US Housing Starts SEPT & Softwood Lumber Prices OCT: 2021

Bumping up and down for the past few months, US total housing starts for September 2021 dropped by -1.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.555 million.
Continuing to make year-over-year gains, for September 2021 total residential starts in the US rose by +7.4% from the same month one year ago, when it was 1.448 million.

WSPF-SYP-ESPF-2x4 Softwood Lumber Prices-2 year-US Housing 1-Unit STARTS & PERMITS: SEPT 2021

Also waffling up and down in recent months, permits for future homebuilding in September were down by -7.7% compared to August 2021, when it was 1.721 million, to a rate of 1.589 million units. September 2021 permits are flat compared to September 2020 when it was 1.589 million.

Shrewd investors know that construction framing softwood lumber prices are a good leading indicator for US housing activity, including home building and home sales. Don’t miss out, get lumber price data updates directly to your desktop every Friday morning.

September starts of single-family housing, the largest share of the market and construction method which uses the most wood, was 1.080 million annualized, which is also flat compared to August 2021. Single-family permits were again almost flat, at 1.041 million units compared to August when it was 1.050 million units.

Benchmark Softwood Lumber Commodity Western Spruce-Pine-Fir Price: October 2021

Western Spruce-Pine-FIr KD 2x4 #2&Btr prices OCT 2021

An important metric is backlogs, the latest data shows that the number of single-family homes authorized for construction but not yet started edged lower to 144,000 in September, but remains near a 15-year high.

Looking at lumber prices, still pushing up at an unusual time of year, for the week of October 8, 2021 the price of Western S-P-F 2×4 #2&Btr KD (RL) was US$580 mfbm. This is up by +$40, or +7%, from the previous week when it was $540. That week’s price is up by +$92, or +19%, from one month ago when it was $488.

In a noticeable change in the data for starts, units under construction compared to completions are much higher now that historically. Currently there are 712,000 single family units under construction, the highest level since 2007, and a record wide gap between completed homes and houses under construction. As well, most of these single-family homes are already sold, probably due to construction delays.

US Housing 1-Unit Starts and Permits September & Benchmark Softwood Lumber Prices October: 2021

WSPF-SYP-ESPF-2x4 Softwood Lumber Prices-2 year-US Housing 1-Unit STARTS & PERMITS: SEPT 2021

Something else interesting, a new development in the data, is housing inventory. As of October 15th, housing inventory was at 424,000, compared to 554,000 for the same week a year ago. That is a decline of -23.6%. Compared to the same week in 2019, inventory is down -55%, from 936,000.
A week ago, inventory was at 426 thousand, and was down 23.3% YoY.

Meanwhile, when compared to the same week last year, when it was $960, for the week of October 8 the price of Western S-P-F 2×4 is down by -$380, or -40%. Compared to two years’ ago when it was $368, this week’s price is up by +$212, or +58%.

Madison’s Benchmark Top-Six Softwood Lumber and Panel Prices: Historical Perspective

Madison's Softwood Lumber Benchark green and KD Construction Framing Dimension Softwood Lumber and Panel Prices OCT 2021

STAY AHEAD of US housing price data by getting access to softwood lumber prices. Released every Friday for that week, since 1952 Madison’s Lumber Prices is used by the forest products industry as a price guide for North American construction framing dimension softwood lumber. These are, of course, the inputs into US and Canadian home building materials.