WASHINGTON – Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes held at a record low in December as deepening economic turmoil, a deteriorating job market and an ongoing flow of foreclosed homes onto the market continued to negatively impact sales conditions. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) did not change in December from November’s all-time low reading of 9, with two out of three component indexes losing further ground.

“The crisis continues,” said NAHB Chairman Sandy Dunn, a homebuilder from Point Pleasant, WV. “While builders are doing everything we can in the way of price and non-price incentives to move new homes off the books, buyers are afraid to move forward, and in any case there is almost no way to compete with the cut-rate product that is continually flooding the market from mounting foreclosures. Congress and the Administration must step in with substantial incentives to bring qualified buyers back to the table, as well as effective foreclosure relief programs, if we are to end this negative spiral that is weighing so heavily on our national economy.”

“We have seen no improvement over the past month in terms of sales conditions for new homes,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “In fact, certain factors have gotten progressively worse, not the least of which is the job market, where massive layoffs are having a devastating effect on consumer confidence. At this point it will take definitive government action to stop the slide in home values and turn the tide of consumer sentiment. Expanding the first-time buyer tax credit and providing government action to reduce mortgage rates would go a long way toward arresting this downward spiral, just as a combination of similar moves worked in the 1970s to boost the housing market and economy.”

Two out of three of the HMI’s component indexes registered some further deterioration in December. The index gauging current sales conditions and the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months each declined to new record lows, falling one point to 8 and two points to 16, respectively. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers held at a record low of 7 for the month.

Two out of four regions posted declining builder confidence readings in December, with the Midwest and South edging down one point and two points, to 6 and 10, respectively. The Northeast held even with the previous month’s 11 reading, while the West posted a one-point gain to 7.  

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