Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Comments on September Housing Starts

by Bill McBride on 10/17/2018 10:43:00 AM

Earlier: Housing Starts Decreased to 1.201 Million Annual Rate in September

Housing starts in September were slightly below expectations,  and starts for July and August were revised down slightly.  Overall this was close to expectations.

The housing starts report released this morning showed starts were down 5.8% in September compared to August (August starts were revised down), and starts were up 3.7% year-over-year compared to September 2017.

Single family starts were up 4.8% 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 3.7% in September compared to September 2017.

Through eight months, starts are up 6.4% 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 further of increases in single family starts and completions.

Note: Three 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.