Quarterly Housing Starts by Intent

In addition to housing starts for January, the Census Bureau also released the Q4 "Started and Completed by Purpose of Construction" report last week.

It is important to remember that we can't directly compare single family housing starts to new home sales. For starts of single family structures, the Census Bureau includes owner built units and units built for rent that are not included in the new home sales report. For an explanation, see from the Census Bureau: Comparing New Home Sales and New Residential Construction


We are often asked why the numbers of new single-family housing units started and completed each month are larger than the number of new homes sold. This is because all new single-family houses are measured as part of the New Residential Construction series (starts and completions), but only those that are built for sale are included in the New Residential Sales series.
However it is possible to compare "Single Family Starts, Built for Sale" to New Home sales on a quarterly basis.

The quarterly report released last week showed there were 138,000 single family starts, built for sale, in Q4 2016, and that was above the 126,000 new homes sold for the same quarter, so inventory increased in Q4 (Using Not Seasonally Adjusted data for both starts and sales).

This graph shows the NSA quarterly intent for four start categories since 1975: single family built for sale, owner built (includes contractor built for owner), starts built for rent, and condos built for sale.

New Home Sales and Housing Starts by IntentClick on graph for larger image.

Single family starts built for sale were up about 17% compared to Q4 2015.

Owner built starts were unchanged year-over-year. And condos built for sale not far above the record low.

The 'units built for rent' (blue) has increased significantly in recent years, but is now moving more sideways.

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