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Definitions

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20,000–Place Series
– See Universe.

Authorization
– The act of a local jurisdiction approving construction projects by issuing building or zoning permits.

Authorized, Not Started
– Estimates of housing units authorized by a building or zoning permit, but for which construction has not yet started, are shown in the "authorized, not started" data series. These only represent the areas of the country that require a building or zoning permit.

Average
– The arithmetic mean, which is obtained by dividing the sum of all values of a characteristic by the number of houses reporting that characteristic. For example, the average sales price of new single-family houses sold is obtained by dividing the sum of all of the sales prices reported by the number of houses reporting a sales price.

Building or Zoning Permit
– The approval given by a local jurisdiction to proceed on a construction project. Note that not all areas of the country require a permit for construction.

Built for Rent
– This category includes all houses built on builder's land with the intention of renting the housing unit.

A lease-purchase, rent-purchase, or other option to eventually buy the house may exist. This also would include retirement community units, occupied under a "life-lease"/"continuing-care" arrangement (occupants pay an up front fee or small monthly fees for lifelong use.)


Built for Sale
– This category includes all houses built on builder's land with the intention of selling the house and land in one transaction. Such a sale is called "fee simple." These units are often called "speculatively-built" houses.

Also included are the following:

  1. Houses purchased and the lot rented
  2. Houses sold as part of a condominium
  3. Houses sold as part of a cooperative project (occupants own stock in the project as a whole, but do not own residential units.)
  4. Houses sold to several individuals in a "time-sharing" arrangement.
Completed Housing
– A house is defined as completed when all finished flooring has been installed (or carpeting if used in place of finished flooring). If the building is occupied before all construction is finished, it is classified as completed at the time of occupancy. In privately-owned buildings with two or more housing units, all of the units in the buildings are counted as completed when 50 percent or more of the units are occupied or available for occupancy. Housing completions are estimated for all areas of the United States, regardless of whether permits are required.

Confidence Interval
– The sample estimate and an estimate of its standard error allow us to construct interval estimates with prescribed confidence that the interval includes the average result of all possible samples with the same size and design. To illustrate, if all possible samples were surveyed under essentially the same conditions, and estimates calculated from each sample, then:
  1. Approximately 68 percent of the intervals from one standard error below the estimate to one standard error above the estimate would include the average value of all possible samples.
  2. Approximately 90 percent of the intervals from 1.6 standard errors below the estimate to 1.6 standard errors above the estimate would include the average value of all possible samples.

Thus, for a particular sample, one can say with specified confidence that the average of all possible samples is included in the constructed interval.


Contractor-built Houses
– This category includes all houses built for owner occupancy on the owner's land with construction under the supervision of a single general contractor.

Also includes houses built for rent-free use such as a church that builds a house for its clergy (built by a builder or general contractor who does not own the land.)

Division
– The standard Census geographic divisions are used in these statistics. These can be found at: http://www.census.gov/geo/www/us_regdiv.pdf

Fee Simple
– See "Built for Sale."

FIPS State and County Codes
– Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) codes uniquely identify states, counties, and other related location entities. These are now more properly named the ANSI codes for the American National Standards Institute. For details, see the ANSI website: http://www.census.gov/geo/www/ansi/ansi.html

Floor Area

Single-family
– For these statistics, floor area is defined as all completely finished floor space, including space in basements and attics with finished walls, floors, and ceilings. This does not include a garage, carport, porch, unfinished attic or utility room, or any unfinished area of the basement.

In concept, measurement is based on exterior dimensions. Measurements are taken to the outside of exterior walls for detached houses. Builders sometimes provide the gross square footage (based on exterior dimensions) of a detached structure. This footage usually does not contain unfinished space. However, in townhouses, the gross square footage often includes the whole lower level, even though that area might include a garage and unfinished rooms. For purposes of these statistics, where the floor area for a new house was reported based on interior dimensions, the figure is converted to exterior dimensions by multiplying by a standard conversion factor of 1.08. A standard conversion factor of 1.04 is used to convert figures to exterior dimensions where it was not known whether the reported area was based on exterior or interior dimensions.

Multifamily
– Square footage for multifamily buildings is defined as all floor and associated living space. Floor space is defined as the floor area of all completely finished living space in the building, including the basement and attic, with finished walls, floors, and ceilings. This does not include a garage, carport, porch, unfinished attic or utility room, or any unfinished area of the basement.

Associated living space is defined as hallways, elevator space, lobbies, and any other indoor space used by the residents.

Square footage for mixed-use multifamily buildings is defined as the square footage of the residential portion of the structure only.


For Sale
– See New Houses For Sale.

Housing Completions
– See Completed Housing.

Housing Starts
– See Start.

Housing Unit
– A housing unit, as defined for purposes of these data, is a house, an apartment, a group of rooms, or a single room intended for occupancy as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live separately from any other individuals in the building and which have a direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall.

In accordance with this definition, each apartment unit in an apartment building is counted as one housing unit. Housing units, as distinguished from "HUD-code" manufactured (mobile) homes, include conventional "site-built" units, prefabricated, panelized, sectional, and modular units.

Housing unit statistics also exclude group quarters (such as dormitories and rooming houses), transient accommodations (such as transient hotels, motels, and tourist courts), moved or relocated buildings, and housing units created in an existing residential or nonresidential structure.

Units in assisted living facilities are considered to be housing units, however, units in nursing homes are not considered to be housing units.


"HUD-code" Manufactured (mobile) Home
– A manufactured home is defined as a movable dwelling, 8 feet or more wide and 40 feet or more long, designed to be towed on its own chassis, with transportation gear integral to the unit when it leaves the factory, and without need of a permanent foundation. These homes are built in accordance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) building code.

Statistics on manufactured homes are excluded from the New Residential Construction statistics. These can be found on our website at http://www.census.gov/const/www/mhsindex.html.


Manufactured Home
– See "HUD-code" Manufactured Home.

Metropolitan Areas
– The titles and definitions for Metropolitan Areas (MAs), which are made up of Metropolitan Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs), conform to those defined by the Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President, as of December 2003. More information on Metropolitan Areas can be found at http://www.census.gov/population/www/metroareas/metrodef.html.

Mobile Home
– See "HUD-code" Manufactured Home.

Multifamily Housing
– Residential buildings containing units built one on top of another and those built side-by-side which do not have a ground-to-roof wall and/or have common facilities (i.e., attic, basement, heating plant, plumbing, etc.)

New Houses for Sale
– A house is considered to be for sale when it is being built to be sold and a permit to build has been issued (in permit-issuing places) or work has begun on the footings or foundation (in nonpermit areas) and a sales contract has not been signed nor a deposit accepted.

New Residential Construction
– The category of statistics called "New Residential Construction" consists of data on the five phases of a residential construction project: (1) housing units authorized to be built by a building or zoning permit; (2) housing units authorized to be built, but not yet started; (3) housing units started; (4) housing units under construction; and (5) housing units completed.

New residential construction statistics exclude group quarters (such as dormitories and rooming houses), transient accommodations (such as transient hotels, motels, and tourist courts), "HUD-code" manufactured (mobile) homes, moved or relocated buildings, and housing units created in an existing residential or nonresidential structure.

In a new building combining residential and nonresidential floor areas, every effort is made to include the residential units in these statistics, even if the primary function of the entire building is for nonresidential purposes.

These statistics only include privately-owned buildings. Publicly-owned housing units are excluded from the statistics. Units in structures built by private developers with partial public subsidies or which are for sale upon completion to local public housing authorities under the HUD "Turnkey" program are all classified as private housing.


Not Started
– See Authorized, Not Started.

Not Seasonally Adjusted
– Data labeled "Not Seasonally Adjusted" refers to the fact that the data are not adjusted for seasonality using seasonal adjustment and not shown at an annual rate.

Detailed information on seasonal adjustment can be found at: http://www.census.gov/srd/www/x12a/


One-Unit
– See Single-Family House.

Owner-built Houses
– This category includes houses built for owner occupancy, on the owner's land, under the supervision of the owner acting as the general contractor. These homes are: (1) in most cases built partly by the owner and partly with paid help; (2) sometimes built entirely with the employment of subcontractors; and (3) occasionally built entirely by the owner.

This also includes houses built by the builder for the builder's own use.


Permit-Issuing Place
– A geographic area that issues building or zoning permits for the construction of residential structures. The area may be a single municipality or county or a combination of multiple municipalities.

Privately-Owned
– Structures not owned by any federal, state, or local government. Units in structures built by private developers with partial public subsidies or which are for sale upon completion to local public housing authorities under the HUD "Turnkey" program are all classified as private housing.

Public Housing
– Public housing is a residential building owned by a federal, state or local agency.

Units in structures built by private developers with partial public subsidies or which are for sale upon completion to local public housing authorities under the HUD "Turnkey" program are all classified as private housing.


Region
– The standard Census geographic regions are used in these statistics. States contained in each region are as follows:

Northeast Midwest South West
Connecticut Illinois Alabama Alaska
Maine Indiana Arkansas Arizona
Massachusetts Iowa Delaware California
New Hampshire Kansas District of Columbia Colorado
New Jersey Michigan Florida Hawaii
New York Minnesota Georgia Idaho
Pennsylvania Missouri Kentucky Montana
Rhode Island Nebraska Louisiana Nevada
Vermont North Dakota Maryland New Mexico
  Ohio Mississippi Oregon
  South Dakota North Carolina Utah
  Wisconsin Oklahoma Washington
    South Carolina Wyoming
    Tennessee  
    Texas  
    Virginia  
    West Virginia  

A map of the regions can be found at: http://www.census.gov/const/regionmap.pdf.


Relative Standard Error (RSE)
– The estimated standard error expressed as a percent of the estimated total or proportion, that is, the estimated standard error times 100 divided by the estimate. This is also called coefficient of variation (CV).

Residential Building
– A residential building is a building consisting primarily of housing units. In a new building combining residential and nonresidential floor areas, every effort is made to include the residential units in these statistics, even if the primary function of the entire building is for nonresidential purposes.

Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate
– Seasonal adjustment is the process of estimating and removing seasonal effects from a time series to better reveal certain non-seasonal features such as underlying trends and business cycles. Seasonal adjustment procedures estimate effects that occur in the same calendar month with similar magnitude and direction from year to year. In series whose seasonal effects come primarily from weather, the seasonal factors are estimates of average weather effects for each month. Seasonal adjustment does not account for abnormal weather conditions or for year-to-year changes in weather. Seasonal factors are estimates based on present and past experience. Future data may show a different pattern.

Most of the seasonally adjusted series are shown as seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR). The seasonally adjusted annual rate is the seasonally adjusted monthly value multiplied by 12. The benefit of the annual rate is that not only can one monthly estimate be compared with another; monthly data can also be compared with an annual total. The seasonally adjusted annual rate is neither a forecast nor a projection; rather it is a description of the rate of building permits, housing starts, housing completions, or new home sales in the particular month for which they are calculated.

Data labeled "Not Seasonally Adjusted" refers to the fact that the data are not adjusted for seasonality using seasonal adjustment and not shown at an annual rate.

Detailed information on seasonal adjustment can be found at: http://www.census.gov/srd/www/x12a/


Single-Family House
– The single-family statistics include fully detached, semidetached (semiattached, side-by-side), row houses, and townhouses. In the case of attached units, each must be separated from the adjacent unit by a ground-to-roof wall in order to be classified as a single-family structure. Also, these units must not share heating/air-conditioning systems or utilities, such as water supply, power supply, or sewage disposal lines.

Units built one on top of another and those built side-by-side that do not have a ground-to-roof wall and/or have common facilities (i.e., attic, basement, heating plant, plumbing, etc.) are not included in the single-family statistics.


Speculatively-built Houses
– See Built for Sale Houses.

Standard Error
– Measure of the variation among the estimates from all possible samples; measure of the precision with which an estimate from a particular sample approximates the average results of all possible samples; square root of the sampling variance.

Start
– Start of construction occurs when excavation begins for the footings or foundation of a building. All housing units in a multifamily building are defined as being started when this excavation begins. Beginning with data for September 1992, estimates of housing starts include units in structures being totally rebuilt on an existing foundation.

Structure, Type of
– The statistics, by type of structure, refer to the structural characteristics of the building.

The one-unit structure category is a single-family home. It includes fully detached, semidetached (semiattached, side-by-side), row houses, and townhouses (see "Single-Family House".)

Multifamily structures are classified by the number of housing units in the structure.

Data are tabulated for 2 units, 3 and 4 units combined, and 5 or more unit structures.


Timeshare
– A timeshare is a form of ownership or right to the use of a property. These can be either single-family or multifamily structures.

Turnkey Housing
– Units in structures built by private developers with partial public subsidies or that are for sale upon completion to local public housing authorities.

Under Construction
– Estimates of housing units started, but not yet completed, are shown in the "under construction" data series. Housing units under construction are estimated for all areas of the United States, regardless of whether permits are required.

Universe (Building Permits Survey)
– For estimates of housing units authorized from the Building Permits Survey, the "Universe" is defined as all unique permit offices at the time the last sample was selected. "Unique" permit offices are those jurisdictions that would not result in double reporting. For example, if a city issues zoning permits and its county issues building permits (including permits for buildings in the city(, only the county office is included in the universe. The numbers associated with the various universes (e.g., 20,000-place universe( are rounded for ease of identification:
20,000-place universe - jurisdictions identified as of 2003
19,000-place universe - jurisdictions identified as of 1993
17,000-place universe - jurisdictions identified as of 1983
16,000-place universe - jurisdictions identified as of 1977
14,000-place universe - jurisdictions identified as of 1971
13,000-place universe - jurisdictions identified as of 1966
10,000-place universe - jurisdictions identified as of 1958


Valuation
– The valuation is the estimated value of the residential structure as shown on the building permit. If no value is listed on the permit, we accept estimates from the permit official.


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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | New Residential Construction | (301) 763-5160 |  Last Revised: June 28, 2012