New Home Sales in May – Onward and Upward, Ignore the Noise

The US Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development in a joint release reported that newly constructed single family homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 551 thousand in May, down from 586 thousand in April, but up from the average pace of 524 thousand in the first quarter. The monthly numbers can be noisy – volatile and subject to revision (April’s initial 619 thousand pace was revised down to 586 thousand in May), but the upward trajectory beginning in 2012 is clear and continuing. New home sales (as well as single family housing starts) are still well below pre-housing boom norms but up from the depths of the 2011 trough.

Builders are cautiously meeting existing demand and adding to inventory in line with the pace of sales. The inventory of new homes for sale increased to 244 thousand, up from 210 thousand one year early, and represents a 5.3 months’ supply given the current pace of sales. The increasing pace of sales and level of inventory has kept the months’ supply steady, between 5 and 6 months, during the recovery and modestly above the 4 months’ supply that prevailed pre-boom.

Inventory swelled when sales crashed but has since recalibrated with the rising pace of sales and held the months’ supply steady as demand has returned to the marketplace.

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