May 2009 Housing Starts

After being range-bound since the start of the year Housing Starts unexpectedly jumped in May, surprising analysts and Wall Street.

It’s the latest in a string of housing-related data that suggests a real estate recovery is already underway.

Housing Starts is an important statistic for a number of reasons, but to homebuyers and home sellers, its immediate impact is on home inventory.

Home values are based on supply and demand.  When the demand for homes exceeds the supply, values tend to rise. Conversely, when supply exceeds demand, values tend to fall.

When Housing Starts increase as they did in May, therefore, unless there’s a corresponding increase in demand, home prices get pressured downward.

Lately, that off-setting demand appears to be present.

With home affordability near record-high levels, mortgage rates well below historical averages, and the first-time homebuyer tax credit in place, Existing Home Sales are up 16 percent on a “raw numbers” basis versus last month and home supplies are lower versus last year.

Rising Housing Starts can a double-edged sword to a recovering economy.  It’s a strength signal that builders are more optimistic right now, but too much optimism can lead to a glut of unsold homes that pushes housing back to the brink.

So long as demand outpaces supply, however, inventories should reduce and values should move higher.

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