(Bloomberg) -- U.S. homebuilder sentiment rose in September amid lower lumber prices and strong housing demand. 

A gauge of builder sentiment ticked higher for the first time in five months to 76 from an August reading of 75, National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo data showed Monday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a slight decrease to 74.

Builders are enjoying some reprieve from easing material costs in a still-strong housing market, where home prices continue to march higher. Housing affordability will be a key challenge for demand in the coming quarters, and builders -- like just about everyone -- are struggling to fill open jobs, according to the NAHB.

“The single-family building market has moved off the unsustainably hot pace of construction of last fall and has reached a still hot but more stable level of activity,” NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. 

The report also showed that current sales conditions and prospective buyer traffic advanced. At the same time, sales expectations for the next six months remained unchanged.

The Northeast and the West posted decreases in September, reaching the lowest sentiment levels since last summer. Meanwhile, the Midwest and the South rose.

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