WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 -- Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes edged higher for a third consecutive month in September, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released yesterday. The HMI rose one point to 19 this month, its highest level since May of 2008.
"Builders are seeing some improvement in buyer demand as a result of the first-time home buyer tax credit, and low mortgage rates and strong housing affordability have also helped to revive some optimism," noted Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. "However, the window is now basically closed for being able to start a new home that can be completed in time for buyers to take advantage of the tax credit before it expires at the end of November, and builders are concerned about what will keep the market moving once the credit is gone. Congress needs to act now to keep the credit from expiring just as its intended effect on buyer demand is starting to materialize."
"Today's report indicates that builders are starting to see some glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel in terms of improving sales activity," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "However, the fact that the HMI component gauging sales expectations for the next six months slipped backward this month is a sign of their awareness that this is a very fragile recovery period and several major hurdles remain that could stifle the positive momentum. Those hurdles include the impending expiration of the $8,000 tax credit as well as the critical lack of credit for housing production loans and continuing problems with low appraisals that are sinking one quarter of all new-home sales. These concerns need to be addressed if we are to embark on a sustained housing recovery that will help bolster economic growth."
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index 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 sales conditions as good than poor.
Two out of three of the HMI's component indexes recorded gains in September. The index gauging current sales conditions rose two points to 18, while the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers rose one point, to 17. Meanwhile, the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months declined one point, to 29.
All four regions posted gains in their HMI readings for September. The biggest improvement was registered in the Midwest, where a three-point gain brought its HMI to 19, the highest level since July of 2007. The Northeast posted a two-point gain to 24, the South posted a two-point gain to 19, and the West posted a one-point gain to 18, respectively.