The housing market presented a mixed picture in November. To wit, data issued a bit earlier this morning noted that housing starts had surged by better than 22% last month, to a booming 1.009 million homes started on an annualized basis. That was up from an estimated 889,000 homes commenced in October and the 873,000 units started in September. In November of last year, the starts total had been 842,000 units.

On the other hand, building permits, a more forward-looking metric, eased by 3.1%, to an annualized rate of 1.007 million homes last month. In October, 1.039 million homes had seen permits taken out. In all, this was the third time in 2013 that permits had risen above a million units. This was just the second time in 2013 that starts had soared past that level.

Looking at housing on a regional basis, starts actually plunged in the Northeast last month, the smallest of the four regions, falling by 29.4%. Our sense is that the early onset of winter-like temperatures in this region tempered building enthusiasm. However, starts skyrocketed in the Midwest, the second smallest locale, gaining 41.7%. In the South, the largest region, starts climbed by 38.5%, while they were up a more restrained, but still appreciable, 8.8% in the West.     

The big push last month came from the multi-family side of the ledger, where homes with five or more units, surged by 26.0%, overall. The increasing popularity of townhouses and condominiums continues, climbing to their best levels of the year. However, this may not be the case going forward, as building permits in the multi-family area fell last month, dropping by 11.5%.  

Taken as a whole, this was a good report, as even the decline in permits still left that area at a better-than-one million annualized run rate during November. True, housing has further to go, but we are well on our way. Indeed, even the rise in mortgage rates over the past year has not yet held back this stirring recovery.

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.