U.S. homebuilder confidence rises as affordability concerns persist

Xinhua News Agency | May 16, 2019 at 6:34 AM

WASHINGTON, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Homebuilders' confidence in the U.S. housing market maintained its upward trend even as affordability challenges persist, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said in a report Wednesday.

The NAHB's latest Housing Market Index (HMI), a measurement of builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes, rose 3 points to 66 in May, reaching its highest level since October last year.

The reading of the HMI was 62 in March and 63 in April, which showed that the confidence of U.S. builders maintained its upward momentum.

"Builders are busy catching up after a wet winter and many characterize sales as solid, driven by improved demand and ongoing low overall supply," said Greg Ugalde, chairman of the NAHB.

Robert Dietz, chief economist for the NAHB, said: "Mortgage rates are hovering just above 4 percent following a challenging fourth quarter of 2018 when they peaked near 5 percent. This lower-interest-rate environment, along with ongoing job growth and rising wages, is contributing to a gradual improvement in the marketplace."

Even as builder confidence is rising, headwinds like affordability concerns, labor shortages and rising costs still hinder the U.S. housing market, NAHB officials said.

"However, affordability challenges persist and remain a big impediment to stronger sales," Ugalde said.

"At the same time, builders continue to deal with ongoing labor and lot shortages and rising material costs that are holding back supply and harming affordability," Dietz said.