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Housing Building Jumps in April

Robert M. Siegel & Manuel Gonzalez

According to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, home builders have ratcheted up construction in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.135 million units. This is a 20.2% increase from March and is the highest level of housing production since November 2007.

Both housing sectors registered production gains this month. Single-family housing starts increased 16.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 733,000 in April, while multifamily starts rose 27.2% to 402,000 units.

Combined single and multifamily starts were up in three of four geographic regions in April—the Northeast posted an 85.9% gain, the Midwest rose 27.8% and the West increased 39%. Housing production dropped 1.8% in the South. Overall permit issuance rose 10.1% in April to a rate of 1.143 million.

The increases, particularly in the single-family market, are indicative of continued market healing as consumers are slowly returning to the market. As employment grows, wages increase and home equity improves, the expectation is that the upward momentum will continue in the months ahead.

The data is in line with the latest Leading Market Index (LMI), which was released on May 6th by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The report revealed that out of 360 metros evaluated across the country, 68 housing markets have returned to or have exceeded their last normal level of economic and housing activity seen before the recession. This represents a net gain of seven metro areas year-over-year.

The LMI evaluates and identifies those metro areas that are now approaching and exceeding their previous normal levels of economic activity. The index factors in average single-family permits, home prices and employment levels for the past 12 months and then compares that to the market’s historical levels.

Overall, markets nationwide are running at about 91% of normal economic and housing activity. 68% of the 360 metro areas tracked by the index have shown improvement over the past year.

Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company, which co-sponsors the LMI report was quoted as saying:

The number of markets on this quarter’s Leading Markets Index at or above 90% of previous normal levels has reached 157 – a sign that the recovery is spreading to a wide range of markets.”

Topping the list of major metros on the LMI is Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with a score of 1.43 – or 43% better than its last normal market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Austin, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; Houston, Texas; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Rounding out the top 10 are San Jose, California; Los Angeles, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Charleston, South Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee– all of whose LMI scores indicate that their market activity now equals or exceeds previous norms.

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