Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Comments on August Housing Starts

by Bill McBride on 9/19/2018 09:33:00 AM

Earlier: Housing Starts Increased to 1.282 Million Annual Rate in August

Housing starts in August were above expectations,  and starts for June and July were revised up.  Most of the increase, and upward revisions, were due to the multi-family starts that are volatile month-to-month.

The housing starts report released this morning showed starts were up 9.2% in August compared to July (and August starts were revised up), and starts were up 9.4% year-over-year compared to August 2017.

Multi-family starts were up 38% year-over-year, and single family starts were down slightly year-over-year.

This first graph shows the month to month comparison for total starts between 2017 (blue) and 2018 (red).

Starts Housing 2017 and 2018Click on graph for larger image.

Starts were up 9.4% in August compared to August 2017.

Through eight months, starts are up 6.9% year-to-date compared to the same period in 2017.   That is a decent increase.

Note that 2017 finished strong, so the year-over-year comparisons will be more difficult in Q4.

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 for several years following the great recession - but turned down, and has moved sideways recently.  Completions (red line) had lagged behind - however completions and starts are at about the same level now (more deliveries). 

It is likely that both starts and completions, on rolling 12 months basis, will now move mostly sideways.

As I've been noting for a few years, the significant growth in multi-family starts is behind us - multi-family starts peaked in June 2015 (at 510 thousand SAAR).

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 relatively low level of single family starts and completions.  The "wide bottom" was what I was forecasting following the recession, and now I expect a couple more years, or more, of increasing single family starts and completions.

Note: Two months ago, in response to numerous articles discussing the "slowing housing market" and some suggesting "housing has peaked", I wrote: Has Housing Market Activity Peaked? and Has the Housing Market Peaked? (Part 2). My view - that there will be further growth in housing starts - remains the same.