According to the Census Bureau, HUD and Commerce Department This Week in Real Estate the market to start the year for newly built single-family homes experienced significant growth year-over-year. Permits in January reached their highest level since June 2007 and housing starts were 21.4% above January 2019. Below are a few highlights from the third week of February that influence our business:
* Housing Starts Mark a Solid Start in 2020. Relative to January 2019 total housing starts are 21.4 percent above the annual pace of 1.29 million units. The three-month moving average for single-family in January is an annual rate of 1,008,000 units, which is the highest pace since the Great recession. Single-family permits have registered a 20.2 percent gain compared to a year ago. This is in line with the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which held builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes at a solid level of 74 in February. Regional data show, on a year-over-year basis positive conditions for single-family construction in the West (+24.7 percent) and Midwest (+17.7 percent) while South (-3.7 percent) and Northeast (-15.4 percent) have posted declines.
* Single-Family Building Permits Rise to a 12-Year High. Permits for new houses rose to a more than 12-year high in January as builders began shifting into high gear amid a property shortage. Single-family home
authorizations, as permits are known, jumped to 987,000 at a seasonally adjusted annual pace, the highest since June 2007, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. The January rate was a gain of 6.4% from December. Overall permits, including multifamily units and single-family homes, jumped 9.2% to an annual pace of 1.551 million, the highest level since March 2007.
* $221M Lost to Wire Transfer Fraud in 2019. Incidents and losses due to real estate wire fraud continue to increase, according to the FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report. The report shows there were 11,677 victims in 2019 with $221 million in losses. This compares to 11,300 reported victims and $150 million in losses in 2018. According to the FBI, only 15 percent of all wire fraud incidents are reported. Overall, the FBI reported that IC3 received 467,361 complaints in 2019 – an average of nearly 1,300 every day – and recorded more than $3.5 billion in losses to individual and business victims. The most frequently reported complaints were phishing and similar ploys, non-payment/non-delivery scams and extortion. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromise, romance or confidence fraud, and spoofing, or mimicking the account of a person or vendor known to the victim to gather personal or financial information. Donna Gregory, the chief of IC3, said that in 2019 the center didn’t see an uptick in new types of fraud but rather saw criminals deploying new tactics and techniques to carry out existing scams. “Criminals are getting so sophisticated,” Gregory said. “It is getting harder and harder for victims to spot the red flags and tell real from fake.” While email is still a common entry point, frauds are also beginning on text messages—a crime called smishing—or even fake websites—a tactic called pharming. Individuals need to be extremely skeptical and double check everything, Gregory emphasized. “In the same way your bank and online accounts have started to require two-factor authentication—apply that to your life,” she said. “Verify requests in person or by phone, double check web and email addresses, and don’t follow the links provided in any messages.”