New, Detailed Housing Starts Data

Here is a brief “advance” note looking at our brand-new data for first quarter.  We are seeing evidence of strong housing demand all around the country (relative to a year ago).

These are from our proprietary in-field counts.  The number in all cases is the 1Q 2013 total housing starts followed by the prior year, 1Q 2012, outcome.  There were increases versus three months ago, too, but the percent changes I’m citing here are year over year.

Southern California:         2,944  vs. 1,513                          +94.6%

Northern Cali:                   3,181 vs. 1,357                          +134.4%

Starts are up over 10,000 again at an annual rate (total of last 4 quarters)!  Santa Clara County was up HUGE, 1,136 versus 241 (up 371.4% over the 4 quarters).  Contra Costa and Sacramento were also up significantly.

Las Vegas:                          1,601 vs. 945                                    +69%

Southwest submarket is the largest, but the smaller Northwest submarket had the largest gain.

Atlanta:                               2,628 vs. 1,568                                 +67.6%

Gwinnett County – up to 508 starts versus 291 a year ago

Central Florida:                 3,684 vs. 2,922                                 +26.1%

This is the 10-county area.  Lake County was up strongly, but Orange is still the most active.

South Florida:                    1,589 vs. 983                                    +61.6%

Miami-Dade has launched ahead of Palm Beach County for the first time in my memory.  Strong first-quarter increase (vs prior q).

Northern Virginia:            2,229 vs. 1,630                                 +36.7%

Fairfax County – up to 386 vs. 143

Loudon is the most active of all, up to 867 vs. 662.

The other interesting story on new home sales is that more and more builders are saying that they are raising prices in order to (deliberately) slow down sales.  The builders who are running out of lots in a given project, and who do not have a replacement project to ‘roll into,’ want to sell their last homes at a slow pace, but a high profit.

Also, with regard to the Builder Confidence index that came out recently, despite assertions by some commentators that builders are worried about lower traffic and slower sales, my take is that the low readings on builder confidence relate more to concerns about lot costs and labor shortages!  If sales are slowing, for most of the builders I have talked with, it is expected.

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