FRED has a lot of data on the real estate market at the regional, national, and international levels; and this graph offers a sample. Here we examine the stage of construction for new houses for sale in the U.S. Indeed, you can buy a house while it’s still in the planning stage, while it’s being constructed, or after it’s completed. Generally, most new houses are put up for sale while construction is still going on. The business cycle can affect this timing, however, and there are a few perspectives to consider.
During a downturn, when houses are more difficult to sell, the stock of completed houses for sale can build up. Also, if prospects for selling a house worsen, a builder may delay construction until a sale is made, which would increase the stock of unstarted houses for sale. On the other hand, a builder may simply abandon the idea of new construction if there are too many finished houses already on the market, decreasing the stock of unstarted houses for sale. This last story seems to apply well to the recent past. In fact, during the previous recession, the number of unstarted houses decreased.
How this graph was created: Search for “new houses for sale by stage” and select the three series. Click on “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” section, open the “Format” panel to change the graph type to “Bar” with regular stacking.
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.