Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Starts and Completions: Multi-family and Single Family

by Bill McBride on 11/20/2012 09:56:00 AM

Ten months of the way through 2012, single family starts are on pace for about 530 thousand this year, and total starts are on pace for about 770 thousand. That is an increase of over 20% from 2011.

The following table shows annual starts (total and single family) since 2005 and an estimate for 2012.

Housing Starts (000s)
TotalChangeSingle FamilyChange
20052,068.3--- 1,715.8---
20061,800.9-12.9%1,465.4-14.6%
20071,355.0-24.8%1,046.0-28.6%
2008905.5-33.2%622.0-40.5%
2009554.0-38.8%445.1-28.4%
2010586.95.9%471.25.9%
2011608.83.7%430.6-8.6%
20121770.026%530.023%
12012 estimated


And the growth in housing starts should continue over the next few years.   Even with the significant increase this year, starts in 2012 will still be the 4th lowest year since the Census Bureau started tracking starts in 1959 (the three lowest years were 2009 through 2011). 

My estimate is the US will probably add around 12 million households this decade, and if there was no excess supply, total housing starts would be 1.2 million per year, plus demolitions, plus 2nd home purchases. So housing starts could come close to doubling the 2012 level over the next several years - and that is one of the key reasons I think the US economy will continue to grow.

Here is an update to the graph comparing multi-family starts and completions. Since it usually takes over a year on average to complete a multi-family project, there is a lag between multi-family starts and completions. Completions are important because that is new supply added to the market, and starts are important because that is future new supply (units under construction is also important for employment).

These graphs use a 12 month rolling total for NSA starts and completions.

Multifamily Starts and completionsClick on graph for larger image.

The blue line is for multifamily starts and the red line is for multifamily completions.

The rolling 12 month total for starts (blue line) has been increasing steadily, and completions (red line) is lagging behind - but completions will follow starts up (completions lag starts by about 12 months).

This means there will be an increase in multi-family deliveries next year, but still well below the 1997 through 2007 level of multi-family completions.

Single family Starts and completionsThe second graph shows single family starts and completions. It usually only takes about 6 months between starting a single family home and completion - so the lines are much closer. The blue line is for single family starts and the red line is for single family completions.

Starts are moving up, but the increase in completions has just started.  Usually single family starts bounce back quickly after a recession, but not this time because of the large overhang of existing housing units.  The "wide bottom" was what I was forecasting several years ago, and now I expect several years of increasing single family starts and completions.

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