The National Association of Homebuilders reported a two-point increase in builder confidence in May. The NAHB Housing Market Index reading increased from 68 in April to 70, which was the second-highest reading since the economic recovery started. May's reading exceeded analyst expectations of a flat reading for May. Builder confidence rose as demand for homes continued to rise; this factor overrode builder obstacles including higher prices for lots and ongoing labor shortages. A new tariff on lumber was also expected to dampen builder confidence
Component Readings Suggest Strong Builder Confidence in Current and Future Housing Markets
The monthly Housing Market Index is comprised of three components. Builder confidence in current housing market conditions rose two points to 76; the reading for builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months rose four points to 79. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new homes dropped one point to 51, but overall, builder confidence in market conditions is strong as any NAHB Housing Market Index reading over 50 is considered positive.
Fewer Mortgage Applications: Home Buyers Don't Share Builder Optimism
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage applications dropped 4.30 percent year-over-year in April, and were 20 percent lower than in March. While the Mortgage Bankers Association doesn't report seasonal adjustments, fewer applications for purchase mortgages on new homes illustrated ongoing affordability challenges faced by first-time and moderate income home buyers.
High demand for available homes puts mortgage-dependent home buyers at a disadvantage when cash offers are in play. Rapid escalation of home prices creates difficulty for first-time and moderate income buyers as down payment and mortgage qualification requirements sideline buyers.
Increasing home builder sentiment has not corresponded to the number of new homes being built, which industry analysts consider the main solution to high demand for homes driven by short inventories of homes. First-time buyers are important to housing markets as they enable "move-up" buyers to sell their homes and buy new or larger homes.