Decline for April Sales Masks 2017 Gains

Contracts for new single-family home sales fell more than expected in April, declining 11.4% to a 569,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate according to estimates from the joint data release of HUD and the Census Bureau. The decline occurred after solid, positive revisions for new home sales for the first three months of the year.

All told, total new home sales for 2017 stand at 210,000, a 11.3% gain over the 2016 comparable total of 189,000.

NAHB expects new home sales to continue to progress along the established, modest growth trend due to ongonig job growth, improving household formations, continuing favorable housing affordability conditions, and tight existing home inventory.

Inventory growth continued in April. After hovering near 240,000 for most of 2016, inventory has now risen to 268,000. The current months’ supply number stands at a healthy 5.7. Given tight existing inventory, more new homes are required to meet housing demand.

The most recent data also indicate a growing share of homes not-started in builder inventory. For example, on a year-over-year basis, homes under construction in inventory have increased by a little more than 6% over the last year. Completed, ready-to-occupy homes (there are only 59,000) are up 2% since April of last year. In contrast, homes not-started listed in inventory have increased 42%, from 36,000 in April of 2016 to 52,000 last month.

Pricing data in the April report find that the median sales price of new homes sold in April was $309,200, while the average price was $368,300. These levels are below the 2016 annual totals but remain higher than the 2015 data.

Regionally, all areas saw monthly declines in sales in April. Sales were down 26% in the West, 13% in the Midwest, 8% in the Northeast and 4% in the South. As with the national headline number, the monthly numbers obscure growth for 2017. On a year-to-date basis, new home sales are up 26% in the Midwest, 15% in the Northeast, 10% in the South and 7% in the West compared to April of 2016.

Solid builder confidence and ongoing tight inventory conditions suggest continued growth for single-family construction in the months ahead. Pricing remains an open question, given rising construction prices and increasing interest rates. New homes will need to be competitively priced, even as prices for existing homes continue to grow. For this reason, we continue to expect a broadening of the new home inventory base and slight declines in median new home size.



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