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If you can't build it for less, they won't come.

Has constraint on the supply of new homes at an attainable price level to would-be home buyers ever actually ended a recovery cycle before?

Mr. [National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert] Dietz said that if current trends continue, new-home sales are likely to be flat this year compared with last year, a disappointing result because many economists had hoped this would be a strong year for the new-home market given pent-up demand and years of limited supply.

“As we close in on the end of 2018, it is abundantly clear with the benefit of hindsight that the new-home sales market took a turn this year, and not for the better,” said Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow, a real-estate database company.

Will the Fed's nuanced signal it may have neared--for the time being--the end of its recent series of fed-fund rate increases allow buyer psyche an opportunity to recalibrate, adjust to a new mortgage rate reality, and regain mojo?

Will builders--knowing that local regulatory burden on their land costs and housing finance policy's impact on buyers' mortgage costs are two major factors working against them--resign themselves to gravity, capitulating to "ride the cycle" downward?

Will they conclude that these external forces--regulation's dead-weight on lot prices and mortgage rates' suppression of buyers' monthly payment appetites--are stacked against them anyway, so why bother dealing with another powerful factor they can control?

The risk on several levels, would be for builders and their investor, developer, manufacturer, materials supplier, and other vendors to point to those two externalities--regulation and Fed monetary policy--as the assassins of recovery.

It would be a risk on several levels not to address factors they can control, factors in their own outdated business and operations models, that prevent them from delivering designs, community developments, and constructed homes at lower prices.

"If they can't fix the local regulation costs on my land and the interest rate impacts on my buyer's monthly payment, what will it matter if we look at our own chronic inefficiencies and make the investments to fix those?"

That might be an understandable take on current housing activity trends, as what was expected to have been a strong year of growth in single-family home sales has wound down in the past few months to a year that may barely eke out a gain over 2017.

But it would be a risk.

Construction productivity--or the lack thereof--is one lever builders and all of their partners have yet to bring fully to bear on a housing market so supply-constrained that it may choke the recovery to death.

This will be a defining, differentiating, winnowing--life or death, prosper or perish--factor, irrespective of what housing finance policy levers or buyer sentiment adjustments take place over the next few months to try to stanch recovery's bleed, and get it back up and running.

Construction productivity--modernization, technology-enabled manufacturing processes, data-enabled consumer targeting and engagment, a more friction-free design, engineering, and construction value-stream--represents by many estimates a 25% to 35% cost opportunity. Taking out all steps, materials, time, and effort that do not produce value, and adding what matters to buyers--that discipline is only just truly beginning.

It's happening in isolated cases, among an enlightened few, but it has not spread fast or widely across the home building community.

That's a risk. If builders have to wait for another round of widespread economic distress to get either land, labor, or lending at a dirt-cheap rate, they're likely going to have to wait a long time.

The risk is to chalk up the very real externals as determinants of what happens next rather than deciding, planning, and determining for you and your team what's next.

We keep hearing it at Hive, in Austin, on the stage, in the corridors, among the diverse group of architects, builders, developers, investors, community planners, manufacturers, and distributors. The present is full of challenge. "The future belongs to those who make it."

The challenges are real. The choice may be to look at policy, political will, and mortgage finance as a death knell for recovery and begin riding out the cycle, or something else.

Decide there's something to do to change.

Something to do differently.

And something not to do that's not producing value.

Fix constuction productivity now. Or somebody else will.