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Newsmakers

Existing-Home Sales Edge Upward in September

Oct. 20, 2017

Existing-home sales have turned the course after a less-than-favorable summer. Sales increased 0.7% in September, said today’s release from the National Association of Realtors. This is after three consecutive months of declines.

“Sales activity likely would have been somewhat stronger if not for the fact that parts of Texas and South Florida—hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma—saw temporary, but notable, declines,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Home sales in recent months remain at their lowest level of the year and are unable to break through, despite considerable buyer interest in most parts of the country.”

September also marked the 67th straight month of year-over-year gains for the median existing-home price. It was $245,100 in September, up 4.2% from last year. Housing inventory was ahead of August slightly, but remained 6.4% below September 2016. It has fallen year-over-year for 28 months in a row.

First-time home buyers accounted for 29% of the sales last month, their lowest share since September 2015. The time a property spent on the market increased in September by four days to 34, yet it is down from 39 days a year ago. Just under half of homes sold last month were on the market for less than a month. Single-family home sales inched forward by more than 1% in September but stayed slightly off the pace from last year.

Regionally, the Midwest and West saw sale increases on a month-over-month basis. The Northeast was unchanged while the South dipped a bit. The Northeast, Midwest and South were all behind last year’s sale pace, and the West was unchanged. Each region also had an increased median price from September 2016.

– Michael Miller, editorial associate

Architecture Billings Index Drops in September

Oct. 19, 2017

The demand for design services in the nonresidential construction sector has pulled back slightly for the first time in more than half a year. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) showed a decline to 49.1 in September, breaking a streak of seven consecutive months of a score over 50.

The ABI has shown to indicate nonresidential construction spending activity over a nine-to-12 month period. Scores above 50 indicate an increase in billings, while a score below 50 indicates a decline. The month-to-month difference was 4.6 points.

“We’ve seen unexpectedly strong numbers in design activity for most of 2017, so the pause in September should be viewed in that context,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, Ph.D., in a release. “Project inquiries and new design contracts remain healthy, and the continued strength in most sectors and regions indicates stability industrywide.”

The regional and sector categories are based on a three-month moving average. The Northeast, South and Midwest all stayed above 50 in September, while the West was slightly under. “The South held up reasonably well, reporting an ABI score of 54, down 1.7 points. This region may slow in coming months given hurricane-related uncertainty in the construction sector,” said Wells Fargo Securities.

Project inquiries and design contracts remained above 50, but each index saw a drop from August to September. “These numbers remain strong despite slight moderation and indicate solid growth in commercial construction in the coming year,” added Wells Fargo.

Institutional billings increased marginally, while the commercial/industrial, mixed practice and multifamily residential sectors all saw a decline, yet they stayed in growth territory.

– Michael Miller, editorial associate

Housing Starts Drop in September

Sept. 18, 2017

Housing starts fell in September across single-unit and multiunit categories and building permits also fell overall in September from the month prior, according to data just released from the Census Bureau.

Private housing starts in September were down 4.7% on the month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.127 million, but were 6.1% above year-ago numbers, Census said. Single-family housing starts were down 4.6% at a rate of 829,000 from the figure in August, while starts with five or more units dropped 6.2% on the month but remained 7.9% higher than a year prior.

By region, total housing starts dropped by 9.2% in the Northeast, 20.2% in the Midwest and 9.3% in the South and gained 15.7% in the West.

Overall building permits dropped 4.5% in September at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.215 million from August and by 4.3% from a year prior, Census said. Building permits for buildings with five or more units dropped 17.4% on the month and 25.3% from a year prior. The Midwest and the Northeast regions saw building permit authorizations increase in September, while the South and the West saw declines.

– Nicholas Stern, managing editor

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