Posted October 17, 2014Tweet
Single-family housing starts climbed in September and remain near 2014 highs.
As compared to the month prior, starts increased 7,000 to reach 646,000 units started on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis. September's reading sits above the six- and twelve-month rolling averages for the housing market metric; and, suggests ongoing strength in the new construction market.
Today's availability of low- and no-downpayment mortgages for first-time and repeat buyers, plus today's mortgage rates at 17-month bests, has provided a bona fide boost to the new construction market.
It's an excellent time to be shopping for a home.
Each month, the U.S. Census Bureau and HUD co-publish the Housing Starts report. A "housing start" is defined as a home on which construction has started; on which ground has broken.
Housing starts are broken in three categories, by property type.
Structures with five or more units are more commonly known as "apartment buildings" and are characterized by a common basement, heating system, entrance, water supply and sewage disposal.
Each apartment unit is considered a "start". An apartment building with 150 planned units, therefore, is tallied as 150 housing starts.
In September, inclusive of all three property types, the government reports that Housing Starts rose six percent from August, led by a nineteen percent increase in apartment building construction.
Apartment units are typically built and owned by developers as rental housing.
To an individual home buyer, however, such apartment building construction is of little importance. Few U.S. home buyers build and buy 2-4 unit properties, and even fewer purchase or build entire apartment buildings of 5 units or more.
For the typical U.S. homebuyer, somebody like you and me, it's single-family housing starts what matters most. This is because no matter where you live -- Loudoun County, Virginia; San Diego, California; or, Seattle, Washington, as examples -- home buyers purchase single-family homes with far greater frequency than they purchase other home property types.
Tracking single-family housing starts can be an effective way to gauge the health of the new construction housing market nationwide.
Single-family housing starts rose 1 percent last month, reaching to 646,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. The reading is an eleven percent improvement from one year ago.
Single-family housing starts have been running above the 6- and 12-month averages, which suggests that the market for newly-built homes is growing. This rise is among the reasons why homebuilder confidence has been high through the last several months.
According to the National Association of Homebuilders, builder confidence currently reads 54 -- the fourth straight month confidence has topped 50. Readings over 50 are significant because when homebuilder confidence is 50 or better, it suggests "good" conditions for selling new homes.
Buyer foot traffic is markedly higher as compared to the winter months.
Also notable in housing starts data is that single-family starts surged in September throughout the Northeast region. These regions include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts -- states in which starts had flailed earlier this year.
The majority of new construction remains concentrated in southern states, however.
The South Region, which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, accounted for more than half of last month's U.S. single-family housing starts.
The 2014 housing market will finish strong, and 2015 is expected to begin with positive momentum. Demand for homes continues to outpace supply. This is leading home values higher; and multiple-offer situations continue to be common nationwide.
Thankfully, mortgage guidelines are loosening.
Today's home buyers have an easier time getting approved for a mortgage as compared to several years ago. Banks are reducing approval standards, lowering minimum credit score requirements, and have made it simpler to get access to low-downpayment mortgages and no-money-down loans.
FHA mortgages are easier for which to qualify in 2014, for example.
As compared to the start of the year, improving market condition have prompted many banks to lower their minimum credit score thresholds. This has put FHA loans within reach of more U.S. buyers; and, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to support their five percent downpayment mortgage programs.
VA loans and USDA loans remain popular, too. Neither requires a downpayment.
VA loans are available to eligible active-duty military personnel, veterans of the armed services, members of the national guard and reserves, and surviving spouses. VA loans offer 100% financing and require no mortgage insurance. Approval standards are flexible and mortgage rates are often lower than with comparable conventional loans.
USDA loans are also no money down.
USDA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and can be used in many rural and suburban areas nationwide. USDA mortgage rates are typically the lowest of all government-backed loans, and mortgage insurance rates are minuscule compared to other low-downpayment programs.
With home prices expected to rise into 2015, the availability of low- and no-downpayment mortgages will be a boon to U.S. buyers -- especially if mortgage rates remain low.
Mortgage rates have been on a downward trajectory since the start of 2014. Conventional loans have dropped more than one-half percentage point; and FHA and VA mortgage rates are available for even less. Lenders now quote rates in the 3s.
Compare today's mortgage rates and see how much home you can afford. Rates are available online at no cost and with no obligation. No social security number is required to get started.
The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.
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2014 Conforming & FHA Loan Limits
Mortgage loan limits for every U.S. county,
as published by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, and the FHA.