The housing market has carried forward its year-end momentum. According to the Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, January's Single-Family Housing Starts crossed the half-million unit marker for the second straight month.
This hasn't happened in close to 2 years and is the latest in a series of strong data that suggests the beleaguered housing market has turned a corner.
Although single-family starts slipped 1 percent from December, January's annualized 508,000 figure represents a 16% spike from January 2011 and is the second-highest reading since April 2010 - the last month of 2010's federal home buyer tax credit program.
A "housing start" is a new home on which construction has started.
The strength of January's Housing Starts data surprised Wall Street analysts and is partially responsible for Thursday's unexpected mortgage rate spike.
In hindsight, though, we should have seen this coming.
Earlier in the week, the National Association of Homebuilders announced that homebuilder confidence had climbed to its highest point since 2007 amid builder reports of rising sales volume and the most foot traffic from buyers in more than 4 years.
In addition, builders expect to sell more homes in 2012 than in 2011.
Builders are building and buyers are buying.
Meanwhile, as another sign of housing market strength, the Census Bureau reports that, in January, Building Permits moved to a multi-year high as well. Permits issued for single-family homes in January rose 1 percent from December, a statistic that suggests housing will continue its run through the spring season, at least.
86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.
It's a good time to be a home buyer. Mortgage rates and home prices are low. Housing market momentum, however, is building. If you're on the fence about whether to buy a home , ask your real estate agent for additional market information.
The cost of home-ownership may never be as low as it is today.
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