July, 2013
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Builder Confidence Improves in May


How Housing Matters Survey Finds American Attitudes
Transformed by Housing Crisis, Changes in Lifestyle

The How Housing Matters Survey, a new national survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation, found while financial markets, as well as homebuilding and home sales data, may suggest the prolonged housing crisis is over, the American public is not ready to agree, with nearly 8 in 10 (77%) believing we are still in the middle of the crisis, or that the worst is yet to come. When it comes to remedying the housing crisis, two-thirds of adults (65%) now believe the focus of national housing policy should be split fairly equally between rental and ownership, as opposed to promoting one over the other. Three in five adults (61%) now believe that renters can be just as successful as owners in achieving the American Dream. Hart Research Associates conducted telephone interviews of 1,433 adults between February 27 and March 10.

There remains a strong desire among Americans to own their own home – in fact, more than 7 in 10 renters aspire to own one day. However, the overall appeal of renting versus owning is changing. 57% of adults believe that “buying has become less appealing,” and by nearly the same percentage (54%), a majority believes that “renting has become more appealing”
than it was before.

With families and communities still reeling from the boom-and-bust cycle of the past decade, the public is recognizing that owning is not the only acceptable option, and the sense that renting is somehow undesirable appears to be fading. In fact, nearly half of current owners (45%) can see themselves renting at some point in the future.

After decades of equating home ownership with the American Dream, in the aftermath of the housing crisis, 3 in 5 adults (61%) believe that “renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream.” This sentiment is broadly felt, among owners (59%) as well as renters (67%), and across all regions of the country.

The MacArthur Foundation’s How Housing Matters research initiative seeks to explore whether, and if so how, having a decent, stable, affordable home leads to strong families and vibrant communities. Research is showing that stable, quality housing has value beyond the provision of shelter; it improves school performance, diminishes health problems for children and adults, and decreases psychological stress.

Builder Confidence Improves in May

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved three points to a 44 reading on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for May. This gain, from a downwardly revised 41 in April, reflected improvement in all three index components – current sales conditions, sales expectations and traffic of prospective buyers.

“Builders are noting an increased sense of urgency among potential buyers as a result of thinning inventories of homes for sale, continuing affordable mortgage rates and strengthening local economies,” noted National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “This is definitely an encouraging sign even amidst rising challenges with regard to the cost and availability of building materials, lots and labor.”

“While industry supply chains will take time to re-establish themselves following recession-related cutbacks, builders’ views of current sales conditions have improved and expectations for the future remain quite strong as consumers head back to the market in force,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.


Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 years, 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 for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

All three HMI components posted gains in May. The index gauging current sales conditions increased four points to 48, while the index gauging expectations for future sales edged up a single point to 53 – its highest level since February of 2007. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers gained three points to 33.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, no movement was recorded in the Northeast, Midwest or South, which held unchanged at 37, 45 and 42, respectively. Only the West recorded a decline, of six points to 49 in May.