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Published: Jul 17, 2020 5 min read

Builder confidence is on the rise and permits for new construction edged up as record-low interest rates continue to lure buyers into the real estate market.

According to data from the National Association of Home Builder/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder sentiment reached pre-pandemic levels for the month of July. The index, which tracks builder confidence in the newly-built single-family home market, rose 14 points to 72, a reading last seen in March before the pandemic related lockdowns began. Any reading above 50 on the index indicates that home builders view current home sales, sales expectations and prospective buyer traffic for the next six months as "good."

"Builders are seeing strong traffic and lots of interest in new construction as existing home inventory remains lean," said Chuck Fowke, NAHB chairman. "Low interest rates are also fueling demand, and we expect housing to lead an overall economic recovery."

Information from the U.S. Census Bureau's New Residential Construction report also points to an improving outlook, as the number of building permits, housing starts and housing completions all posted gains during the month of June. The biggest gain was in housing starts, which improved 17% over May numbers (although still 4% below June 2019 numbers).

"Homebuilding continues to rebound from the sharp drop experienced in April due to the onset of the pandemic. The growth in construction permits suggest building momentum in the months ahead," said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association reacting to the Census Bureau report. "This is positive, as the rebound in housing demand could be stymied if there is not more inventory on the market soon."

Average Mortgage Rates Today

Mortgage rates broke the 3% barrier on Thursday, the lowest rate recorded in 50 years of Freddie Mac's interest rate survey. For the week ending July 16, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage set a new record low of 2.98% with 0.7 points paid, according to Freddie Mac. That's 0.05 percentage points below the previous low of 3.07%, set a week earlier.