by Robert Dietz
For some time, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) has been signaling a fairly weak market for new single-family homes, with relatively few of the builders responding to the HMI survey expressing optimism that markets will improve over the next six months.
On the theory that architects may be able to provide a useful alternative window into the future of the U.S. housing market, NAHB recently conducted a survey of its members who listed their primary business as either architecture or planning and design.
In contrast to builders, who have been largely pessimistic of late, the architects were split relatively evenly on whether business had picked up. Although a third of architects responding to the survey said that their single-family businesses was weaker than at the same time last year, nearly as many (30 percent) indicated that their single-family business was actually stronger.
The split was similar for multifamily rental, with 32 percent of architects reporting stronger, and 32 percent reporting weaker, business in that market segment. Not surprisingly, responses were least positive for the multifamily condo market segment, where only 8 percent of architects said business was stronger, and half said it was weaker, compared to a year ago.