Here’s how fast homebuilding is catching up to the record-low number of houses for sale

UBS STARTS
Source: UBS.

  • Housing starts surged 19.4% in March to their highest level since 2006, the Census Bureau said.
  • The rebound was fueled by a massive supply shortage and a return to work after harsh winter storms.
  • The supply-demand imbalance sent prices soaring during the pandemic and cut into home affordability.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Insider has been warning of a potential inventory crisis in the housing market since last summer. It’s just gotten worse since then, with a record low number of homes for sale.

Builders are racing to catch up.

New residential construction surged more than anticipated in March as builders rushed to address the massive supply-demand imbalance in the housing market.

Home starts leaped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.74 million units last month, the Census Bureau said Friday. That’s up 19.4% from the revised February reading. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected starts to rise to a rate of 1.61 million. The reading places housing starts at their highest level since 2006 and marks the largest month-over-month gain since 1990.

The strong rebound was partially driven by a return to work after harsh winter storms hampered construction in February. Permits for residential construction also gained in March, though at a more modest rate.

“We may have overestimated the immediate storm-rebound by a little, and so expected more rebound to come in starts in April,” UBS economists led by Samuel Coffin said in a note. “But with permits on target in March, we continue to see the underlying trend in single-family activity at about a 1.2 million unit annual rate.”

The upswing in home construction comes as the market sits mired in a historic supply shortage. Low mortgage rates spurred a buying spree throughout the pandemic, as did a mass exodus from cities to suburbs. The pace of home sales cooled somewhat in February, but inventory remains at a record-low 1.03 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. At the current rate of purchases, that supply will only last for two months.

The shortage has shown up in home prices, which have shot higher in recent months. Prices gained 10.4% in February from the year-ago period, marking the largest one-year bounce since 2006. Prices also rose 1.2% month-over-month in February, signaling that, while the sales rate has slowed, costs are still climbing. The loftier prices stand to price potential homebuyers out of the market and make housing less accessible overall.

Still, filling the hole in the housing market isn’t as simple as going out and building more. The pandemic’s fallout disrupted all kinds of supply chains, including those critical for home construction. A widespread lumber shortage is estimated to be adding about $24,000 to the price of new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

A decades-long slowdown in construction activity also contributed to the supply strains. The financial crisis and its damage to the US housing market led contractors to curb some building activity to prop up demand. Those actions are now coming back to haunt the housing market, which is estimated to be short some 4 million units, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Freddie Mac data.

“We should have almost four million more housing units if we had kept up with demand the last few years,” Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac, told The Journal. “This is what you get when you underbuild for 10 years.”

Data suggests contractors are up for addressing the issue. Apart from the Friday housing-starts report, the National Association of Home Builders’ sentiment gauge edged higher in a preliminary April reading. A component measuring expected traffic of potential buyers rose to its highest level since November, signaling contractors are expecting steady demand throughout the building boom.

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Housing starts soar to 15-year high as builders sprint to fill market shortage

home house construction
Workers are shown building luxury single family homes in Carlsbad, California,

  • Housing starts surged 19.4% in March to their highest level since 2006, the Census Bureau said.
  • The rebound was fueled by a massive supply shortage and a return to work after harsh winter storms.
  • The supply-demand imbalance sent prices soaring during the pandemic and cut into home affordability.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Insider has been warning of a potential inventory crisis in the housing market since last summer. It’s just gotten worse since then, with a record low number of homes for sale.

Builders are racing to catch up.

New residential construction surged more than anticipated in March as builders rushed to address the massive supply-demand imbalance in the housing market.

Home starts leaped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.74 million units last month, the Census Bureau said Friday. That’s up 19.4% from the revised February reading. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected starts to rise to a rate of 1.61 million. The reading places housing starts at their highest level since 2006 and marks the largest month-over-month gain since 1990.

The strong rebound was partially driven by a return to work after harsh winter storms hampered construction in February. Permits for residential construction also gained in March, though at a more modest rate.

The upswing in home construction comes as the market sits mired in a historic supply shortage. Low mortgage rates spurred a buying spree throughout the pandemic, as did a mass exodus from cities to suburbs. The pace of home sales cooled somewhat in February, but inventory remains at a record-low 1.03 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. At the current rate of purchases, that supply will only last for two months.

The shortage has shown up in home prices, which have shot higher in recent months. Prices gained 10.4% in February from the year-ago period, marking the largest one-year bounce since 2006. Prices also rose 1.2% month-over-month in February, signaling that, while the sales rate has slowed, costs are still climbing. The loftier prices stand to price potential homebuyers out of the market and make housing less accessible overall.

Still, filling the hole in the housing market isn’t as simple as going out and building more. The pandemic’s fallout disrupted all kinds of supply chains, including those critical for home construction. A widespread lumber shortage is estimated to be adding about $24,000 to the price of new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

A decades-long slowdown in construction activity also contributed to the supply strains. The financial crisis and its damage to the US housing market led contractors to curb some building activity to prop up demand. Those actions are now coming back to haunt the housing market, which is estimated to be short some 4 million units, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Freddie Mac data.

“We should have almost four million more housing units if we had kept up with demand the last few years,” Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac, told The Journal. “This is what you get when you underbuild for 10 years.”

Data suggests contractors are up for addressing the issue. Apart from the Friday housing-starts report, the National Association of Home Builders’ sentiment gauge edged higher in a preliminary April reading. A component measuring expected traffic of potential buyers rose to its highest level since November, signaling contractors are expecting steady demand throughout the building boom.

Read the original article on Business Insider

US home prices soared at the fastest rate since 2006 in February

House for sale US
A house’s real estate for sale sign shows the home as being “Under Contract” in Washington, DC, November 19, 2020.

  • US home prices surged 10.4% year-over-year in February, the biggest such jump since 2006.
  • The market has been red hot during the pandemic, but affordability represents a new challenge.
  • Price growth will cool into 2022 as mortgage rates rise and price out more buyers, CoreLogic said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Everyone knows it’s been hard to find an affordable house amid the pandemic, but as the data comes in, it’s becoming clearer just how hard.

The answer: Extremely.

US home prices continued to rip higher in February as supply constraints across the country and outsize demand boosted competition.

Selling prices increased 10.4% in February from year-ago levels, marking the largest year-over-year gain since 2006, according to CoreLogic data published Tuesday. Prices rose 1.2% from levels seen in January 2021. Idaho and Montana saw the biggest jumps, with year-over-year gains of 22.6% and 19.5%, respectively, according to the financial analytics firm CoreLogic.

And the outlet sees another year of more expensive housing ahead, projecting prices will rise another 3.2% by February 2022. The end of the pandemic can ease constraints on supply, CoreLogic said. On the demand side, it expects the lack of affordable housing to cut into some potential purchases.

“The run-up in home prices is good news for current homeowners but sobering for prospective buyers,” Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic, said. “Those looking to buy need to save for a down payment, closing costs, and cash reserves, all of which are much higher as home prices go up.”

The housing market was among the few hotbeds of economic activity throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The Federal Reserve’s emergency rate cuts in March 2020 pulled mortgage rates to numerous record lows throughout last year, leading many to take advantage of more appealing borrowing costs. Prolonged work-from-home periods spurred moves from apartment-dense cities into suburbs, which also lifted housing-market demand.

The buying spree quickly snapped up most of the market’s available supply, but that streak recently showed signs of slowing. For one, expectations for a strong economic recovery saw investors dump Treasurys in recent weeks, lifting yields on government debt and in turn leading mortgage rates to swing higher. Rates now sit at their highest levels since June after rising for seven weeks straight.

The turnaround in mortgage rates and soaring prices seemed to finally bite into the housing market’s rally in February. Existing home sales fell 6.6% that month to the slowest rate since August, according to the National Association of Realtors. At the same time, supply remained a measly 1.03 million units, a level that would only satisfy two months of sales at the February rate. Should prices trend even higher, the red-hot market could cool even faster.

“Homebuyers are experiencing the most competitive housing market we’ve seen since the Great Recession,” CoreLogic CEO Frank Martell said. “As affordability challenges persist, we may see more potential homebuyers priced out of the market and a possible slowing of price growth on the horizon.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A $400,000 house got 122 offers in 2 days, highlighting the desperate frenzy buyers are facing amid skyrocketing real-estate prices and a dearth of homes for sale

Suburban neighborhood aerial view
  • A central California home for sale received 122 offers in a single weekend.
  • The selling price was “in the mid-$400,000 range,” according to Fox affiliate KTXL.
  • It’s a symptom of a soaring real estate market where inventory is low and demand is high.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A California home received 122 offers in a single weekend amid a skyrocketing US real estate market.

The 1,400-square-foot home – located in Citrus Heights, California, a suburb of Sacramento – was listed at $399,900. It spans 1,400 square feet and has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a swimming pool, according to a report from KTXL, the local Fox affiliate.

The house received 122 offers in two days, including one above $500,000, and has since been sold for an undisclosed amount – KTXL reports the selling price was “in the mid-$400,000 range.”

The home’s current owners predicted they would receive eight or 10 offers for their home. They’re planning to move to Idaho, KTXL reports.

Read more: It’s actually a horrible time to buy a house

The unprecedented number of offers is a symptom of a pandemic-related surge in home sales. According to a September report from the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales reached a 14-year high last August. Similarly, housing inventory hit a record low in September, and dipped even lower one month later to 2.5 months of supply.

Those who already own homes are opting not to sell, and new home construction has dipped over the years. But according to Bloomberg, new home construction rose to a new high last August, its highest since 2006.

Given the low inventory, home prices are also on the rise. Prices soared through the end of 2020, jumping the most in seven years by December, according to the S&P Case-Shiller US home-price index. Phoenix, Seattle, and San Diego saw price increases among the 19 cities surveyed.

A rush to buy up homes may lead to regret for new homeowners

The real estate frenzy is driven by a combination of factors. Mortgage rates hit record lows a dozen times in 2020 alone, and the pandemic induced a desire for outdoor space or a more comfortable work-from-home arrangement.

According to research from investment management firm Cowen and Company published late last year, there’s been a noticeable migration among people ages 25 to 34 from urban areas to suburban ones. Among the 2,700 people Cowen surveyed, 48% of millennials reported living in the suburbs compared with 44% in 2019.

Those who reported living in cities fell to 35%, down from 38% last year.

“This suburbanization trend has been slowly occurring since 2017, and we expect it to accelerate with the COVID-19 disruption,” Cowen analyst John Kernan wrote. “These results are also corroborated by a shift in home ownership.”

The rush to snap up homes during the pandemic has already led to regrets for many buyers. The Wall Street Journal’s Candace Taylor reported last month that buyers were making hasty purchases, skipping due diligence, and waiving inspections. One family discovered a wasp infestation after closing on the house, while another learning they’d have to spend $150,000 on siding to alleviate a woodpecker issue.

A LendEDU survey from September found that roughly 55% of Americans who bought houses during the pandemic reported buyer’s remorse – 30% of those people said they should have waiting to buy a home for financial reasons.

Scott Trench, the CEO of the real-estate-investing resource BiggerPockets, recently told Insider’s Taylor Borden that it may not make sense to try to buy a house right now.

“Frantically trying to buy ‘something’ is a great way to make a bad purchase,” he said.

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The US housing-inventory crisis is starting to bite existing home sales, which fell the most since August last month

FILE PHOTO: Homes are seen for sale in the northwest area of Portland, Oregon March 20, 2014.  REUTERS/Steve Dipaola
Homes are seen for sale in the northwest area of Portland.

  • Existing home sales fell 6.6% in February to the slowest rate since August, according to NAR data.
  • Inventory held at a record-low 1.03 million, underscoring the market’s supply-demand imbalance.
  • The median selling price crept higher to $313,000 to tie the record high seen in October.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sales of previously owned homes in the US declined more than expected in February as the housing market’s supply shortage further curbed the recent buying spree.

Existing home sales fell 6.6% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.22 million, according to data published by the National Association of Realtors. The reading is the first decline since November and drags the pace of sales to its lowest since August. Still, sales are up 9.1% from the year-ago level.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a more modest drop to a 6.49 million sales rate.

The median existing-home price crept higher to $313,000, marking 108 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. The new level ties October’s record high and sits 15.8% above the year-ago level.

Home inventory remained at a record-low 1.03 million units at the end of last month. Unsold units now count for two months of sales at their current rate, up slightly from January’s 1.9 month supply.

Supply was down 29.5% year-over-year at the end of February, underscoring the shortage that’s contributed to higher prices and a now-slowing pace of sales. Home purchases first boomed at the start of the pandemic as record-low interest rates pulled borrowing costs lower. Mortgage rates set several record lows in 2020 and further boosted buying activity.

Supply strains have since lifted prices even higher, and mortgage rates are now reversing their months-long decline. Lumber shortages have also pressured costs, with the National Association of Home Builders saying last month that rising material costs are adding $24,000 to the price of new homes.

These obstacles will likely curb the market’s rally as the economy reopens, Nancy Vanden Houten, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, said.

“We look for the pace of existing-home sales to drift lower over the course of the year as headwinds from a lack of supply and eroding affordability are partially offset by the tailwinds of still-strong demand, particularly from younger households and a solid recovery,” she added.

The National Association of Realtors is more bullish toward the strained market. While affordability is weakening, strong savings and a boost from Democrats’ latest relief package should keep demand elevated through 2021, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, said.

“Various stimulus packages are expected and they will indeed help, but an increase in inventory is the best way to address surging home costs,” he added.

Contractors are struggling to rise to the occasion. Building starts for new privately owned residences fell 10.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million in February, according to the Census Bureau. That’s the lowest level since August and marks a second straight month of decline.

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