The housing market, while still posting historically strong numbers, is in the midst of an inevitable cooling-off period - with the pace of new-home construction, buying activity, consumer confidence and builder confidence all off from previously-posted highs. Among the key statistics released by government agencies, research firms and industry-related trade associations in recent weeks were the following:
NEW- & EXISTING-HOME SALES
The fundamental factors for home sales - a growing population and favorable affordability - should ensure that existing-home sales remain at healthy levels, according to David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. Existing-home sales increased 2% in August to the second-highest pace on record, according to the Washington, DC-based NAR. Total existing-home sales - including single-family units, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops - rose in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7.29 million, up from the pace of 7.15 million in July and 7.8% higher than in August of 2004, the NAR noted. In the meantime, sales of new single-family homes declined 9.9% in August, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.237 million units in August, following a record buying surge a month earlier, the National Association of Home Builders reported. Despite the decline, the August sales rate was 6.2% above that of a year ago, according to the Washington, DC-based NAHB.
Domestic shipments of major home appliances posted a modest increase in August, but were still pacing slightly below the record pace of 2004 through the first eight months of this year, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers reported. According to the Washington, DC-based AHAM, August appliance shipments totaled 5.87 million units, up 2.2% from the 5.75 million appliances shipped in August of 2004. Year-to-date shipments, pegged at 53.34 million units, were down 0.2% from the total of 53.43 million posted for the first eight months of 2004, AHAM reported. Gains in August, however, were driven primarily by increases in shipments of home comfort and laundry equipment. In contrast, shipments of cooking and food preservation appliances were both down 3.9%, while shipments of kitchen cleanup appliances were up just 0.8%, according to AHAM.
CABINET & VANITY SALES
Sales of kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities rose 11.1% in August over sales the same month a year earlier, the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association said last month. According to the Reston, VA-based KCMA, manufacturers participating in the association's monthly "Trend of Business" survey reported that sales of stock cabinets gained 14.4% % for the month, while semi-custom cabinet sales rose 6.3% and custom cabinet sales increased 14.1%. Year-to-date cabinet sales for the first eight months of 2005 were up 14.0% over the same period a year ago, the KCMA added.
U.S. sales of decorative laminates are forecast to increase by 3.9% per year, to 15.7 billion sq. ft. - valued at $6.2 billion, in 2009 - according to a study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland, OH-based market research firm. The study - which includes high- and low-pressure laminates, as well as edgebanding - noted that market gains will result largely from a sharp rebound in non-residential construction, and a recovery in manufactured housing output, which will create demand for wall panels. Additional gains should be spurred by increased demand for laminate flooring, particularly in residential remodeling, the research firm reported. High-pressure laminates are expected to continue to post above-average growth through 2009, and will dominate most horizontal applications, the research firm observed. Kitchen and bath products (countertops and cabinets) will use almost 5 billion sq. ft. of decorative laminates by 2009, the company added.