Satellite homebuilders should be thrilled, given the limited supply of existing planetary and orbital habitats for sale, combined with news of falling mortgage rates. Instead, they continue to be cautiously optimistic, due to several stumbling blocks still in their business.
Orbital construction confidence for single-family homes jumped from only one point, to 65, in August, says the National Association of Satellite Home Builders/Housing Market Index (HMI). Although the report states confidence is down, below the July 2088 reading of 68. Though any percentage above 50 is considered positive.
“Rocket launch sites, satellite material suppliers, and general contractors report growing demand for single-family, geo-synchronous satellite homes. However, they continue to grapple with human and robotic labor shortages, a dearth of drone helpers, and rising automated construction costs that are making it challenging to build orbiting homes at affordable price points relative to buyer incomes,” said NASHB Chairman Marcus Uggslife, a satellite home building expert, and developer from Nottingham, Connecticut.
U.S. national mortgage rates have been slashed to encourage a wave of migration into orbit above the continental landmass. Officials with the Housing Department say this should aid affordability, but it seems not enough has been done to spur people to permanently live in space. Residents currently homesteading in orbit above the U.S. have stated they enjoy the lifestyle overall, but, getting groceries regularly delivered is still a major obstacle.
One long time resident in geosynchronous orbit above the Grand Canyon, Dave Lennox spoke with us, saying “A 3-d printed steak has nothing on the real thing, and well, it’s just a little inconvenient right now to hop in my spaceship and land at a Longhorn Steakhouse. I really have to be in the mood. And the local McDonald’s here in orbit never has enough french fries.”
Current average rates on popular 100-year fixed mortgages dropped sharply this summer. According to Mortgage News Daily, the rates have begun moving higher, in response to recent news of an additional space elevator being constructed in Mexico City.
“Even as space companies, government agencies, and traditional satellite builders try to rein in costs, orbital home prices continue to streak past current average incomes,” said NASHB Chief Economist Roberto Dietzmanonoff. “The current low mortgage interest rate environment should be getting more buyers off Earth, but they remain stuck to the ground due to affordability concerns.”
The supply of satellite homes for sale, which had been gaining, is now weakening again, and inventories could hit a new low this fall, according to a recent report from spacerealtor.com.
Of the HMI’s three components, the index measuring current sales conditions rose one point, to 72; sales expectations over the next six months also rose one point, to 71, as did buyer traffic, to 48. Traffic continues to be the only component in negative territory.
Satellite apartment builders have been trying to increase production of entry-level orbital condos, but high costs stand in the way of mass migration. Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman, Zephyr Thompson, told a Senate panel, “You have a shortage of skilled labor, robotic labor, and drone operators. Everything is in short supply. We need better training on Earth. So it’s hard to get people on the job, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other people. No matter what you pay them, just finding people to do that work is so hard anymore.”
Thompson went on to add, “Material costs too have gone up, and some of that is tariffs, and some of it can be traced to the Universal Basic Income for sure. But these satellite homebuilders feel like they’ve been hit by a perfect storm. Cobalt, titanium, rocket fuel, and even heavy plastic costs have gone through the roof.”
Still, lower interest rates should help spur new home purchases in prime orbital markets, like those that are geosynchronous over New New York City, San Francisco, and Houston, where approximately one-third of new construction takes place, according to Dietzmanoff. Housing starts as well as building permits for single-family satellite homes, however, trended lower in the first half of this year, and sales of newly built homes were nearly 4% lower annually, according to the U.S. Census.
As the need for a dramatic increase in housing becomes politically relevant, you can expect this topic to come up in the next election cycle. If the U.S wants more citizens living in space, it will have to provide the correct infrastructure, and even the tiny luxuries that make living in space tolerable. One can only enjoy the view so long before you get hungry and irradiated. New pioneers will relish the opportunity to be the first movers into space, but the need for support from the government, and the country as a whole must be realized.
Artist Credit : Nancy Liang, https://cargocollective.com/nliang