Builder confidence edges downward in May

WASHINGTON, May 15 - Home builders remained considerably downbeat as market conditions continued to erode in May, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today. The HMI fell a single point to 19, bringing it within one point of the record low 18 set in December 2007 (the series began in January of 1985).

"With the HMI hovering in the historically low two-point range that's prevailed over the past nine months, the message is very clear: The single-family housing market is still deteriorating and Congress and the Administration must move immediately to enact legislation that will help reverse the trend," said NAHB President Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va. "A temporary home-buyer tax credit is just the incentive that many prospective home buyers need to go forward with a purchase and help kick-start a housing and economic recovery."

Both the House and Senate have approved bills creating a temporary home buyer tax credit of up to $7,500 for qualified buyers, but the legislation has yet be crafted into a comprehensive bill that can be sent to President Bush for his signature.

"Despite the Federal Reserve's concerted efforts to lower short-term interest rates, free up credit markets and shore up the national economy, the housing market has shown no evidence of improvement thus far. In fact, conditions have continued to deteriorate in recent times," said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. "The latest HMI shows that even fewer builders now foresee market conditions improving over the next six months compared with our April survey, and builder ratings of buyer traffic through model homes also have dropped off over the past month on a seasonally adjusted basis. This certainly adds fuel to the argument that targeted policy stimulus, in the form of a temporary tax credit for home buyers, is essential to halt the housing downswing and remove the heavy drag being exerted by housing on overall economic growth."

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 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 either "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.

The HMI's component index gauging current sales conditions declined one point to 17 in May -- its lowest level since the series began in January 1985. Meanwhile, the component gauging sales expectations for the next six months declined three points to 27, and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers declined two points to 17.

The HMI fell in three out of four regions in May, with a four-point decline to 18 registered in the Northeast, a three-point decline to 12 registered in the Midwest (also an all-time low) and a two-point decline to 22 posted in the South. The West posted a three-point gain to 20 this month but remained well below the level of a year earlier.

Loading