National indicators point toward housing rebound

A number of monthly indicators offer encouragement the housing industry is rebounding in the United States.

Housing starts and permitting activity have increased to their highest levels in more than four years and a measure of confidence among home builders has advanced to its strongest reading in more than six years.

Median home prices have increased on a year-over-year basis for seven consecutive months. Sales of existing homes edged down in September, but the decline was attributed in part to tightening inventories.

According to the latest numbers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau, the construction and permitting of new homes rose in September. A 15 percent gain brought the pace of new housing construction to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000 units. An 11.6 percent increase in building permits brought the pace of permit issuance to 894,000 units. Those are the highest numbers posted since July 2008.

The National Association of Home Builders reported that its NAHB and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index rose a point in October to 41. With gains in each of the last six months, the measure of builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes has climbed to its highest level since June 2006.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the national median price for existing homes of all types hit $183,900 in September. With year-over-year gains in each of the last seven months, the median price has increased 11.3 percent since September 2011.

Sales of existing homes — including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — fell 1.7 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million units. Even with the decline, existing home sales have increased 11 percent compared to this time last year.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the NAR, attributed the latest monthly decline to inventory shortages, particularly in the West. Housing inventory at the end of September fell 3.3 percent to 2.32 million homes, a 5.9-month supply at the current pace of sales. A year ago, there was a 8.1-month supply of homes for sale.