The spring selling season is fast approaching, but home builders remain in a dour mood.
A survey of builders on the prospect of single-family home sales remained basically flat, and a bit pessimistic, in March, same as the month before. The National Assn. of Home Builders Housing Market Index edged up to 47, from 46 last month. Scores above 50 generally indicate optimism, and the index had been above that mark for eight straight months until falling in February.
The group said poor weather across much of the country was a major factor, as was difficulty in finding buildable lots and the necessary skilled labor.
"A number of factors are raising builder concerns over meeting demand for the spring buying season," said NAHB chief economist David Crowe in a statement. "These include a shortage of buildable lots and skilled workers, rising materials prices and an extremely low inventory of homes for sale."
In Southern California, the shortage of new home inventory has been a drag on the housing market in recent months, though builders have remained hesitant to launch new projects.
Confidence fell sharply among builders in the West, which had been a bright spot nationally in recent months. The index fell to 53 from 58 in February. It had been at 71 in January. That could be a sign that fast price growth here, coupled with rising interest rates, is putting a dent in demand from buyers.
Across the board, traffic from prospective buyers was the weakest component of the survey, measuring just 33 out of 100. That's up from 31 in February but well below recent averages.
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