Single-family housing starts plunged unexpectedly last month. Nationwide, starts fell 12 percent from the month prior; and 29 percent from February of last year.
February’s figures represents the worst 1-month drop in housing starts since May 2010 — the month that followed the expiration of last year’s federal home buyer tax credit — and puts single-family housing starts at a 24-month low.
In addition, single-family Building Permits plunged last month, too, shedding 9 percent from January. A building permit is a local government’s certification and approval to begin home construction.
Housing permits are an excellent forward-indicator for the housing market. This is because 93 percent of homes start construction within 60 days of permit-issuance. Fewer permits, therefore, directly reduces the number of new homes coming to market in the coming months.
For home buyers in Chicago looking at new construction or existing homes, this news should create a sense of urgency.
Home prices are based on supply and demand and overall home supply looks headed for a fall. Plus, with mortgage rates retreating and homebuilders projecting higher sales this summer, buyers may face rising home prices before long.
Sellers look poised to regain negotiation leverage.
For now, though, home affordability remains high with properties inexpensive and mortgage rates still low, historically. If you plan to buy a home in 2011, the February 2011 Housing Starts data may be reason to move up your time frame.
With home supplies dropping, prices are likely to rise.