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Construction spending climbs despite housing slump


The latest BuildFax Housing Health Report revealed blanket year-over-year declines in single-family housing authorizations, maintenance and remodel volumes. However, spend on the existing housing stock increased within the same time frame, likely a result of a tightening construction labor and materials markets.

The report, which leverages U.S. property condition and history data to deliver macro- and microeconomic trends, found that:

  • Single-family housing authorizations decreased by 2.75% year over year.
  • Existing housing maintenance volume decreased by 0.75% year over year.
  • Existing housing remodel volume decreased by 0.33% year over year.

“So far, 2019 has revealed a dichotomy in the housing market — new and existing construction activity is declining steadily, while the spend on these projects is increasing consistently,” said BuildFax CEO Holly Tachovsky. “Spend is rising, in part, due to increased tariffs on construction materials, tightening labor and construction markets and an uptick in natural disaster activity. … We expect that construction spend on the existing housing stock will eventually start declining as demand slows. As we move further into 2019, we will be monitoring whether these indicators begin to move in parallel to evaluate if such a shift in the housing market is realized.”

Nationwide affordability trends contribute to rising construction spend

State-level analysis of maintenance spend, which comprises construction costs on more than 90% of all U.S. properties, highlighted a correlation between an increase in average year-over-year spend and states with net positive domestic migration. For instance, Colorado, Washington and Florida experienced the greatest increases in construction spend and are some of the nation’s fastest-growing housing markets. Even with national construction spend high, it’s likely homeowners in these markets, where houses are still actively bought and sold, are still compelled to complete remodels and maintenance work despite the rising costs associated with these projects.

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