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House development set for additional slowing as permits fall

The homebuilding industry appears set for more slowing in the near term, as permit issuances dwindle while shortages of many supplies continue, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Issuances of new single-family permits in 2022 slowed in November, coming in 10.5% lower than the same month in 2021. A total of 921,626 permits, which typically lead to housing starts, were issued between January and November of 2022 compared to 1,029,208 over the same period a year earlier. 

Declines occurred nationwide, with the largest drops of 13.9% and 13.6% coming in the West and Midwest. The Northeast and South, meanwhile, also posted smaller decreases of 10.2% and 8.4%, respectively. 

Colorado recorded the sharpest drop of all states, as permits fell to 22,900 year to date from 31,741, a decrease of 27.9%. New Mexico, its neighbor to the south, however, saw the largest gain, rising 37.5% to 6,989 from 5,083 over the first 11 months of 2021. Overall, only five states and the District of Columbia reported increases. 

The news comes after what many builders would term a downbeat year, with construction industry sentiment falling in every month of 2022, the NAHB said. Values of homebuilder equities have also taken a hit, according to recent analysis from S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

“U.S. homebuilder stocks remained under pressure with the median one-year total return recording a negative 26.7% as of Jan. 4,” S&P’s report said. 

All six of the top-performing publicly traded homebuilders posted drops in new orders as well, from 2.2% to 28% over the past year, the business intelligence provider found. 

As they feel the pinch of lower business volumes, builders have used various strategies to adjust, including rate buydowns or appliance upgrades. Some are turning to the investor market to offload inventory and offset falling demand among buyers. 

A more positive indicator for homebuilders came out of the multifamily sector. The number of new multifamily building permits issued year to date grew in November by 14.8% to 624,128 from 543,508 in the same month of 2021. With the exception of the Northeast where numbers fell 1.4%, all other regions of the country saw an increase. The South issued 25.2% more permits and the Midwest 18%, while the West saw a 5.6% gain 

A majority of homebuilders said they were still dealing with shortages for most materials, but much of that pressure has eased since mid 2021, according to the NAHB. 

In NAHB’s October homebuilder sentiment survey, over 80% of respondents reported a shortage in three major product categories: appliances, transformers and windows and doors. A majority said they had encountered availability issues for 17 out of the 25 categories tracked by the association. 

A shortage of heating, ventilation and air conditoning systems were also cited by 76%, while dearth of copper wiring was reported by 65%. Lightweight steel was seen as scarce by 53%, and ready-mix concrete by 49%.  

Despite the prevalence of shortages, their severity also diminished for 18 out of the 24 product types compared to May 2021, when such data was last compiled. Transformers were not previously measured.

Fewer builders reported problems with wood products. Framing lumber and plywood shortages were cited by only 37% and 36%, improving substantially from levels of 94% and 90% 17 months earlier. Supply of gypsum wallboard came in short for 39% of builders, compared to 70% in spring 2021. 

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