Housing starts surged in February as well as future permits for future construction to the highest levels since 2008 — a sign that the new-home market is picking up steam just in time for the spring buying season, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
Overall housing starts rose 0.8 percent in February to a 917,000 annual rate. Single-family housing starts, which make up the biggest bulk of that total, reached their highest level since June 2008. Meanwhile, multifamily starts rose 1.4 percent in February to 299,000 units.
“Demand for new homes and apartments is definitely rising as the spring buying season approaches and more young people move out on their own,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. “Builders are responding to this improved demand by putting more crews back to work and pulling more permits for future construction, though this positive activity is being constrained by continuing issues with appraisals and credit availability for both builders and buyers, and also by newly arising challenges such as lot shortages and increased costs for labor and materials.”
While housing starts have shown a big improvement in the past year, economists say that homebuilding is still less than half of what it was during its prerecession peak and is near levels in the early 1990s.
Source: National Association of Home Builders and “Housing Starts at Highest Level Since 2008,” Reuters (March 19, 2013)