Many real estate economists have called on new home builders to ramp up production to help relieve the shortage of inventory of homes for sale throughout the United States. The added inventory would no doubt aid buyers in their search to secure their dream home, while also helping to ease price increases throughout the country. Unfortunately for builders, there are many forces that are making it difficult for them to do just that! Last week at the National Association of Real Estate Editors 51st Annual Conference, CoreLogic’s Chief Economist Frank Nothaft broke down the 4 ‘L’s of New Home Construction: Lots, Labor, Lumber, and Lending. The concept of supply and demand is ripe in the new home construction industry. The four ‘L’s of new home construction are each suffering a supply problem, and with that comes added costs. Let’s break it down! Lots – There is a shortage of land near metros at an affordable price, causing builders to move farther and farther away from cities to keep costs down. This isn’t always an attractive option for those who want to stay close to work. Labor – The Great Recession forced many skilled construction and trade workers to find other sources of income once their jobs were lost at the time of the crash. Even though the overall housing market has recovered, these workers have not returned. Those who remain are starting to age out and retire, causing even more of a shortage and additional costs. Lumber – The cost to build a new home is directly tied to the cost of the lot and the cost of the supplies needed to build the home. Lumber costs continue to escalate due to policies restricting the importation of Canadian lumber, making larger luxury homes an attractive option to recoup costs when selling, rather than building smaller single-family homes and making less profit. Below is a graph showing the increase in cost of 1,000 board feet of framing lumber. Year-over-year, lumber costs are up 13% after reaching a high of $433 in the second week of April. Lending – During the Great Recession, many small community banks were forced to close their doors. These banks were a great source of capital and lending for builders looking to borrow money at a low interest rate in the community in which they were building. Tougher lending standards have made borrowing funds more expensive and more difficult for builders.
Bottom LineAdditional costs across all 4 ‘L’s have made building luxury properties more attractive to builders as they are able to make a larger margin with the higher sales price. The move to scale down to starter and trade up homes to help with supply will mean any additional costs are absorbed by the builders unless the supply of the 4 ‘L’s can increase!
The biggest challenge to today’s housing market is the housing shortage. A normal market would see a six-month supply of homes for sale. Currently, that number is below four months. This is the major reason home prices have continued to appreciate at higher levels than historic averages. The good news is that builders are now starting to build more homes in lower price ranges.
Builder Confidence is UpThe Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reveals that builder confidence increased last month. HousingWire quoted NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz about the reason for the increase in confidence amongst builders.
“The HMI measure of future sales conditions reached its highest level since June 2005, a sign of growing consumer confidence in the new home market. Especially as existing home inventory remains tight, we can expect increased demand for new construction moving forward.”
Builders are Meeting the Needs of Today’s PurchaserBuilders are not only jumping into the market – they are doing a better job of matching current demand. The Wall Street Journal recently reported:
“In a shift, new households are overwhelmingly choosing to buy rather than rent. Some 854,000 new-owner households were formed during the first three months of the year, more than double the 365,000 new-renter households formed during the period, according to Census Bureau data.”The WSJ article went on to say:
“Home builders are beginning to shift their focus away from luxury homes and toward homes at lower price points to cater to this burgeoning millennial clientele.”The graph below compares 2016 to 2017 new construction sales by price point. As we can see, builders are slowly beginning to shift to prices more favorable to the first-time and non-luxury buyer.
Bottom LineThere is a drastic need for a larger supply of home inventory to meet the skyrocketing demand. Builders are finally doing their part to help rectify this situation.
In many areas of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers looking to purchase their dream homes. Experts have long proposed that a ramp-up in new, single-family home construction would be one of the many ways to overcome this inventory shortage. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo, housing market confidence amongst builders reached an 11-year high last month.
What Does High Confidence Mean for the Housing Market?In a recent interview, Rob Dietz, Chief Economist and SVP for NAHB, put it this way:
“Higher market confidence will translate into more building and more inventory in 2017. We expect single-family construction to grow 10 percent next year.”With 2016 marking the best year in real estate sales in over a decade, a 10 percent ramp-up in single-family construction will only aid in making 2017 an even greater year. According to the latest US Census data, sales of newly constructed homes were up 3.7% over January 2016 as they reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 555,000. Dietz went on to comment:
“We can expect further growth in new home sales throughout the year, spurred on by employment gains and a rise in household formations. As the supply of existing homes remains tight, more consumers will turn to new construction.”