New Home Sales: Up or Down?


New home sales, as reported jointly by the Census Bureau and HUD, came in at 328,000 for March (on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis). The immediate take is that the March data is down 7.1% from the revised February level of 353,000. But the February figure was revised up 13% so that March figure is above the previous estimate for February. In fact, the new February estimate is the highest level since the end of the home buyer tax credit in spring 2010.
New home sales estimates have one of the largest statistical variances of any of the major housing data. For instance, to be confident that a change is statistically significant 90% of the time the monthly change must be at least 20.7%. A monthly change of that size has occurred 1% of the time since the series started in 1963.
A more reliable quarter-to-quarter comparison shows a modest 3.7% increase from the fourth quarter 2011 to the first quarter 2012. Viewed in this manner, new homes sales have been rising modestly since the third quarter of 2011 (they were down the smallest amount possible, 1,000, between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011). So, the answer to the title question is up.
The new home inventory for sale reached another new low at 144,000 and the number of new homes completed and for sale dropped to 48,000. If they were spread out evenly across every county, that would be less than 14 new homes per county. As the employment and the economy rebound, the extremely low inventory will become a problem in selected markets where additional lots are not readily available and the industry struggles to rebuild itself.

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  1. Improvement for New Home Sales in May « Eye on Housing
  2. Improvement for New Home Sales in May | Wood on Fire – Topics of Lumber Industry

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