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Thursday, September 18, 2014

A few comments on August Housing Starts

by Calculated Risk on 9/18/2014 03:11:00 PM

This was a disappointing report for housing starts in August.

Starts were only up 8.0% year-over-year in August.

There were 670 thousand total housing starts during the first eight months of 2014 (not seasonally adjusted, NSA), up 8.6% from the 617 thousand during the same period of 2013.  Single family starts are up 3%, and multi-family starts up 23%.  The key weakness has been in single family starts.

This graph shows the month to month comparison between 2013 (blue) and 2014 (red).  Starts in 2014 have been above the same month in 2013 for five consecutive months.

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

Starts in Q1 averaged 925 thousand SAAR, and starts in Q2 averaged 985 thousand SAAR, up 7% from Q1.

Even with the weakness in August, Q3 is averaging 1.037 million SAAR, up 5% from Q2.

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 couple of months, and starts should finish the year up 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 more 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.