While new home sales posted a modest gain in December, elevated mortgage rates and higher construction costs continue to hinder housing affordability and put a damper on consumer demand. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau estimated sales of newly built, single-family homes in December at a 616,000 seasonally adjusted annual pace, which is a 2.3% increase over downwardly revised November rate of 602,000 and is 26.6% below the December 2021 estimate of 839,000.
A new home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit is accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the December reading of 616,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if this pace continued for the next 12 months.
Sales-adjusted inventory levels are at an elevated 9.0 months’ supply in December. A measure near a 6.0 months’ supply is considered balanced.
A year ago, there were just 35,000 completed, ready to occupy homes available for sale (not seasonally adjusted). By December 2022, that number increased 117% to 76,000, reflecting flagging demand and more standing inventory due to lower sales. Completed, ready to occupy inventory however remains just 16.5% of total inventory and homes under construction accounts for 62.6 of the inventory. Homes that have not started construction when the sales contract is signed accounts for 20.9% of new homes sold in December.
The median sales price decreased 3.7% to $442,100 in December but is up 7.8% compared to a year ago due to higher construction costs. The number of entry-level homes priced below $300,000 has been steadily falling in recent years. In 2021, 23% of new home sold were priced below $300,000. That share has now fallen to 10%. In 2022, there were 266,000 homes that were priced above $500,000 compared to 226,000 in 2021.
Nationally, on a year-to-year basis, 644,000 new homes were sold in 2022. This is 16.4% below the 2021 level of 771,000. Regionally, on a year-to-year basis, new home sales fell in all four regions, down 8.2% in the Northeast, 22.1% in the Midwest, 13.0% in the South and 23.5% in the West.