Sometimes, the housing data headlines tell just half the tale. The stories on May’s Housing Starts figures are proving to be a terrific illustration.
Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its monthly Housing Starts report. A “housing start” is a home on which construction has started.
The report is separated by property type with a separate count for single family homes such as detached residences and town homes; for multiple-unit homes such as 2-unit, 3-unit and 4-unit structures; and, for buildings of 5-units of more such as new condominiums.
In May, Housing Starts fell 4.8 percent nationwide. This runs contrary to recent housing market statistics and home builder confidence data which both have suggested a recovery. The press picked up the story and ran the following headlines :
- Housing Starts In U.S. Fall 4.8% In May (BusinessWeek)
- Housing Starts Plunge, But Permits Surge In Mixed Market (CNBC)
- Housing Starts Slump In May (US News)
Although factually correct, these headlines are somewhat misleading.
Housing Starts did slip 4.8 percent last month but that figure accounts for all Housing Starts. It fails isolate the single-family starts that matter to today’s buyers and sellers. Homeowners rarely buy multi-unit homes or entire apartment buildings.
If we remove the report’s tally of 2-4 unit homes and apartment buildings, we find that, in May, single-family housing starts rose for the 4th straight month, registering 516,000 homes started on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is the highest tally since April 2010, the last month of that year’s frderal home buyer tax credit.
Single-family housing starts are up 26% as compared to last year.
The housing starts report, therefore — headlines aside — is the latest in a series of housing market data that points to a sustained recovery nationwide. If you’re planning to buy a home in 2012, consider buying in between now and September because after that point, home prices and mortgage rates are likely to be higher.