FRB: Beige Book – November 28, 2012: Real Estate and Construction

Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District, Prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond…. Real Estate and Construction

Overall, markets for single-family homes continued to improve across most Districts with the exception of Boston and Philadelphia. Residential real estate markets in the New York District were mixed but generally firm prior to the storm. Selling prices were steady or rising. Boston, New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Dallas noted declining or tight inventories. The Cleveland District indicated that the number of single-family housing starts had increased since our last report and from a year ago; most sales contracts were in higher price-point categories. Similarly, Richmond noted more residential work in the high-end home category for the first time in three years, and builders cited significant pent-up demand in the first-time buyer segment. Atlanta indicated that existing home sales were up slightly compared to a year ago and reported that investors were more active in Florida than in the rest of the District. In Chicago, residential construction increased at a slow but steady pace in October and early November, and construction increased for single-family as well as multi-family homes. St. Louis reported that residential real estate market conditions continued to improve, and Minneapolis indicated that segments of construction and real estate were growing at a double-digit clip. Kansas City characterized residential real estate activity as brisk and noted that a solid rise in home sales had reduced home inventories. Dallas noted that single-family housing activity remained strong, with both new and existing home sales activity increasing. San Francisco reported that home demand continued to strengthen and that home sales continued to grow on a sustained basis in most areas, spurring new home construction. However, sales growth generally slowed for both the condominium and single-family home markets in the Boston District, and the Philadelphia District noted that October began as a disappointing month for some Realtors, only to be punctuated by Hurricane Sandy.

Construction and commercial real estate activity generally improved across Districts since the last report. Gains, albeit modest in most cases, were reported by Philadelphia, Richmond, Chicago, and Minneapolis. The gains among Cleveland's contacts were tempered by reports in recent weeks of a slowdown in inquiries and a decline in public-sector projects. Kansas City described activity as holding firm and noted that real estate markets remained stronger than a year ago. Demand for office and industrial space continued to increase in Dallas, although contacts at some businesses said they were "holding back on expansions due to uncertainty." Several Districts noted segments of little change in commercial real estate activity. Boston described market fundamentals as flat, and San Francisco depicted market conditions as stable but with pockets of strength for large infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges. Commercial and industrial conditions were mixed in the St. Louis District and throughout most of New York prior to the hurricane. New York added that, while office markets across upstate New York were unaffected by the storm, there were some signs of recent softening.

Read the entire report: FRB: Beige Book – November 28, 2012.


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