NAHB study: Small builders rule the housing market

Small home builders are the mainstay of the nation’s housing industry, including a sizable number of self-employed mom-and-pop operations, according to a new study by NAHB economists. Slightly more than 65 percent of all home building establishments had annual receipts below $1 million.

December 26, 2010

Small home builders are the mainstay of the nation’s housing industry, including a sizable number of self-employed mom-and-pop operations, according to a new study by economists at the National Association of Home Builders.

The report concludes that housing remains the domain of small businesses and looks at the Census Bureau’s Economic Census, which provides information on the size of businesses in various industries. Conducted every five years, the most recent census is based on business activity that occurred in 2007.

Among the data that provides a profile of the housing industry as of 2007:

  • Slightly more than 65 percent of all home building establishments had annual receipts below $1 million. Almost 31 percent generated between $1 million and $10 million; and 4.1 percent had more than $10 million.
  • In 2007, 41,483 new single-family general contractors (who build on the owner’s land) did less than $1 million in business, about a 70 percent share of the 59,679 businesses in this group. Although multifamily general contractors tend to be somewhat larger, 42 percent of them also recorded less than $1 million in yearly sales or receipts. About 60 percent of the 35,378 “operative builders” (who own the land upon which they build) did less than $1 million in business. Eighty-four percent of 73,888 residential remodelers and 61 percent of 6,462 land developers saw less than $1 million.
  • Some 25 percent of $89.3 billion in total construction value delivered by single-family general contractors in 2007 was subcontracted out. Subcontracting amounted to half of $34.6 billion worth of construction among multifamily general contractors, 22 percent of $180.1 billion for operative builders and 23 percent of the $52.1 billion for residential remodelers.
  • These results are consistent with findings from NAHB’s monthly Builder Economic Council survey. Among the single-family builders responding, 40 percent said they subcontracted 100 percent of their work and another 39 percent subcontracted 76 percent to 99 percent of the work. The same builders used 24 specialty trade contractors in the process of building the average single-family home.
  • Seventy-four percent of a total of 477,950 specialty trade contractors rang up less than $1 million in business in 2007.
  • Under U.S. Small Business Administration standards, at least 96 percent of residential builders and remodelers were small (defined as doing no more than $33.5 million in annual business). Also considered small were 94 percent of land developer (less than $7.0 million) and 98 percent of specialty trade contractor (less than $14 million) establishments. Most of the home building and trade contractor establishments were far below the SBA ceilings.

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