Unusually bad winter weather across much of the U.S. was at least partly to blame for a 4-point decline in the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Housing Market Index (HMI) for February. The monthly gauge of single-family builder confidence rested at 65, its lowest level since July 2003's similar reading.
"The new-homes market is still doing well, thanks to excellent financing conditions, great buyer demographics, and improving economic indicators. But many builders reported drop-offs in buyers visiting model homes in early February, and a large percentage attributed those declines to bad weather," said Bobby Rayburn, NAHB president.
While the HMI is adjusted for normal seasonality, unusually bad weather conditions can have an impact on the final reading, noted NAHB Economist Michael Carliner. "Also, NAHB has anticipated a slowdown from the record pace of new-home sales in the final months of 2003, and the latest HMI indicates builder expectations are consistent with that," Mr. Carliner said. "Still, the outlook for sales conditions remains quite good heading into the spring home buying season."
The HMI is derived from a monthly survey of builders that NAHB has been conducting for nearly 20 years. Home builders are asked to rate current sales of single-family homes as "good," "fair," or "poor." They are also asked to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average," or "low to very low." Scores for responses to each component are used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index, where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.
Each of the HMI's component indexes declined in February. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers slipped the most -- down 5 points to 46 --followed by the index gauging current sales of new single-family homes, which was down 4 points to 72. The index gauging expected sales in the next 6 months slid 3 points to 73.
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