The U.S. Census Bureau released its final year-end housing numbers for 2013 and at first glance it looks like a real barn-burner, especially if you look at housing starts. For both single family and multifamily new housing starts, home starts were up by 15 percent compared to year end 2012 andhousing starts for 2013 hit four year high apartment starts up by 25 percent.

That’s really a lot from year to year and the most for single family new home construction since 2009—but also the fifth worst year since the Bureau’s been keeping records. Ouch. Not exactly barn burner material after all.

Single family new housing starts hit around 618,000 up from 525,000 the year before. That’s a nice increase but way below the dizzying days of 2005 when nearly triple the 2013 figure found new ground. Builders sat on the sidelines for the past few years then as the economy began to stabilize, consumer confidence gradually took hold and mortgage lenders loosened the purse strings somewhat. Yet as more and more lending regulations set foot in 2013, more than 200 of them, while lenders did start making loans again the marginal buyers were still left on the sidelines, which tells builders to think about apartment buildings, which they certainly did last year.

Rental demand should still be on the rise throughout the year for both single family rentals and multi-family units. Again, according to the Census Bureau report, apartment construction volume is triple the number from 2009 which should soften the rise in rental rates for apartments but for single family homes, real estate investors should enjoy strong cash flow at least until next year.

Mortgage rates don’t appear to be headed any lower than they are today and most are predicting a gradual rise toward the end of the year. Purchases made and financed in the first two quarters would then likely indicate more favorable financing terms, keeping positive cash flow at higher levels.