Home construction rebounds from 6-month low

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Home building rebounded from a six-month low in November, with improvement in new home construction in all sections of the nation, according to a government report issued Wednesday.

Construction of new homes rose to an annual rate of 574,000 during the month, 8.9% above the revised October rate of 527,000. The rate was still 12.4% below the 655,000 rate during November 2008.

A consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected 574,000 housing starts during the month.

New construction jumped the most in the Northeast, with a 16.4% rise from the previous month. Housing starts rose 12.3% in the South, 3% in the Midwest and 1.9% in the West.

The number of building permits issued during November rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 584,000. That was 6% above the revised October rate of 551,000, and 7.3% below the November 2008 estimate of 630,000.

One reason for the October downturn was concern that an $8,000 homebuyer's tax credit -- part of the Obama administration's economic stimulus -- was going to expire on Dec. 1.

At the start of November, the credit was extended through the end of June and expanded to apply to more buyers. But David Crowe, chief economist at National Association of Homebuilders, said the bill hasn't had a chance to impact the housing market.

"This is a recovery from the prior month," said. "But we're still seeing a tapering off toward the end of the year. During the middle of this year, we saw a nice buildup through the late summer as a result of the homebuyer's tax credit."

Housing starts peaked this year in July with an annual rate of 593,000.

"We're in a bit of a lull, but the new (extended) credit will have an impact as we move into 2010 and consumers plan for that credit availability, and builders begin to answer expected demand in the spring," he said.

Crowe added that the tight credit market has also made it difficult for builders to borrow money to start building projects.

"Builders are ready to begin restocking their inventories to prepare for the selling season, but they can't get production credit from the banks," Crowe said. "Banks are effectively making carte blanche decisions without recognizing projects that are in decent markets with viable futures."

Crowe said he hopes President Obama's recent pressure on Wall Street banks to help taxpayers who funded their bailouts will improve lending practices.  To top of page

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