Chase Econometrics housing specialist Michael Carliner sees housing starts declining as interest rates climb over the remainder of 1983. But he says that this still will leave the measure of residential construction higher than almost anyone had predicted a year ago, and that interest rates should drop again next year, helping to push total housing sales for 1984 ahead of their 1983 level.
Carliner made his predictions here last week before the National Economists Club.
"By September, housing starts will plummet because of higher interest rates," he said. "But that is still much higher than the level expected a year ago." At that time, most economists were forecasting about 1.4 million new houses would be constructed in 1983, but Carliner said he now expects about 1.58 million starts this year and 1.64 million in 1984.
Although the housing market is healthier now than was predicted a year ago, there is no great "pent-up demand" waiting to fuel an even stronger recovery, he said. Much of the real estate boom of the 1970s was pushed by a high rate of families and single persons establishing their own homes. Through the rest of the 1980s, that rate will stay below its level for the last decade.
The economic recession of the last few years contributed to the decline in household formations, but he believes that sociological changes also have been a factor. The number of divorces started to flatten out in 1979 and declined further in both 1982 and 1983. "When the economy improves, some predict a rebound," he said. "I doubt it."
"An even bigger contributor to the decline in household formations was this idea of people living with their parents," Carliner reported. "This was partly due to the loss of jobs, but also because of a change in attitudes."
The rate of household formations because of the breakup of marriages and from people under 25 establishing their own homes will not go back up, Carliner predicted. In the past, persons in those two groups generally have chosen to rent apartments rather than buy homes. "But we have multifamily housing starts going back up at the same rate as single family starts," he said. "There is a very sharp dichotomy between supply and demand."
"Vacancies will go up, and they have because of the drop in household formations," Carliner said. "This has a particular effect on new projects, including rental apartments and condos for sale." In previous years, the rate of absorption of new condominiums--the percentage sold within three months of being put on the market--averaged about 80 percent. That figure is now running at 53 percent, the housing forecaster said.
Adding to this problem of low household formations is overinvestment in rentals. "Everybody in the world is starting a real estate syndication business" to sell ownership shares in apartment projects, "but they have no idea as to where the money will be invested," Carliner said.