Housing builds momentum

Two numbers released this morning show the housing market heading in a better direction.

New housing construction rose 2.3% to a 750,000 annual pace from a revised 733,000 annual rate in July, the Commerce Department reported via Bloomberg. Construction of single-family houses rose 5.5% to 535,000, the fastest rise since April 2010. Single-family-home permits were up 0.2% to an annualized 512,000, the highest since March 2010. Part of that growth is due to historically low mortgage rates—the average 30-year fixed has leveled at 3.55%.

There’s more good news for owners of existing homes and the agents who trade them. Sales of previously owned houses jumped 7.8% to a 4.82 million annual rate, the most since May 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median price of an existing home climbed 9.5 percent to $187,400 from $171,200 in August 2011, according to Bloomberg.

The trend has reached bellwether Southwest Florida, according to data in today’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune. For the first seven months of the year, Sarasota County issued permits for 620 new homes valued at $201 million, a jump of 55% over the same period last year.

All of that comes on the heels of yesterday’s news from the National Association of Home Builders that confidence among builders rose from 37 in August to 40 in September, as measured by the NAHB/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index. That’s the highest reading since June 2006.

“The pace of overall housing production has been edging gradually upward all year as consumers become more confident in their local housing markets, and the latest data are further evidence that the housing recovery is here to stay,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.