Rise in home building suggests industry turnaround

By Qiong (June) Zhang41 Comments

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2017052751_apushousingstarts.html

WASHINGTON —

A surge in apartment construction gave home builders more work in November. And permits, a gauge of future construction, rose largely because of a jump in apartment permits.

Some analysts say the gains, though coming off extremely low levels, suggest the depressed housing industry may have reached a turning point.

Economists now say 2011 will be the first year since the Great Recession began in 2007 that home construction will have helped the economy grow. Before this year, the industry endured two of the worst years ever.

“Homebuilding is through the worst and is now steadily improving,” said Paul Diggle, a property economist at Capital Economics.

Construction of single-family homes rose 2.3 percent in November to an annual rate of 447,000. Apartment construction jumped 32 percent to a rate of 238,000 units.

Single-family homes account for about 70 percent of homebuilding.

Patrick Newport and Michelle Valverde, U.S. economists at IHS Global Insight, said the better-than-expected figures show that the housing industry is “finally getting off the mat.”

“It’ll keep getting better through next year,” said Jared Franz, an associate economist at T. Rowe Price.

In October, sales of new homes rose slightly, largely because builders cut their prices in the face of weak demand. Sales hit a six-month low in August. And this year is shaping up to be the worst since the government began keeping records a half-century ago.

Another reason sales have fallen is that previously occupied homes have become a better deal than new homes. The median price of a new home is about 30 percent higher than the median price for a re-sale. That’s nearly twice the markup typical in a healthy housing market.

The homebuilders’ trade group said this week that its survey of industry sentiment rose in December to 21, the highest level since May 2010. Still, any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn’t reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

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