Homebuilder sentiment hits 18-year high, beating forecasts

Register now

Confidence among homebuilders jumped in December to the highest level since July 1999, exceeding all analyst estimates, as a growing economy boosts housing demand, according to data Monday from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.

The Housing Market Index rose to 74 from a downwardly revised 69 in November. The median estimate was 70, with forecasts ranging from 68 to 72. The current sales gauge increased to 81, the highest since 1999, from 77. The future sales index rose to 79, the highest since 2005, from 76. The regional index for the Midwest surged 11 points to 76, the highest since 2004.

The surprisingly strong reading shows developers expect demand to advance amid steady economic growth and a tightening job market. Mortgage rates remain close to record lows, making borrowing attractive for prospective buyers, while the homebuilders also cited easier regulation under President Trump as helping the housing market.

Demand for properties is rising, with a gauge of homebuyer traffic rallying to a 19-year high, according to the survey. A host of data this week will give a fuller picture of the housing market, including sales of new and existing homes, as well as groundbreakings and building permits.

"Housing market conditions are improving partially because of new policies aimed at providing regulatory relief to the business community," NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald, a homebuilder and developer from Kerrville, Texas, said in a statement.

"With low unemployment rates, favorable demographics and a tight supply of existing home inventory, we can expect continued upward movement of the single-family construction sector next year," NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said in the same statement.

The regional index for the West jumped eight points to 85, and the South increased three points to 75, the highest since 2005. The index for the Northeast declined eight points to 53. Readings greater than 50 indicate more respondents reported good market conditions.

Bloomberg News
Homebuilders Purchase Real estate NAHB