Builders’ confidence in the market for new single-family homes gained slightly, as the National Association of Home Builders’ housing market index rose to 17 in March from 16 in February. That was in line with economists, who had forecast a level of 17.

“Builders are cautiously looking forward to the spring home-buying season in hopes that improving economic conditions will help bring more buyers to the table,” said NAHB chairman Bob Nielsen.

“However, the same factors that have been weighing down the market are still very much in play,” he said, “particularly competition from short sales and foreclosures, consumers’ inability to sell their existing home, appraisals that are coming in below construction cost due to the inappropriate use of distressed properties as comps, and restrictive lending conditions for both buyers and builders.”

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