Builder confidence hits record low

Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes fell to a record low of 16 in July, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). It was the third consecutive month the index declined, and the 16 replaced the previous record low of 18 in June.

The index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as either “good,” “fair” or “poor.”

The HMI’s three components also hit record lows in July. The index gauging current sales conditions declined one point to 16; the index gauging sales expectations in the next months fell four points to 23, and the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers also receded four points to 12.

“Builders are reporting that traffic of prospective buyers has fallen off substantially in recent months,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders.

All but one region showed declines in builder confidence in July. The Midwest declined 6 points to 10, its lowest HMI score since the regional detail was introduced in December of 2004, while the West matched a record low set in January 2008 with its three-point decline to 13. The South posted a one-point decline to 20. The Northeast was the only region to post a gain in July, rising two points to 14 from the previous month’s record low of 12.

NAHB president Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va., advocated on behalf of the trade group for several additional reforms to help stimulate the housing market – namely, Congressional action on a housing bill that would provide a temporary tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers, with the aim of “helping to stimulate sales, reduce the inventory of unsold homes on the market, stabilize house prices and arrest the rapid deterioration of mortgage credit quality.”

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