The fourth quarter update indicates U.S. housing starts are expected to advance gradually to hit 1.23 million this year, with 819,000 of those being single family homes as defined by the Commerce Department, according to the Metrostudy release of the fourth quarter 2015 Home Building Outlook detailing housing construction trends nationwide.

Multi-family housing starts are expected to increase to 418,000 as the rental market continues to exhibit strength. Metrostudy’s proprietary survey database, which consists of data from over 100 CBSAs and consists of hand-counted lots and newly occupied homes, indicates move-ins were 7.5 percent higher in the fourth quarter of 2015 than a year earlier, while new housing starts rose 12 percent.

Nationwide new home sales as defined by the Commerce Department are expected to increase 18 percent to 590,000 this year, up from the preliminary 501,000 reported in 2015. New home sales saw a sharper peak-to-trough decline than overall housing starts, and from trough to 2014 did not increased as much, resulting in a statistical catch-up.

The best overall new home markets are Denver, San Francisco, Sarasota/Bradenton in Florida, and Charleston, S.C., in terms of health and local new home sales forecast. The Sunbelt dominates in terms of sales volume, with the largest new home markets expected to be Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, and Atlanta.

“The U.S. housing market continues to gradually expand,” says Brad Hunter, Chief Economist of Metrostudy. “We expect steady growth for the next several years, with slower price gains in the new home sector.” Mark Boud of Real Estate Economics, a subsidiary of Metrostudy, also observes, “Some in our industry have voiced concerns about economic problems in China impacting the housing market, or high new home prices restricting demand. We recognize those factors may have some impact, but it will be not be significant enough to prevent our forecasted expansion in construction.”

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