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New-Home Sales Rebound In March But Are Down For Quarter

April 26, 2006

Sales of new single-family homes were up 13.8 percent in March, following an 11 percent decline the month before, the U.S. Commerce Department reported today. However, sales for the first quarter 2006 were down 9.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005, and year-to-date sales were down 8.2 percent from the year before. “While we were expecting a slight rebound in sales from the pace reported by the government for February, we definitely are seeing demand taper off from the highs of last year as interest rates inch up and affordability becomes a more overriding factor,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) President David Pressly, a home builder from Statesville, N.C. “Indeed, builders are offering more sales incentives and are shifting their production mix toward more moderately priced homes.” “Month-to-month changes in the new-home sales series are notoriously volatile, but the quarterly pattern of sales is reasonably in keeping with other housing indicators, including NAHB’s surveys of single-family builders,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “This longer-term pattern is consistent with the orderly cooling down process we’ve been anticipating, as affordability problems and reduced investor demand bring home sales down from the unsustainable levels of 2005.” According to Commerce Department figures, new-home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.213 million units in March. However, the sales pace was 1.159 million units for the first quarter as a whole, down from 1.283 million units for the last quarter of 2005 and down from 1.249 million units for the first quarter of last year. All four regions across the country posted increased sales of new homes in March. Sales were up in Northeast by 4.7 percent, the Midwest by 10.9 percent, the South by 6.9 percent and in the West by 35.7 percent. However, the first-quarter average was below the final quarter of 2005 in all regions.

The inventory of new homes for sale rose to 555,000 units at the end of March, a 5.5 months’ supply at the current sales pace. Of that total, for-sale units that were not yet started showed the largest increase and represented 20.2 percent of the inventory. Units still under construction were almost 57 percent of the inventory, and completed homes for sale were 23 percent of the total ? about the same as a year earlier.

Source: NAHB

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