According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, starts of buildings with five or more units decreased by 40.3 percent at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in April 2020 to 234,000 after a 23.7 percent decline in March. On a year-over-year basis, the April starts of buildings with five or more units were 38.6 percent below its April 2019 level.
NAHB’s Multifamily Production Index (MPI) fell by 22 to 27 in the first quarter of 2020. The MPI measures builder and developer sentiment about current conditions in the multifamily market on a scale of 0 to 100. The index is scaled so that a number above 50 indicates that more respondents report conditions are improving than report conditions are getting worse.
The headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell by 0.8 percent in April on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the month of April, the Energy Price Index declined by 10.1 percent, after a 5.8 percent drop in March, while food prices increased by 1.4 percent. Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the “core” CPI decreased by 0.4 percent in April, after a 0.1 percent decline in March. Shelter prices, which are the largest consumer expenditure category, remained unchanged as rental prices, a component of the shelter index, climbed by 0.2 percent in April. Since the increase in rental prices was higher than the growth rate in overall inflation, as measured by the “core” CPI, then NAHB’s Real Rent Index rose by 0.6 percent over the month of April. Over the past year, NAHB’s Real Rent Index has risen by 2.0 percent.
Sales of existing condominiums and cooperatives fell by 26.4 percent at seasonally adjusted annual rate of 390,000 units in April. Regionally, sales in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West decreased by 30.0 percent, 14.3 percent, 25.0 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively. The months’ supply of homes increased to 5.3 months in April. Over the past year, median prices on condos and co-ops nationwide rose by 7.1 percent to $267,200 in April. Median prices in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West increased by 8.4 percent, 5.6 percent, 8.0 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.
The price of inputs to construction industries fell by 4.1 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis over the past 12 months ending in April. This component of the Producer Price Index is composed of the price of inputs to new construction and the price of maintenance and repairs. Over the past year, the price of inputs to new construction decreased by 4.0 percent. The price of inputs to new non-residential construction dropped by 4.5 percent while the price of inputs to new residential construction fell by 3.4 percent. The price of maintenance and repairs construction decreased by 4.5 percent over the past year. The price of inputs to non-residential maintenance and repairs fell by 5.0 percent while the price of inputs to residential maintenance dropped by 4.2 percent over the past year. Meanwhile, the price of cement rose by 1.4 percent. Gypsum prices dropped by 2.1 percent and the price of softwood plywood fell by 9.2 percent over the past 12 months.
Fan-Yu Kuo is an Economist at NAHB where she conducts economic research related to macroeconomics and forecasting. She also assists in economic and housing data updates. Prior to NAHB, Fan-Yu was a Research Assistant at the Academia Sinica. She holds an M.A. in International Economics and Finance from Johns Hopkins University and another M.A. in International Political Economy from King’s College London.