December’s National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index reported slipping builder confidence in U.S. housing markets. The Housing Market Index readings fell every month in 2022. Recently rising mortgage rates, materials costs, and inclement winter weather contributed to builder skepticism about current housing market conditions.
December’s National Housing Market Index reading of 31 was the lowest since mid-2012 not including readings published during the pandemic. By comparison, the Housing Market Index reading for December 2021 was 84. The three indices comprising the Housing Market Index reported mixed readings in December. Current home sales decreased by three points and home builder expectations for home sales in the next six months increased by four points. Builder expectations of buyer traffic in new housing developments were unchanged from November’s reading.
Regional housing market indices reported mixed index readings, which are seasonally adjusted. The Northeast region reported an index reading of 32 for December, which was unchanged from November. The Midwestern region had an index reading of 30 for December, which was five points lower than November’s reading. The South reported an index reading of 35, which was two points higher than in November. The West reported an index reading of 25 for December, which was three points lower than in November.
Mortgage rates recently fell below seven percent and the pace of home price growth is slowing. High home prices and rapidly rising mortgage rates led more than 60 percent of home builders to offer a variety of buyer incentives including mortgage rate buydowns and paying discount points charged to home buyers for lower mortgage rates.
Building affordable homes: The struggle is real
NAHB home builders expect weaker housing market conditions to continue through 2023 with full recovery starting in 2024. NAHB estimates that there is a shortage of 1.5 million new homes based on buyer demand and homes currently available. Jerry Konter, the chair of NAHB, said that home builders are struggling to keep housing affordable. Construction costs rose by 30 percent since the start of 2022 and there is little room for home builders to cut home prices.
Slower home price growth and lower mortgage rates will help prospective home buyers qualify for mortgages and encourage more buyers to enter the housing market.