Mother Nature dumped another 10 inches of snow on my yard a few days ago. As I write this with spring a mere two days away, winter’s grip remains tight.
And yet, the other day I spotted a hopeful sign: the tips of daffodil leaves starting to poke through all the white stuff. The change of season will come—even back-to-back polar vortexes (or is that vortices?) can’t stop it.
But still, cabin fever reigns supreme. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes that builders are pessimistic and their confidence remains low. The harsh winter kept them from building and kept potential new-home buyers squirrelled away in their existing cozy homes. The NAHB says that a limited supply of buildable lots and skilled labor kept new-home inventories low, with January’s supply dropping to five months.
In January and February, unusually cold, wet weather in much of the U.S. combined with concern among builders that the supply chain wouldn’t keep up with the expected spring rebound. But the March NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index turned slightly less lackluster, marking a modest improvement over the previous two months.
So, like that little hint of green I recently spotted, there are hopeful signs of a market ready to thaw. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says that after a slow couple months, buyer foot traffic is gradually picking up, indicating that potential buyers are starting to shop around. While housing starts were flat in February, the NAR reports that the inventory of homes for sale this spring is about 10% greater than last.
According to Fannie Mae’s monthly National Housing Survey, in February more Americans (50%) expected home prices to increase during the coming months—a 7% increase over January. Another positive sign from the survey: The number of people saying that now is a good time to buy rose from 65% in January to 68%.
But it won’t be until a couple of weeks from now—when we hit that first 70-degree weekend—that home buyers, do-it-yourselfers, and gardeners finally get the itch to get outdoors. And whether they’re buying a new home, sprucing up an existing one, knocking off items on a honey-do list, or planting tomatoes, they’ll start flocking to your yards and stores. Winter will just be a bad dream.