It’ll be a spring thaw: Housing starts likely jumped as soon as the weather warmed up in March, even as concerns remain about the cost of land and labor.
Starts will rise to a seasonally adjusted annualized pace of 970,000 when the Census releases its home-construction report tomorrow morning, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg. That’s up from the January and February paces, both of which fell just below a 910,000 pace.
Analysts and builders alike blamed the slowdown on especially harsh winter across the country.
Yet Brian McKee, who is president of Midwest Homes in Madison, Wis., said building has bounced back along with the temperature.
“In January and February, we had a lot of dates where we just weren’t able to work because of the cold,” McKee said. “We pushed off starts on some projects, but everything is ramped up now.”
Some analysts did lower their predictions after the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo released a disappointing Housing Market Index on Tuesday. It showed that builder sentiment had stayed essentially flat, rising only to 47 from a downwardly revised March figure of 46.
Scores below 50 on the HMI are considered more negative than positive.
NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said job growth and historically low mortgage rates were good for the sector but that it faces big costs.
“Headwinds that are holding up a more robust recovery include ongoing tight credit conditions for homebuyers and the fact that builders in many markets are facing a limited availability of lots and labor,” Crowe said.
Still, the report revealed that builders were far more bullish for the medium term, as HMI for sales over the next six months increased four points, to 57.
Ameriprise Financial Senior Economist Russell Price, who predicted 970,000 starts, said builders just wanted to see actual sales before they reported better sentiment.
He added that demographics suggested U.S. housing would return to high levels in the second quarter, saying that robust permitting in recent months—and the estimated 1,010,000 permits that would appear in tomorrow’s report—showed that builders would be accelerating activity.
“To put it quite frankly, we’re running out of room to put people,” Price said.