Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Different Perspective on the Sales of New Single Family Homes

New home sales in the United States look like they are on a tear, at least compared to levels from early 2010.  Here is a graph from FRED showing how sales data for new single family homes has improved since just after the end of the last recession:

Sales are up from their post-Great Recession low of 270,000 in February 2011 to August 2013's level of 421,000, a rather stellar overall increase of 57.4 percent in just two and a half short years. The annual level of 354,000 seen in September 2013 is also far from healthy despite the month-over-month gain of 25.4 percent.

Here is a graph over the same time period showing the year-over-year percentage increase in sales:

After sales fell by a whopping 32.5 percent in August 2010, the low point in sales "growth", they rose to their post-Great Recession year-over-year high of 35.6 percent in February 2012, a complete turn around.  Since then, however, things have started to slip a wee bit with year-over-year sales rising by only 5.7 percent in July 2013, hardly a stellar performance.

Now, as I am prone to do, let's put all of this into historical perspective.  Here is a graph showing new home sales all the way back to 1963:

With all of the data in mind, you can see how the current residential real estate market in the United States can hardly be termed "healthy".  Ignoring the rather anomalous rise in sales between the years 2000 and 2006 (aka the housing bubble), it is clear that the number of new single family home sales is still extremely depressed.  In fact, July's sales level of 390,000 homes was the 74th worst month on record out of all 608 monthly data points since January 1963.  To show you just how bad the housing market was during 2009 - 2011, of the 608 monthly data points, the top 22 worst months for new single family home sales were found during that timeframe.  As well, at the beginning of 1963 when the population of the United States was only 188 million compared to today's 317 million, 591,000 new homes were sold on an annual basis, 170,000 more homes than were sold in August 2013.

You will also notice that this period of depressed new home sales has been the longest on record.  The "valley" in new home sales has lasted from November 2008 to the present, nearly a full five year period.  Even during the relatively painful recession of 1980 - 1981, the depression in housing sales lasted only from April 1981 to October 1982, a period of only 18 months.

In closing, keeping in mind that the Federal Reserve has made "heroic efforts" to resuscitate the U.S. economy and recreate the wealth effect that is associated with owning a home, it is interesting to note that the impact of their experiment on the sales levels of new single family homes market has been minimal at best.  It is also important to note that, while the nodding heads will tout the improved sales numbers as a sign that the housing market has turned around, historically speaking, America's housing market is still not even close to healthy.  

1 comment:

  1. The numbers we hear often include multi-family units. This gives the impression of a much healthier building sector. As an apartment owner I will tell you this is not demand driven, many units are empty. This is being driven by low interest rate money and Wall Street Funds looking for future ways to make money. Higher interest rates and inflation will someday fill these units. Apartments cost far less to build then a single family home.