According to the NAHB, the medium builder has sold 22% of its home to buyers who used all cash year to date in 2024. By builder size, the share of all-cash buyers is highest among builders that started between 25 and 99 homes in 2023 (26%) and lowest among builders that started five or fewer homes in 2023 (13%), according to supplemental data collected for the May NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

The findings from the NAHB’s survey differs significantly from quarterly data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which indicates all-cash sales represented just 6.6% of all sales in 2024.

The quarterly Census report is based on new homes sold, meaning that a potential buyer has either signed a sales contract or made a downpayment on the home. But this does not cover all new single-family homes. The Census Bureau classifies others as contractor-built or owner-built. On a contractor-built home, the ultimate homeowner hires a general contractor (i.e., builder) to build an individual home on the owner’s lot. This usually involves a contract to build, but that is not technically the same thing as a sales contract according to Census definitions. On an owner-built home, the owner functions as the general contractor.

In NAHB’s latest census of its members, 54% of single-family builders listed their primary operation as single-family custom building, which roughly corresponds to building contractor-built homes under the Census Bureau’s classification scheme.

NAHB’s May 2024 survey shows a median of 22% all-cash sales, considerably higher than the recent peak of 10.7% reported by the Census Bureau in its quarterly release on new houses sold. The discrepancy does not seem attributable to the differences between a survey of houses and a survey of builders but may be largely due to the presence of custom builders in the NAHB survey. These are builders who specialize in contractor-built homes, which are demonstrably more likely to be financed entirely with cash but are excluded from the reports on new houses sold.

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