Housing starts declined in March, but permits for new homes rose, giving the market decidedly mixed signals, but some hope going forward, according to data released today.
Figures released by the Commerce Department indicated that housing starts in March fell 5.8% from February’s revised numbers, to an annual rate of 654,000. March’s figures still came in 10.3% above the same period last year.
Meanwhile, builders applied for more building permits during the month. March saw an annual rate of 747,000 building permits — 4.5% more than February and 30.1% above last year. The rise in building permits came mostly for permits to build housing with five units or more, which rose 24.2%, while permits for single-family units dropped 3.5%.
Houses completed in March hit an annualized rate of 600,000, a 4.2% increase over February’s rate, but only a 0.5% increase over the same period last year.
The housing start data missed analysts’ expectations, according to Bloomberg, who said its survey of housing analysts had predicted an annualized rate of 705,000 housing starts in March, compared to 694,000 in February, which had been revised down from 698,000. March’s housing starts were the lowest in five months.