Strong demand stemming from low interest rates, favorable demographics and a shift to smaller, more affordable housing markets helped to lift new-home sales in January, but rising lumber and material costs threaten to blunt the momentum.
Sales of newly built, single-family homes in January rose 4.3 percent to a 923,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate, from an upwardly revised December reading, according to data related by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Historically low mortgage rates and solid demand spurred an increase in new-home sales in January, with the sales pace more than 19 percent higher than a year ago,” said Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and homebuilder from Tampa.
“However, rising affordability issues are looming this year, particularly increasing building material costs, including lumber, which is adding $24,000 to the price of a typical newly-built home. Builders also cite rising regulatory issues as a potential concern,” Fowke said.
A “new-home sale” occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit is accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the January reading of 923,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if this pace continued for the next 12 months.
The median sales price was $346,400, up 5.3 percent over the $328,900 median sales price posted a year earlier. “Builders are exercising discipline to ensure home prices do not outpace buyer budgets,” said Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist.
Regionally, new-home sales declined 13.9 percent in the Northeast but rose in the other three regions, up 12.6 percent in the Midwest, 3 percent in the South and 6.8 percent in the West.
“The demand for new construction remains strong,” Dietz said. “Though, rising building and development costs, combined with recent increases in mortgage interest rates, threaten to exacerbate existing affordability conditions.”