New-home sales fall slightly, but remain close to two-year high

The housing market still has a pulse, experts say. Purchases of new U.S. single-family homes slipped 0.3 percent month-over-month and 27.7 percent year-over-year to a seasonally adjusted rate of 373,000 in August, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Despite the slight fall from July, when the revised rate came in at 374,000, the numbers remain close to the two-year high.

“New-home sales in August effectively tied the pace they set in the previous month, when they were the strongest we’ve seen in more than two years,” said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Barry Rutenberg in a statement, “so this is really a continuation of the good news we’ve been getting on the housing front.” Sales have been on the rise since the middle of last year, he noted, as low interest rates and prices have driven demand for new construction.

As The Real Deal previously reported, a 7.6 percent jump in new U.S. home sales in May preceded an unexpected 8.4 percent fall in June.

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With regards to specific regions, the Northeast, Midwest and West all saw month-over-month gains, whereas the South was the only region to post a loss: 4.9 percent. The Northeast saw a 20 percent month-over-month jump — the Midwest and West ticked in at a respective 1.8 percent and 0.9 percent increase. Year-over-year, the West dominated with a 64.6 percent climb, followed by the Northeast at 56.5 percent, the Midwest at 16.7 percent and the South with an 11.5 percent gain.

“This latest report indicates that new-home sales continue to run at a steady pace that’s well ahead of what we were seeing this time last year,” NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said in the statement. “At this rate, the third quarter of 2012 is going to be well ahead of the second quarter.”

The inventory of new homes for sale came in at 141,000 — at the current sales pace, this is a 4.5-month supply.

But there is one caveat, Crowe said. “The razor-thin inventory of new homes for sale is very concerning because it indicates that builders aren’t able to access the credit they need to build new homes as demand for them improves.” — Zachary Kussin