell to an index reading of 124.1 in February as compared to 131.4 in January. Analysts expected an index reading of 133, which indicates that consumers have less confidence in current economic conditions.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on retail sales, construction spending and labor sector reports on jobs and national unemployment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 20th, 2018

February 20, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 20th, 2018Last week’s weeks economic releases included readings on the NAHB Housing Market Index, housing starts and building permits issued and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Builder Confidence in Housing Market Holds Steady in February

The National Association of Home builders reported an index reading of 72 for its Housing Market Index in February. January’s reading was also 72; readings over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer are confident about housing market conditions.

Three readings comprising the overall NAHB HMI reading include builder confidence in current market conditions, which was one point lower in February at 78. Builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months rose two points to an index reading of 80.

This was the highest reading for future housing market conditions since before the recession. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new housing developments was unchanged at 54.

Builders surveyed cited strong labor markets and short supplies of pre-owned homes as fueling confidence in current market conditions, but identified ongoing labor and lot shortages and rising materials costs as concerns for builders.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Issue Rise in January

High builder confidence was reflected in readings for housing starts and building permits issued in January. Housing starts rose to their highest level in more than 10 years. The annual pace of housing starts reached 1.326 million starts.

January’s reading exceeded expectations of 1.324 million starts and December’s reading of 1.209 million housing starts. January’s starts reflect strong builder confidence readings and may also signal future relief for short supplies of available homes and high demand for homes in many metro areas.

High demand for homes has caused rapid appreciation in home values and sidelined first-time and moderate-income buyers in areas with high home values. According to the Commerce Department, building permits issued rose to 1.396 million from December’s1.380 million starts annually.

The University of Michigan reported the second highest reading for consumer sentiment in 14 years. February’s reading of 99.9 was higher than expectations for a reading of 95.3 and January’s reading of 95.7Analysts said that recent tax cuts likely stabilized consumer outlook in spite of volatile financial markets.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates for all three types of mortgages it tracks in its Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose an average of six basis points to 4.38 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points higher at an average of 3.84 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.63 percent, which was six basis points higher than the prior week.

New jobless claims were higher last week with 230,000 new claims filed, which matched expectations and exceeded 223,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings on existing home sales along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Financial markets were closed on Monday for President’s Day.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 13 2015Last week’s economic news included an encouraging report from the National Association of Home Builders, whose housing market index held steady with a reading of 60 in July. This was the 13th consecutive month for readings over 50, which indicate that more builders are confident about housing markets than those who are not. July’s reading was noteworthy as it was the highest since November 2005 prior to the recession.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Increase

The Commerce Department provided further evidence of stronger housing markets with reports on housing starts and building permits issued in June. Housing starts rose from May’s reading of 1.07 million to 1.17 million, which surpassed the expected reading of 1.11 million housing starts.

May’s reading for housing starts was revised from 1.04 million to 1.07 million an annual basis.

Construction of apartments and other multifamily housing complexes attained their highest level since 1987, which supports reported trends that millennials who prefer to live in larger cities are renting rather than buying homes. Housing starts gained nearly 10 percent between May and June. Would-be home buyers are also renting due to tighter mortgage approval standards; others may be “sitting on the fence” as they wait for further indications of stronger labor markets and improvements in overall economic conditions.

Building permits issued in June supported trends in housing starts, with permits for multi-family housing units higher by 16. 10 percent and was the highest reading for multi-family building permits since 1990. Analysts said that the increase in multifamily building permits was in caused by the pending expiration of a tax credit for builders in New York State that was set to expire June 30.

Permits for single family homes rose only 0.90 percent in June, to an annual pace of 689,000 but this was still the highest reading for single family housing permits since 2008.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.09 percent and was higher by five basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was also five basis points higher at 3.25 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was up by three basis points to 2.96 percent. Discount points were 0.60 percent for 15 and 30 year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 6/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 281,000 last week against the prior week’s reading of 296,000 new claims and an expected reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the current reading indicates that last week’s spike in new unemployment claims was a false alarm. Seasonal anomalies and re-tooling at some auto plants were cited as causes for the prior week’s high reading. New jobless claims have remained under the benchmark reading of 300,000 since February for the longest consecutive period in 15 years.

Last week’s reports ended with the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which fell from June’s reading of 96.1 to 93.3; analysts expected a reading of 95.0.

What’s Ahead

Scheduled economic reports for next week include new and existing home sales, and FHFA home prices along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Sept 22, 2014

September 22, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 22 2014Last week’s economic news largely concerned the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement and a post-meeting conference given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The FOMC statement indicated that the Fed continued its wind-down of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities and that its purchases are expected to cease after the next FOMC meeting.

The FOMC statement said that committee members find the economy to be improving at a moderate pace and currently strong enough to further reduce the QE3 monthly asset purchases. The Fed seeks to achieve and sustain its dual mandate of maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. While the unemployment rate is lower than the Fed’s benchmark of 6.50 percent, FOMC members cited concerns that the labor force is underutilized and that labor markets, while recovering, could use further improvement. The Fed repeated its customary statement that the Fed’s monetary policies are not on a pre-determined course, and that FOMC members continually review and interpret developing financial and economic news as part of their decision-making process.

Chair Yellen explained during her press conference that it is not possible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate. Economists and media analysts expressed concerns that raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent, could cause overall interest rates to rise. Chair Yellen said that she expects the current target federal funds rate to remain for a “considerable time” after the QE asset purchases cease. She also said that it is impossible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate and cited multiple influences considered by FOMC when changing monetary policy.

Home Builder Confidence Grows, Housing Starts Fall

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose by three points in September for a reading of 59. Analysts had predicted an index reading of 56 against August’s reading of 55. September’s reading was the third consecutive reading above 50. Stronger labor markets were cited as supporting the higher reading, but builders were also concerned by tight mortgage credit standards. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders perceive market conditions for new homes as positive as those that do not.

August’s housing starts were inconsistent with the Home Builders Index; according to the Department of Commerce, construction of new homes fell by 14.4 percent from July’s reading to 956,000. Analysts expected 1.03 million starts against July’s reading of 1.12 million homes started.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. Average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.23 percent. The rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by 11 basis points to 3.37 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.99 to 3.06 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all mortgage types at 0.50 percent.

New weekly jobless claims dropped to 280,000 against an expected reading of 305,000 and the prior week’s adjusted reading of 316,000 new jobless claims. The original reading for the prior week was 315,000 new jobless claims. The less volatile four-week average of new jobless claim fell by 4,750 new claims to a reading of 299,500 new claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news brings multiple housing-related reports. The National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for August. Case-Shiller’s monthly Housing Market Index report and the FHFA’s Home Value report will bring new light to national market trends. The Department of Commerce will release its New Home Sales report, and as usual, Freddie Mac’s weekly report on mortgage rates will come out on Thursday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 24, 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing-related reports including the Housing Market Index (HMI) for March, a report on housing starts, and building permits for February.

The National Association of REALTORS® also released its Existing Home Sales report for February and the Federal Reserve issued its first FOMC statement under the helm of Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

Home Builders Conservative On Housing Market Conditions

The National Association of Home Builders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index rose by one point to a reading of 47 in March against a reading of 46 in February and against an expected reading of 50. Readings above 50 signify that more builders have a positive view of housing market conditions than not.

Conditions contributing to the sluggish reading included a lack of lots for development and labor shortages. The NAHB also cited rising home prices and mortgage rates as reasons for builders’ conservative outlook.

Commerce Department: Housing Starts And Building Permits

The U.S. Commerce Department released reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits Issued for February. Housing starts dipped to 907,000 in February against expectations of 908,000 expected housing starts and January’s reading of 909,000 housing starts. Severe winter weather froze construction and transport of building supplies.

Building permits issued increased to 1.02 million on a seasonally adjusted basis against January’s reading of 945,000 building permits issued.

February’s reading represents a 7.70 percent increase over January’s permits issued and was attributed to a sharp rise in plans for condominiums and rental housing projects.

407,000 permits for multi-unit buildings were issued in February and represented a 24.3 percent increase on an annualized basis. Analysts saw the increase in building permits as a sign that construction will pick up as warmer weather arrives.

Existing Home Sales Fall, Rising Home Prices And Mortgage Guidelines Cited

The National Association of REALTORS® reported a decrease of 0.40 percent in sales of existing homes from January’s reading. February’s reading of 4.60 million homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis was lower than January’s reading of 4.62 million existing homes sold, but exceeded expectations of 4.58 million existing homes sold.

Analysts identified familiar causes such as high mortgage rates and home prices, bad weather and a short supply of available homes for the dip in existing home sales. New standards for “qualified mortgages” became effective in January and were seen as a possible obstacle to would-be home buyers as mortgage lenders keep a tight rein on mortgage credit policies.

Federal Open Market Committee Statement Details $10 Billion Dollar Change

Reports indicate that Fed Policy is expected to stay much the same as it was under its previous chairman. FOMC approved an additional $10 billion reduction in asset purchases designed to keep long term interest rates low.

The Fed will now purchase $55 billion monthly in mortgage-backed securities and treasury bonds as compared to its original level of $85 billion monthly.

Wall Street did not respond well to FOMC’s revised projections for short-term interest rates, which were revised from 1.75 percent by the end of 2016 to a possible short-term rate of 2.25 percent.

FOMC removed the benchmark 6.50 percent national unemployment rate for raising the federal funds rate, which is currently 0.250 percent. Instead, the Fed will review a wide range of economic indicators before changing monetary policy.

Janet Yellen, in her first press conference as fed chair, said that the Fed may consider rising short-term interest rates a few months before its original target of October to December of 2015.

Mortgage Rates Drop

Mortgage rates dropped last week according to Freddie Mac. Average mortgage rates fell from 4.37 percent to 4.32 percent for 30-year fixed rate loans. Rates for 15-year mortgages dropped from 3.38 percent to 3.32 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell from 3.09 percent to 3.02 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead This Week

Scheduled economic reports for this week include the Case-Shiller and FHFA Home Price Indexes for January. New Home Sales and Pending Home Sales will also be released.

What’s Ahead for Mortgage Rates This Week: December 24, 2012

December 24, 2012

Existing Home SalesMortgage markets worsened last week amid ongoing discussions budget and tax conversations in Washington, D.C., and the release of key housing and economic data.

Mortgage rates climbed in Utah and nationwide.

Freddie Mac reported the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate at 3.37 percent nationwide for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.7 discount points at closing, plus closing costs — an increase of 0.05 percentage points from the week prior.

The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate was listed at 2.65 percent nationwide with an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

With certain government funding and tax reductions set to expire December 31, legislators appear unlikely to avoid what’s been called the “Fiscal Cliff”. Some economists believe that reaching January 1 with no agreement in place will set the economy in to recession.

Mortgage rates tend to improve on “negative” news for the economy, which partially explains why mortgage rates made a small comeback late in the week.

In other news, according the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales reached their highest point since November 2009, climbing to 5.04 million homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. In addition, the real estate trade group reports that the Existing Home Supply has dropped to 4.8 months — a figure firmly suggesting a “seller’s market”.

Separately, the Commerce Department reported single-family housing starts rising, too; down 4.1 percent in November but up nearly 23 percent as compared to November 2011.

This week, Fiscal Cliff discussions are likely to dominate mortgage markets. The trading week will be holiday-shortened and volume will be lighter-than-normal. This may lead to volatile pricing and rapid interest rate movements.

Markets close early Monday and remain closed through Tuesday. Wednesday, markets re-open with no new data set for release. Then, Thursday, scheduled economic news events resume Thursday with New Home Sales, Jobless Claims and Consumer Confidence due.

Friday, the Pending Home Sales Index is released.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Rising Into 2013

December 21, 2012

Housing Starts November 2011Single-family housing starts took a small step back in November.

According to the monthly Housing Starts report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, single-family housing starts tallied 565,000 in November 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This marks a 4 percent decline from October, but is more than 100,000 higher than the count from 12 months ago.

Clearly, the nation’s new home construction market is expanding.

On a regional basis, single-family housing starts have been strongest in the Midwest; and Hurricane Sandy appears to have affected the number of starts across the Northeast.

As compared to one year ago:

  • Northeast Region : Housing starts down 19% on an annual basis
  • Midwest Region : Housing starts up 40% on an annual basis
  • South Region : Housing starts up 24% on an annual basis
  • West Region : Housing starts up 33% on an annual basis

It’s expected that new construction growth will continue into 2013, too. This is because the Department of Commerce report also showed Building Permits mostly unchanged for November at 565,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

As compared to November 2011, this marks a 25% increase. Permits for multi-family homes are up 17%, too.

There are more building permits being issued today that at any time in the last 4 years.

For home buyers, this may be good news. Rising permits and housing starts suggests a more healthy U.S. economy, but it also means that home supplies may not be as tight throughout the next few months.

Overly-tight home supplies in some U.S. markets have contributed to rapidly rising home values. With more construction and larger home inventories, home prices may rise in 2013 less slowly.

The good news, though, is the mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and low- and no-downpayment mortgage programs are abundant. For today’s home buyer, there are plenty of affordable ways to purchase a home.

Talk with your real estate agent and your loan officer to see which plan works best for you.

More Bullish Data : Housing Starts Climb 3.6%

November 23, 2012

Housing StartsAccording to a joint release from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Housing Starts rose 3.6% in October 2012, climbing to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized rate of 894,000 units.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started and the report gives buyers and sellers across Utah yet one more reason to be optimistic for the 2013 housing market.

Regionally, Housing Starts varied.

The West and Midwest Regions posted gains between September and October 2012; and, the South and Northeast Regions posted declines. The latter was affected by the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

  • West Region : +17.2% from the month prior
  • Midwest Region : +8.9% from the month prior
  • South Region : -2.5% from the month prior
  • Northeast Region : -6.5% from the month prior

Single-family housing starts — starts for homes not considered multi-unit properties or to be apartment buildings — was mostly unchanged, slipping 1,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

The Housing Starts data is the third housing-related release this week that hints at a strong start for the 2013 housing market.

Early in the week, the National Association of Homebuilders released its Housing Market Index (HMI), a measure of home builder confidence in the new construction market. The HMI posted 46 — the highest reading since 2006. With mortgage rates low and buyer traffic high, builders are expecting a rash of sales between now and the New Year, and an elevated number of closing over the next six months, in general.

The HMI is scored on a scale of 1-100. One year ago, it read 19.

Then, the National Association of REALTORS® showed Existing Home Sales climbing 2.1% and home supply fell to a multi-year low. At the current sales pace, the entire U.S. home inventory would be sold in just 5.4 months. Analysts believe that a home supply of less than 6.0 months favors home sellers.

In unison, these three housing market reports suggest a sustained, national housing market recovery. Home prices are expected to rise into next year’s housing market.

Single-Family Housing Starts Rise To 4-Year High

October 18, 2012

Housing StartsThe housing market continues to improve.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, Single-Family Housing Starts rose to 603,000 last month, an 11 percent increase from the month prior and the highest reading in more than 4 years. 

A “housing start” is a home on which construction has started and home builders are breaking ground at rates not seen even during the 2010 federal home buyer tax credit period.

It’s a signal to home buyers throughout Utah that the U.S. housing market may be permanently off its bottom.

At least, the nation’s home builders seem to think so.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Homebuilders reported home builder confidence at a 5-year high and nearly triple the levels of last September.

Buoyed by rising sales volume and the heaviest foot traffic since 2006, builders expect the next 6 months of sales to outpace the current rate. It may spell higher home prices for today’s new construction buyer.

Thankfully, mortgage rates remain low.

As compared to last year, today’s buyers have extended purchasing power. Assuming a 20 percent downpayment and a conforming home loan :

  • September 2011 : A $1,000 mortgage payment afforded a purchase price of $202,000
  • September 2012 : A $1,000 mortgage payment afforded a purchase price of $226,000

That’s an 11.9% increase in purchasing power increase over just twelve months. When combined with today’s rising rents throughout many U.S. markets, demand for new construction homes remains high and builders have taken notice.  Buyers should, too.

With mortgage rates low, low downpayment programs available and home prices poised to rise, it’s an opportune time to be a home buyer. Housing has been trending better since late-2011 and will likely carry that momentum forward into 2013. 

If you’ve been shopping new construction, remember that as mortgage rates and home prices rise, home affordability drops.