WASHINGTON — Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes plunged in November as worsening problems in the financial markets, job market weakness and overwhelming uncertainty about the economy continued to negatively impact consumer behavior, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The HMI sank five points to nine, the lowest level recorded since the series was created in January of 1985.

“Today’s report shows that we are in a crisis situation. If there’s any hope of turning this economy around, Congress and the Administration need to focus on stabilizing housing,” said NAHB Chairman Sandy Dunn, a homebuilder from Point Pleasant, WV. “Tremendous economic uncertainties have driven consumers from the housing market, and it’s going to take some major incentives to bring them back. Beyond the work that is being done to help reduce foreclosures, Congress must immediately incorporate such incentives for qualified buyers in a new economic recovery package.”

“The housing downturn has already cost America three million jobs in construction and related industries, and this downward momentum cannot be stemmed without substantive government intervention,” agreed NAHB’s new Chief Economist, David Crowe. “Congress should consider significant consumer incentives such as expanding the first-time home buyer tax credit and providing a government buy-down of mortgage interest rates for home purchasers. Both policies were successfully combined in the ‘70s to stimulate home buyer demand, and could get housing and the national economy moving again.”

Two out of three of the HMI’s component indexes declined in November. The index gauging current sales conditions fell six points to eight, which was a new record low. Likewise, the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers fell four points to seven — also a record low. Meanwhile, the index gauging sales expectations in the next six months held firm from the previous month at its record low of 19.

Every region posted declines in builder confidence in November. The Northeast, South and West each registered five-point declines to 11, 11 and six, respectively, while the Midwest registered a six-point decline to seven.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.