With high supply levels and lower sales, it’s not at all surprising to see builders hitting the brakes, with new home starts falling by 10.1% between June and July of this year. Starts are down by 18 ½% from a year ago. Starts have dropped on a sequential basis for five consecutive months now, and I am afraid that they will drop further before finding a bottom.
So, what’s the bottom line here? Well, there are several issues I see, the first of which is affordability. Home prices have been spiraling upward since the start of the pandemic not only because mortgage rates dropped, but construction costs started jumping and builders had to charge more for a home.
Builders saw prices rise by almost 18% last year. This had already taken a significant toll on affordability even before the mortgage rates spike we saw earlier this year. The upshot, as I see it, is that tighter monetary policy from the Fed, in concert with construction costs that remain well above normal levels, has hit builders and hit them hard. Of course, they are doing their best to address the situation by slowing construction activity significantly, but I think that they are going to have a pretty rough time for the next several months.
Ultimately, I see little option for home builders other than lowering prices further, especially now that they are competing with rising inventories in the resale market. I also believe that there are buyers out there waiting patiently on the sidelines for prices to drop in the coming months as they know that builders at some point have to solve the current supply demand imbalance and lowering prices is the easiest way of doing this. Last month the average price drop was 5%, but this is very likely to increase as we move toward the fall.
Will builders get through the situation they find themselves in? I believe that they will. And there are some glimmers of light out there with inflation appearing to be peaking, interest rates are, if not dropping, then certainly stabilizing, and this will help.
Builders also understand that the country has a significant housing shortage. In fact, a recent report published by “Up For Growth” suggested that we have a housing shortage today of around 3.8 million homes. Although this includes rental and ownership housing, some basic math tells me that there is a need today for around 2.5 million new owner-occupied homes. So, light is definitely at the end of the tunnel, but there is a way to go before they get out of it.
And there you have it. I hope that you’ve found my thoughts on this topic of interest. As always, if you have any questions or comments about the current new home environment, please do reach out to me. In the meantime, stay safe out there and I look forward to visiting with you all again next month.