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Home Builders Remain Cautious as Buyer Traffic Improves in February

RISMEDIA, Feb. 21, 2008-Builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes edged marginally higher in February as traffic of prospective buyers through model homes improved considerably, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released this week. The HMI rose a single point to 20 this month, still close to its recent historic low reading of 18 (the series began in January of 1985).

“While builders remain very cautious about the outlook for new-home sales given today’s economic environment, the fact that more consumers appear to be checking out their options is a good sign,” said Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va. and the newly elected 2008 president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“Housing has always been a major engine of economic growth, and despite the ongoing market correction, it will once again be that engine in the future. But in order for that to happen, Congress must follow up on its recently enacted economic stimulus program by passing legislation that will jump-start the housing market and keep the economy moving forward,” Dunn noted.

“Some potential buyers who have been sitting on the sidelines are starting to at least research a new home purchase given improving affordability factors and the large selection of units on the market,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “That said, builders know there’s a difference between people looking and people buying, and their current outlook remains quite subdued. Additional stimulative measures on the legislative and policy side are definitely needed to bolster consumer confidence and help bring about a housing and economic recovery.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as either “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as either “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

In February, the index gauging current sales conditions for single-family homes rose one point to 20, while the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months declined one point to 27. Meanwhile, the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers rose five points to 19, its highest level since July of 2007.

Three out of four regions posted HMI gains for the month, including a three-point gain to 24 in the Northeast, a two-point gain to 24 in the South and a 2-point gain to 15 in the West. The Midwest registered no change for the month at 16.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

 

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