What Are the Best Housing Market Indicators?
The health of the US economy can be easily gauged by how much and how frequently individuals and families are spending to fulfill the most basic of needs: housing. There are tons of reports out there on the housing market, but how do you know which ones have the most impact on the market? I have discussed this reports many times on Seeking Alpha and on GradMoney, but in case you were looking to do some exploring on your own, here are the eight best indicators for the housing market and be sure to visit Investopedia to learn more. Click on any of the titles below to learn more about each report:
1. Construction Spending - this is a report published by the U.S. Census Bureau each month and provides an overview on construction spending activity across the United States. It's broken down by residential building and non-residential building (businesses, offices, etc.) as well as private and public spending, and compares the spending as a percentage versus the prior month and the same month in the prior year.
2. Residential Construction - Similar to the report above, this is another U.S. government report on new residential construction looks at residential construction activity nationwide through the number of permits issued and houses that builders started to work on.
3. Home Sales - While the definition seems vague at first, The National Association of Realtors uses this report to provide a report on the number of used homes sold every month, as well as previous month and previous year input, for single-family houses, condos, and co-ops. It's based on actual home sale closings, also provides input on inventory, prices, and regional sales performance.
4. State Specific Home Sales - Some retail groups in major states - like California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, etc. - put out periodical sales reports on sales activities in these respective states.
5. New Home Sales - The US Census Bureau's report on new residential sales provides input on the number of new homes sold nationwide, based on sales contracts signed. It looks at the sales broken down by region and by various price points, such as sales under $150,000 and higher than $750,000. Also, it looks at the inventory of new houses for sale and the median and average prices of houses sold.
6. Pending Home Sales - The National Association of Realtors produces a pending home sales index monthly report that looks at the number of purchase contracts signed by buyers of existing homes. This gives an idea about the level of sales closings to expect in upcoming periods. It also gives a regional breakdown of the pending sales activity and compares it to activity in the previous month and year.
7. NAHB Housing Market Index - The National Association of Home Builders puts out a monthly NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index that looks at the level of confidence that builders have in the single-family housing market. By taking a monthly survey of home builders, the NAHB gets input on how they feel about the current level of sales and buyer traffic, as well as their sales expectations for the upcoming six months. The index also provides regional input for the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West regions.
8. Home Price Indices - There are so many of these, but the idea is the same: the indices are used to get an idea about the level of home prices across the country, and provides hints about buyer interest and general housing market optimism. For example, Standard & Poor’s puts out its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index monthly. This looks at the national trend, as well as prices in certain metropolitan areas. There is also the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s House Price Index that uses input from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to track single-family home prices.