Sales of New Homes in U.S. Advance to a Four-Month High

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. new-home sales increased in March to a four- month high, mainly reflecting a surge in the West, and upward revisions to prior months showed stronger first-quarter demand than previously estimated, according to government data released Tuesday.

Highlights of New-Home Sales (March)

  • Single-family home sales rose 4% m/m to a 694k annualized pace (est. 630k) after a 667k rate (revised from 618k)
  • Purchases in the West jumped 28.3% m/m to a 222k annualized rate, the fastest since Dec. 2006
  • Median sales price increased 4.8% y/y to $337,200
  • Supply of homes at current sales rate fell to 5.2 months from 5.4 months

Key Takeaways

The March advance and revisions to the previous two months indicate sales were on better footing during the quarter, a sign that elevated prices and mortgage rates at a four-year high are having minimal impact on demand so far.

Firm job growth and still-favorable consumer attitudes about the housing market suggest fundamentals remain sound for residential real estate. At the same time, rising mortgage costs and property price appreciation continues to outpace wage growth, threatening to put homes out of reach for younger Americans and those looking to purchase for the first time.

The number of properties sold in which construction hadn’t yet been started rose last month, a sign that developers will stay busy in the coming months.

New-home sales, tabulated when contracts get signed, account for about 10 percent of the market. They’re considered a timelier barometer than purchases of previously owned homes, which are calculated when contracts close and are reported by the National Association of Realtors.

Realtors’ data on Monday showed existing-home sales increased more than expected despite a shortage of listings, as condominiums and higher-priced homes boosted activity.

Other Details

  • Sales rose 0.8 percent in South to 371,000; Purchases dropped in the Midwest and Northeast
  • Commerce Department said there was 90 percent confidence that the change in sales last month ranged from a 14.6 percent drop to a 22.6 percent increase, underscoring the volatility of the data
  • Report released jointly by the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington

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