February housing statistics will provide a benchmark to see how the virus’ spread impacts the industry as the country moves forward with quarantines, mandated closings, and social distancing initiatives. Last month ended with less than 1.6 million housing starts, which is down from the previous month but nearly 40 percent up from 2019. Although the spring buying season will most likely pull back from the expected boom, Zillow’s monthly report notes that due to the inventory shortage and low rates, builders may still have opportunities once the pandemic passes.
On the surface, February’s home construction release can be viewed as the calm before the storm and a kind of measuring stick for where builder activity stood just before the U.S. coronavirus outbreak began in earnest. A sharp upward revision to initially reported starts data from January, and an almost equally strong February, could indicate that builders were in a bit of a rush to get some projects off the ground before the coming coronavirus storm.