Total home starts fell 6.8 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.215 million, according to preliminary data from the Commerce Department. Total starts remain 9.2 percent above the March 2016 figure.
Single-family starts fell 6.2 percent to a rate of 821,000 while multi-family starts fell 6.1 percent to a rate of 385,000. Those rates remain up 9.3 and 9.1 percent, respectively, over their year-ago figures.
Building permits, a good barometer of how the homebuilding industry is trending, were up 3.6 percent in March to a rate of 1.26 million. Permits are up 17 percent above the March 2016 rate.
The National Association of Home Builders reports that confidence among its members fell 3 points to a reading of 68 in the latest release of the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Any reading above a 50 indicates most home builders believe market conditions are good.
The index’s April decline followed a March reading of 71, the highest reading the index had seen since June 2005.
“The fact that the HMI measure of current sales conditions has been over 70 for five consecutive months shows that there is continued demand for new construction,” NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. “However, builders are facing several challenges, such as hefty regulatory costs and ongoing increases in building material prices.”
“Even with this month’s modest drop, builder confidence is on very firm ground, and builders are reporting strong interest among potential home buyers,” added NAHB chairman Granger MacDonald.