As the national average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage has risen to and remained above 5%, homebuilder sentiment has been reversing its pandemic gains. The NAHB’s monthly homebuilder sentiment index dropped 2 points in April to 77. That was the fourth decline in a row bringing the headline number to the weakest reading since September of last year. That is also now only one point above the December 2019 pre-pandemic high.
The decline this month was mostly driven by a decrease in traffic. That index dropped 6 points to 66 which is the weakest level and the biggest one-month decline since last August. Meanwhile, present sales dropped 2 points for the second month in a row. On the bright side, future sales actually ticked up 3 points to snap a three-month losing streak. That being said, the current level of this index is much less elevated within its historical range compared to the others.
Geographically, there are some large divergences in homebuilder sentiment. For starters, the Northeast showed the most impressive improvement with the index rising 9 points month over month. Whereas last month it was the lowest within its respective historical range, today it is the most elevated. The South also saw an improvement as this region has perhaps been the most stable across the pandemic years. The West and Midwest were other stories entirely in April. The Midwest experienced its second-largest decline on record behind the 42 point drop in April 2020 and is now at the lowest level since June 2020. Meanwhile, the West fell 7 points. That also was the biggest drop in two years though the index saw an even lower reading as recently as last September.
As homebuilder sentiment drops, so too have homebuilder stocks. The iShares US Home Construction ETF (ITB) — which tracks the space — has been falling sharply since peaking around the turn of the year. Click here to view Bespoke’s premium membership options.