Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Comments on November Housing Starts

by Bill McBride on 12/16/2014 10:40:00 AM

A year ago, for November 2013, housing starts were reported at 1.091 million on a SAAR basis (seasonally adjusted annual rate), up 29.6% from November 2012.  Starts in November 2013 have since been revised up to 1.105 million. That huge increase in starts was probably one reason that many analysts, myself included, were overly optimistic for housing starts in 2014.

This year total starts in November were reported at 1.028 million SAAR, down 7.0% from a year ago. That sounds weak, but actually starts in the 2nd half of 2014 have averaged 1.032 million, up 10.1% from the 937 thousand during the same period last year - including that strong November in 2013!

In early 2014, housing starts were very weak - down year-over-year in Q1 - but starts have picked up in the 2nd half.

A few numbers: There were 927 thousand total housing starts during the first eleven months of 2014 (not seasonally adjusted, NSA), up 8.2% from the 857 thousand during the same period of 2013.  Single family starts are up 4.4%, and multifamily starts up 16.6%.  The key weakness has been in single family starts.

The following table shows the annual housing starts since 2005, and the percent change from the previous year (estimates for 2014). The housing recovery has slowed in 2014, especially for single family starts.  However I expect further growth in starts over the next several years.

Housing Starts (000s) and Annual Change
  TotalTotal
%
Change
SingleSingle
%
Change
20052,068.35.8%1,715.86.5%
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%
2012780.628.2%535.324.3%
2013924.918.5%617.615.4%
20141997.07.8%644.04.3%
1Estimate for 2014

This graph shows the month to month comparison between 2013 (blue) and 2014 (red).  Starts in 2014 were above the same month in 2013 for seven consecutive months prior to November.

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

December will be another difficult year-over-year comparison, but I expect to see solid year-over-year growth in Q1 2015.

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) increased steadily over the last few years, and completions (red line) have lagged behind - but completions have been catching up (more deliveries), and will continue to follow starts up (completions lag starts by about 12 months).

Most of the growth in multi-family starts is probably behind us - although I expect solid multi-family starts for a few more years (based on demographics).

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.

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.