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Due to a combination of rising mortgage rates, high inflation, low existing inventory, and elevated home prices, housing affordability has fallen to its lowest level since the Great Recession. With many households priced out of the for-sale market, existing home sales, new-home sales, single-family permits, and single-family starts have experienced significant year-over-year declines, deepening the ongoing housing recession, says NAHB chief economist Rob Dietz.

The softening of housing demand has led to ongoing declines for home builder sentiment, per the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Builder confidence fell for the eighth straight month in August, falling six points to 49 and marking the first time since May 2020 the index fell below the key break-even measure of 50. The August buyer traffic number in the builder survey was 32, the lowest level since April 2014, excluding the spring of 2020 when the pandemic first hit. Roughly one-in-five (19%) home builders in the HMI survey reported reducing prices in the past month to increase sales or limit cancellations.

The outlook for the housing market is now dependent on incoming inflation data and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. It appears, for example, that the core Personal Consumption Expenditures price index measure of inflation has peaked. And some economists are forecasting the Fed will decelerate its rate hikes, with perhaps a 50 basis-point hike in September, following the 75 basis-point hikes in both June and July. Nonetheless, the Fed will continue hiking, with the bond market pricing in the 10-year Treasury above 3.1% for the first time since late June

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