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National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index (Nov 2009-Dec 2010)Home builder confidence is holding firm this month, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The group’s monthly Housing Market Index survey posted 16 for December. That’s the same value as from November. It’s also equal to this 2010’s average HMI reading.

HMI is scored on a scale of 1-100, and is a composite of 3 separate home builder surveys measuring single-family sales; projected single-family sales over the next six months; and prospective buyer foot traffic.

The results of the 3 surveys were as follows:

  • Single-Family Sales : 16 (unchanged from November)
  • Projected Single-Family Sales : 25 (unchanged from November)
  • Prospective Buyer Foot Traffic : 11 (from 12 in November)

Values of 50 or better indicate favorable conditions for home builders. Values below 50 indicate unfavorable conditions.

In other words, although improving, conditions for home builders remain less from excellent. Home buyers can use this to their advantage. When builders feel pressure from the market, they’re more likely to offer discounts.

On the other hand, job growth is returning, the economy is expanding, and mortgage rates are rising. These 3 factors are thought to boost housing markets. So, despite an unfavorable HMI reading, home builders might still be less willing to “make a deal”; holding out for a better 2011.

November’s strong Housing Starts data supports that line of thinking.

If you’re buying a newly-built home , or expect to buy sometime in 2011, keep an eye on home builder sentiment surveys. The better the builders feel, the more you may be asked to pay to buy your next home.

NAHB Housing Market Index October 2008-2010

As the “pulse of the single-family housing market”, the Housing Market Index is a monthly product of the National Association of Homebuilders. Its scores range from 1-100, with a reading a 50 or better suggesting “favorable conditions” for builders.

Because of its methodology, the Housing Market Index can offer excellent insight into the market for newly-built homes. This is because its value is a composite of three survey questions:

  1. How are market conditions today?
  2. How do market conditions look 6 months from now?
  3. How is the prospective traffic of new buyers for new homes?

Builder responses are collected, weighted, then presented as the Housing Market Index.

According to the NAHB, October’s HMI reading of 16 is its highest value in 5 months. The uptick hints that the market for newly-built homes may rebound more quickly that this summer’s weak new homes sales figures would otherwise suggest.

You’ll remember that, between April and August, the number of new homes sold per month fell by 30 percent and the available, new home inventory climbed 2.3 months.

This month, though, builders report much better foot traffic and, as a result, have raised their expectations for the next six months of sales. Low mortgage rates are likely aiding the optimism, too.

As compared to 1 year ago, average, 30-year fixed mortgage rates are lower by 0.75 percent, a payment savings of $45 per $100,000 borrowed.