New Home Inventory Keeps Sinking

New Home Supply Sep 2010 - 2011Home builders continue to sell homes and work through inventory.

According to data from the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold in September jumped 6 percent from the month prior, beating analyst expectations. On a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, buyers in Ohio and nationwide closed on 313,000 newly-built homes last month.

It’s the highest reading since April and a major reason why the available number of new homes for sale is shrinking. 

As compared to September 2010, there are 19% fewer homes for sale nationwide. At today’s sales pace, the complete new home inventory would be “sold out” in 6.2 months – the quickest sell-out pace since the April 2010 federal home buyer tax credit expiration.

It’s no wonder builder confidence is rising.

After averaging 15 through the first 9 months of the year, homebuilder confidence jumped 4 points for October, carried by low mortgage rates and the expectation for a strong winter/spring selling season.

For buyers , this could be construed as a housing market-shifting signal. As builder confidence rises, it becomes more difficult to negotiate for upgrades and price reductions on a new home. “Great deals” get scarce.

Furthermore, it’s unlikely that mortgage rates will sustain their current, ultra-low levels into 2012. Rising rates lead to higher housing payments on a month-to-month basis. 

If you’re in the market for a newly-built home, in other words, today’s homes may represent your best value of the year.

New Home Sales Figures Better Than Reported

New Home Sales August 2010 - August 2011According to the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold slid for the fourth straight month in August, easing 2 percent from July. On a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, home buyers bought 295,000 newly-built homes last month.

August marked the lowest new home sales tally since February. News outlets are jumping on the story, with at least one calling it a “blow” to the housing market.

That’s an unfair assessment.

It’s tough for the new home market to tally big sales numbers when the number of homes for sale is dwindling and, in August, that’s exactly what we saw. The number of new homes for sale nationwide fell to 162,000 last month. This is the fewest number of new homes for sale since at least 1993, the first year the Census Bureau tracked such data.

In other words, using New Home Sales as a housing market gauge may be misleading. A better metric may be new home supply

In August, new home supply edged 0.1 months higher to 6.6 months. This means that, at today’s sales pace, the complete new home inventory would be sold out in 6.6 months.

It’s the second-fastest reading in 2 years.

The new home market represents an interesting opportunity for home buyers. Builders are facing new competition from bank-owned homes and foreclosures, dragging builder confidence to all-time lows. Furthermore, builders have low expectations for the next 6 months.

As a buyer, you can use this to your advantage. Builders may be more willing to negotiate on price and finishes versus this time last year. You may find a good “deal” in new construction once you go in search of it. 

New Home Supplies Remain Flat; Builders Not Over-Extending

New Home Supply 2008-2011

Sales of newly-built homes slipped in July, falling 1 percent as compared to June. Home buyers closed on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 298,000 units, the lowest reading since February.

The supply of new homes, however, remained flat.

July’s 6.6 months of supply equaled June’s tally and remains near the multi-year low of 6.5 months set in May of this year. The figures suggest a new home market that’s finding its balance.

Builders are building to meet demand, and not much more.

The New Home Sales report may have read differently if not for the Northeast Region which doubled its sales units in July. The gains buoyed the broader data, re-affirming the importance of looking past national data and focusing on what’s local; the national market is not reflective of any given town

Broken down by region, July New Home Sales fared as follows:

  • Northeast Region : +100.0% from June 2011 
  • Midwest Region : +2.4% from June 2011 
  • South Region : -7.4% from June 2011 
  • West Region : -5.9% from June 2011 

However, as with most months, it’s important that we recognize the New Home Sales data’s margin of error.

Although New Home Sales showed a 1 percent drop in July, the reported margin of error was ±12.9%. This means that the actual reading could have been as high as +11.9 percent, or as low as -13.9 percent. Because the range includes both positive and negative values, the Census Bureau assigned its July data “zero confidence”.

New Home Sales appear to be stable, despite falling sales figures. Supplies remain flat and builder confidence does, too. The good news for buyers , then, is that lower mortgage rates are making homes more affordable.

Mortgage rates are currently at 50-year lows.