Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A few comments on July Housing Starts

by Bill McBride on 8/19/2014 10:14:00 AM

This was a solid report for housing starts in July.

There were 585 thousand total housing starts during the first seven months of 2014 (not seasonally adjusted, NSA), up 9.1% from the 563 thousand during the same period of 2013.  Single family starts are up 3%, and multi-family starts up 24%.  The key weakness has been in single family starts.

Starts were up 21.7% year-over-year in July.

This solid year-over-year increase was due to a combination of more starts in July (highest this year), and an easier comparison to last year.  There was a huge surge in housing starts early in 2013, and then a lull - and finally more starts at the end of the year.

Starts Housing 2013 and 2014Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the month to month comparison between 2013 (blue) and 2014 (red). 

Starts in Q1 averaged 925 thousand SAAR, and starts in Q2 averaged 997 thousand SAAR (up 8% from Q1).  Q3 is off to a solid start.

This year, I expect starts to mostly increase throughout the year (Q1 will probably be the weakest quarter, and Q2 the second weakest).  The comparisons will be easy for the next few months, and starts should finish the year up double digits from 2013.

Below 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 completionsThe 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) are lagging behind - but completions will continue to follow starts up (completions lag starts by about 12 months).

This means there will be an increase in multi-family completions later this year and in 2015.

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.

Single family starts had been moving up, but recently starts have been moving sideways on a rolling 12 months basis. 

Note the exceptionally low level of single family starts and completions.  The "wide bottom" was what I was forecasting several years ago, and now I expect several years of increasing single family starts and completions.