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Secular Trends in New Residential Building Permits and Housing Starts

  • Written by Syndicated Publisher No Comments Comments
    May 22, 2015

    Yesterday we reported separately on the latest residential building permits and housing starts in the government’s report for April data, courtesy of the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Despite the fact that both are monthly SAAR series (seasonally adjusted annualized rate), they are exceptionally volatile and subject to extensive revisions. Thus it is foolish to assign much credibility to a single month.

    Over the long haul, however, the two offer a compelling study of trends in residential real estate, especially when we adjust the Permits and Starts for population growth. Here is an overlay of the two series since the 1959 inception of the Starts data and the Permits data, which began being tracked a year later. The monthly data points are preserved as faint dots. The trends are illustrated with 6-month moving averages of data divided by the Census Bureau’s mid-month population estimates.

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    Here is a closer look at the overlay since 1990.

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    About that volatility…

    The extreme volatility of these indicators is the rationale for paying more attention to the 6-month moving average than to its noisy monthly change.

    Over the complete data series, the Starts absolute MoM average percent change is 6.2%. The MoM range minimum is -26.4% and the maximum is 29.3%..

    Permits are slightly less volatile with an absolute MoM average percent change of 4.4%. The MoM range minimum is -24.0% and the maximum is 33.9%

    Images: Flickr (licence attribution)

    About The Author

    My original dshort.com website was launched in February 2005 using a domain name based on my real name, Doug Short. I’m a formerly retired first wave boomer with a Ph.D. in English from Duke. Now my website has been acquired byAdvisor Perspectives, where I have been appointed the Vice President of Research.

    My first career was a faculty position at North Carolina State University, where I achieved the rank of Full Professor in 1983. During the early ’80s I got hooked on academic uses of microcomputers for research and instruction. In 1983, I co-directed the Sixth International Conference on Computers and the Humanities. An IBM executive who attended the conference made me a job offer I couldn’t refuse.

    Thus began my new career as a Higher Education Consultant for IBM — an ambassador for Information Technology to major universities around the country. After 12 years with Big Blue, I grew tired of the constant travel and left for a series of IT management positions in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. I concluded my IT career managing the group responsible for email and research databases at GlaxoSmithKline until my retirement in 2006.

    Contrary to what many visitors assume based on my last name, I’m not a bearish short seller. It’s true that some of my content has been a bit pessimistic in recent years. But I believe this is a result of economic realities and not a personal bias. For the record, my efforts to educate others about bear markets date from November 2007, as this Motley Fool article attests.
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