Builder confidence unchanged

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes stayed at the same level for the fourth consecutive month in February, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo House Market Index (HMI).

"While builders are starting to see more interest among potential home buyers, we are also dealing with a multitude of challenges, including competition from foreclosure properties and inaccurate appraisals of new homes, which are limiting our ability to sell," said NAHB chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. "On top of that, an extremely tight lending environment continues to make it almost impossible to obtain credit for viable new and existing projects, and most do not see that situation improving anytime soon."

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

The overall index number for February was 16. But two of three of the HMI's component indexes edged slightly upward in February. The component gauging current sales conditions improved by two points to 17, while the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months rose a single point to 25. Meanwhile, the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers held unchanged at 12.

On a regional basis, HMI scores were mixed in February, with gains reported in two parts of the country and declines in two others. The Northeast registered a two-point gain to 22, the South posted a one-point gain to 18, the Midwest posted a one-point decline to 12, and the West posted a two-point decline to 13.

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