When the recovery in home building comes, it could be massive

With home building grinding to a halt, some analysts are beginning to discuss the size of the potential recovery. Analysts at Wheaton-Ill.-based First Trust Advisors are predicting that the rate of new housing starts will bottom out this quarter, though they aren’t ready to say when the country will be in full-out recovery mode.

But when builders put their construction crews back to work (whenever that happens), the pace of starts could triple from last month’s anemic pace of about 466,000 to at least 1.5 million, said First Trust Advisors senior economist Robert Stein, who wrote a Feb. 16 report on housing starts with chief economist Brian Wesbury.

“The production level for houses … has gone to unsustainably low levels,” Stein told me today. “Once the excess inventory is worked off, we are poised for a major increase in residential building.”

That will give a much-needed boost to the economy. Stein says the pace of construction has to increase because the U.S. population is growing and old houses need to be replaced. At the current pace of housing starts, it would take 279 years to replace the country’s 130 million houses, he said. The typical replacement rate for a house is about 70 years.

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