Home starts fall 9% in March as builder confidence holds steady

Updated Apr 20, 2016

carpenters framing workers framers

With sizable drops on the start of construction of both single-family and multifamily homes in March, total U.S. home starts fell 8.8 percent for the month.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of starts fell to 1.089 million, according to preliminary data from the Commerce Department, but remain up 14.2 percent over the March 2016 figure.

Single-family starts fell 9.2 percent for the month to a rate of 764,000. Single-family starts remain up 22.6 percent over the March 2016 figure.

Apartment starts fell 8.5 percent during March to 312,000 but are 21 percent above the year-ago figure.

“Single-family starts are off from their strong showing in February but this slowdown represents a return to a long-run, gradual growth trend that is consistent with builder confidence levels, which are overall positive,” NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. “While we are also seeing a monthly decline on the multifamily front, multifamily construction is expected to level off at a solid rate given the high level of rental housing demand.”

Building permits, a good barometer of how the homebuilding industry is trending, also fell during the month, dropping 7.7 percent to 1.086 million. Permits remain 4.6 percent above the year-ago estimate.

Home builder confidence in the market was unchanged at a reading of 58 for the third consecutive month according to the April release of the NAHB/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index. Any reading above a 50 indicates most home builders believe market conditions are good.

“As we enter the spring home buying season, we should see the market move forward,” said NAHB chairman Ed Brady in a statement.

“Solid job creation and low mortgage interest rates will sustain continued gains in the single-family housing market in the months ahead,” Dietz added.