Home builder confidence plunged every single month this year as higher interest rates weakened demand in the formerly booming housing market, the National Association of Home Builders reported Monday, but with the Federal Reserve finally starting to slow down on its aggressive interest rate hikes, economists think the end of the collapse could be in sight—even if a full-blown recovery isn’t.
Builder confidence in the market for new homes posted its 12th-straight monthly decline in December, dropping 2 points to 31—down from 84 points one year ago and hitting the lowest lowest level since 2012, excluding a historic plunge at the start of the pandemic, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released Monday.
The association called the ongoing collapse a byproduct of high inflation and high mortgage rates, which have made homes less affordable and deterred demand from prospective home buyers—forcing some 62% of builders to use incentives (such as price reductions and mortgage rate buy-downs) to bolster sales.
The worse-than-expected report also showed 35% of builders reduced prices by an average of 8% in December, up from 5% earlier in the year.
In a statement, NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz said he expects weaker housing conditions to persist next year before a recovery in 2024, as the Fed reverses its aggressive monetary policy of this year; however, he also outlined a “silver lining” in the report.
Dietz notes this month’s drop in the index marks the smallest decline in the past six months—a sign builder sentiment could soon start to fall—and for the first time since April, builders now expect future sales will actually increase, thanks in part to mortgage rates falling to 6.3% from a peak above 7%