Builder Sentiment Rises in March

Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes climbed three points to 51 in March, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released today. This is the highest level since July 2023 and marks the fourth consecutive monthly gain for the index. It is also the first time that the sentiment level has surpassed the breakeven point of 50 since last July.

“Buyer demand remains brisk and we expect more consumers to jump off the sidelines and into the marketplace if mortgage rates continue to fall later this year,” said Carl Harris, chairman of NAHB. “But even though there is strong pent-up demand, builders continue to face several supply-side challenges, including a scarcity of buildable lots and skilled labor, and new restrictive codes that continue to increase the cost of building homes.”

“With the Federal Reserve expected to announce future rate cuts in the second half of 2024, lower financing costs will draw many prospective buyers into the market,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist for NAHB. “However, as home building activity picks up, builders will likely grapple with rising material prices, particularly for lumber.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 35 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

All three of the major HMI indices posted gains in March. The HMI index charting current sales conditions increased four points to 56, the component measuring sales expectations in the next six months rose two points to 62 and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers increased two points to 34.

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