New Home Builder Confidence Steadily Increasing, But Will Supply Side Keep Pace?

Mortgage rates well under 7% over the past month have led to a sharp increase in builder confidence to begin the new year.

However, supply-side challenges could continue to present challenges, both in the supply chain and in the higher costs of building materials, according to the NAHB.

Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes climbed seven points to 44 in January, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released January 17. This second consecutive monthly increase in builder confidence closely tracks with a period of falling interest rates.

“Lower interest rates improved housing affordability conditions this past month, bringing some buyers back into the market after being sidelined in the fall by higher borrowing costs,” said NAHB Chairman Alicia Huey, a custom home builder and developer from Birmingham, Ala. “Single-family starts are expected to grow in 2024, adding much needed inventory to the market.

“However,” Huey added. “Builders will face growing challenges with building material cost and availability, as well as lot supply.”

Building Materials Prices Gradually Decreasing, But Remain High

According to David Logan, NAHB Director of Tax and Trade Policy Analysis, building materials prices rose 0.1% in December after increasing 0.1% in November (revised). Monthly price increases averaged 0.2% in 2023, down from 1.5% in 2021 and 0.7% in 2022.

Despite some decreases, some building material prices remain from 22 to 65% higher than they were in 2019.

Here is a breakdown by building material:

Softwood Lumber: The PPI for softwood lumber (seasonally adjusted) declined 2.3% in December, the third consecutive decrease and the fourth over the past five months. The index has fallen 14.5% since reaching its 2023 high in July.
On an annual basis, prices declined 31.3% in 2023 after falling 3.2% in 2022. Although the 33.5% two-year decrease is massive in historical terms, prices remain 22.7% above the 2019 level as the index skyrocketed 84.6% between 2019 and 2021.
Gypsum Building Materials: The PPI for gypsum building materials declined 0.3% in December and have not increased since March 2023. The index decreased 2% over the past 12 months, after increasing 44.6% over the two years ending December 2022.
Ready-Mix Concrete (RMC): RMC prices decreased 0.2% in November (seasonally adjusted), just the fourth decline over the last 36 months, because of a 0.9% price decline in the South; prices in the Northeast, Midwest, and West regions were unchanged. The average price of RMC increased 11.2% in 2023 and 10.3% in 2022 (NSA), combining for the second-largest two-year increase since 2000.
Steel Mill Products: Steel mill products prices climbed 3.3% in December, the first increase since May. Steel mill products annual average prices declined 16.1% in 2023 after increasing 8.7% in 2022 and the historic 90.3% increase of 2021. Prices are 31.2% lower than their 2021 peak but remain 65.1% higher than they were in January 2020.

Mortgage Rate Decrease Fuels Higher Builder Sales Expectations

Mortgage rates have decreased by more than 110 basis points since late October per Freddie Mac, lifting the future sales expectation component in the HMI into positive territory for the first time since August,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “As home building expands in 2024, the market will see growing supply-side challenges in the form of higher prices and/or shortages of lumber, lots and labor.”

Even as mortgage rates have fallen below 7% over the past month, many builders continue to reduce home prices to boost sales. In January, 31% of builders reported cutting home prices, down from 36% during the previous two months and the lowest rate since last August. The average price reduction in January remained at 6%, unchanged from the previous month. Meanwhile, 62% of builders provided sales incentives in all forms in January. This share has remained stable between 60% and 62% since October.

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This article, “New Home Builder Confidence Steadily Increasing, But Will Supply Side Keep Pace?” was first published on Small Business Trends